Cart 66 is a relaunched, upgraded version of a well known WordPress e-commerce plugin PHPurchase. With the new name and a few features also come a tad of controversy and new marketing approach. Previously there were 2 commercial versions for $49 and $99. Now there is a free Cart66 Lite and a commercial, fully-featured version for $89. In this review I will take a closer look at the “lite” version.
Cart66 Lite can be downloaded from the WordPress plugin page. The plugin’s homepage is unfortunately quite difficult to find since it’s not linked with the Cart 66 site. It is important because this is where you download the documentation from. Armed with documentation and teamed with users from an old PHPurchase forum and WordPress support I approached the plugin with big expectations.
Setting things up
At first Cart 66 settings page may seem long and complex but is in fact divided into nice and understandable sections. Among many things that can be changed there the most important for some users may be – currency and tax settings. The way these two elements are handled determines how usable the plugin will be in other than US or Canada countries.
Although we can set currency symbol there is no way to choose whether it will show before or after the numerical value (by default it shows before it). Calculating taxes is no better. In the documentation we read:
Cart66 Lite let’s [typo] you charge sales tax for all sales or you can specify tax rates by state, zip code, or zip code ranges. You can also specify whether or not you want to apply the sales tax to the shipping costs.
Unfortunately, the states in question are those from the US or Canada. The format of zip-codes is also US-like. Last but not least, if we want to do everything manually it is possible to set many tax rates…
…but we cannot assign them to products! Only the latest one is chosen and applied on checkout!
Categories and page hierarchy
The structure of the shop is built using pages or posts which change into product pages with the help of shortcodes – a solution already used in previously reviewed Quickshop.
Just like in Quickshop, to create a product we first need to set it on a separate page. Next, we incorporate this data into posts/pages using the already-mentioned shortcodes. After publishing, instead of the shortcode we will see the price and add-to-cart button. Regrettably, the quantity of products cannot be set there – we can do this only in the cart.
Even though employment of shortcodes makes product creation quick and easy, it has quite a few shortcomings. If you choose Cart66 as your ecommerce solution you will have to deal with the fact that prices and add-to-cart buttons will not be visible on product listings unless you alter The Loop (more on that in my already mentioned Quickshop review) or resort to tricks with custom fields in your theme.
Unlike Quickshop, shortcodes are also used to display all the indispensable for an ecommerce solution elements like – cart, checkout, receipt and even function clearing the cart after the purchase. It may be useful for some users letting them to e.g. “cut in” two shortcode-displayed elements with some text.
Setting and adding products
Using Cart66 we can sell downloadable and physical products as well as services. What needs to be noted is that Cart66 makes it also possible to – for example – sell t-shirts with custom text. Buyers can enter the text in additional fields in the cart, right next to the product.
Physical products can have two variations which can alter the their initial prices. We can set their weight and choose if they should be taxed. We can set shipping prices on per-product basis, individually for each product or based on the cart’s value. Unfortunately, I have found no way of setting discounts for individual items – we can only set coupons reducing the price of the cart by some a fixed percentage or amount.
Cart and Checkout
There is not much that can be said about the cart in Cart66 Lite – it is very basic. Even product thumbnails are nowhere to be found.
After confirming our cart’s content we move to a one-page checkout. This is the place where the tax is applied to our purchase, we can choose payment method (Paypal Standard or Express) and fill in our shipping address. Unfortunately, the number of fields in the form cannot be changed which can be painful if we are not selling in the US/Canada and need other, specific fields. What is more, the content of fields is not validated. This is the billing and shipping data accepted by the system:
It goes without saying that lack of form validation can result in problems with taking orders and shipping.
Another thing that I would gladly welcome in Checkout is a simple “agree to the terms of purchase” checkbox with a link to the actual text.
After the purchase
Information about purchases can be viewed in a special section in the admin panel. A nice little feature here is the ability to decide about what steps are displayed there.
Unfortunately, because of inability to keep inventory data – reserved to Pro version – this plugin won’t be of much use in shops with many physical products. Also, users won’t be able to view their purchase history or modify them – user accounts are unavailable in “Lite” version.
Customisation and localisation
The way Cart66 Lite looks can be changed using simple CSS styles. If we want to accentuate certain products we can assign to them different images of add-to-cart buttons.
I haven’t found a working solution on how to translate the plugin to different languages. Of course, directly changing php files can do the trick but only until the first plugin update which will overwrite our changes.
Cart66 Lite is in many ways similar to previously reviewed Quickshop and wins in direct comparison. Nevertheless, I can recommend it only to small time merchandisers dealing in the US or Canada. It is not a good solution for retail sellers from other than the above-mentioned countries or ones selling more than few, unique items (no storage data). I might risk here even suggesting a different plugin that I reviewed – EShop. Even though my review is also not favorable it is simply better and definitely more feature-rich. The development also seems to be going in the right direction.