A good amount of shopping these days is done online, but any developer knows that creating eCommerce websites is not a simple or mundane task. To cook up your own solution can take months of designing, coding, testing and headaches and there is no guarantee that you, your client, or your client’s customers will really benefit from your labors. [Reinventing the wheel is a bad habit we broke ourselves of a couple of years ago when we realized smart open source solutions could be built upon and expanded with great success.—Ed]

At the heart of these eCommerce websites naturally lies the shopping cart. There have been many attempts by both commercial and open source developers to create solutions that can be ported from one project to another. There are literally hundreds of shopping carts available for developers to incorporate into their applications and websites. Instead of talking about several of them and discussing their glories and pitfalls, allow me to present one of the newest shopping cart applications which we think has a great deal of potential.

Varien has produced a magnificent shopping cart solution entitled Magento. Not to be confused with the color Magenta or X-Men villain Magneto, Magento is a feature-rich, open-source and highly-flexible shopping cart with very unique features like the ability to ship to multiple addresses within one order. Magento’s checkout process is simple, fast, and powerful. It uses AJAX to create a single-page, user-friendly checkout process that a 5-year-old with a credit card could figure out. The Admin panel is very comprehensive, but surprisingly simple. PayPal can be setup and configured in fewer than 5 seconds and there are great screencasts available to learn how to do whatever else it is that you want to do. To top it off, Magento has a very sleek design that is modular in nature and very easy to customize for each website’s or developer’s needs.

Magento’s website has this to say about it:

Magento is a new professional open-source eCommerce solution offering unprecedented flexibility and control. Magento was designed with the notion that each eCommerce implementation has to be unique since no two businesses are alike. Magento’s modular architecture puts the control back in the hands of the online merchant and places no constraints on business processes and flow.

The best part about any piece of open source software is that you can try it yourself, so check it out at the Magento website. If you are interested in launching a completely customized shopping cart site or eCommerce platform do yourself a favor and contact us here at Synapse Studios; we can help.

[Look for some input on the ups and downs of Magento in a forthcoming post from Brandon, who's been neck-deep in its code since he started here last week. And subscribe to our feed if you haven't already!—Ed]

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