How to choose the right shopping cart:

With computers people tend to pick the computer before they decide exactly what it is they want to do with it. Well the same thing happens with shopping cart… People first pick a web host and then decide to add on a shopping cart and then search for one that will work with there host. When in fact you should first decide what features you need in a shopping cart and then pick the appropriate shopping cart, followed by an appropriate web host.

Unix vs Windows?

I am personally not as familiar with Windows web servers because the majority of web sites run on Unix web servers. So I can only speak second hand on this but I have been told that one of my customers would need 2-4 Windows servers to run there site, but it is currently running on 1 Unix server. I guess Windows servers are just not as efficient, although they are much easier to maintain for an inexperienced user which is not really an issue unless you are running it on your in house servers.

What features are you looking for in a shopping cart?

Well probably the most important issue when choosing a shopping cart is to pick one that offers you the features that you will need in a cart to fit your business model. Too often it seems that a customer will choose a shopping cart based on the way the demo of the carts looks with no real thought as to what features they need. In most cases you'll be able to edit a shopping cart easily to look the way you want, but unless you are a computer programmer adding features to cart or modifying the code could be difficult.

In general most shopping carts have the same basic features but there maybe something unique that you need for your cart. Some of the more advanced features like inventory control, or the ability to sell downloadable items in most cases will not be included unless you are purchasing a high end solution.

Here are some of the main issues to consider:

Can I change the look of the site to fit my needs?

Some solutions will not allow changing the look of the store or can be difficult to modify. Our cart makes extensive use of web templates that makes it simple to update the design.

Can I make modification to the code if I need to?

I have had customers address this issue with me because they were concerned that some day I may not be available or they may choose to have someone else update the cart. Well the fact is that our carts are not only well designed they are also well written. To us coding is an art and when we look at the code it should also be just as beautifully as the shopping cart itself. Pretty geeky huh? :). So any experienced eCommerce programmer should have no problem understanding the code.

Will it run on my web server?

The biggest issue to consider here is the fact that some shopping carts will require you to have special Perl modules installed on your server in order to run then. But as I stated you should first choose a cart to fit your needs before you pick hosting so this should not be an issue.

Can the shipping charges be set up the way I want them?

This is one of those things that people do not usually think about until after they have the cart installed and running and are trying to get it set up the way they want. But from our years of experience in custom e-commerce programming I can tell you that this is probably one of the most asked for modifications to a shopping cart. The biggest issue here is that everyone seems to have a different idea on how they want there shipping to work.

Does it support the credit card gateway that I want to use?

If you already have an existing gateway account for some other reason, or are set on working with a specific gateway then it is important that the cart support that gateway.

What kind of support will we get with this cart?

Well you get what you pay for! If you choose to use a free shopping cart then you should not count on free support. Especially in several years down the road because these free shopping carts seem to come and go. Were as if you are paying good money for a shopping cart then you should expect excellent support.

Does it include the basic functions that I need?

Other then that just think about what features you need in a cart. Every company seems to be just a little bit different in there requirement based on there business model. So sit down and make a list of all of the features that you need and how you want things to work and then look for the cart that most closely fits your needs. From there you can hire someone to make any changes so that the cart fits your needs exactly.