Tag Archives: Zen Cart

E-commerce Platform Reviews, Part 2: Zen Cart… Plus Some Jokes


Registration form of PHP-based E-Commerce Web-...
Registration form of PHP-based E-Commerce Web-Shop-Software ZenCart

If you are an e-commerce company in the market for a new platform, or if you otherwise want to sell anything online, this series is for you. The main control panel at Superb Internet that’s available for use for our clients is called myCP. Through myCP, you can utilize one of two e-commerce platform solutions: Miva Merchant or Zen Cart. Since 2002, we have included Miva free with all hosting packages; since 2007, we have included Zen as well.

In Part 1 of this series, we looked at Miva Merchant. This second installment will look at Zen Cart. Additionally, as explained in the Miva installment, the third and final part will describe in extreme and shocking detail the mating rituals of northeastern Maine’s wondrous wildlife (with a sidebar on tent-dwelling campers).

This review will be a little different from the Miva one. That article drew from various online perspectives on the application.  This one on Zen Cart instead will look directly and in depth into the perspectives from one source: Source Forge, a popular hub for the open source community (not to be confused with the “open sores” community – apples and oranges… injured oranges… there should be a punk band named that). I figured the perspectives from Source Forge will be particularly helpful since it is a fairly well-filtered, tech-savvy population more likely to be familiar with the various e-commerce platforms out there.

Afterwards, as a form of self-therapy, we will pump some iron, mumbling gruffly to ourselves about how the world doesn’t understand us.

Perspectives on Miva Merchant (courtesy of Source Forge)

OK, so let’s a take at what perspectives we can get from looking at user ratings and reviews on Source Forge. Before we get into that, I’ll just point out that Zen is free, but in order to use it, you have to go out and find your own hosting. If you want to use us for Zen Cart hosting, we’ll give you 6 months free (18 months for the price of 12). If you want to use someone else, well, we’ll leave the light on for you (the back light; the front one is for paying customers).

User Ratings

Zen is recommended on Source Forge by 77% of users, which is not bad. It has generated 453 “thumbs up” and 138 “thumbs down.” That’s a total of 591 user perspectives, so it’s also a fairly large sample size, even accounting for some spammers groveling over how great it is and only making partial sense.

User Reviews

Now these “reviews” are actually more like tweets – the longest one is three sentences. However, I think there are several meaningful comments to mention, and then I’ll discuss them as a whole. Here they are, edited for standard usage – and with the occasional addition of a “Praise Jesus” just to keep you on your toes:

  1. Miguel Diego writes, “Good ecommerce platform – works well. I wish the add-ons were easier to put in.”
  2. Diana Taylor writes, “I can’t get it to work.”
  3. Marfel Calimlim writes, “Fastest script for an e-shop. Easy to install and use. Long life to the project.”


These comments actually provide a great mix of positivity and negativity. First is mixed, second is negative, and third is positive. Certainly, you can’t make everyone happy, unless you’re Santa Claus (although home invasion is nothing to take lightly, even if the intruder has presents for the kids). The gist with the perspective of Source Forge users is that it’s great once you get it up and running, but there are some installation & setup flaws. Diana’s and Miguel’s comments are both related to ease of setup – for the platform as a whole and for the add-ons.

Now, in the grand scheme of things, that’s not a big deal … but it can certainly be frustrating. Here is the Zen Cart forums page with full instructions on installation of both the platform and its plugins (with us, of course, it’s already in your hosting control panel, so that’s irrelevant).


That’s it for my review of Zen Cart. Pluses and minuses, like anything, but I think Zen Cart is in the black. It’s a solid application if you’re looking to sell online or try something different. Plus, beyond templates and add-ons, it’s fully customizable. Open source, if you haven’t heard, allows you to get into the code and tinker around. That means that, worst-case scenario, if you get upset about any of the functionality, just grab a programmer and have them make whatever updates you want.

Again, Zen Cart is one of two options we have pre-installed with all our hosting packages. We also have Miva Merchant, discussed in Part 1 of this series. Now that we’ve reviewed Miva and Zen, it’s time to move on to our final part: mating rituals of northeastern Maine’s wondrous wildlife, including occupants of tents (but not lean-tos – those guys deserve their own three-part series).

by Kent Roberts and Richard Norwood

E-commerce Platform Reviews, Part 1: Miva Merchant … Plus Some Jokes


Shipping and packaging configuration in online...

