Quest for the Perfect Drupal Shopping Cart
Posted by Chris Toler on 06 / 19 / 2008
When a client asked us to give their site a facelift, my first thought was to turn to Drupal. It is, after all, a powerful social networking application. And then the bombshell dropped. The client's website was an online store originally built in the mid '90s, and in dire need of some help.
Initially, we didn't want to rule Drupal out. Used in conjunction with the ecommerce module, it would provide the client with a lot of flexibility in years to come. However, many of the features they were requesting (split shipping, single page checkout, and order history, to name a few) would have required a significant development effort, and our ultimate decision was that a fullblown ecommerce solution would ultimately benefit them more.
Our eyes turned to open source shopping carts, and we spent a few days weighing our options. Zen Cart and Ubercart are both solid applications, but didn't support the functionality we were looking for. Hope of finding the perfect application was dwindling smaller by the minute. It didn't seem as if there was a solution that we could use that did not require a significant amount of development, and the client's budget did not allow for a lot of wiggle room for custom features.
It was early April when we discovered Magento, shortly after its first stable release. As we read through the rich feature list, we ticked off all of the client's special requests on our hands. Surprise surprise. Magento supported them all.
After performing a gap analysis between Ubercart, Zen Cart, and Magento, we not only found the out-of-the-box functionality to be superior in the latter, but that it was easier to use in general. Setting up Fedex, DHL, or UPS shipping estimates, for instance, takes less than 5 minutes and is as simple as entering an account number and changing a few options. Adding custom pages with content is a snap. Administrators can subscribe to RSS feeds for virtually any type of notification that can be thought of (low inventory, new orders, new reviews, new tags). Even something that is generally considered to be somewhat complex, like generating coupon codes with specific rules, took only a few minutes to accomplish.
One of the other great things we noted about Magento is the documentation created by the development team. A combination of written documents and screencasts, there was virtually nothing that went unanswered for a duration longer than the amount of time it took us to search within their knowledge base.
Over the next few weeks, we worked feverishly to build a theme based on a mock-up of the front page. A small amount of education was necessary at the beginning, due primarily to the fact that Magento's theming system is drastically different than what we were used to working with. That being said, we can say without hesitation that it is one of the most brilliantly constructed open source applications we have ever seen.
Upon delivery, the client was blown away. The feature set they were receiving was richer than anyone could have dreamed, while quite gracefully providing the functionality they requested.
We have eagerly added Magento to our arsenal, and hope to work with it again in the future. You should check it out and see for yourself. :)