What is an open source e-commerce platform?

Open source refers to something that people can modify and share because it is publicly accessible free of charge.

Open source e-commerce platforms are e-commerce solutions that use open source code, meaning that they ostensibly permit users and developers to access their source code for free, thus enabling them to inspect, modify and enhance the code in accordance with their companies/website’s needs. This differs from proprietary software based solutions which do not allow modification of their code. Some open source solutions offer the downloadable code for no upfront charge whilst billing support and customization fees, while others contain hidden fees once using the code. 

Where these charges occur and what you are and are not allowed to do with the code, i.e. modify the original code and resell it, varies per platform and per licensing agreement. They are gaining in popularity and have some great benefits, but can also become quite challenging, complicated, and expensive for retailers.

What is the deal with an open source .Net e-commerce platform like nopCommerce?

nopCommerce is a .Net platform that offers their source code without any hidden charges. It is available under the nopCommerce Public License V3 and within minutes can be downloaded, installed and available for use in setting up a website.

There are no subscription or licensing fees. The only fee they charge is if a developer or website wishes to remove the ‘powered by nopCommerce’ text requirement that they are obligated to display on every page. nopCommerce charges for support as folllows: 

$299 for 3 months  

$799 for 1 year

nopCommerce has many partners listed on their website as approved sources for upgrades and integrations. And this is where it can get quite costly to retailers.

What are the challenges to customizing nopCommerce?

  • Customizing nopCommerce (other than themes) invalidates newer NOPCommerce upgrades.
  • The foundation architecture for nopCommerce does not support load balancing.
  • nopCommerce is designed for small to medium sized businesses.
  • Custom pricing for customer logins.
  • Develop a new security structure to facilitate the required client model--the existing model is not designed for this.
    • This modification would impact large sections of the nopCommerce feature set.
    • For example, the product page is fairly limited. There are some existing components for marketing and related products, etc. However they are limited options. Creating custom componentry, particularly for security feature enhancements, would effectively require building the product page from scratch. 
  • SEO is bare bones and requires manual editing of the topic theme pages and using coded strings to pass in SEO values from the CMS.

Open source vs. Shopodex

Though open source solutions offer lots of freedom, they often open the door to many unforeseen challenges and limitations for e-commerce retailers.

Some of these challenges include: 

Back end: many times open source platforms do not have the ability to synchronize the back end properly and as a result cannot be stabilized and built upon effectively. The reason for this is because so many programmers have altered the code that the codes begin to conflict. This leads to the necessity to hire more developers and programmers which is expensive and can also result in a loss of revenue if the site is already live. 

Shopodex only allows programmers to work within the structure of their chosen template which enables consistent and compatible development as well as fostering brand consistency. 

Brand consistency: It is difficult to provide a consistent, cohesive online experience with open source platforms. Many site owners and developers don’t know how to design their site in order for it be high performing and high converting. Site owners can get lost in a site whose design doesn’t help their company accomplish their goals. Implementing design decisions can be technologically difficult and complicated as often a change on a single page does not translate to the rest of the site. This often requires lots of customization and skill which equals lots of cost. 

Shopodex elimates these problems with its template based approach as it helps to maintain consistent format, carry design elements throughout the site, as well as making the site more aesthetically savvy. 

Time and Money: Open source custom based platforms inevitably require that site owners invest lots more money. They can end up costing as much as 4x more than template based platforms, and development and maintenance takes hundreds more hours. Furthermore, the cost is often unpredictable as there are so many unforeseen expenses such as redevelopment, security patches and extensions.

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