OpenCart is a simple, out of the box open source shopping cart software. It is used by many ecommerce websites thanks to its great features such as multiple payment gateway support, multilingual support, custom templates, search engine optimized, printable invoicing system, PCI compliant, and a lot more.
What to expect from an OpenCart hosting provider?
OpenCart functions on Apache web server, PHP 5.2+ and requires support for MySQLi database. Most web servers should be able to provide you with all these technical requirements, so you don’t have to think of any special or uncommon server setups. Before selecting a hosting provider make sure, that they have enabled or are willing to enable the following PHP libraries for you: Curl, zip, zlib, Mcrypt, GD library, Mbstrings. If one is missing, most likely your online store based on OpenCart will not function.
Ideal hosting plan for OpenCart hosting:
- optimized server for OpenCart, with all required PHP modules enabled
- one click software installation option
- trained support that can help with OpenCart related questions
- fast and secure server to process online transactions safely
So What is OpenCart Exactly?
OpenCart is an open source shopping cart application which you can download for free and use to create your own eCommerce website. It lets you integrate a number of different templates to give your website a unique and professional look. OpenCart also offers many useful features along with support for 20 payment methods. The entire system works great for small and medium size businesses.
You can download it for free and find the extensions you need among the 14,000 available add-ons. But, being free to download doesn’t mean that operating a web store with it won’t cost any money. A lot of themes, add-ons and not to mention the host all come with a price tag.
You’ll need add-ons to be able to use more complex functions and you should also ask the help of a developer if you don’t have any relevant web experience. If you’re looking to build and maintain a highly-technical webstore you’ll have to purchase a lot of add-ons. Also, if you don’t know much about web development, you can find a knowledgeable developer who can help you out. OpenCart has a large community that makes it easy to find them. Those merchants who have some significant experience in PHP will be able to handle things on their own.
Features and Designs in OpenCart
For starters, OpenCart provides all the functionality you need for having a standard online store. Customers can easily use the shopping cart to buy the products that you’re listing and managing but it also has a lot of other goodies as well. Once you’re using OpenCart you have a lifetime supply of regular updates, which continuously improve its overall experience and fix any issues that might come up.
A user-friendly admin interface lets you easily manage your store along with all orders and products. You can already see many useful stats if you log on to the dashboard and get a solid idea of what’s going on in your web store at the moment.
You have no limits when it comes to adding categories, manufacturers and products. OpenCart lets you have an unlimited number of them. It also supports multi-currency, multi-language, multi-store 8 different shipping methods, multiple tax rates, a discount and coupon system, sales reports, downloadable products, templates and designs, shopping calculations (like weight, size and so on) along with review and rating systems for your products.
The admin panel also makes it possible for you to operate multiple storefronts and use many B2B features as well. You can view reports for viewed products, sales and most of the measurable data in your store. Backup and restoration tools make sure that your information is always safe.
OpenCart has a really stylish appearance and it is relatively easy to implement new designs and layouts into your web store. You’ll have the basic web store design when you install OpenCart, but you can be off setting up a new one in the next minute.
Making your website appealing and look reliable is important for your customers. There are a great number of customizable templates and many graphic options that help you create the website design that best suits your store. Most of them are optimized for mobile devices so they look good on a great number of different screen sizes as well. This is very important both from a marketing and technical standpoint. Having as many users find your business is a key component of success, so OpenCart’s SEO integration will come in handy. Your pages will be indexed in search engines and you can easily customize meta tags for your products and categories.
Pros and Cons of Using OpenCart
There is a lot to look through when it comes to choosing an eCommerce platform for your store and especially in OpenCart. Like all systems, it has its benefits and flaws. A lot of people would argue about how well the software’s creator responds to various problems and reports as well.
Let’s see what are the advantages and disadvantages of using OpenCart.
Pros of OpenCart
- Easy to set up and work with – Running and maintaining an online store or multiple stores is a demanding task. Constantly looking through orders, products and customers is simplified. Those who are new to OpenCart will have to go through a learning curve but they can be up to speed shortly. Thanks to OpenCart’s simplified interface, there are simple and straightforward solutions for everything.
- Feature rich – Offering a robust list of features like the catalog functionality and an abundance of options for order and information processing.
- Lots of Themes – You have many free and paid themes to choose from and give your store a solid and slick design, making it worth your customers’ attention. You’ll definitely have all the designs and layouts you need, no matter what kind of products you are working with.
- Good Documentation – OpenCart’s extensive documentation makes it easy for users to go through everything from the setup to running a store.
