Is SolidShops a good alternative to Magento, osCommerce, Ubercart and other open source packages?

From time to time we get asked if SolidShop is a good alternative to the open source eCommerce packages such as Magento, osCommerce and Ubercart.

For the impatient that are seeking a quick answer: yes, SolidShop is a good alternative to all the eCommerce solutions mentioned here, but of course, a few remarks must be made.

Open source isn’t always “free”

Let’s face it, Magento and Ubercart are great open source products to build an online online store, if you have the technical expertise and especially a lot of time (and thus large client budgets) you can spend on installing, securing and continuously patching these applications.

I am a web designer myself and I have used Magento in the past as well. Why? Because it’s open source, flexible and free of course!

But once you start working with these products, you will quickly notice that free isn’t always free. First of all, to run any of the popular open source eCommerce solutions out there, you will need the following:

  • Hosting to put your shop online
  • At least one SSL certificate to secure your checkout pages and process
  • Time to install and configure the software
  • Time to upgrade your free open source packages and to keep up with security updates
  • Time to build a unique design for your clients in your product of choice

Add up all that time and “free” open source packages suddenly sound a lot more costly than they did before don’t they? And if you are building stores for clients, the worst thing is, they will have to pay the bill for all those hours you put into configuring, installing and securing a free product. In many cases, clients will even ask you themselves to use a free open source package. It’s up to you to educate your clients about the advantages, but also about the disadvantages of using open source packages.

How often do you hear your clients say “I want you to use Drupal instead of  Expression Engine as a CMS, because Drupal is free”. Sure it’s free, but it’s not the right tool for just any job out there and in the end it might cost the client much more compared to using the right tool for the job, even if that tool isn’t free or open source.

A hosted eCommerce platform may be a better fit for you if you want to get up and running quickly and only focus on building and designing the online business. Although you or your clients pay a monthly price for useing SolidShops, you will be up and running within a few minutes after signing up for an account. There is nothing to install and security is already in place for you.

Also, there is no need to update your software, as we’ll take care of that for you automatically. We are deploying a new version of our software almost every two weeks, which includes bug fixes as well as new features our clients are asking for.

There are no extra hosting costs, these are included in all our pricing plans.

That brings us to designing your store. Being web designers ourselves we know what you need to design stores easily. So we rolled out a flexible, easy-to-use templating language you can use to build your 100% custom HTML and CSS templates. If you can build it in HTML/CSS, you can build it in SolidShops.

SolidShops isn’t a perfect match for everybody

After reading the introduction above, you may think that SolidShops is the perfect tool for any online store, but let me be honest here: it isn’t.

Because SolidShops is a hosted eCommerce solution, you are not able to just change our source code, that would be a bad idea for our clients. If you are a store builder that needs 100% access to source code and like to write custom modules for some extreme off-standards web shop, then SolidShops probably isn’t the right solution for you.

Magento, osCommerce and Ubercart all allow you to extend or modify their source code, which is a good thing, if you are into that sort of thing of course. SolidShops is focused on making eCommerce as simple and enjoyable as it can be.

If you are not looking for an easy to use tool to build and design online stores, we suggest you stay with open source packages that can be extended at will.

Conclusion: SolidShops is…

… GREAT for you if you don’t like to hack into source code to get things up and running.
… GREAT for you if you want to save time and hassle when building an online store.
… GREAT for you if you like designing in HTML/CSS to create a unique look and feel for your stores. See an example of our templating language

… NOT for you if you like to spend time hacking and extending source code.
… NOT for you if you aren’t making at least 29$/month with your store.
… NOT for you if you have unlimited time/budget to configure, update, maintain and install open source software.

As you can see, SolidShops isn’t necessarily a perfect fit for everyone or for every project and we don’t claim it to be. As a designer, you should find the type of platform you feel most comfortable with and go with that.

People that aren’t interested in using a hosted eCommerce platform such as SolidShops can find open source alternatives on the following links:

Tripwire Magazine: 15 Open Source eCommerce Platforms
Web Distortion: 10 kick ass Open source E-commerce platforms reviewed
Web Appers: 15 Best Free Open Source Ecommerce Platforms

If you are interested in giving SolidShops a try, you can sign up for a free trial right here. No credit card is required.