Open source e-commerce software gives online storeowners a way to sell products without having to buy a front-end selling system — and the freedom to modify the programming as necessary. The best e-commerce software — open source or otherwise — should allow for a broad range of payment methods, so the business owner can accommodate customers. E-commerce systems typically support the sale of physical products, but some also can handle the sale of downloadable items, which will be necessary for some business owners. Adding products to the website catalog should be easy for the user, so the e-commerce system should handle new items with ease and be able to accommodate a high number of product listings. Skinning, or setting a custom design, should be built using cascading style sheets (CSS) or a similar design code that is easy to manipulate.
All e-commerce websites have at least one payment method; that is how the owner makes money. The best open source e-commerce software will be able to accommodate many different payment methods, including credit cards, money orders and checks, along with international currencies. Broader payment methods will give customers more choices when it comes to paying for the products or services rendered.
Most online businesses focus on physical products, or products that are shipped to the customer after they are ordered. For many online business owners, open source e-commerce software that allows for the sale of physical items will be fine. Other businesses sell downloadable products, including books, craft patterns, online content and software, among other items. The best open source e-commerce software will be able to sell both types of products, so the business owner can add new items, regardless of whether they are physical or digital.
Aside from taking orders, a major aspect of open source e-commerce software is helping business owners add products to their online shop. The best systems will make this listing process easy and will give the owner fields in which to type a description, value, shipping amount and title. Along with easy updates, the system also should be able to store a high number of products — at least in the hundreds or thousands; an unlimited product feature is better and is an easy feature to find.
To make the store website look unique, the best open source e-commerce software will have a simple way of creating a new skin. The best systems frequently use CSS for skinning, because this code is used to design most websites. If the user cannot find a system with CSS, then finding one with a simple design system will make it easier to customize the storefront without needing advanced technical knowledge.
Unlike closed-source e-commerce programs, open-source versions can be manipulated by developers without restriction. This allows the developer to make new modules, to change the original product or even sell the modified system without legal problems. If the user is not a developer, the best system may have modules available for download that easily add new functions.