- Low Operation Costs – Like I said, it’s free to download and what’s even better is that once your store is set up, it doesn’t require any ongoing development to keep it running. It’s perfect for small and medium size businesses.
Cons of OpenCart
- Not so high performance – OpenCart doesn’t perform too strongly unless you have the right plugins. It also slows down if you’re operating a larger site.
- Not too SEO friendly – Sure, you can change the meta tags just as you would on any webpage, but OpenCart doesn’t offer the SEO potential that it could. It doesn’t perform the same way that a lot of other eCommerce sites do in Google.
- It might get slow – One of the most important aspects of a good eCommerce site is speed. Some scripts load slowly with medium and large sites, which could be an issue. If not dealt with, this could ruin both the shopper’s and your experience.
- Not easy to customize – A lot of other eCommerce platforms have much easier options for customizing websites. OpenCart is pretty limited in that aspect, it’s hard to use sometimes. But you can use a great number of pre-made modifications that you can just add to the site and have it working. You’ll probably have to hire a developer if you want to customize it fully.
How To Choose a Host for OpenCart
Once you have chosen OpenCart for running your store, it’s time to set it up on a server. For that, you have to know OpenCart’s requirements and what kind of options and plans you can choose from. Finding a host for OpenCart looks almost the same as it does with any other eCommerce platform. There are a few factors to take into consideration and a few questions to answer.
Some of the best services are HostGator, InMotion and BlueHost, as they offer everything necessary for running OpenCart stores smoothly.
An Apache web server is suggested for running OpenCart and it must support PHP 5.3+, MySQLi and have Curl enabled.
Although you can freely choose, we recommend having a managed service instead of a regular one. You don’t want to be all by yourself when something goes wrong with your site, so it’s important to look at how strong of a support the provider is offering. Check their support hours (when you can call), average response time (from reviews) and the options for contacting them.
Having regular backups is also important. This is what makes sure that your website keeps intact and they make sure that all of your valuable data is safe at all times.
Will you be using a shared or a dedicated server? These are the two main options you can choose from when you sign up for hosting.
A shared server means that your website will share a server with other websites. This means you’ll be using the same resources, which still works well but it can get slow too, depending on the websites you’re sharing space with. It is a lot more affordable but comes with security risks, due to the fact that hackers could access your site through the other websites on there.
The second choice is a dedicated server. This means that you’ll have an entire web server all to yourself. This way, you can ensure that everything works at maximum speed. You’ll get more bandwidth and disk space most of the time and you don’t have to share any of it with other websites. It is also a lot more expensive for this very reason, so it all depends on your budget and what kind of webstore you intend to build.
The location of the servers is another important factor. You should look for servers that are based in the country where most of your target audience is. This way, the website will run a lot quicker and get a big plus for its SEO as well.
Every housing company works differently, so you should always read through their policies and ask as many questions as you can. Some will charge you fees for the administrative tasks that others do for free. Make sure that there aren’t any hidden fees attached. It’s also good to know what happens if you go over the usage limits you were provided.
Be sure to do a bit of research before you sign up for a company’s plan.
Our Top Choices For OpenCart Web Hosting
These companies will provide a great service, regardless of which eCommerce platform you choose, because they support most of them, along with OpenCart.
BlueHost – BlueHost is among the best hosts for an eCommerce website and is the perfect place to start running your OpenCart store. The company offers 24/7 support, 99.9% uptime, anytime money back guarantee and a lot more. You’ll get a highly reliable service and a solid technical support whatever you might need.
InMotion Hosting – If you want to run your OpenCart store at InMotion, you can do it with absolute ease and with maximum support. The company provides well written tutorials and every bit of information necessary for you to smoothly run OpenCart or any other popular eCommerce Platform. They have numerous hosting plans such as the Power plan that costs $5.39 and is ideal for small businesses.
WebHostingHub – For a smaller OpenCart store, you can choose WebHostingHub, who offer OpenCart optimized hosting and dedicated OpenCart support. Depending on the size of your shop and number of visitors, you can choose from three different hosting plans. WebHostingHub also offers hosting for other eCommerce platforms such as PrestaShop, Magento and WooCommerce.
OpenCart is a good alternative to people who don’t want to work with Magento or WooCommerce. It is simple, reliable and easy to get used to.
OpenCart works best for small or medium size businesses and for users who have basic web development skills. If you have a little experience, OpenCart will be very intuitive to handle. Once you understand how this system works, you’ll be off to selling your products in no time. If you don’t know much about web development and wouldn’t like to tinker too much with a website, you can always hire a developer to do it for you.
OpenCart is a solid eCommerce solution overall, but there are a lot of better options out there.