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- Date Established
- New Jersey, USA
- Free to download
- Easy to use
- Supportive user community
- Numerous features
- Limited customer support
- Limited and outdated integrations
- Outdated design templates
AbanteCart is a free, open-source shopping cart that was built by developers with a passion for free and accessible software. Abante is a Tagalog word that means “to move forward” or “to lead,” and while I don’t see AbanteCart as an outright industry leader, it does provide an intriguing option with its own special twist on the ecommerce genre.
AbanteCart was launched in 2011. The cart is coded in PHP and supports MySQL, but if those letters mean nothing to you, don’t panic. AbanteCart’s intuitive control panel and basic layout management tools make this open-source solution both easy to use and customizable.
AbanteCart is unique because, while it’s free and open-source, it is also quite accessible for those of us who break out in hives at the prospect of editing code. It’s entirely possible for a user with little to no coding experience to set up and use this cart. Of course, such a code newbie would be limited to the themes and features available in AbanteCart’s core and AbanteCart’s marketplace. Regardless, it would still be a workable solution.
Significant positives aside, I confess that I do have a couple of concerns about AbanteCart. Keep reading to learn more!
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Table of Contents
AbanteCart is completely free to download and use. You just need to pay for hosting, security certificates, and any add-ons you may choose to use.
For hosting, AbanteCart recommends its primary partner, A2 Hosting. Here’s a quick look at A2 Hosting’s pricing for AbanteCart customers:
Cloud-Based Or Locally-Installed
AbanteCart is an open-source, downloadable solution. AbanteCart’s Getting Started guide and User Manual contain installation options and instructions.
Specific Size Of Business
AbanteCart is best suited to small and mid-size businesses.
Hardware & Software Requirements
In order to run AbanteCart, you’ll need to meet the following system requirements:
- Web Server (Apache recommended)
- PHP v5.3.1+
- MySQL v5.0+
- Curl or fsock support
As mentioned, you’ll also require all the technical trappings of maintaining your own website, such as finding a hosting service and registering your domain. While AbanteCart heavily recommends A2 Hosting, most other hosting companies also support a one-click installation of the AbanteCart platform.
Ease Of Use
In the past, AbanteCart offered a personalized demo to try out the software. Upon providing your name and email address, you’d receive an email with a link to your pre-installed cloud trial through A2 Hosting.
I attempted to set this up through the AbanteCart website for this update of our review, but with no success. I checked my spam folder, redid the signup process several times, and even shot an email over to firstname.lastname@example.org. Unfortunately, I never received my link, nor any response from AbanteCart. Either they’re having technical difficulties, or the trial is no longer available.
This left me with only the shared demo option to explore AbanteCart’s usability. As is common with shared trials, the communal site resets itself after a period of time — in this case, every 30 minutes. You get to play around with some basic features, but there are definite limits to how much you can change and explore. You may also find yourself frustrated (as I was) with the fact that any products you’ve added completely evaporate every 30 minutes! Curses!
The shared demo is based on AbanteCart version 1.2.11. As of this update, version 1.2.13 is the most current release of the actual software. There’s no setup wizard like in the personal trial. Instead, you’re taken straight to the main dashboard:
AbanteCart’s dashboard isn’t the hippest I’ve seen, but I was pleased with its overall organization. It was easy to locate the features I needed.
As always, I first went to add a product. I quickly discovered that this is a two-step process. In the first step, you add “General” information (e.g., product name and description) and “Data” (e.g., price, dimensions, and stock level). I’ve copied the lengthy screen below. You can click to enlarge if it makes you squinty-eyed:
Once you save that information, you are automatically redirected to the second step of adding a product, which consists of a more in-depth page with a horizontal menu bar. Here, you can add details like images, options, and product-specific promotions:
The only trouble I had was getting my photos in the right orientation after they mysteriously flipped themselves upon import. If there’s a simple way to rotate photos, it wasn’t obvious. See if you can spot my sideways ukulele on the storefront preview:
By the time I’d made it this far, the demo had reset, and I’d lost my poor sideways ukulele to the vast internet void. Soldiering on, I started playing around with product options on a pre-loaded gray polo shirt. There are about 10 different choices for types of fields you can use for options (I used “selectbox”). I added “Color” as a new option and a couple color variants of the shirt with relative ease:
Next, I took a look at the discount rules feature:
Discounts may be set as percentages or fixed amounts. You can then have those discounts apply to select products, or to orders over a specified amount. I would like to see a bit more complexity to AbanteCart’s discount rules engine, such as a Buy-One-Get-One option. Despite these limitations, it’s a workable tool.
