Easy FREE Shopping Cart For Digital Products

When I set up my first online shopping cart, it was over 7 years ago and at that time, OScommerce (commonly referred to as OSC) was one of the best. One of the few choices if I remember correctly.

But of course times change and technology is moving faster than the speed of light, so shopping carts have evolved as well.

These days when I see someone mention using OSC, I actually try to talk them out of it.

Well, I give many reason why it MAY not the best solution these days.

Don’t get me wrong it’s a rock-solid cart that has never really failed me. The only time I’ve had trouble, it’s been a hosting issue.
So, I thought I’d go over the con’s of OSC and what cart software I use these days.

As I said OSC has been good to me. It’s made many sales for me, and it’s worked very well, but it has some flaws.

This article is NOT a knock on OSC, it is an education, coming from my experience of setting it up and using it for 7+ years. More it’s what you can expect.
Let’s get to it…

Including what I recommend these days…

Here’s some things to consider before using OSC

  •  It’s not ready out of the box – If you use it as is, first you’ll have a site that looks very dated, like from the 80’s. it’s kind of sad looking actually. To give you idea what needs to be done, for my store I had to add modifications for SEO, for multiple product images, Pay Pay check out, one for digital downloads and a few others I can’t seem to remember right now. Hey, it’s been 7 years. As you can see, if you want a good cart, it’s going to take some work. And you might not like the work, as I’ll explain that next.
  • Difficult to Add On – While there a ton of add-ons for the OSC cart, they are usually not as easy as uploading and done. To use most of them, you need to modify your cart files. Why they are called mods. As you might have guessed though, this means you actually have to edit the php code of your shopping carts files. Most mods come with pretty good directions, but for many people this can be a daunting and almost impossible task. Plus it’s super easy to mess up the code and break your cart. I don’t say this to scare anyone off, just want you to know what you’re getting in to if you decide to use it. You will need to know how to edit PHP code, plain and simple.
  • Difficult To Update – In the past updating the cart meant uploading new (updated) cart files, over writing your previous files. This might have changed, I don’t know, it’s why I said in the past. If you’ve read the above flaw, you might understand that this means, you could overwrite the modifications you previous made to add on features. See the pain here? So to upgrade, you would need to make sure you don’t change previous files you’ve already modified. I can do a pretty good job of editing PHP code, but even this is a deal breaker for me these days. Well, it’s one thing I don’t want to do.
  • Little To No Updating – The cart software is in beta version 3, if I remember correctly and it’s been in that state for a LONG time. I really don’t see a new version coming out any time soon and frankly from what I’ve seen the latest planned version doesn’t really have anything to get me excited. I believe you still need to edit the files to add on features.
  • Difficult to Skin or Theme – To add or create a different layout you need to know CSS and edit the current stylesheet and possibly images. It’s not like you can upload a layout, activate and be done. I did it for my site, but it was some work, no doubt about it. Another solution is to get a pre-made template. There are actually some really nice one’s available for a price. Some that have a very professional layout. But if you go that route, you need to put up the template before you modify any of your files, because the templates usually come with all the cart files included.

Dang, that all sounds so bad. Mr. Negative!

As I’ve said this was not a post knocking OSC, I just wanted to make sure you knew exactly what you might be getting in to. I’ve put 1,000’s of order though my system, so I can say without a doubt it works well.

All in all, I cannot really complain too much about OSC, it’s server me very well and the time I spent setting it up has more than paid for itself.

I don’t really regret using it.

What do I use today?

Glad you asked…

Well, I should say, what I use for new projects and sites. I have not yet switched my one OSC site to the new format yet. It’s in the works though.

Anyways… now my fave is…

WordPress and Woocommerce.

I know you’ve heard of wordpress and there is a good chance you’ve heard of the Woocommerce shopping cart plug-in, which is made by the world famous WooThemes group.

No big secret here.

But have you really checked it out?

