- Initial setup is tricky and time-consuming
- Don’t be lured in by the “free” label
- Excellent marketplace, with tons of add-ons
- Good customer support and solid community
If you already had some interest in online stores, there’s a good chance you’ve heard of PrestaShop. If not, you should know that – while it’s not as dominant as big SAAS store builders like Shopify, for example – it is a seriously popular ecommerce solution.
The stats are inarguably impressive. PrestaShop has 1,000,000 community members, spread across 195 countries, running 270,000 stores. Also, PrestaShop is open source and is completely free to download and start using (although you may well begin incurring costs if you plan on using it long-term; more on that later).
Add all of that together, and PrestaShop makes a pretty enticing offering at first glance. To find out whether the actual substance is equally impressive, check out my PrestaShop review!
Ease of Use
PrestaShop comes in the form of a download, rather than being used in-browser. The download is only around 50MB and is totally free.
It is definitely not a easy to set up ecommerce solution if you are no aware of things like FTP, MySQL, MAMP etc.
After you’ve actually downloaded the software, however, things get pretty complicated pretty quickly; you can certainly see why many PrestaShop complaints revolve around their setup process. It’s not as easy to get started with PrestaShop as it is with CoreCommerce, for example, in which you sign up and begin with a template in less than a minute.
With PrestaShop, after unzipping the download, you then need to get an online hosting space before you can do anything else (they push you towards using 1&1). Just like that, you’ve incurred your first cost for using this “free” service. Even then, you still have to re-upload one of the downloaded files into your hosted space, using an FTP client, then create a database in your MySQL server, and if you are a Mac user you need to additionally install MAMP, configure it, then…Well, I could go on! Instead, I’ll just point you towards PrestaShop’s official installation guide , and let you decide for yourself whether you can handle such a relatively complicated installation.
Subsequently getting your online store up and running could also prove tricky for beginners. The interface is actually laid out quite well, but there are simply so many options available – particularly when it comes to selecting the modules you want to use – that you could be overwhelmed.
If you do manage to get past all these initial difficulties, then the day-to-day running of your store is actually made fairly easy with PrestaShop. You’ll find the interface to be quite intuitive, and completing essential tasks like adding new products is easily-accomplished.
Of course, only you know whether or not you have the expertise, or the patience, to actually get to this stage in the first place!
PrestaShop has a truly formidable range of themes on offer, and in the great “PrestaShop vs. Shopify” debate, this is one area in which the smaller company certainly holds its own.
There are around 2,000 responsive templates on offer, which you can easily narrow down via a series of useful filters: style, business sector, review score, primary language, and so on. As you’d expect from such a wide selection, the quality of the themes does vary significantly. That being said, a quick filter of review scores can easily help you find the cream of the crop.
The only negative is that there is a grand total of one free theme. Every other theme is paid-for, with prices starting at a hefty £54.99, and running all the way up to £319.99. If you have knowledge of coding then this needn’t be a problem; as I mentioned, PrestaShop is a completely open source, so you can essentially get your website looking exactly how you want without spending a penny on themes. If you can’t code, you’re stuck with PrestaShop’s own theme editing tools, which are basic, to say the least.
Features and Integrations
Built-in features are a little thin on the ground with PrestaShop, although you can add a great deal of functionality through add-ons (more on which shortly). One area in which PrestaShop does excel is analytics. There’s a robust ‘Stats’ section which provides you with a pleasing amount of data, from the absolute basics like daily visitors and conversion rates to the number of 404 errors your users are experiencing, and the carrier distribution of orders which have been placed.
Payment methods are obviously a vital part of any online store creator. PrestaShop doesn’t exactly offer a wealth of choices, however, with only wire and cheque payments available by default. You can add more by using integrations, but many of these – including Stripe – will cost you additional money; something which isn’t the case with some of the best website builders out there.
With global sales being such a big part of many online businesses now, all PrestaShop reviews in 2017 simply must mention the international sales capabilities of this ecommerce solution… and mine is no different! I’m pleased to say, therefore, that this is one area in which PrestaShop excels. They make the creation of international versions of your site easy, courtesy of their ‘localization packs,' there are plenty of languages and currencies available, and enabling the geolocation of a user via their IP address is easily done.
Magento may be one of PrestaShop’s biggest competitors, but in the PrestaShop vs. Magento argument, the former takes a massive victory when it comes to integrations. Their online marketplace is simply enormous, with around 25,000 add-ons available compared to Magento’s 1,500.
These add-ons give you the ability to effectively add any feature you like to your online store, from additional payment methods, to discount codes and coupons, to a PrestaShop review module. PrestaShop also suggests specific modules in which you might be interested in different sections: the CloudSwipe module in the payments section, for example. There’s good news for lower-budget online merchants too: unlike the themes, there’s a large range of add-ons available completely free of charge, including big-hitters like Amazon Pay and Google Analytics.
Having amassed such a sizeable client base, you’d assume that PrestaShop stores ran pretty well. Just to be sure, I ran several examples through Google’s PageSpeed Insights tool.
The desktop versions of the sites received an average score of 56/100, and their mobile counterparts averaged 54/100. Both of these results are described as ‘Poor’ by Google, which is obviously disappointing. Given the open source nature of the product, however, some skilfull coding on your part could certainly improve this by far.
When it comes to SEO, PrestaShop definitely has a solid offering. The aforementioned analytics section is particularly impressive, even including a tool which identifies search engine keywords that your visitors may have used to find your site. You can also edit page URLs and basic metadata, and there’s a large range of excellent SEO tools available in the online marketplace, many of which are free.
PrestaShop is obviously a little unusual when it comes to pricing because, well, it’s free!
That is, at least, to sign up and download the software. As I mentioned earlier, however, if you actually want to get an online store up and running – and particularly a sizeable one – you’re going to need to shell out for it.
Everyone will need to pay for somewhere to host their store, and if you aren’t a coder, then you’re either going to need to employ someone who is, or purchase one of the paid-for themes. In addition to that, PrestaShop’s default feature set is pretty limited; to expand it into a true online store, you’ll almost certainly be splashing out on some modules.
In short, you really need to do your research before signing up for PrestaShop. Don’t be lured in by the promise of it being “free,” because depending on your own experience level and your ambitions for your store, it could actually end up costing you a sizeable chunk of change.
PrestaShop doesn’t have quite the level of customer support as a company like CoreCommerce, but you still have a few different ways to contact them.
The primary methods are via a basic ticketing system and by phone (between 8am-5pm, Monday to Friday). There’s also a relatively active forum, a decent FAQ, and a few nice user guides to help you get started.
I’ve noted this a couple of times, but if there’s one thing you take away from this PrestaShop review, I hope it’s that you won’t sign up just because it’s marketed as being free. True, you can join the site and download the software for free, but to actually get your store off the ground you’ll need to start spending money, and if you want to make your shop feature-rich, then you’ll need to invest plenty more.
If you’re happy to make that investment (as many people are), and you’re prepared to fight through the initial installation and setup process (the subject of plenty of criticism in many of the PrestaShop product reviews that I’ve read), then there’s a fair amount to like here. The layout is fine, the support team’s guides are helpful, and the marketplace is one of the best I’ve seen.
I can’t unequivocally recommend PrestaShop, but there’s definitely enough here to make it worth a try.
Head over to their excellent live demo now to get an idea of whether or not PrestaShop is right for you.