Before we move on, it should be noted that AbanteCart can also be used to sell products on an existing website. It’s pretty easy to access the code to embed a product or category, copy-and-paste it into an established website or blog, and then manage sales from your AbanteCart admin. I re-imported my (sideways) ukulele into the shared AbanteCart demo and gave this a try:
Yes, there was some scary HTML in there, but I literally just copied and pasted it into the WordPress editor, all while keeping my own code-related allergies at bay. Here’s my resulting imaginary blog post:
All photo-flipping fails aside, I can’t deny that AbanteCart’s admin is much more user-friendly than that of many open-source cart solutions. Usually, open-source options are difficult to work with. If you don’t have any coding experience, you typically have to hire someone to make changes and build connections for you. AbanteCart is user-friendly enough that I’m confident most folks could operate the platform at a basic level with no background in code whatsoever.
AbanteCart comes with lots of features already built in. I’ve included my own summary of key features below, but take a look at the AbanteCart website for more information, including any features added as part of the latest release of the software.
- Unlimited Categories, Products, Images, Orders: Make sure you check with your hosting provider to find out about bandwidth limits.
- Multi-store: Host your cart on multiple sites from the same admin.
- Digital Products: Sell digital items and downloadable files.
- Layout Manager: Create custom pages and layouts with AbanteCart’s layout management system that uses convenient content and data “blocks.”
- Media Library Support: Include videos and other media in your site.
- Product Attributes: List product options like size and color. This is a very flexible feature with AbanteCart.
- Categories & Brands: Add products to multiple categories. Arrange your products by brand.
- Discount Rules: Create simple discount rules and coupon codes to fit your business model.
- Banners: Customize ad banners for your store, and then track clicks & views.
- Bulk Import/Export: Use CSV files to make bulk edits.
- Data Migration: Easily migrate your store from another open-source shopping cart to AbanteCart.
- Control Panel Search Bar: This “search anything” feature simplifies backend navigation.
- Shipping: Choose from the following shipping options: flat rate, free shipping, pickup from store, and weight-based shipping. You’ll need to add extensions to connect with individual carriers (most cost around $30 to integrate with AbanteCart).
- Voice Controlled Admin: Apparently, AbanteCart has its own little Alexa/Siri.
- Related & Featured Products: List products that might inspire your customers to purchase larger orders. Compare multiple products at once with an extension.
- Customer Reviews: Let customers leave their feedback on your site.
- Wish Lists: Customers can create wish lists to purchase your products later.
- Create Account Or Guest Checkout: Let shoppers choose.
- Multi-lingual & Multi-currency: Sell globally with multiple languages and currency options.
- SEO-optimized URLs: Generate searchable URLs for your products and pages.
- Mobile Responsive Storefront: Mobile-friendly sites do better with search engines. Choose a mobile responsive design to take advantage of this.
- Meta-information Tools: Edit and optimize meta-data across your site.
- Auto-generated Sitemap: Help search engines see all the pages you want them to see.
- Google Analytics: Tracking with GA is built in.
Every AbanteCart store comes with one default, free theme. You already caught a glimpse of this theme when I showed you my sideways ukulele image on the storefront, and I think you’ll agree with me that it isn’t particularly striking:
If you’re also not a huge fan of AbanteCart’s default theme, you can browse through the collection of just over 30 third-party templates in the extensions marketplace, ranging from $25-$69 each. Frankly, these third-party themes aren’t much better. For example, below is one offered at $28 with the inspiring name, “Brown Theme Template”:
Similar to Brown Theme, several designs simply alter a few colors and other minor elements. Here’s the most expensive theme at $69, which does a bit more:
Note that this theme has “responsive” in the title, meaning it’s optimized for mobile devices. Make sure that whatever design you choose is mobile responsive.
These aren’t the worst designs I’ve ever encountered — they’re just rather bland. Especially at these relatively low prices, I assume that they are intended more as jumping-off points for people with coding skills. If a modern and unique storefront out-of-the-box is a priority, you should probably look elsewhere.
