Migrate Off of Zen Cart

Top 5 reasons to migrate your store off of Zen Cart.

Zen Cart US market share as of October 2022
Zen Cart’s reduced presence in the US eCommerce market could explain the disadvantage its users have when trying to compete against websites on other, more modern platforms such as Shopify. (SOURCE: W3Techs.com)

Zen Cart, like its contemporaries OpenCart, WooCommerce, and Magento 1, is a free use open-source eCommerce platform. Open-source software allows developers to fully customize its source code which, in turn, unlocks limitless possibilities in design and functionality. While the terms ‘free use’ and ‘limitless possibilities’ can make Zen Cart an appealing alternative to subscription-based SaaS platforms such as Shopify and BigCommerce, there are definite caveats to be had with using open-source eCommerce software as a foundation for your online business.

Online businesses that use Zen Cart to power their websites often find themselves at a severe competitive disadvantage versus websites that use more modern and more robust eCommerce platforms and as the eCommerce industry continues to thrive and evolve, it’s crucial that online business owners plan out for the future. This includes how their websites operate and what system will power them. Migrating off of Zen Cart and onto an industry-leading platform could help solidify and secure your business’ future.

Here, we will go over top 5 reasons to consider migrating your store off of Zen Cart.

First, a Note About Open-Source Software

Generally speaking, open-source eCommerce platforms don’t provide their own hosting or security updates. The user/online business owner would be responsible for purchasing web hosting and performing security maintenance and, when applicable, critical software updates to the platform. Open-source eCommerce platforms also come with just the bare minimum in regards to the features and functions that are necessary in operating an online business. Any missing functions can be restored by way of custom coding and/or an app, add-on, plug-in, or integration but these have their own inherent risks. For starters, the more popular a platform is, the larger the development pool and available resources. If the platform in question happens to be a lesser-known one, you can expect decreased availability of developers and aid. Second, when implementing 3rd party apps/add-ons/plug-ins/integrations, the potential for compatibility errors increase as it’s impossible for every individual app or add-on to cooperate with one another. One plug-in or add-on that refuses to play nice with the rest of your system could tank the entire operation, rendering your website inoperable until the compatibility error is rectified (the presence of a user/developer community, as well as the platform’s popularity, will determine either how quickly problems can be fixed and whether or not they could even be fixed at all). Lastly, there’s the added costs that come with ‘free use’ open-source software. As stated earlier, hosting, security, and maintenance are not included with open-source software and these responsibilities fall on the user. While open-source software does not carry any upfront costs, the additional costs of each of these services can add up to be even greater than a monthly licensing fee from a subscription SaaS platform. Just some food for thought.

Disadvantages of Zen Cart

#1: Outdated UI and Visually Ugly

In its base form, Zen Cart’s stock appearance is not visually appealing. That may seem rather trite considering all of the jobs your business’ website has to perform but to the random website visitor, an unsightly website could turn away prospective customers. Don’t forget: one of the purposes of your website is to market and advertise your brand and if you fail to make a good first impression, it’s highly unlikely that any visitor will stick around long enough to actually shop your store. Of course, this can be treated by taking advantage of the open-source model to customize the visual layout and design of your website. But with Zen Cart losing more and more market share to other eCommerce juggernauts such as Shopify, the Zen Cart-dedicated development community is shrinking and Zen Cart themselves have significantly reduced support of their own software. The ability to fully customize a Zen Cart website is a moot point if there’s hardly anyone around that’ll help you do it. This leads us to #2…

#2: Reduced Support

Zen Cart’s official support of their own software has waned throughout the years, leaving only  the Zen Cart community to design new apps and add-ons as well as provide assistance to other users of the platform. However, as Zen Cart continues to lose more and more market share in the US, this well of independent developers is slowly drying up as they continue to move away from Zen Cart and onto the more popular platforms used throughout the eCommerce industry. It takes advanced coding and programming knowledge to modify a source code and unless a business has hired their own in-house expert or you yourself are well-versed in coding for Zen Cart, Zen Cart developers will become increasingly difficult to locate out in the wild.

