As we indicated in a previous post, we’re looking for alternatives to Magento as a shopping cart, and the first one we’re looking into is Prestashop. Like Magento’s Community Edition, Prestashop is free to use, and fully customisable. Before we can use it, we need to install it, and so without further ado we downloaded ourselves a copy of the latest version and got to work.
One thing that impressed us from the very beginning was the whole ethos of the process. As soon as we had started to download the software, we were immediately presented with a clean, friendly web page that suggested 3 important areas to get started with – a video tutorial for installing or upgrading Prestashop, guides for customising your store, and help with setting up your payment methods. There was also a clear way to contact their support team should I still have any problems or queries. The difference between this style of presentation and installing Magento was very welcome.
The installation itself was standard fare, well presented. As is normal these days you have to upload the files to your server and create a database, then browse to your webspace to install the program. The installer runs through a series of steps, such as checking your configuration and file/folder permissions are correct. We did manage to confound the installer at this point by deliberately setting non-writeable permissions for the folders it wanted us to make writeable, which stopped it from showing us any of the configuration checks, but this was fixed quite easily by setting the correct permissions again.
The installer offers you the ability to have a ‘Lite’ installation (just the basic setup), or a more advanced setup that comes with a lot of recommended modules and addons. We just went for the Lite install for now, but it did highlight that there is a lot available to customise your store. We’re not sure at this stage if all the contents of that install are required, or how easy it is to add and remove these at a later date, but it seems a better approach than the usual ‘demo products’ approach if you can install a site with a set of recommended modules from the start.
We very much appreciated the ability to be able to install the store without the ability to sell products. It’s a small thing perhaps but it’s a step that you would arguably take for a development store anyway, and so it’s nice to be able to finish the installation without having to find a series of options you may be unfamiliar with to change this later. The same is true for being able to set the store logo at this stage – again it’s another simple task that you might want to set as soon as possible, and it’s nice to see some thought going into making getting started as easy as possible. Finally you can have your login details emailed to you – if you wish – the presence of the feature and the choice of using it are both positive points.
And once the install had finished, again we were presented with a helpful series of links to the front and back end of our new install, and a security warning to delete the install folder.
Even better, when browsing to the admin URL, we found that we were unable to login until we had deleted this folder – and set a custom URL for the admin panel. Although there was no easy feature to change this as part of the installer (a feature that, given the rest of the installer, would fit in quite nicely and continue the user friendly theme), we love ideas like this. There are too many stores out there with the admin panel and username exactly the same!
The helpful theme continued with the first login. The majority of the dashboard was given up to another tutorial video, guiding users on the resources available for users of Prestashop. Importantly, this box can be disabled (and, again, you don’t need to hunt through menus to do this). A list of complete and recommended optimisations were also waiting for us – such as creating a robots.txt file (yes! Thankyou!) and enabling caching and compression.
Installers are not meant to be fun. They’re meant to do the boring things that let you have fun building your site or your store. Ideally they should make the install process as easy as possible (I’ve not found anything that beats WordPress on this score yet).
However the Prestashop installer was fun (of sorts). It was refreshing to see how often they try to present you with help, guidance, or where to find it. There is a definite impression that, not only is there a lot available to help you, there is a willingness to provide it. All of this was commendably unobtrusive – we didn’t feel like we were being patronised or force fed tutorials, instead there were a series of reminders that you don’t need to be thrown in at the deep end when you get started.
Obviously the real tests of Prestashop are still to come, but for a first impression, it’s done very well indeed.
NuBlue are an eCommerce Hosting specialist, and we offer a range of suitable Prestashop Hosting solutions. If you have an eCommerce Design Requirement, please get in touch with our Digital Agency and we will be happy to discuss your needs.