- Basic feature set is bulked out by excellent range of integrations
- Nice variation in prices of themes, integrations, and packages
- Installation process is not suitable for beginners
Having been created all the way back in 2001, the Russia-based X-Cart is almost an ancestor of the modern, fast-moving world of ecommerce platforms.In fact, they claim to be the first ever PHP ecommerce engine in the world.
The risk with these older companies, of course, is that they’ve failed to move with the times; something I’ve found a time and again in my reviews of selling-focused website builders.Finding out whether or not this was the case with X-Cart was one of the main focuses of my X-Cart review. Also, performance and other factors are tested as well
The simple fact is, however, that whatever they’re doing it seems to be working. X-Cart has some seriously impressive credentials:
Their software has been licensed more than 33,000 times, it’s used in 111 different countries around the world (including by big brands like Xerox and Hitachi), and the gross amount of sales made using X-Cart last year was a whopping $2.5 billion.
Not bad at all!
In the busy marketplace of online store creators, does the open source X-Cart ecommerce solution stand out?
Read on to find out!
Ease of Use
First things first: the X-Cart login and installation process is not really suitable for beginners.
It’s a self-hosted platform, meaning that you need to download the software yourself, then install it onto your server (which you also need to find yourself; using the in-house X-Cart hosting service is the quickest solution).
Before starting down this road, I would encourage you to do two things.
Firstly, take a look at X-Cart’s own installation guide, which you can find here.
This does a great job of laying out the entire process, step-by-step, in the simplest way possible.
If you look at that guide and simply see a load of gibberish, then you’ll need to consider whether you have the patience to learn the terminology before moving to the installation process.
Note: X-Cart can actually carry out the installation for you, for a price of course.
Secondly, try out X-Cart’s free demo.
It will give you a fake store, complete with front and back ends, to play around with. Make sure that you feel comfortable with the interface. See yourself using it long term, before you fully commit your time to installing the software.
My personal opinion: I found the interface to be excellent. The layout is clean and intuitive, avoiding the complex jargon and endless sub-menus that plague some ecommerce solutions. It’s certainly intuitive, in the sense that everything feels like it’s in the right place, and you never get the sense that you’re having to battle the interface.
Crucially, the most important parts of running an online store, like adding new products and processing orders, are a cinch.
Bottomline: If you can battle through a relatively complicated installation process, you’ll find an interface which has a level of user-friendliness that even absolute beginners will appreciate.
This is an area in which, at least regarding sheer volume, X-Cart really excels.
There are over 70 different X-Cart templates to choose from, which is extremely impressive from a self-hosted solution that’s free to download.
Five of those themes are also free of charge, which might not sound like many, but again is actually more than you’ll find from most comparable websites. The rest of the themes are paid-for and range from $39.20 up to $119.20.
The good news with these themes is that they are all responsive. The less-good news is that these aren’t exactly the most attractive themes in the world. In fact, they generally look quite dated, and few of them really fit the sleek, minimalist aesthetic which is in fashion at the moment, even at the higher end of the price range.
This being an open source ecommerce solution, you can dip into the code of your X-Cart website and customize it the way you want.
If you’re not a coding guy, there is some basic drag-and-drop functionality with which you can edit the look of your site, but unfortunately, you’ll generally be left with the same theme you started with.
On the whole, the number of themes, free themes, responsive nature of them is relatively better than others. But the designs are outdated.
Features and Integrations
Many of the best website builders offer a range of features to help you run your site on a mobile, and X-Cart falls nicely into this category too.
Aside from the aforementioned responsive themes, X-Cart also grants you the ability to authorize the payments you receive on the go, with the help of PayPal Here.
On top of that, there is also a full range of admin features which have been specially designed to work well on a mobile, meaning you can edit your store to your heart’s content while you’re on the go.
All ecommerce solutions will have some form of inventory management, but the system you get with XCart is particularly robust.
Amongst its many highlights is the ability to quickly see which of your products are selling like hot cakes, and which people are steering clear of, along with a live-updated stock count of every item to ensure you don’t accidentally accept an order for something you can’t ship.
In most cases, free open source ecommerce platforms offer a pretty minimal set of features. You can probably tell already that this isn’t the case with X Cart, and this goes for its special offers too.