#3: Unintuitive, Difficult to Use

Zen Cart was born from osCommerce in 2003 and between the two systems, there really isn’t a substantial amount of difference between them. This means that the software has evolved very little in almost 2 whole decades. For someone who has been working with Zen Cart from day 1, that might not seem like that big of a deal–but only on a superficial level. A system that has not evolved in time with the other advancements in Internet technology and the eCommerce industry itself would be ill-equipped to handle the operations of a modern online business. User reviews on GetApp state that Zen Cart is a bit more difficult to use than its more famous competitors while others have experiences with the software being rather buggy and sensitive to coding modification. That’s ironic, especially when considering its open-source nature. This brings us to #4…

#4: Unstable and Sensitive to Custom Coding Modification

The idea behind open-source software is that a skilled developer can customize its base code from basic modifications to a full-on bespoke project. Zen Cart, an open-source eCommerce platform, has gained a reputation for being difficult to modify and, at worst, so sensitive to coding modifications that basic upgrades can potentially reset the entire code back to stock and will require recoding all of the previous customizations. That, in itself, defeats the whole purpose of a fully-customizable open-source solution; if it’s so twitchy that any coding change could create stability issues. Then, there’s the implementation of additional plug-ins and integrations from 3rd party developers. As with any eCommerce platform–including both open-source and SaaS solutions–stacking too many 3rd party apps or plug-ins carry the potential for decreased web performance and open the door for compatibility errors which could cause your website to crash. For Zen Cart users, these possibilities are increased for some reason as user reviews often cite instability and difficulty with incorporating integrations as one of Zen Cart’s major flaws.

#5: Extremely Limited Functionality in Base Form

Out of the box, like most open-source platforms, Zen Cart has the bare minimum when it comes to core features. This is in stark contrast to BigCommerce, a SaaS platform, which totes one of the largest and most comprehensive feature sets to be included in a base package. With open-source software, additional features like reporting, analytics, and inventory management systems can be reinstated by way of custom coding and the use of applications or integrations. But when compared to the other major open-source eCommerce solutions on the market, Zen Cart is embarrassingly sparse in its stock feature set. For example, even its basic site reporting system does not provide specific product sale reports and profit reports. This would necessitate the use of an app and, as mentioned earlier, the more apps that get stacked on top of one another, the likelihood of a compatibility error increases–and on a platform that’s as unstable and finicky to modifications as Zen Cart is, this is pretty much a recipe for disaster if your business is a high-volume, high-traffic business.

Migrating from Zen Cart to Shopify or BigCommerce

When your Zen Cart website has outgrown its usefulness, it’s time to consider upgrading to a powerful, robust, and secure platform from eCommerce industry leaders such as Shopify or BigCommerce. With enhanced website customization and inventory management capabilities, improved security, and performance to handle increased web traffic and order processing, migrating from Zen Cart to either Shopify or BigCommerce is one of the most efficient ways to take your business to the next level. Trust the eCommerce experts at Diztinct to safely and securely migrate your website without disrupting the day-to-day details of your business operations.

Advantages of Shopify and BigCommerce over Zen Cart

  • Modern, easy to use interface
  • Ample list of standard features and improved functionality versus competitors’ products
  • Fully-customizable templates and themes
  • Mobile-friendly
  • Vast app and add-on integration options from industry leading business systems
  • Highly secure
  • Constant internal upgrading with automatic software updates
  • Fast server response time
  • Comprehensive product and inventory management tools
  • Unlimited listings
  • Multiple sales channels
  • Solid SEO and marketing features
  • Dropshipping available (by way of 3rd party app)
  • Strong community of users and 3rd party developers
  • Available 24/7 customer support
  • Easy access to supplemental product training materials
  • Multi-tier pricing system
  • Designed for businesses of all sizes
  • Unlimited potential for business growth

Having worked in the eCommerce industry and improving custom eCommerce websites for over 15 years, Diztinct offers a wide variety of eCommerce website design and development services. A number of the top names in the eCommerce industry have recognized and awarded our work and we’ve worked with global-renowned brands and companies such as QVC, Clorox, Dickies, Crocs, and Dooney & Bourke. Our team is also proud to be official design partners with both Shopify and BigCommerce. That means you’ll be working with officially-recognized experts who are backed by the actual platform provider company when you hire us to migrate your website onto a new platform.

We address every aspect of the website migration process, including:

  • Basic data transfer
  • Product and inventory management
  • Page titles and metadata migration
  • SEO data retention and optimization
  • Link preservation
  • Category page migration
  • Policy and other informational page transfer
  • Redirects

With our help, you’ll receive a modern, feature-rich, secure, and SEO-friendly website that will promote the growth of your business, regardless of whether we migrate your existing Zen Cart website or design a brand new custom site for you from scratch.

Are you ready to give your website and your business the Diztinct advantage over the competition? If so, let’s talk. Get in touch with us today and get ready to make your website work for you.

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