Choosing a Shopping Cart for Your Website

Shopping carts are vital to any web-based storefront. Without them, you have no platform to sell your merchandise to your customers. Storefront shopping carts come in two varieties, hosted and self-hosted. Each type has it’s virtues and drawbacks, depending on your familiarity with the subject. Learn how you can find the shopping cart solution that’s best for you.

Self hosted shopping carts

When you need your shopping cart’s layout to adhere rigidly to custom specifications, you’ll find no better option than a self-hosted cart. Build your custom shopping cart from a cart development package like Joomla, and then upload it to the same host that you use to house your storefront. Open-source, self-hosted solutions requires experience in web development languages, which is both an advantage and disadvantage of this option.

The moderate learning curve of markup and scripting languages, like HTML (HyperText Markup Language) and VBScript (Visual Basic Scripting Edition), can be a deterrent to new shopping cart developers. However, these languages enable you to custom every element of your shopping cart. You can use CSS (Cascading Style Sheets) to perfect your cart’s layout for example, or use a scripting language to create custom menu boxes and forms.

Hosted shopping carts

In contrast to self-hosted shopping cart solutions, hosted shopping carts generally don’t require any experience in web development language. They provide templates, which can be used to quickly launch a shopping cart for your store. Increasingly, hosting cart service providers are deploying development interfaces. These GUI-based (Graphical User Interface) development tools enable you to essentially drag and drop your shopping cart’s elements to the desire location on a template, and import other elements from the utility’s library.

The downside of hosted shopping carts is the lack of complete customization. Your cart’s customization is limited to the functions of the cart’s development utility — there is no true substitution for creating objects and scripts with a web-development language. Hosted shopping cart solutions also impose recurring fees for their services.

Shopping cart extensions for popular CMS systems

CMS (Content Management Systems) solutions, like Joomla and Drupal, enable you to make changes to your shopping cart’s layout without altering its content. CMS solutions have another, equally vital function. They enable you to install extensions, or addons, for your shopping cart. For example, Drupal’s library of shopping cart extensions features tools like security modules and panel creation utilities. Other types of useful extensions found in popular CMS’ include calendar, forum, form creation and image gallery modules.


WordPress, a popular blog and shopping cart CMS, features one of the most extensive cache of extensions for developers. You’ll find everything from visitor counters and advertising plugins, to captchas and authentication modules. While many of WordPress’ extensions are tailored for blogs, you’ll find just as many plug-ins optimized for shopping cart pages. The catalog creating “Catablog” tool, for example, enables you to generate a catalog of your store’s items and the WP Deals extensions enables you to advertise your store’s specials. You can find a list of shopping cart plugins for WordPress here.


Joomla, another popular CMS, provides a smaller, more focused list of ecommerce-centered extensions for developers. Joomla’s features eight primary extensions. Included among them, is a security module to protect against hacker, an updater extension and an ad analytics module. Joomla also features over 20 other extensions, which are more of a niche nature. Among these, you’ll find multimedia modules, real estate plugins and community integration solutions for your shopping cart.
You can find a list of shopping cart extensions and templates for Joomla here.

Mark Daoust is the owner of Quiet Light Brokerage, an Internet business brokerage firm. Quiet Light Brokerage specializes in helping owners of established, revenue generating websites prepare, market, and negotiate the sale of their websites.

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