One of the major considerations of an e-commerce company is which platform is the best. Through our myCP system at Superb, we give you direct access to two of the most popular options out there – Zen Cart and Miva Merchant, which we have carried since 2002 with all our hosting plans. This article will focus on the latter; the second part of this series will focus on the former. The third and final part will outline, graphically, the breeding habits of wildlife in northeastern Maine (with a special section on campers).

First, we will cover a basic overview and pros of Miva. Then we will look at its design. Then we will get distracted for a few minutes, go get a cup of coffee, and call our mothers to wish them each a happy birthday (whether it’s true or not, they love hearing us croon that song). Next, we will look at basic administration: product and order management. Finally, we will look at the general cons of the application. Afterwards, to relax, we will take a long walk, talking to our shoes the whole way so that no one bothers us.

Miva Merchant Pros & Overview

The five main things the beautiful vixen Miva has going for her are this:

  • Customizable design options and ease of establishing design
  • General usability of the system
  • Availability and integration with third-party modules
  • Ability to add in up-sell message & functionality at checkout
  • Accessibility/openness of company to customer input and critique.

Miva Merchant is licensed (i.e. proprietary), but some hosting companies provide e-commerce platforms such as this free of charge with hosting plans, like we do. Part of what we like about Miva is that there are no limitations on the number of products you can have in your online store – so it really fits any size of company. A number of different third-party modules are available to make the site look exactly as you like, albeit at a price. Note that regardless of the modules you choose, you will need to add pictures of people with mustaches if, like 28% of rural Australian sites, yours is a mustache aficionado site.

The company is based out of San Diego, California, where it holds the Miva Merchant Conference each year. Many e-commerce professionals choose Miva in part because of the accessibility that the conference provides, which also gives a general sense of the transparency of the business. Miva is not as transparent as water, but it is as transparent as root beer, and that’s pretty good.

Miva Merchant Design

Once you figure out what template you want to use, you’ll be able to upload your company’s logo and adjust coloring to match your company’s brand. There is no need to know any particular coding language, although that can certainly help if you want to make adjustments – and you are able to manipulate the code to your liking.  Miva has a team of freelance designers that are available if you want to create a very specific look and feel that is not possible through the templates. The more you customize, the more you can develop a strong identity for your store. Make sure you have plenty of animated rainbows if you are running a cowboy boot shop, for instance.

Miva Merchant Administration: Product & Order Management

Because managing orders and products is such a crucial aspect of running an online store, Miva has consistently updated and improved this part of the application. You can add products one at a time, but you can also do a full import of all the products simultaneously. Once you have the products in there, you can assign them to categories and input whatever characteristics apply to different types of the product that you have available. The Miva site has a number of videos available to help with this aspect (and others) of your store as well.

Order management within the application is robust, but nothing too fancy. Essentially you have a section in your control panel that will allow you to efficiently manage, organize, and understand orders. Within this section you can set up e-mails that go out with the order information. That is essentially it for the standard package. Again, you can add additional modules if you like. Adding modules can be a little tricky, so be sure to use the support team as needed. Speak in a stilted Russian accent when you call them, and talk in circles, just because.

Miva Merchant Cons

Since I listed the basic pros above, now I will get into the cons of the application (and if these are deal-breakers, you might want to turn to Zen Cart through us, free open source solutions), or the Dark Side):

  1. Mobile Integration – One of the real downsides of this application is that it is not standardly mobile-compatible. If you want to show up perfectly on smart phones and tablets, you need to pay an additional $700.
  2. Limited Templates – The library of templates available through Miva is not as vast as what you will find with many other shopping cart solutions. Although, you can change things as you like, on any page, with its Store Morph Technology.


That’s it for my review of Miva Merchant. In parting, I’ll say that the company makes up for any of its negatives, to a large degree, with its above-average customer support and transparency, as discussed above. Next up, Zen Cart; and finally, breeding habits of Maine’s beautiful wildlife, including people sleeping in tents. We don’t discriminate.

by Kent Roberts and Richard Norwood