Magento vs. X-Cart (+ Screencast)

By Jacco Blankenspoor
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It’s been a while since I did my last Magento comparison, and the sad thing is: Nothing much has changed since then. Magento still looks and works the same, and in this industry standing still is the same as moving backwards.

True, Magento has moved on from version 1.7 to 1.8, but that was mostly rolling out bug fixes. And it still has some serious flaws which haven’t been addressed. Any real progress seems to be stalled while awaiting for Magento 2.0, the version rumoured to be heavily influenced by eBay, its new owner. This should be a real leap forward and should make Magento the top dog again. But the fact remains, 2.0 is still far from being ready.

And then there is X-Cart 5. While it technically follows up on X-Cart 4, it is a rebuild version of this decently successful shopping cart. Basically X-Cart 5 is to X-Cart, what Magento 2.0 should be be to Magento 1.8. And with X-Cart having a rapid development cycle, this could mean X-Cart 5 takes the lead – at least for small- and medium sized business, which is where X-Cart is at its best.

So what is wrong with Magento?

That is a good question, because they clearly didn’t become this big by being a flawed product. But to remain this big, they really need to work on some of the downsides.

While it’s overall a great product, the main reasons of concern are:

  • The large file system and database setup, along with the inefficiencies this brings.
  • The complicated theming system that requires many files for each part of your layout. This is the best example of the file system’s inefficiency.
  • Lack of mobile support. They do have some (very) expensive apps, but lack a decent mobile or responsive theme. All they have is a buggy one that doesn’t do much for your site.
  • Not listening to feedback. This despite being open source and having a community edition to get feedback. Developers are constantly asking for a rebuild of the file system, a more efficient database and mobile support. But they are not being heard.

What about X-Cart?

What does X-Cart bring to the table? Well, for one, a feature set that comes close to Magento (still not close enough though). But what’s more important for you as a developer, is that they know Magento’s flaws and they’ve ensured their product is better.

This means:

  • A more efficient file system (half of Magento’s) and database setup.
  • An easier templating system. Templating will be something you have to learn, but it helps if you don’t have to wade through tons of files for a few simple adjustments.
  • Mobile! They made it an integrated part of their product, which is always better than adding stuff later on.
  • Warm hugs for every developer. They know who to love, and make sure you feel welcome and supported as a developer. Naturally, this means they respond to your feedback.

Looks good right? And while I am the first to admit that Magento is a perfect solution for large and enterprise-sized business, X-Cart does seem to be a really good alternative for the “smaller” guys (we are still talking about web stores with potentially millions in revenue annually). Only downside: X-Cart comes with a price. But you can start at $99 for a license that includes mobile, so that shouldn’t be too big of a problem.

See them in action

To see how it all comes together, I’ve included an example of Magento’s insane file system and database in my video, and I show you how X-Cart looks under the hood. I also take a look at the attribute system of both products. I’ve always found this to be a great part of Magento, and was curious how X-Cart handles this (a little less fancy I’m afraid). What you don’t see in the video is the use of pre-defined attributes. It is possible with X-Cart though, just not as I show it unfortunately.

Please note that in this trial version you can’t work with pre-defined settings (like color for the apple). However, X-Cart has confirmed it does work when you get a paid license.

And to round it off, I will show you how mobile should be done.

Enjoy watching the video, and let me know in the comments what you think of both systems (or any better alternatives).

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