Built into the system, you’ll find the ability to create a range of special offers, including volume discounts, without any need to download additional modules.
You can probably already tell that I’m pretty impressed with the feature set which X-Cart offers.
Well, this appreciation even got bigger when I came to their fantastic marketplace.
This app store is absolutely packed with integrations; I couldn’t find an exact number for how many are there, but it seems to be hundreds.
They cover every area which you could hope for (all of which are neatly sectioned off into categories): Development, Orders, Marketing, Payment Processing, and so on.
As well as using basic sectors, you can also filter the integrations by things like the number of installations they’ve had, to help you find the most popular modules. Doing so will help you quickly access some of the most famous names which you’re undoubtedly interested in: PayPal, Stripe, Sage Pay, MailChimp, and other prominent brands are present and correct, alongside a slew of lesser-known ones.
Finally, you can also easily filter the apps by whether they’re free or paid-for.
I’m pleased to note that – again, unlike some other ecommerce solutions – there’s a whole lot on offer here for free; literally dozens of integrations, at least.
Paid-for apps start at $4 and range up into the hundreds of dollars.
Good performance is an essential part of running an online store; simply put, if your website is slow to load, or doesn’t load at all, then customers are unlikely to keep coming back and using it. (My opinion: Forget coming back, they won't even wait to see it the first time)
To assess the typical performance levels of stores made using X-Cart, I took a selection of four different example websites – of different sizes and operating in various sectors – and ran them through the Google PageSpeed Insights tool. The desktop versions of the websites scored 64/100, with their mobile counterparts averaging 58/100.
These results aren’t the worst I’ve seen from a service offering free shopping cart software, but they’re certainly still disappointing and are firmly ranked in the “Poor” section of Google’s tool.
Things do get better with X-Cart’s SEO offering, however, which is satisfactory without necessarily being outstanding. All the basics are covered, including the ability to easily create an XML sitemap, configure custom URLs, and so on.
Plenty more SEO goodness is available through X-Cart’s excellent marketplace, with much of it coming for free.
Downloading the basic X-Cart software is completely free of charge, and you actually get a fine range of benefits from joining
X-Cart without paying a penny.
Best of all: No transaction fees.
After that, there are three paid packages available: Business, Multivendor, and Ultimate.
Business ($495, for a lifetime license), is intended for mid-sized businesses. It grants a range of extra product features (including product comparison and multiple currencies), bulk editing capabilities, and access to the mobile admin app.
Multivendor ($1,495) – as the name suggests – is for multiple vendors operating through the same store. To that end, it grants separate stores and individual commission rates to different vendors. This is definitely a thoughtful package, the likes of which you don’t often see with ecommerce solutions.
Finally, there’s Ultimate ($5,995), which is apparently intended for the big sellers.
It essentially gives you… everything you could ever dream of! 24/7 support, a paid theme included, and an absolute slew of product and membership features are available here if you’ve got the money for it.
Unlike hosted store building solutions, customer support is something that’s generally left by the wayside with self-hosted ecommerce platforms. The obvious reason is these open-source builders are basically free of charge.
This is the case here too, with 24/7 support only being included in the most expensive price package. If you’re not lucky enough to have that, then you’re restricted to basic support features like how-to guides (which are admittedly excellent), and a fairly active forum.
Interestingly, X-Cart does actually offer customer support as a separate paid-for extra too. Even if you haven’t purchased the most expensive price plan, you can still shell out $199/month for access to 24/7 customer support. That still sounds pricey to me, and you can get access to good customer support for a lot less than that from some of X-Cart’s competitors.
Let’s get the obvious stuff out of the way first: if you’re looking for a shopping cart which you can just pick up and start using it effectively, this isn’t it.
X-Cart requires a substantial commitment of both time and effort just to get it off the ground.
Once you’ve done so, however, there is a huge amount here to enjoy.
Unlike the installation process, the interface is extremely user-friendly, even for beginners. Dig a little deeper, and you’ll find a robust feature set which is brilliantly augmented with a marketplace which is at least the equal to any of X-Cart’s competitors.
Overall, I was left with an extremely positive impression following my X-Cart review.
If you’re looking for an open source, self-hosted ecommerce solution, then this is seriously worth a look. Set half an hour or so aside to have a poke around with the free demo, and I’m sure you won’t be disappointed.