Ecommerce Website Development in PHP – Open Source Customization and Solutions

Choosing Shopping Cart Software

In this article we’re reviewing open source PHP-based ecommerce solutions. PHP is chosen as there are many such ecommerce solutions available and they are cheap to customize. By using an open source solution you don’t have to reinvent the wheel and build everything from scratch and all these solutions can be customized to give your online store a unique look.

Statistics from show that Magento has grown much faster than osCommerce during the past 2-3 years so it’s reasonable to assume that Magento is a more popular choice among those with no prior experience of ecommerce website development, while there is a group who is sticking to osCommerce, probably because they are used to the system. Statistics from Google shows that Magento overtook osCommerce in terms of search popularity in early 2009.


Magento is a modern ecommerce solution featuring with the following advantages and disadvantages:


  • Table-free, div-tag-based design which is easy to modify and search engine friendly
  • Built on the model-view-controller (MVC) framework, Zend Framework, which provides clear separation between presentation layer and the logic (code)
  • Supported by a company and not a non-profit organization. The company owning Magento is active in fixing bugs and supporting the shopping cart
  • The system is neatly designed and looks very modern
  • SEO friendly URLs from the get-go
  • Advanced features such as abandoned shopping cart reporting, shipping estimator without logging in, set up of multiple stores from one admin login and more


  • Magento comes with a huge number of files and tables by default which takes time for a development team to learn. Customizations may therefore take more time.
  • Magento is slower as its more complex
  • Some estimates suggest that Magento has a 2-3 higher total cost of ownership which may not make it worth all the extra bells and whistles for smaller webshop owners


osCommerce has been around for a very long time (in internet context) which means there’s a lot of knowledgeable people around to support it.


  • A very well established community supporting the software
  • Simple coding (no frameworks, which takes extra time to learn), even though the structure can be a bit of a mess, which makes it easy to jump in and edit even for less experienced PHP and MySQL developers
  • The simple code base makes it run fast
  • Requires just a simple virtual account when it comes to hosting
  • There’s not so many features by default which may make it easier for small webshops to administer
  • It has a huge number of contributions (add-ons) available thanks to its long history


  • Lack of features and sensible features installed by default which are required to run a big and serious ecommerce site
  • Old type of coding structure (no MVC framework) making an osCommerce solution with lots of extra features difficult to manage

Uglier default design and table-dependent layout which is less search engine friendly.


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