The popular e-commerce package OpenCart has reached version 3. We are gradually starting to develop new sites on OpenCart 3 as the system matures and more extensions become available in the latest edition.
In this post we take a step through the admin area using OpenCart 3 and share a few thoughts on how this version shapes up.
Clear the Cache in OpenCart 3
In previous versions, clearing the OpenCart cache has typically involved logging into a web server by FTP or SSH to delete files. Although hard to spot, the OpenCart 3 allows administrators to clear the cache directly from the admin dashboard by clicking a rather discreet little gear icon up in the top right corner.
This allows us to access Developer Settings which permit the administrator to either clear the cache or switch off the caching of both theme files and SASS (i.e. compiled CSS). The feature is a welcome convenience to quickly update frontend changes, though where the SASS element actually comes into play is not entirely clear.
Entering SEO-friendly URLs in OpenCart 3
In previous versions of OpenCart the SEO url for products was somewhat obscurely located in the Data tab when editing a product. The Edit Product page has now been redesigned to have a separate SEO tab with clear guidance on the requirement for uniqueness when entering the SEO url, which nonetheless is still confusingly labelled “keyword”.
Secondly, a full list of SEO urls is available to quickly access and edit via Design > SEO URL.
All extensions, whether they be payment gateways, shipping modules or promotional banner modules, now come under the Extensions > Extensions section. One therefore has to select from a list of categories when trying to find an installed extension, which is not always that convenient when uncertain under which what category the extension falls!
Commercial extensions from the OpenCart marketplace can now be purchased and installed directly from inside the OpenCart 3 admin area. This offers the administrator a lot more control over adding extra functionality to their store, it also creates a certain degree of danger and potential to harm the store.
Now for any serious business, it should be essential to test any extensions on a development site before deploying on a live store and this doesn’t really fit in that workflow. Naturally caution should therefore be exercised when using this feature.
Options, Filters and Attributes
I had hoped OpenCart would streamline these features into one or at most two components but this rather tedious aspect of the system remains.
To explain, OpenCart views these three sets or types of data as distinct:
E.g. colour or size of product that the customer actually selects and buys on the product detail page.
E.g. the colour or size label on the filters in the layered navigation menu which the visitor uses to narrow their selection of products on the category or search results page.
A descriptive field, e.g. the colour or size description on the product details page but also the descriptions or a set of specifications of a product such as a computer.
When manually creating the products in the OpenCart 3 admin tool, this leads to some duplication of data and labour as well as confusion for store owners. That’s because the distinction of these elements is neither clear nor really necessary. Filters could really be created automatically from options and overall, all three could really be considered attributes and simply have their type and purpose flexibly decided by the store owner as is the case with Magento.
The result of this is that using a spreadsheet based import/export extension to manage the OpenCart catalogue remains essential to speed data entry with copy/paste. Indeed this is probably essential as while the OpenCart 3 admin interface is very clear and user-friendly, it can be quite time consuming to enter product data this way.