X Cart Open Source Shopping Cart Software Computer Science Essay

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X-cart is open source code template based software suitable for designing online shopping sites for medium as well as large shopping stores. The language used is PHP and the database server is MySQL. Since it is open source code the look and feel and functionalities of the site can be change as per the requirement. The documentation of X-cart provided that it is optimized for smooth performance up to 20000 products in normal software and hardware environment but the performance can be enhanced upto 500000 products by special hardware and server configuration. It provides features like online inventory management and tracking, more than 100 payment gateway support, real time shipment tracking, back end admin, built-in template editor and also it can be used for the existing sites. For the general website development detailed knowledge of PHP is not required as the simple customization is enough to develop a site.

3. Features: shopping cart not only provides the cart services it gives the overall solutions like inventory management, payment processing, customer relationship management, online marketing support and the cart service. The features can be categorized in two broad categories one from admin side that requires for business house and another one from customers side which includes the ease of use of the system. X-cart includes of most of the features that are required to develop, manage and run the ecommerce website.

3.1 Inventory Management: MySQL database server provides the easy database management system and full inventory control to maintain the database of the all the products, shopping events and customers records. Special business schemes like discount coupon codes, quantity discounts, special occasion discount and gift certificates can also be generated. Minimal order amount limitations, out of stock message and retailer or wholesaler price can be differentiated.

3.2 Web Page Design: X-cart is the template based and opens source code software so the web page can be developed by choosing the template which you like and also it can be customized according to the requirement. The look and feel of the website can easily be changed by using Built-in Template Editor.It generates the category and product thumbnails image automatically. User friendly navigations and customizable heading tabs make the system more easy to use. This template editor provides a fully customizable css and so that you can integrate the existing site with x-cart by matching the looks and feel.

3.3 Product Catalog: Configurable search by different attributes product catalog can be generate. There is no limitation on number of categories, number of products, nesting of categories and product assignment to different categories. Some special features like member only categories, featured product, related products and automated best seller can be maintained.

3.4 Payment processing: More than 100 payment gateways like PayPal, Google checkout etc. are compatible for real-time payment processing and accept any currencies for payment. Offline payment methods like checks, phone order, wire transfer etc. can also be implemented. Since the payment processing parties are trusted parties among the people since last couple of years the reliability depends on them.

3.5 Shipment and Taxation: It handles local, domestic and international shipping and no limitations in custom-delivery methods but can be restrict shipping by location. Markup products for free shipping and also available modules for e-shipping are also available. It also exhibits the ability to combine shipping zone and associated information. Tax calculation is based on product and is also customizable but the shipping fees and tax rate can be configured according to the client's location. For certain product or client tax exemption can be configured.

3.6 Customer Relationship Management: Provides multiple options wish list, email notification etc. for the customer to extend the reach of business. It provides the customizable email notifications; send to friend option, new archives for customer, news letter subscription. For the marketing and promotional activities it provides affiliate programs, cross sell feature, up sell options.

3.7 Customer Care: To keep in touch with the regular customer and to provide an easy to use interface X-cart provides the different built-in modules. It stores the personal as well as customer related information in the MySQL database. It provides a customizable module to configure only the required information to take as input about the customer for specific business. It can keep multiple type of customer and price can be set up uniquely with each type. It provides choice of account registration and fast lane checkout module for quick checkout. Cart can be saved and the order can be changed from the customer's side also.

3.8 Sales Analysis and Processing: It has the built-in module to keep track of different events in the website like total number of orders, customers, product views, category view, total sales, best seller etc. Also, keeps track of customer's search pattern when searching the product. The sales and customer related data are transferrable to the spreadsheet.

3.9 Personalization: Registered customers are provided with editable profile and it greets the customer. They need not to reenter their data again but can edit the profile, access the history of their orders, track the orders in real time. It has internal news letter engine and the news letter can be exported. Discounts can be offered for the registered customer and they may get the moderated product review and rating. It provides the fully customizable module to create the form to take input the customer data so that you can add necessary features or remove the features while building your site.

3.10. Search engine optimization: It provides different options for search engine optimization. META tags and URls can be customized for product, category and static pages. It generates the search engine friendly URLs and the static pages can be generated for product catalog for better performance of website. These functionalities enable the users to find the website quicker and at the higher level if they search in search engine. But the other cart software lie geocart claims that they have better SEO tools.

3.11 Security: security is the critical issue in the ecommerce website. The security issues may include the website's security, customer's data as well as transaction. X-cart provides https/ssl enabled and password protected administrative access. Customer's data and email notifications are fully encrypted and the failure login attempts are notified on real time. During the checkouts customer's validations is done by commercial anti-fraud module. Status of the stored files is checked by using system fingerprints. For the security of data backup sub-system is provided.

3.12 Setup and Support: X-cart provides the smarty template based design so person having little knowledge of php programming can setup and run it. As it is available in multi language it can be customized in localized language and currency symbols, weights, measurements unit, and configurable list of states/provinces. Also it supports the import, export of varieties of x-cart data like config data, states, users, categories, products, destination zones, taxes, shipping rates, orders, membership level etc. Future updates and releases are freely accessible.

4. Evaluation: X-cart comprises maximum features that are needed to build a well ecommerce shopping site. You can build a brand new web site or integrate your website with x-cart. It provides a lots of choices in payment processing more than hundreds. The inventory management is easy to use and can handle large number of categories. For the customer relationship management and personalization it provides a number of features in which the site administrator can customize the required information. The rich set of features like affiliate program, cross sell feature, up sell feature and newsletter feature are supportive as a marketing and promotional tool. To make the site attractive the design and layout is fully customizable with css based design and layout. The built-in template editor is better to edit the look and feel of the site. As it provides multilingual package which is better suited to develop site in local language and also local currency weight symbols can be changed. It has provided maximum flexibility in creating product catalog as catalog can be created in varieties of way like member only, featured product, related product, automated bestseller etc. it provides custom input fields for products so the product details can be displayed giving many information. The registered customer can track the whole process and state of shopping in real time. The many features customizable have made it more better ecommerce solution. X-cart may seem to be complicated at very first days but after a couple it can be learned and maximum features can be embed in the site. Multiple types of customers is supported so it broadens the shoppers. It requires little programming knowledge to set up and run a world class online store. As X-cart programmers have added more features and made the modules more manageable it has become mature software to run an online store.

Although the software includes most of the feature required to develop a ecommerce site there are many complain from customer's side the administrators part is so messy that it is difficult to figure out the things. Since it only offers the capability to include Meta tags and keywords search engine optimization may not be good. Since the design is not proper it is not easy to use for the non-professionals and takes more time to learn.