Setting up an e-Commerce site can be pretty daunting. Fortunately, there are loads of frameworks and systems out there that will help you to build a shopping platform. They range from the very, very easy, up to the very, very powerful, with plenty in between. In this article, we’ll introduce and compare some of the major players in the e-Commerce Content Management System (CMS) sphere.

WordPress

The ubiquitous blogging site has grown at breakneck pace over the past two years, after opening its doors to user-programmable plugins and gradually honing the backend dashboard into its super-friendly current-day format. But blogging is by no means all WordPress can do: although it’s optimised for text and images, it supports a wide range of e-Commerce plugins that make it simple to sell to anyone.

Top among these is WP e-Commerce, the WordPress’ ‘own brand’ e-Commerce solution. It’s the oldest and, arguably, the most deeply-integrated e-Commerce plugin WordPress has on offer, with support for PayPal, Google Checkout, coupons, localisation – pretty much everything under the sun. Because it’s made by WordPress themselves, it’s tightly bound to the Dashboard. If you love using the WordPress backend for blogging, you’ll be right at home with the WP e-Commerce plugin.

There are other plugins available, of course – hundreds of them – but to avoid derailing this article we’ll not dive too deep into them. Google around for ‘WordPress e-Commerce plugins’ for more detailed comparisons.

Squarespace

Massively under-represented in the e-Commerce space, Squarespace offer a smooth, efficient selling platform integrated with their customary design and templature flair. Payments are accepted via the rapidly-growing Stripe platform, and inventory management (and analytics) are all done through the company’s achingly wonderful LayoutEngine. While the platform’s currently lacking some of the more recent innovations of its competitors – PayPal integration, for example – Squarespace’s e-Commerce suite is, quite honestly, a pleasure to use. That goes for you, the owner, and whoever’s picking things up on your site.

One of the great things about Squarespace’s CMS is that it works seamlessly with the mobile apps for adding and retrieving content directly from the backend. This means that you can comfortably manage and maintain a site from a laptop, or – at a push – a mobile phone. Now that’s mobile working.

Magento

The web’s most popular e-Commerce platform, Magento has risen to prominence (out of relative obscurity) over several years. It’s incredibly powerful, with integration everywhere, with the result that it’s a little tricky to get to grips with. So much so, in fact, that Magento offers their own training courses to get developers up to speed.

Nonetheless, Magento is popular for a reason. No other platform offers such wide-ranging features – from analytics to exports, through mailing lists and consulting. Although you might need to hunt down a developer with specialist skills to work through some of the trickier aspects, the end result is usually worth it. Magento can be configured to do pretty much anything you want.

Shopify

Rather than building an e-Commerce solution on to an existing blogging platform, Shopify have elected to build an e-Commerce platform from the ground up. Their unique selling point, though, is that they bring all the simplicity of setting up a blog to setting up a shop, with all the confidence of knowing that the engine was custom-built to handle huge volumes of traffic.

Aside from being very pretty, and very easy, Shopify is keen to explain that full source code control allows developers to integrate and embed Shopify functions into existing web sites (in much the same way that a static page can be converted to a dynamic one via the inclusion of WordPress tags). This not only makes Shopify a compelling option for rapid set-up of online stores (if you’re on a tight schedule), but a decent backend to customise and adapt for a more tailored website design.

OpenCart

If you prefer your code rights-free and, well, free, OpenCart is a fully-featured e-Commerce platform built using an Open Source ethos. You can edit anything, add features, and extend functionality – if you know how to do it. On the downside, OpenCart lacks the visual niceties of its competitors, and is much harder to get started with. One for the more technically-minded, we believe.

That’s it. Hope our quick overview managed to give you an idea about the available solutions out there. Let me know if you’d like to find out more or if you have anything to add.

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