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What Is Zen Cart- Zen Cart is one of the open source software application for ecommerce websites and it enables shopping cart function on your website. Using the software, you are able to create an online shopping website. It is not a full fledged shopping solution but a good option for small online shopping websites where they don’t require full fledged features as their requirements are limited. The software, being open source is free to use and comes the license of GPL2 which is widely used license for free software.

It is very popular among developers due to the reason that it can be modified very easily to suit to your requirements and the software application offers lot of other extensions which an be used to extend the functionality of the software.

Little History About Zen Cart Software

Zen Cart was released in the year of 2003 and it is considered to be forked out of another popular ecommerce solution osCommerce so most of the features of the software are similar to osCommerce. One thing that is different from osCommerce is the template system. It was something missing in the osCommerce and hence the Zen Cart software was built which had the template layout system. It was an advance move to overcome the lacking of osCommerce system.

There are many features available with ZenCart which are aimed at improving conversions from the software for ecommerce websites. Some of the features like guest checkout is for ease of user so user is able to purchase without logging in or registering on the website. If you ae already using osCommerce then there wont be any issues moving away to Zen Cart as the software offers easy script conversion which converts your current osCommerce website to ZenCart one.

Zen Cart is a free, open-source eCommerce application and it is offered as 1 click installation by many of the hosting providers. It offers al sorts of standard features which are available with a typical shopping cart software. In addition to that it also offers social networking integration, reviews and rating of products. It is one of the very popular software and is being developed actively with a vibrant group of developers. It is updated with most advanced features. SiteGround and A2Hosting are some of the best options to look for Zen Cart hosting.

Zen Cart Features

zenkart Features

Zen Cart allows you to create an online shopping website with lot of features and it offers all the features which are required in order to run the application. There are many features listed below (the most popular ones):

- Freely Customizable: Zen Cart is Free Open Source software and is distributed under GPL2 which means you are able to modify the source code catering to your business requirements. This gives you an additional advantage as you can customize the application according to you.

- Easily Integrated with your Payment Gateway: The Zen Cart software comes integrated with lot of payment gateways options so you don’t have to separately integrate payment gateway. You can right away start with the setup. If you are willing to add any other payment gateway module, then you can do so. There are lot of other options available so you can choose one to do so.

- Works with any hosting company: since there are no high end requirements in order to run the software so you can easily find a hosting where you are able to install the software. It runs on relatively simple server requirements which is compatible to run PHP, Apache, MySQL.

- Use your own domain name: using Zen Cart, you should be able to choose your own domain name with any of the hosting provider.

- Ready Immediately: Zen Cart is ready to be run application. With the basic setup and installation and some product addition you are ready to go immediately as the payment gateway is already integrated.

- Variety of Templates: it comes available with lot of themes and templates which you can use as per your needs and you can further modify the same in order to customize as per your needs.

- Detailed Product Description: it offers you the ability to write detailed product description in addition to including images as well as pricing of the product.

- Coupon Management: with the help of coupon management feature, you are able to offer various discount scheme to you end users.

- Related Products: You are able to show related products for whatever the customer is currently having a look at the product.

- Sell Digital Products: while it supports physical product, you don’t have any restrictions on promoting digital products such as pdf or mp3 etc. You can easily sell such products as it offers the support for the same.

- Advance Product Search: with such features, user is able to search products basis category, tags and some other criteria.

- Inventory Management: you are able to keep track of your product inventories and you can add manufacturer as well as suppliers using the panel.


Zen Cart Hosting Requirements

zen kart requirements

Zen Cart is lightweight and will run on practically any hosting plan, so there's no need to spend a fortune in the beginning. You'll be fine hosting Zen Cart on a shared server hosting plan. It's installed using Softaculous, or manually if you prefer.

Bear in mind the potential impact of a traffic spike, since every page in Zen Cart queries the database over and over, and you'll quickly hit a bottleneck on a cheap plan. Plan for a little headroom.

Plan Types and OS Support

That might mean starting with a low-end managed VPS rather than a super-cheap shared hosting plan. While shared hosting is advertised as having "unlimited" resources, your host will expect usage to be within reasonable limits. Ultimately, you need to ensure your site is not going to go offline.

A plan on the Linux OS is going to be your most straightforward option, since the key requirements for Zen Cart are Apache 2.x, PHP, and MySQL. This is known as the LAMP stack, and it's something that Linux hosts tend to offer by default. If you want to run Zen Cart on Windows or Mac OS X, that's also possible.

Other Notes On Hosting Requirements:

Prior to committing to any sort of hosting plan, it makes sense to fully familiarize yourself with the nitty-gritty details of the above requirements.

Here are a few more points, to make your knowledge on the topic whole:

SSL isn't mandatory for the core files on Zen Cart, but it's highly recommended. Businesses have legal obligations to protect customer data, and a working SSL certificate is the only way to make sure transactions are secure. Some payment modules won't install without SSL.