That being said, most open-source solutions require a good grasp of CSS to make any changes to a theme. However, with AbanteCart, you can make basic changes to your site’s layout without touching a line of code.
Below is a shot of AbanteCart’s layout manager. You choose which “blocks” are included in each section of the page and rearrange how they’re all presented:
You get a layout manager like this for your home page, product pages, checkout pages, and several others. In the shared demo, about 40 different blocks were pre-made and ready for me to move or place. The layout manager doesn’t give you a whole lot of customizability, but it is a nice option for merchants who otherwise wouldn’t be able to customize any part of their sites. It’s definitely more than a lot of open-source solutions offer without requiring code changes.
Integrations & Add-Ons
Although there are a couple hundred add-ons available in the AbanteCart Marketplace, that’s still on the smaller side for an ecommerce platform. It’s likely that AbanteCart’s smaller marketplace stems from its lack of popularity in the ecommerce world. I’d like to see the AbanteCart marketplace continue to expand in the future.
That said, I’m a bit concerned that several promoted integrations are not up-to-date and working with the most recent versions of AbanteCart. For example, at first, I was pleased to see an integration for ShipStation, a popular shipping app, in the list. However, I soon discovered that this integration only works for a much earlier release of AbanteCart, and that there is no ETA for a newer version. In fact, the last update was in early 2015. I’d be less worried if there were other equivalent integrations for order fulfillment, but no such luck. Hopefully, this isn’t a sign of a deeper company problem, but do keep a close eye on dates and release compatibility when checking AbanteCart’s integrations.
Most AbanteCart extensions run from free to around $100, and many sit under $25. For the most part, the cost listed is for a single installation license. There may be monthly subscriptions or other fees associated with some integrations which are charged separately by the app vendor.
The marketplace is divided into the following broad categories: Marketing, Design & Themes, Languages, Integrations, Tools, and Payment & Shipping. Here are a handful of the more recognizable add-ons:
- Constant Contact ($24): Email marketing.
- LiveChat ($10): Live customer communication.
- Avalara AvaTax (Free): Automatic rate calculation and tax compliance.
- MailChimp ($24): Email marketing.
- Disqus ($10): Customer comment system.
- Google Market ($19.95): Customize product data for Google Shopping.
- SEO Boost Pack V 2.0 ($75): Suite of several SEO tools and plugins.
- Recently Viewed Products ($15): Save and display viewed products within a customer session.
Depending on where you read about and count them, AbanteCart supports anywhere from 20 to 50 payment acceptance options. The total is highly inconsistent, so I’m going with closer to 20 to be safe. This includes country-specific methods, as well as non-credit card methods like bank transfers.
Some methods are shown as default options in your admin, while others are accessed through the AbanteCart marketplace. Like with other AbanteCart extensions, I’m a little concerned about how up-to-date the marketplace’s list of payment processors is, so I’d suggest focusing on the options already displayed on your dashboard to start.
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Of all the gateway options, CardConnect (by First Data), Stripe, and Authorize.Net are favored by AbanteCart, extolled as the”most common and well-supported methods” for the platform. In particular, AbanteCart has offered a special deal for processing via CardConnect. CardConnect will perform a rate analysis for your business, but I’ve seen numbers like 2.85% + $0.25 and 2.75% + $0.20 thrown around in marketing materials. To learn more about fair processing rates for your business, check out our guide to the best online credit card processors.
Meanwhile, here’s a quick sampling of other payment acceptance options with AbanteCart:
- PayPal (various plans)
- Cash On Delivery
- Bank Transfer
- Check/Money Order
AbanteCart itself does not charge any transaction fees on top of your payment processor’s charges.
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Customer Service & Technical Support
AbanteCart has several support resources available to merchants free of charge. You can use these materials to find answers on your own. I’ve observed that AbanteCart typically directs users to the community forum to ask specific questions. There is no phone support, nor really any guaranteed email support for free. For more personalized or ongoing support, you can opt for a paid service plan.
Here’s a summary of AbanteCart’s resources:
- User Manual: Get started with AbanteCart and find answers to your questions about everyday use.
- Developer Guide: Learn about AbanteCart’s architecture.
- Troubleshooting: A section of the main User Manual in which AbanteCart admins post solutions to common problems.
