I am perhaps one of the most excited to see the new Übercart module package introduced at Drupal.org as an alternate to the current e-commerce package. Advanced Web Design has been offering Zen Cart as an e-commerce solution to those clients looking for a robust catalog-type shopping cart solution. Over the months, there has been much discussion here regarding a possible transition to an all Drupal shop. Übercart may just make up our minds.
What is Übercart?
Übercart is a complete, Drupal e-commerce solution. Check out the Übercart project page at Drupal.org. The developers of this fine looking piece of e-commerce goodness call it an escape from osCommerce. (Is it also an escape from Zen Cart - the previous osCommerce exit strategy?) The best news is that it is a collection of Drupal based modules – not a hack in – that will allow other great development options for an e-commerce website:
- Content development
- Several great options for ratings and reviews
- Discussion forum
- Community development
- Flexible theming possibilities
- The list goes on...
Why Are We Plugging Übercart?
We have endorsed Zen Cart for several years as the most comprehensive and easy to use, customize and design open source shopping cart/e-commerce solution we have found in our trials. But there were a few issues:
- The admin interface was clunky in places
- The admin area was extremely clunky in a few other places
- There was no real solution covering order FULFILLMENT, particularly in the area of shipping
- The template system was unnecessarily redundant
- Flexibility was VERY possible, but only through tedious methodologies
- There was no great solution to content management aside from product information
- We really, really like Drupal
Most of these issues only affected us as a web development company and would not impact its usefulness or appropriateness to the end user – our client. However, we're very excited about being able to provide a more traditional catalog type storefront based on our good friend Drupal..
Why is Übercart Really Cool?
I would like to be clear that Übercart is in alpha stage development. That means it's got a ways to go before the full vision will be realized. With that being said, my evaluations give me reason to say that it is ready to run a basic storefront, comparable to Zen Cart out of the box. What needs to be done, to be a totally superior alternative:
- Order fulfillment including invoice generation, shipping label and tracking handling
- Some more reporting mechanisms
- Coupon and discounting tools
- Development of payment gateways such as PayPal Pro
I am happy to say that my research shows that the development team over at Übercart is committed to providing this much needed functionality in the near future. That's the near future in software development terms, folks...
What About the E-commerce Module?
The previous e-commerce module is a very solid piece of software. But, the weakness it has had in the past - and still does have to a lesser extent since the new release - is handling of tangible products in a truly robust way:
- The way product images was handled is a bit round-about
- The handling of product attributes (color, size, etc.) is convoluted
- There's no shipping fulfillment as described above
We would still recommend this module package as a solution for subscriptions, virtual products and basic tangible products based e-commerce websites. Stay tuned for more information about this discovery as well as Advanced Web Design's e-commerce offerings.