In addition to these basics, you will need cURL (for file transfer) and MySQLi (which stands for "MySQL Improved").

We strongly recommend obtaining a backup solution for your store, and your customer data. You will probably have to pay extra for this.

If you're not an experienced system administrator, invest in managed hosting to keep your server secure

Finally, you will also need a decent uptime guarantee to ensure your store is online round the clock. We recommend 99.99% if you can find a host that offers it. (Work our how much downtime you can expect using an uptime calculator).

Zen Cart Installation

zenkart installation

Zen Cart Installation and Setup

Some web hosting providers include Softaculous in your hosting account's control panel. If your web host provides the cPanel control panel, you may have access to the Softaculous script installer. This will allow you to conduct a Zen Cart installation with just one click.


If not, you may want to conduct a manual Zen Cart installation instead. Before you start, make sure you have what you need.

The Requirements for Zen Cart Installation:

Zen Cart Installation

Zencart have their own wiki with an in-depth installation guide.

There are a few basic requirements for Zen Cart's installation. Here is the brief list:

Web Hosting

Domain Name

FTP Software

Text Editor

Access to MySQL Databases

Let's expand on each requirement so we're ready to rock.

1.) Web Hosting Name

Find cheap hosting if you're starting an e-commerce website for the first time. Have a look at your requirements and choose accordingly.

2.) Domain Name

Grab a domain for your online store when you sign up for web hosting. These are usually included for free with most shared hosting plans.

3.) FTP software

You'll need FTP software to conduct the Zen Cart installation manually. First, ensure you get FTP access from your web host. Then, download FTP software such as FileZilla. This allows you to transfer files to and from your web server.

4.) Text editor

This will be used for modifying the files in the Zen Cart software. You can use:






Any other good text editor

5.) Access to MySQL databases

You may need to create a new database for your Zen Cart installation. You can do this from your web hosting account's control panel.

Once you've satisfied these 4 requirements, you're good to go to install Zen Cart. Check out the installation page on Zen Cart's website for an in-depth guide to manual installation.

Getting Started with Administrative Settings

Once you've got Zen Cart installed, you'll want to address a few things to make sure your store is functional.

First, get to your admin settings by going to Just replace "mydomain" with your domain name. Check our Zen Cart's Wiki page if you need more information about these settings.

Setting To Do

Configuration > My Store Choose the level of tax for your products and shipping

Configuration > Images Make sure image sizes are appropriate for your store

Configuration > Customer Details Choose the options available at user login, registration, and on user account pages

Configuration > Shipping/Packaging  Verify your country and ZIP code for shipping quotes

Configuration > Email Options Choose your e-mail sending and receiving settings

Configuration > GZip Compression Enable GZip to speed up page loading on your store

Configuration > Credit Cards  Choose which credit cards you will accept

Modules > Payment Install, edit, and disable different payment methods

Modules > Shipping Select your desired shipping providers

Localization > Currencies Select the currencies your store will accept

Localization > Languages Add different languages for translating your site

Zen Cart Pros and Alternatives

Find The Best Zen Cart Hosting For You

Pros and Alternatives

Need some convincing reasons to use Zen Cart?

It's free

It's very well supported

It's open source, so you can change it however you like

It supports most standard shop features, and some you will need as your shop grows and develops a niche

The customization is simple, particularly when compared to osCommerce

Setting up a Zen Cart store doesn't take long

Zen Cart is far less complex to maintain than Magento.

For some people, there may be a better e-commerce application:

Magento offers better SEO, which could be a killer feature for you if you're in a competitive niche

osCommerce has more integrations and modules

While you can create simple coupons in Zen Cart, the system is not sophisticated

Zen Cart stores have a slightly clunky look

The checkout process spans several pages, which many shoppers find tiresome.

Zen Cart Top Hosts

Top 3 Zen Cart Hosts

I have accumulated a selection of the 3 best hosting providers when taking Zen Cart into consideration.

Here they are!


Zen Cart with Siteground

Siteground hosting for Zen Cart

SiteGround is always a winner in our books. Their shared web hosting plans are extremely affordable and great for individuals as well as small businesses.

They include free website migration if you're looking to switch. And, for your e-commerce site, they include a free SSL certificate for your customers' security.


Zen Cart with WebHostingHub

WebHostingHub hosting for Zen Cart

For the longest, zero-risk trial, try out WebHostingHub with their 90-day money-back guarantee. Their hosting includes Softaculous for free 1-click installs of applications such as Zen Cart.

Their hosting includes advanced policy firewall protection and suPHP encryption for higher security. Cheaper than SiteGround, WebHostingHub also provides a 99.9% uptime guarantee for your peace of mind.

A2 Hosting

Zen Cart with A2 Hosting

A2 Hosting hosting for Zen Cart

Similar in price to SiteGround, A2 Hosting has optional Turbo Servers for up to 20x-faster loading speeds and optimized Zen Cart support. You'll get one-click installations of Zen Cart from your control panel as well as an automatic e-mail notification when a new Zen Cart version is available to install.

