Building an eCommerce website on open source platforms.

The idea behind open-source can apply to anything that requires continuous development. In software development, it refers to the fact that the ‘source code’, or code that is used to build the software, is freely available to everyone for possible modification and redistribution.

Creating an open-source ecommerce website is a highly viable option. It provides a high level of control over the design of your website. Open-source software such as WordPress offers you ways to build your website using a myriad of plugins created by open-source developers. There are other options such as SaaS software, so let’s see what’s the best fit for you and your business.

What is an open-source eCommerce platform?

Open-source e-commerce platforms extend the idea behind open-source software by providing users with a flexible framework they can use to launch and maintain their open-source ecommerce websites. But what does that mean exactly? The idea behind open-source software is that changes to the software are open to the public.

All the features that you may choose to use in the creation of your website are all built by the community of developers. This is why you have so many options, for example in WordPress, in terms of the plugins you can use.

What is an example of eCommerce software that uses an open-source framework? 

Magento is an example of e-commerce software that uses an open-source framework. Magento is written in the PHP programming language and is highly flexible and scalable. The one downside is that it requires some knowledge of PHP. Magento is also a part of the Adobe Experience Cloud, which means you can integrate your app with Adobe products such as analytics, a customer data platform, and many others.

Although Magento has a large community of developers because of the high dependence on developers to set up, maintain and update, many businesses go for alternative platforms to create their open–source e-commerce websites. Other open-source platforms may have lower dependence on developers and other technical needs, but they generally will require some technical knowledge to operate.

Is Shopify an open-source eCommerce platform?

The short answer is no. As defined above, the key idea behind open-source software is that it is open to the public in terms of its development. Shopify enables only a few hand-selected developers to create add-ons for its software. 

By definition, Shopify is a software-as-a-service or SaaS platform. As opposed to Magento, the only barriers to building your website are what packages you’re going to use, and how much it will cost in total to set up your website

You’re not going to get the level of freedom in terms of what goes into your website, and depending on how much you’re willing to spend, you may not get the software options that you’d desire. You do, however, get the time and money to focus on your business, scalability, security, and built-in SEO/Marketing, among other features.

What are the disadvantages of open source software?

Building an open-source ecommerce website is a great idea if you’re looking for a lot of creative freedom, and technical freedom in terms of what software you want to combine, but it’s not for all businesses. Let’s look at some disadvantages that come with open-source platforms:

  • All open source software will require at least some technical knowledge.
  • Some may have high setup costs – the cost of hiring developers, hosting, and so on.
  • Staff will require some training in maintaining and enhancing the website.
  • Highly customizable. This is a double-edged sword. On one hand, you can choose the software that your website uses, but on the other, you will have to do extensive research or hire someone to take care of it, especially when it comes to your website’s security.
  • You’ll need technical support in case something goes wrong, which means hiring developers or using a third-party service.

Overall, you’re going to find that there is a high cost to owning an open-source ecommerce website. This doesn’t just pertain to monetary cost but time as well. Before you make any decisions, let’s take a look at a side-by-side comparison between SaaS and Open-source platforms below.

What’s the difference between open-source and SaaS?

When creating your e-commerce website an important question to ask is do I go with an open-source or SaaS software? 

If you’re leaning towards SaaS, some familiar names are Square Online, Wix Ecommerce, and Shopify. If you’re going the other way, towards open-source, then some familiar faces are Magento (WordPress), Ecwid, and ZenCart.

So far we’ve looked at a lot of open-source and SaaS e-commerce platforms, but what does it truly mean to be an open-source or SaaS software? Why don’t we take a look?

Open-source

  • Unlimited development potential from the community of developers.
  • Has to be self-managed. Security is not built into the software.
  • Community developers only develop the platform and do not offer support beyond it. It will require you to either hire in-house developers for support or a third-party service.
  • The setup of the website, which includes hosting, purchasing the domain name, security, and so on, is all your responsibility.
  • Maintenance of the websites, which includes updates, bugs, and so on is all your responsibility.
  • Since the development of the software is dependent on the community, there’s no clear direction the software can take in terms of what is built and when.
  • Users of open-source software enjoy a large amount of flexibility in how their applications are built.
  • Usually, open-source software just offers features you can use. How you use them is up to you.

Saas

  • Can only be improved by in-house developers, or developers selected by the company.
  • Security and compliance are managed by the SaaS company.
  • SaaS software provides complete support to its users.
  • The SaaS platform will provide a full setup once you’ve chosen your designs and payment is made.
  • All updates, bugs, and so on are managed by the SaaS platform.
  • Since SaaS platforms own their software and hire their developers, they can control what goes into their platform.
  • No flexibility. If you wanted to use a better feature, then you’d have to pay.
  • You would be limited to the features that the SaaS platform offers

Now that you’ve had a good look at what open-source is and how it compares to SaaS platforms, it’s time to decide: do you make an open-source ecommerce website?

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