Drupal shopping carts: Ubercart and e-Commerce module still the way to go

In 2006, I helped bring a friend's Fish and Tackle store online using open source osCommerce. The project was ugly in both appearance and code as I was merging a legacy site with an SMF forum together with the osCommerce software. As I indicated back then, while osCommerce was functional I was not pleased with the software. I kept on thinking how much easier this project would have been if I had used what I consider as modern CMS's. Specifically, I was thinking Drupal and perhaps even Joomla!.

I have slowly learned in the past few years that merging applications, applications never meant to be merged together, never really results in a good project. I knew even then I never really wanted to try bridging osCommerce, SMF, and Drupal into a single site. Yes, you can end with something fully functional and even pleasant to the eye, but as the site's Web developer you always have this nagging feeling that something is missing and you could have done better. If I had to do the fishing site over again and decided on using Drupal, I would only consider the eCommerce module for Drupal or Ubercart.

Now that you know where I stand on the issue of bridging applications with fully functional CMS, I was surprised to read a recent and bold post at All Drupal Themes regarding the bridging of Drupal and the Magento shopping carts together.

If you haven't heard of Magento yet, it's the new open source ecommerce platform that's going to blow ubercart and oscommerce out of the water! A stable version has not yet been released but yet their sourcecode has already been downloaded over 100,000 times. The stable 1.0 version is planned to be released in the first quarter of 08, so it won't be long until we see magento shops spawning allover the web.

There has been past discussion and comparisons with Drupal and Magento here in the past. I like what I see in Magento and consider it a great alternative to osCommerce. However, when even the Magento developers admit such a merging of Drupal and Magento together is only in the plans, I am hesitant to build a single site around both applications. I'll never say never, but I honestly think if you plan on using Drupal as your CMS you are better off using the e-Commerce or Ubercart modules. Those modules were made for Drupal.

These are exciting times for Ubercart and the e-Commerce module. It so happens that yesterday marked a very important milestone for the Ubercart project, the shopping cart and e-commerce suite went beta. Ryan Szrama, a lead developer of the project, issued the announcement on the beta version of Ubercart.

Ubercart is over a year old now and has expanded far beyond our initial short-sighted vision of what the cart should or could be. We now have a tool that can turn any Drupal site into a store selling physical goods, digital goods, and site memberships - three essentials for Drupal stores. There are live implementations of all these features providing invaluable feedback as the code has matured.

At this point, most of the core features are in place, though we have a few left in the works to polish off in the beta phase. You can view a list of our "to-do's" in this thread. Feel free to post up installation problems in that thread, too.

To add to the excitement, the e-Commerce module is currently in Alpha 9 for version 4. Better yet, the e-commerce module has a stable history in the Drupal time-line as well as a number of users to keep support viable in the future.

Later this year, I'll be revisiting my friend's osCommerce site. We will likely consider three options for the future of his e-commerce site. Perhaps these options will help you decide what you would like to do for your next shopping cart project. I will be proposing the following upgrade options to him:

  1. Upgrade to osCommerce 3.0 when it goes Beta.
  2. Convert the site over to Magento.
  3. Convert the site over to Drupal and Ubercart.

I'll keep you posted on what direction we decide to go. Meanwhile, I'd like to hear from you on what direction you are taking your shopping cart and e-commerce site. Please feel free to leave comments here!