3 great ways to create an Online Store

create an online store

WooCommerce, Shopify and Zen Cart are three very different e-commerce solutions. All of these solutions are reliable and secure. They are very popular for varying reasons. I have seen business owners who know that they have little time and money to spend on maintenance and others who have a budget big enough to hire a consultant when needed. I have also seen business owners who have a full IT team that handles e-commerce maintenance. These three platforms offer a solution for each of these types of business scenarios.


Shopify is a great solution for if you have little Internet experience beyond browsing web pages and checking email. Their brand is one of the top five shopping cart services in the world. The platform has extensions available to help shop owners monitor their inventories, launch marketing campaigns and more, and Shopify provides excellent 24-hour technical support to its users. Shopify also has a large network of paid consultants to help businesses with technical issues. As businesses grow, they can add more robust features by purchasing extensions.

Shopify is not free, but its upfront costs are relatively low. It is one of the simplest shopping carts you can use to create an online store. Shopify is a complete e-commerce solution. All you have to do is sign up at their website, pay for your subscription and start setting up your store. Shopify integrates with iPad, so store owners can use it for payment processing. Out of these three services, this is the option that you can get up and running the fastest. The shopping cart platform offers beautifully designed themes, and Shopify has a large online community of users that help each other learn new things and solve problems.

One drawback to the Shopify platform is that its users need programming knowledge to make major customizations. Even though Shopify is the easiest to set up, it is the most expensive in terms of transaction fees. The basic shopping cart is fine for a small startup business, but some users will outgrow these features and have to spring for upgrades. Shopify now processes their own transactions, so if a merchant needs to use a third-party transaction processor, Shopify may not be the right solution for them. Some users have complained about Shopify’s content platform. Content platforms are necessary to drive organic traffic to a merchant’s storefront. Many content creators are used to the functionality of WordPress. Shopify’s content solution is not entirely weak; it just pales in comparison to the king.

Overall, Shopify is a great balance of ease of use, function and price. What you do not have to deal with, such as programming code and setting up hosting, you pay for in cash.


WooCommerce is an e-commerce WordPress plugin. The software is a fully functioning e-commerce platform, and quite a few high-profile retailers use the platform to process their online transactions. It is the most popular shopping cart program for WordPress users and is available in a variety of languages. The latest build of WooCommerce is a complete design overhaul of the already popular open source software. On installation, the software walks users through a wizard and helps them set up their software. This software package works well for small and large businesses. Since the software is open source, it is supported by a large online community.

WooCommerce is free, so new business owners do not have to concern themselves with large monthly fees eating in to a small profit. It has a clean, contemporary interface. Many WooCommerce themes work well on mobile devices. For shopping cart owners, setting up your store is as easy as typing in the descriptions and uploading the images. It works with physical and digital products. The platform is scalable, so you do not have to change shopping carts if your business grows larger. WordPress users will find navigating WooCommerce intuitive. It is the most secure e-commerce plug-in available for WordPress users.

Although WooCommerce is free, users of WooCommerce need some technical expertise to install it, and other users may have to purchase extensions for needed functionality. New users may have difficulty with its complexity. In order to create an online store, merchants need to provide their own hosting and install the WordPress platform. WooCommerce does not work on free WordPress sites, and it does not work with all WordPress themes. You will need to consult the documentation to find out which themes are compatible. Although the software is compatible with digital products, WooCommerce may be too elaborate for digital mediums.

WooCommerce is a great e-commerce package for many different sizes and types of businesses. Although the process of setting up hosting and installing WordPress on your own hosted space may prove a bit difficult for some, loading the shopping cart images and descriptions, and applying the initial settings, is intuitive and simple.

Zen Cart

Zen Cart is one of the oldest e-commerce platforms businesses use to create online stores. It emerged from another platform named osCommerce in 2003. Even though it is a free, open source resource, it still gives paid solutions competition. Zen Cart is frequently updated by volunteers and users from all over the world. If you are going to install it on your own, I recommend that you have strong knowledge of PHP and MySQL.

Throughout Zen Cart’s existence, developers have created many free extensions and templates for the platform. Zen Cart offers many options and ways to manage inventory. It is possible to link the software to two big name accounting products, Quicken and MYOB. Even though Zen Cart is brutally plain, programmers like it because there are hundreds of add-ons that are available to make it do exactly what they want it to do.

The Zen Cart platform is completely free. Of course, there is a trade-off for its price tag. Users must install the program on their own servers or hosted solution. There is no web version of the program, and Zen Cart does not provide product support. All the solutions to your questions and problems must come from web queries, forums, the local Zen Cart user community or paid consultants. One of the biggest complaints voiced about Zen Cart is that it is not that easy to look at. Once the platform is installed it has very basic functions. Also, the extensions available for Zen Cart are difficult to configure and install. A final issue with Zen Cart is that when updates come out they sometimes over write customizations. Zen Cart users must constantly monitor their platform and have a contingency plan in place if this happens.

The Zen Cart solution is a good option for you if you work with the programming languages needed to install and maintain it. It is also an option for businesses that have an in-house IT department that can maintain the cart 24 hours per day.

Of these three solutions, Shopify is the easiest to use. Many e-commerce platforms claim that they are simple to use. In reality, many business owners hire someone to set up their e-commerce system when they realize that the process is too time intensive. WooCommerce gets a little tricky. If you are not familiar with setting up websites on hosts, you have to hire a consultant to help. Zen Cart requires programming knowledge and is the most complex to install and maintain. The costs of these platforms descend from moderately priced to free. In order to decide which cart fits your needs, you must decide what platform best matches your availability of time, money and expertise.

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