They'll even issue a pro-rated refund at any time if you decide their hosting is not up to your expectations.

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Zen Cart Hosting Frequently Asked Questions

What is Zen Cart?

Zen Cart is a free ecommerce management system and website builder. Its features and capabilities are expandable using modules, and because it's open-source, the code can be modified to suit your needs.

What can I sell in a store made with Zen Cart?

You can sell physical products, virtual products such as software and PDF downloads, or even services on a Zen Cart website.

What kind of hosting do I need to support Zen Cart?

Zen Cart has minimal requirements which most Linux-based web hosts will meet. Your server needs to operate on a standard "LAMP" stack (Linux operating system, Apache web server, and support for MySQL and PHP).

What makes Zen Cart different from other ecommerce site builders?

Founded in 2003, Zen Cart was one of the very first ecommerce tools to offer a layout system based on templates. It's one of the few that's free and open-source, and has a large and active community online.

What are the benefits of using Zen Cart?

Zen Cart is free, and many third-party modules and plugins are available for free as well. There's no limit to the number of products you can add to your website. The official project website offers a lot of supporting documentation, including a wiki, forum, and FAQs, and the community is very active.

What features are included with Zen Cart?

Out of the box, Zen Cart includes a number of features:

Multi-tier and promotional pricing

Meta tags for your products

Product reviews

Stock management

Thumbnail creation

Report generation

Newsletter functionality

Gift certificates.

You can add many more features with the hundreds of third-party modules available for free download.

Are there any drawbacks to using Zen Cart?

Zen Cart is not for beginners. It can be difficult to customize or tweak your store design or functionality without advanced programming knowledge.

It has a reputation for being less than ideal for SEO, making it more difficult to optimize your site to rank in search engines.

Themes that support mobile devices are lacking, and it has no official customer support team, just community support.

Is Zen Cart good for beginners with no coding knowledge?

Zen Cart isn't geared for beginners. You'll need to have some technical knowledge, or hire a developer, to be able to install and maintain your ecommerce site using Zen Cart.

If you want to make changes to your theme, you'll need to know HTML and CSS at a minimum for basic changes, and PHP for structural changes.

Who is the typical or ideal user for Zen Cart?

Zen Cart is normally used by small businesses or individuals with some technical coding knowledge or the ability to hire a developer and designer for their website. Zen Cart stores are usually ecommerce sites on the more basic side, with no need for the advanced features a big brand or enterprise-level store might require.

Is Zen Cart the same as OSCommerce?

Zen Cart actually originated from OSCommerce, but split off as a separate project in 2003. They are both still free and open-source, and run on PHP and MySQL, but there are many differences.

OSCommerce's back-end admin can be clunky and outdated, while Zen Cart's is designed to be much more intuitive. Both platforms can be extended via modules and plugins, but OSCommerce is very bare-bones out of the box. In comparison, Zen Cart includes important functionality in its core, such as: payment processors, coupons, product reviews, and newsletters.

How does Zen Cart compare to Magento?

Magento and Zen Cart are both free and open-source ecommerce website management systems. Magento, however, is much more complex and has a steep learning curve.

Typically, Zen Cart is used by smaller businesses and individuals, while Magento is run by bigger companies who have a developer on staff, or can hire a contractor, to manage the technical details. The developer should have Magento expertise in particular, since the complex code can be tough to master. With the right developer, Magento can be a much more powerful tool for creating highly customized ecommerce sites with advanced features.

How does Zen Cart compare to WooCommerce?

Zen Cart is a stand-alone platform and content management system (CMS) you install on your own hosting account, while WooCommerce is an ecommerce plugin for the WordPress CMS.

If you already have a WordPress website and you'd like to add an online store, or if you're already familiar with WordPress and don't want to learn another system, WooCommerce is worth considering.

How does Zen Cart compare to PrestaShop?

PrestaShop is another free, open-source ecommerce software platform. PrestaShop was first released in 2007, and is generally considered to be easier to use and better for SEO than Zen Cart. With PrestaShop, you have the option of creating a cloud-hosted store, or downloading the software to install on your own hosting plan.

How does Zen Cart compare to Shopify?

Shopify is a proprietary ecommerce tool that hosts your website for you for a monthly fee. Shopify has a reputation for being much easier to learn and use than Zen Cart, and it requires no technical knowledge. You do not need to purchase separate hosting since Shopify provides the hosting for your site. Shopify also offers 24/7 customer support.

How do I find a Zen Cart web host?

Most web hosts will support Zen Cart, and many hosts even offer easy one-click installation of the software. If you plan on using Zen Cart to run your ecommerce site, consider going with a hosting company that specializes in hosting optimized for Zen Cart. They may offer pre-installation of the software as well.