- Community Forum: Submit your questions to AbanteCart’s forum. AbanteCart admins and users both actively participate in providing answers.
- AbanteCart Partners: Reach out to one of AbanteCart’s partners if you encounter trouble with a particular extension, or would like to request custom development or custom store design.
- Paid Support: Called “Managed Services,” this refers to AbanteCart’s one-time or ongoing support for a fee. Current services and pricing are listed below:
Negatives Reviews & Complaints
In general, AbanteCart users are very happy with the platform. However, there are still a few things that they would like to see added or changed. Here’s what AbanteCart customers complain about most often:
- Limited Extensions: AbanteCart’s marketplace is fairly limited. It would be nice to see more extensions added (and kept updated) in the near future. In order for that to happen, more developers will have to donate their time to the cause.
- Limited Themes: The difficulty here is the same as the one above. Because AbanteCart is not a very popular shopping cart, there aren’t as many developers and designers populating its marketplace.
- Limited Support: AbanteCart often challenges customers who complain about support, stating that they respond to questions in the community forum. The company does not offer phone support.
Positive Reviews & Testimonials
There’s a lot to love about AbanteCart. Here’s what customers talk about most often:
- Ease Of Use: For an open-source solution, AbanteCart is surprisingly easy to use. The admin makes perfect sense to me, and I was able to perform every function I attempted. Real merchants and developers seem to agree.
- Free: Who doesn’t love free? You just need to pay for hosting, a domain name, an SSL certificate, and any add-ons that you purchase from AbanteCart’s marketplace.
- Reliable Software: I haven’t seen any reports of bugs or glitches. Merchants also comment on AbanteCart’s overall reliability.
- Good Forum Support: Users are grateful for AbanteCart’s forum where they can find answers from other users and from AbanteCart developers.
As the AbanteCart “Going live checklist” states, one of the first things you’ll need to do before launching your store is to install an SSL (Secure Socket Layer) certificate. Without this security certificate for your site (and resulting padlock symbol and HTTPS protocol for your URLs), you are much more vulnerable to stolen customer information like credit card numbers and passwords. A free or paid certificate may be included as part of your web host’s offerings, or you can purchase a certificate separately.
Ironically, most of AbanteCart’s own pages are not covered by an SSL certificate. This is bad form, even for an open-source shopping cart provider. Don’t follow AbanteCart’s example in this area and get yourself an SSL certificate — stat!
I’ve also seen AbanteCart state that while it follows PCI compliance standards, it does not possess PCI certification. This is not a crucial point (although, I’ll point out again that it doesn’t set the best example). The real point here is that security for your shopping cart falls on your shoulders with AbanteCart. You must ensure your own website and its payment gateways are PCI compliant.
AbanteCart does come with Google’s reCAPTCHA to reduce the amount of spam on your site. So, that’s a plus!
As of this review update, AbanteCart still looks like a good solution for merchants who are looking to sell their products online without paying a monthly fee to an ecommerce platform. It’s definitely user-friendly on the backend, especially for open-source software. I would recommend AbanteCart primarily to businesses that don’t need cutting edge web design. If you’re going for chic and you don’t have the ability to design your own site, AbanteCart is not the way to go.
However, if you need to sell a few practical items and aesthetics don’t matter quite so much, AbanteCart could be a good fit. All the online ski shops, bait and tackle stores, and electronics resellers out there may just have found the ideal platform!
AbanteCart may not be as on-the-ball or have quite as many resources at its disposal as some of its larger open-source competitors. I was frustrated with the main AbanteCart website, which left me completely in the lurch on the personal demo that is still advertised. The shared demo is limited (and annoyingly erases your work every 30 minutes), so you’ll probably need to download the full version to thoroughly test the software.
I also encountered inconsistent information about integrations, but let’s hope any laziness when it comes to website updating just means AbanteCart spends more time making the actual cart software awesome. Lastly, I’m slightly worried that some of AbanteCart’s partnered developers have abandoned updating important extensions that are still actively promoted in the marketplace.
The saving grace in all this is that I haven’t seen many users complaining about these issues yet. What I have seen is users asking when the next version of an integration will be released, and the developer responding with something along the lines of “no update is planned at the moment.” My main advice if you’re considering AbanteCart is to keep a close eye on what may or may not be current. Compatibility and timely updates are crucial with open-source ecommerce software.
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