As part of the OpenCart mission to expand the spotlight on our business partners, we caught up with Antropy’s director Paul Feakins to chat about OpenCart.
Q: As a developer and partner, if you could sum up in one word you’re overall experience with OpenCart what would it be?
PF:Wow, one word. Okay … refreshing.
Q: When you’re talking about OpenCart with clients or potential clients, any cringe-worthy moments, that we could improve on to help secure a client?
PF:Great question! A lot of our clients come to us having done their research and already knowing that they want to use OpenCart and I’m always pleased to tell them that after a lot of our own research we came to the same conclusion that OpenCart is the leader in terms of speed, code quality, flexibility, simplicity and usability.
Of the clients that don’t find us that way, I think the thing that puts them off is just that they haven’t heard of OpenCart but that they have heard of Magento or WooCommerce or Shopify and they’ve got fixated on whatever one they’ve heard talked about most because they assume the most popular must be the best. In reality of course that’s not the case. For example, any software developer or IT guy will tell you that Internet Explorer was the worst web browser out there but for many many years it was also by far the most popular. I think the same is true of OpenCart — it’s a relatively undiscovered open source gem of a platform and after a bit of research I’m confident that most people would come to the same conclusion.
So to answer your question, I’d like to see the profile of OpenCart raised online and offline, on business and ecommerce forums, at networking events etc. so that when we recommend OpenCart, we get the response “oh yes I’ve heard good things about that one”.
Q: You’re pretty active within the forums and community would you advise more users to go there to resolve any issues or get advice?
PF:I try to answer as many questions as I can in the forums because I’ve been a new user of other software and have really appreciated the help of experienced users. Often all someone needs is a little bit of help to get past a sticking point and they can be on their way again. As someone who works with OpenCart all day every day, I’ll often be able to answer off the top of my head in a few seconds and that may save someone hours or even days. Many other experienced OpenCart developers often reply too, so yes, if you’re stuck with something, ask in the forums and you should get a good answer pretty quickly.
Q: Over the years with OpenCart any projects that stand out that you’d like to pedestal?
PF:Interestingly a lot of our work is on-going support rather than new design and build projects but there are actually three that really stand out I’d like to mention:
First there’s RC Geeks who sell incredibly cool products — quadcopters, drones and radio controlled cars. We actually shared office space with them when we started out which gave us a great perspective on what a very busy ecommerce company is like from the inside and I can confirm it can be a lot of fun!
I’m sure many of your readers won’t be from the UK, but over here we have a very big national newspaper group called Trinity Mirror who produce many of the popular newspapers like the Daily Mirror, the Sunday Mirror, the Sunday Mail and so on. Sometimes they’ll have reader offers which drive massive amounts of traffic to the site we built for them. We designed, built and customised OpenCart so that it was automatically populated with their products and orders were automatically processed by their warehouse. There’s more about that one here.
The last one I’d like to mention because it was a relatively low budget project but I feel we really achieved a lot of value for the client. I won’t give the budget we had to work with but we produced a fully custom OpenCart design and build for this boutique pine furniture shop based down in Brighton — you can read about that one here.
Q: Let’s talk clients, how happy are they with the work, the time frame you’re able to finish a store with OpenCart?
PF: I think all web agencies have had one or two projects that drag on longer than they should, but for the most part, we get through ours pretty quickly and the sticking point is never OpenCart. I’ve been a professional developer for 14 years and I know that pretty much all software development is hard and complex, and takes longer than you would like but that is why we really love OpenCart — it’s so simple that it pretty much never gets in the way of what we want to achieve. The same is not true of other platforms because most of them are significantly more complex by as much as an order of magnitude (ten times). Coming back to your original question — the time to build a new store really does depend on the amount of design and branding work — it’s possible to get a functional store online with a theme and minor branding in a few days, but a big project with beautiful custom design on every single element and bespoke features might take a few months.
Q: Any challenges building them a store, missing modules that aren’t available?
PF:Some of our clients have mentioned the quality of some extensions and it’s true there are one or two bad ones, but most are actually very good and we certainly don’t see problems with extensions causing vulnerabilities which is great and more than can be said for WordPress! The key is to look for a good quality developer with good comments, a good rating and lots of sales. There are certain developers like iSense, Clear Thinking, Marketing SG, UKSB and many others who have very good ratings and are active on the forums whose extensions are a pleasure to work with, for the most part ;)
A far more significant challenge in our eyes is themes. The look of a website is what sells so it’s incredibly important to have a wide selection of latest designs but in our experience some themes may look beautiful but the code is just a mess. I’m sure this is the case for all platforms but encouraging more and better theme designs would really help.
So I think that one thing that would really make OpenCart much more attractive to merchants is a bigger selection of really well-coded and beautiful themes that could be bought and customized easily.
Q: Finally, Where do you see OpenCart going in the next 5 years?
PF: Back in 2004 while working at a web agency called Monochrome with a bunch of really talented web designers and developers I started using this fancy new browser that I’d discovered while playing around on Linux called Mozilla Firefox. It was free and open source, and had the killer feature of “tabs”, which at the time the more popular browsers didn’t have. Over time others started to recognise how good Firefox was and it surged to become one of the most popular browsers.
The killer features of OpenCart (in my view) are its speed, simplicity, and code quality. Those things are harder to recognise than “tabs” but become very obvious if you spend any time working with it. Those things give the merchants who use it a big competitive advantage in the marketplace for various reasons — a fast platform makes more sales and has better SEO and a simple platform with good code is much easier for developers to do really cool things with that help the merchant to automate more of their business and provide an ever better service to their customers. I think that good software developers with experience already know what a good solid platform OpenCart is.
I would like to see online sellers, merchants and entrepreneurs start to realise that they can achieve much more in much less time and with much less cost when they start from a simpler, more flexible codebase. Whether that will happen depends on how well us OpenCart developers can communicate and show this in action!
Thanks again Paul for being a beacon for the OpenCart community and sharing your time to answer a few questions.