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Ecommerce shopping cart software is a computer application that allows online shoppers to browse and purchase items from a Website. The actual program typically runs on a Web server and integrates with the rest of the Website. For example, some ecommerce checkout pages have a buy-it-now button located next to the products. Clicking this link usually will connect the user to shopping functions provided by the shopping chart.
The scripting of ecommerce shopping cart software usually is written in various programming languages. Some of the most widely used programs are written in server-side development technologies such as ASP, PHP, or Python. These languages usually are specific to a certain computer platform. For example, a PHP cart primarily is designed for a server running the Linux operating system, while an ASP cart is made for Windows.
Shopping cart software is mainly available in two forms: proprietary and open-source. The latter often provides full access to the source code, enabling skilled developers to make changes and customize the platform to meet their specific requirements. This usually is not the case with proprietary solutions. However, commercial products tend to be more reliable as they come with premium support whereas the open-source versions generally call for the user to rely on community assistance.
Most ecommerce shopping cart software programs share the same qualities: a database, a storefront, and an administrative back-end. The database stores critical information such as product data, order details, and information about customers. A storefront is the visual entity that displays products and checkout pages to visitors. The administrative back-end is the place where the merchant logs in to configure shipping options, add new products, and manage all the aspects of the store.
Since the bulk of the information is stored in a database, the shopping cart usually is able to present the visitor with dynamic content in real time. This is where powerful server-side technologies can play a part. Even if a store is comprised of 1,000 products, 1,000 pages for those products do not have to be stored on the server. When a visitor comes and browses for a specific product, the pages are generated on-the-fly, typically resulting in optimal performance and a better shopping experience.
For the most part, ecommerce shopping cart software is easy to install. In many cases, it can be uploaded and installed on the server with a reliable FTP client. Because this can be challenging, several ecommerce shopping cart hosting solutions are available to support users who are not comfortable installing and maintaining the software on their own.