- the ability to charge a base price for a custom sign, with a per-letter charge as text is added to the sign
- support for adding items to the cart from an “outside” page, not managed by the ecommerce platform
- per-item shipping status and tracking, versus one status and tracking number per order
- very granular control of product images, and how they appear in thumbnails, zooming, etc.
We soon found that there wasn’t really any shopping cart software that would do everything we wanted, so the ability to extend the cart software became the number one requirement. That drove home the need for an open source product.
After evaluating the popular open source shopping cart platforms, we went with opencart…largely because of the strength of it’s community. For most things we were trying to do, the community was active enough that we could find the information we needed to get the job done. Opencart proved to be flexible, and it’s structure and codebase were fairly easy to navigate, understand, and extend.
Opencart on a Medium to Large Site
We did run into stumbling blocks, however, when building the site. To appeal to a broad base, we sell a large number of different pre-designed neon signs, such that most types of businesses shopping for a sign could find one that fits their needs. Everything from “Checks Cashed” to “Bail Bonds” to “Gyros”. In total, over 3000 different signs, spread across 100+ nested categories.
The performance of “out of the box” opencart, in this scenario, was abysmal. Pages took forever to load, server utilization was very high, and the experience was not something we could launch with. So, we started looking for the bottlenecks, and ways to improve the performance. Along the way, we also created some other, non-performance related, enhancements to opencart.
We were able to come up with a number of improvements that made the site faster, or better in some way. And, because we were reaping the benefit of OpenCart’s open source license, we felt we should reciprocate, and share these improvements . Unfortunately, the way we had made some of these improvements didn’t lend themselves to sharing. For example, because we sell only within the U.S., our improvements did not inherently support the multi-currency and multi-language features of opencart. Sharing an improvement that would break functionality didn’t seem wise.
That’s when octurbo.com was born. We’re making the effort to take these improvements and generalize them so that they ARE something we could share and useable by others.