OpenCart is a popular turn-key shopping cart solution that strives to make it simple for people to get into e-commerce. Depending on whether you already have your own website set up, OpenCart can provide the themes, templates and everything else necessary to create a site for your products, or you can add it to the back end of your existing website to enable customers to actually connect with payment gateways and make purchases.
OpenCart offers many features to prospective online entrepreneurs including unlimited categories, products and manufacturers as well as being set up for multiple currencies and search engine optimization just to name a few. One of its most powerful features, however, is the ability to expand its capabilities through extensions.
What Are OpenCart Extensions?
The extensions, or plugins as they are also called, can either add a few nice touches to an existing feature of OpenCart or give it whole new tools. There are literally thousands of extensions available for this shopping cart. Some of them simply provide a new appearance to your cart through the downloading of themes. Themes can be searched by industry so you can have a cart that looks appropriate to your niche market. Some expand its functionality by providing additional foreign language, payment gateway, product feed, shipping method and customer wish lists and review options. As powerful as OpenCart is “out of the box,” you may find yourself needing capabilities that can only be offered by an extension. The following are three considerations you should have in mind when searching for the right one for you.
Make Sure a Particular Extension Is Compatible With Your Website
Compatibility is a major consideration when it comes to selecting the right extension. The issue of compatibility itself also breaks down into a couple different categories. The second type of compatibility issue occurs within OpenCart even if you use it exclusively for your entire website. Like all software, OpenCart is constantly being improved, and you have to ensure an extension that you want to use works with the version of OpenCart that you are using. If you find over time that you are constantly having to pass over good looking plugins because the version of OpenCart software you are using is too old, it may be worth upgrading to the latest version. Unless you have a lot of custom changes to your current setup, such an update should not be too difficult, and there are YouTube videos a few minutes long that explain how to do it.Consider The Price of an Extension
OpenCart plugins range from free to $99. As a general rule, as in most other things in life, you get what you pay for. Typically, premium extensions will add some functionality that the free ones are lacking. However, this is where you need to have a good grasp of your particular requirements now and what they may be in the near future. Even if a $50 extension offers more features than the free one competing with it, do you need those extra features?
Currently, at the time of this writing, when searching the website for OpenCart on their extensions page, there were over total 13,000 extensions and a large portions of these are free.
With so many free ones available, if money is tight, especially if you are just starting your e-commerce empire, there should be a free one available with sufficient features to get you going. When the need occurs and funds allow, there will then be thousands more available to upgrade to. Also, remember that there is free and then there is practically free. When scrolling through the list of extensions on their website, there appears to be plenty that are just $10 to $20.
Do Other Users Find a Particular Extension Performs to Their Expectations?
User reviews are a powerful tool to use when beginning to shop for anything. They are the embodiment of the anonymous quote: “Intelligence is the ability to learn from your mistakes. Wisdom is the ability to learn from the mistakes of others.” A solid base of user reviews are a cornerstone of online marketplaces such as ebay and Amazon. In most cases, unless its a fairly new extension, you won’t be the first person to have tried it. Many of them will have reviews, and you should definitely read them. You should do this whether it’s a paid or free plugin.
Remember that time is money too and time lost installing and trying to use and finally having to get rid of a bad extension is time you can’t get back. If you are feeling adventurous or are one of those who like to be one of the first to try some new thing, then you may want to take a chance on an extension with no reviews. It may also be new and without reviews, but perhaps it’s from a publisher that has provided solid, quality extensions in the past. User reviews are there for a reason. Unless it’s a rare case where it is from a trusted publisher, take the time to learn from the mistakes of others because it definitely costs more time to make those mistakes yourself.
The Power to Make OpenCart the Way You Want it Is in Your Hands
OpenCart is a powerful tool that can help you catapult to online success. The fairly large community means there are discussion boards available to get questions answered, but its greatest asset is your ability to customize it to your liking through extensions. The large number of them means you will have pretty much any need covered and at any price point. All you have to do is go to the extensions tab on the OpenCart website, and type in a search or select a category, and let the aforementioned criteria lead you to just the right tool that you need.
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