What is Zen Cart?
Zen Cart is an open source, shopping cart or online store management system offering state-of-the ecommerce solutions with user-friendly features. It is PHP-based, using a MySQL database and HTML components. This software offers support for many languages and currencies and is made available free of cost under the GNU General Public License. On the 12th of August 2007, Zen Cart team announced that the future versions of the software, starting with 1.4.0 will require PHP 5.2 as the minimum. Shop-owners, programmers, designers and consultants have chipped in their ideas and expertise to make Zen Cart a truly amazing software; thereby enriching the user experience. Its installation and set up does not necessarily require elaborate expertise or computer skills; just a few basics might just do the trick. Although; there are umpteen number of shopping cart programs available today; Zen Cart truly stands out as it offers an advancedset of flexible features, great support and option levels.
Zen Cart Requirements
The minimum or suggested server requirements to run Zen Cart successfully include:
- PHP 4.3.2 or higher (PHP 4.4.x for optimal performance)
- Apache 1.3.x
- MySQL 3.2.x or higher
- Register Globals may be on or off, safe_mode off recommended.
- Many shipping and payment modules require cURL to be installed/compiled with php.
- Support for https may be required depending on the payment methods being accepted. The use of SSL during account creation and checkout is recommended.
- Currently; Zen Cart does not officially support PHP5; however many shop owners are successfully running their shops on servers using PHP5.
- MySQL 4.1.x uses an encryption scheme that is not 100% supported by PHP4, so may not work with Zen Cart unless the user has PHP5
Zen Cart Features
The software program comes packed with loads of utilizable and flexible features; and new features are constantly added to extend the functionality of the product. Some of its key features include:
- Allows the customers to shop at the user’s store 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365+ days a year.
- Easily keep the product/catalog updated — no HTML coding required for adding, deleting, or modifying products.
- Works on the popular combination of PHP and MySQL technologies
- Secure — no one but your administrative personnel can access your customer/catalog data
- Easy to install — A helpful installation program guides the user easily through the setup process
- User front-end is validated to XHTML 1.0 Transitional
- Advanced Template System using style sheets and images
- Any PHP coding changes can be protected during upgrades by using the built-in override protection system
- Switching from one installed template to another requires just a few clicks in the Admin area.
- Merchandise Pricing options — Single and Multiple items can be put on Sale. Sale options include Percentage-off, Fixed Amount off, New Price, etc. Sales can include or exclude product attributes. You can add or exclude a discount from a Special. Shop owner also has the option of including a whole category or put the entire store on sale
- Products can be marked as Free, or “Call for Price”
- Products can be marked as “Featured” for specific highlighting/attention.
- Products can be linked and/or copied to multiple categories
- Minimum or Maximum Quantities and Units – Owner can sell 1 per customer, or require at least 4 and in multiples of 2. You can set requirements on a per-product basis.
- Quantity Discounts can be configured per-product for varying pricing levels or quantity levels.
- Product Attributes can be added, either as Radio buttons, Checkboxes, Drop-down lists, Text Boxes, File Uploads, File Downloads, and
- Email archiving supported for audit trail
- Administrative activity logging enabled for audit trail — especially beneficial with recent Merchant Agreement requirements concerning tracking of activity related to accessing customer information.
- Advertising Banners — show information about your business colleagues and track banner link activity. Banners open in new windows so that customers never really leave your site.
- Shipping Estimator allows your customer to get an idea of their shipping costs prior to checkout
- Coupons and Gift Certificates are easily handled both by customers and administrators
- Customer “Group Pricing” allows groups of users to receive a set discount amount at checkout
- Newsletter system and Product Notification system
- Low-Order Fees can be configured
- Multiple Language Support
- Multiple Currency Support
Zen Cart Prerequisites
Before downloading the Zen Cart software for an online shopping cart; the user must be able to meet the following prerequisites; besides the server requirements mentioned above:
- A domain: It is vital to have a fast, reliable hosting site that can help you register your own personal domain as well as provide for your hosting needs that meet the Zen Cart software requirements.
- FTP software: It is necessary to obtain an FTP software package such as FileZilla (free), FlashFXP or another FTP software program to transfer files back and forth from your computer to the web server. Some people have reported problems using programs like SmartFTP and CuteFTP; so it is suggested to avoid these programs.
- A good text editor: Obtain a good Text Editing software such as UltraEdit, Notepad++ (free), CrimsonEditor (free), BBedit(Mac), Kedit (linux), or some other type of Text Editor used for modifying the files in the Zen Cart software.
- Users need to be absolutely certain that they have access to a MySQL database, and username/password to that database.
Best Zen Cart Web Hosting
The Zen Cart software is very safe from hackers or injection attacks; and whenever a security risk is discovered; a fix is immediately posted.
If users are looking for reliable hosts for Zen Cart; the following certified hosts meet the optimum standards:
- Camelot Hosting
The Zen Cart website also features a comprehensive and an all-inclusive user manual almost 400 pages); to guide users with step by step detailed instructions for setting up and running an online store.