Let’s go over some of the reasons I like the Woocommerce

  • It’s FREE – Listen, I don’t mind paying for software if it’s going to save me time or help make money, but sometimes free solutions do everything you need. Of course we do need to invest in our businesses at times, but sometimes you find a gem that serves your purposes. On a side note, there are many add-ons, plug-in’s themselves that are not free, but here again, if it makes your site better, it’s worth putting in a few bucks. Let’s be clear, this is not a lesson in being cheap. Too many people don’t want to invest in their business and it hurts their chances of success. I see it EVERY single day. Don’t be that guy. (or girl)
  • Works With WordPress – I am sure I don’t have to tell you about wordpress and why it’s so great. Retain the power of one of the best blogging software platforms there is. Yes I do kind of like WP. More than Kind of. The point is, there is a good chance you already know WP, so going this route won’t be much of a learning curve. Plus, you can still use all the regular WP plug’ins and theme’s you want.
  • Easy to Skin or Theme – Once again, since it runs on the WordPress platform, it’s so easy to theme, just like you would a blog. Install your theme, activate and done. Granted many themes are not “ready” made for this plug-in, but the plugin does give you the code to make it work. You could have pretty much any theme you’d want, or keep one you already use. I will say though, it is nice to use a theme that is set up for Woocommerce because you can get things like little shopping cart floaties and things like that. Is floaties a word? So they do have their advantages.
    Ton’s of Modifications available – Since the plugin has become so popular there is a huge sector of developers creating add-ons, and some amazing ones at that. Best yet, these add-ons are wordpress plug-in’s so I am sure you know how easy it will be to install. You could even create your own plug-in’s or if need be, there are plenty of programmers that are very familiar with WP, so it shouldn’t be difficult to get something custom if you need it.
  • Regular Updates – From what I’ve seen the team behind this plugin updates it often enough. Being that it’s become so popular, I am sure the updates will continue to roll out. Plus it’s coming from a trusted company, so it’s a good chance they will keep on top of things.
  • Built-In Digital Downloads – Of course this is my favorite part because I deal in digital products. But the plug-in is already set up to sell and serve up digital downloads, the links are even protected with limits such as number of download, or limited download time, like days. It has a built-in field to add your download file name and path. The downloads are also stored in a separate folder, so they don’t get mixed in with your wordpress stuff.
  • Uses the WordPress Editor – Another feature I really like. When you add a product, the product description in done in the wordpress editor. This means you can easily and quickly format the text however you want. Create complete salespage style product descriptions to help increase the selling power of your site.

I’ll be honest in the fact that I have not built a huge site with it yet. But from what I’ve seen it can handle and read, it has no problem handling 1,000’s of products.

BONUS TIP – The Woocommerce plug-in creates a store front on a specifically created WordPress page, usually a “product” page, it does not officially integrate into the normal WordPress posts. But here’s the cool part, if you want a full blown store, you just set your WordPress front page to the shopping cart page. So easy. Visitors hit your page and it looks just like a store.

Now, you don’t have to turn your site into a full blown store, you could use this plug-in as it comes by default, by creating a separate page. So you can easily add a “store” page to your already existing site. If you want.

I like it so much that…

I like the Woocommerce so much that I am working on switching over my OSC site to this platform. It’s just not going to be easy, but I am getting it planned out. I can’t wait actually, it’s going to be a much nicer site. Guess it’s the geek in me, getting excited about some dumb shopping cart plugin. If your reading this, you probably have some geek in your too, so you know what I am talking about. My wife sure doesn’t get it.

Not for every one…

Now I realize Woocommerce is not the only option out there, there is actually quite a slew of carts. And it is NOT the solution for every person or business. But I don’t want to do a post about things I have not used. I just don’t roll that way. Usually at least.

It is also very important to start with the right cart, so you don’t regret it in the future. So you won’t be stuck like me. I am not totally stuck, but it’s going to be some work to switch over. Will take some brain juice to move platforms.

So of course, do your due diligence and make sure to research your options before putting too much into it.

These means you need to use the search engines and look for the “bad”. I wouldn’t take every negative comment as the truth, but if you see the same issues coming up for many folks, you might want to think twice.

There was other options…

Few years back I did try the Magento shopping cart software, but I found it difficult to install as it required a special database my host had to set up for me. I don’t like waiting for a host to do things for me. And frankly the cart did not look as “nice” as I wanted, so I ditched it pretty quick. It’s been a few years, so maybe it’s changed. Just giving my feedback on that one. Limited as it is.

Also tried prestashop and did not look to be that good for digital goods. Plus a pretty big learning curve. Just seemed clucky to me. Or I am just odd.

Important things to remember…

Besides the self-hosted solutions I’ve talked about there, are also some paid hosted routes. There are the ones that do everything and it’s all hosted on their servers. This can be attractive, but it doesn’t fly for me.

I just don’t like having my stuff on someone else’s service. What if you didn’t like the service, you had a falling out, a problem or issue that did not get resolved?

Then what?

I have always liked to be completely in control of my stuff.

Not saying these hosted platforms are bad, only saying, you need to do your research and give it some hard though before you take the plunge.

What about you? Comments? Feedback? Bring the Cheeto’s? Kingsley and I are thinking that Richard ate the last bag. Looks like some cheese dust smudges on his last blog post.

Do you use a shopping cart? Which one? Is it thumbs up or thumbs down?

Let me know your thoughts by leaving a comment below…

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