Zen Cart

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Ready to Switch to Zen Cart? Here's How (and Why)

Zen Cart is loaded with features your visitors will love and so will you. If you have an online business, this is the e-commerce software you want to manage, protect and back it up.

Zen Cart is OSS (open source software) that's under constant review and upgrade by an extremely active Zen Cart community dedicated to the development of the simplest, most functional, digital merchant cart. This means that upgrades and updates are easy to install, providing your checkout with more and more features designed to increase conversion ratios through ease of use. It also cuts your number crunching chores down to a manageable size so you can spend time on other things like marketing and promoting your site.

A few of Zen Cart's features:

  • Installation on your Website Source administrator's console (for shared hosting clients) takes one click. It doesn't get any easier than that.
  • You can create multiple customer modes with a couple of clicks from the back office.
  • You can list virtually any number of products and variations, cross indexed by category if you'd like. This way, you're certain that visitors see the whole product line or menu of services.
  • Post sales, coupons and "store specials" like "10% off all purchases made in the next 60 minutes." Easy to do, and a sure-fire way to create site stickiness.
  • Limitless design modes for product images.
  • XHTML templates to change the appearance of your Zen Cart -- pick, click, save.
  • Multiple shipping options so customers get their orders fast, or at a lower shipping cost.
  • Unlimited payment gateways including all credit cards, PayPal, bank transfer, debit cards and even checks hand delivered via snail mail -- a great conversion ratio booster!
  • A complete newsletter manager to make it easy to keep in touch with buyers (and to announce a secret "for-buyers-only-sale".
  • Gift certificates
  • Featured products and product features
  • Quantity discount calculator

There's no risk, either. You can configure your business system as a stand-alone server so you can load and test drive Zen Cart before integrating it online. So, let's get started. Here's a quick guide to installing and hooking up Zen Cart.

Get Started with Zen Cart eCommerce:

1. Start by signing into your account and going to the administrator's control panel.

2. Scroll down to the "Pre-Installed Scripts Collection."

3. Next, click on the on/off button in the Easy Apps section.

4. On the next screen, just click on the Zen Cart path to install the software.

5. You're now installed. On screen, you'll see two links: the store front link and the back office link. Click on the store front link.

6. You'll see a fully-customizable store front template. Just add the words.

  • Home page with main text header option
  • Product links (easy)
  • Shipping info link (fully customizable)
  • Site map (highly recommended for both visitors and search engines)
  • Newsletter manager to keep in touch with your buyers
  • A currency exchanger for those trans-global transactions
  • Blank links to take visitors where you want them to go.

Zen Cart's template-driven design tools allow even the aesthetically-challenged to create a site that looks totally professional. Test drive it to remove any glitches before going live and, hey, even make an announcement to your visitors that, "For their convenience and an enhanced shopping experience at [insert your URL here] we've changed our look and upgraded our shopping cart. Just for you!]" (Feel free to use that, btw.)

Synching Up the Back Office

Let's describe synching up a new site with Zen Cart and point out additional steps you'll have to take if you have another shopping cart or checkout software installed.

Before you do anything, back up your existing databases, i.e. inventory, customer information, email addresses, etc.

1. If you have been using osCommerce or some other e-commerce software you DON'T have to uninstall the software. Zen Cart will automatically configure itself as your primary shopping cart. Zen Cart uses its own database so it won't affect any other web applications you've installed, including other databases and checkout.

On the Administrator's page, you can customize store configuration, your product catalog, add or delete modules, i.e. swap out mailing modules, and run the whole operation through a user-friendly GUI.

Here you can also set tax rates to be calculated automatically, set the display to reveal all cart contents each time a new product is added, provide a currency calculator and generally set up Zen Cart to fit seamlessly with your existing site.

Once again, before switching over to Zen Cart from another shopping cart software, test the system to make sure all features are properly configured before launch using your hard drive as a “server.” The last thing you want is a mis-configured or partially configured shopping cart. It's hard enough to convert visitors without making the checkout the hassle du jour.

If you have customer emails stored in a stand-alone database, download the Email Address Exporter plugin from the Zen Cart site. Follow the directions in the "Read Me" File to integrate the module with your existing email database.

Creating a My SQL database for your new Zen Cart

***Before doing anything, back up your databases in case recovery is necessary.

Start by opening your Administrator's control panel. Scroll down to the databases section. Here you'll find several database options with Website Source.

Choose the MySQL option. Click on "Create a Database." Enter the name of the database and click Submit. Record the name of the database for use in Zen Cart.

Create a user name and password for the new database. Name and password should also be entered into Zen Cart.

Finally, you have to establish access to the database and to the Zen Cart software -- who has access to this very personal, highly sensitive data. If you're the only operator, click on ALL PERMISSIONS. Otherwise, set each approved users' name and password.

Store Catalog

It doesn't matter how many products you sell on your site -- 10 or 10,000, Zen Cart quickly enables you to create and manage your product catalog with an endless variety of options and configurations.

  • Create any number of product categories with links from the home page or landing page.
  • Sort products by type, make, model -- even price.
  • Change product prices with a couple of clicks using Zen Cart's products Price Manager.
  • Change languages of site text so you can go global.
  • Hook up your buyers with your site's bulletin board with a single click. It's a great way to collect customer feedback and to advertise how quickly posted problems were solved!
  • Show accounts by category and indicate number of sales by category.

And much, much more. All from a single page and all with just a single click.

Creating a category

Zen Cart products

Log in to your Admin panel, click on Catalog at the top of the screen and click Categories/Products by scrolling the drop down menu.

On the next page click the new category button and take the following steps:

1. Enter the new category name.
2. Enter a description of the category (a time-saver)
3. You can upload a product image here if you have one.
4. Enter the sort order.
5. Click the Save button to save your new configuration.

Creating a product

1. Log in to the Admin panel, mouse over Catalog at the top of the screen and click on Categories/Products from the drop down menu.

2. Click on the folder icon to create a new category.

New category

3. This will open a new page. Click the New Product button.

4. Fill in the information on this page and click the preview button.

5. Back click to make changes.

6. On the next screen click on the "Insert" button.

You have now created a category with a product.

Creating a subcategory

1. Log in to the Admin panel, mouse over Catalog in the top menu and click on
Categories/Products from the drop down menu.

2. Click the folder icon for the category you wish to add to.

3. On the first page, click the "New Category" button.

4. On the next page enter the following information:

the category name
category's description
upload an image if desired
enter the sort order
click the save button

Adding Modules

Especially useful to established sites that already have in place payment, shipping and purchase/order total mods in place. No need to change them.

If you're building your site from the ground up, Website Source offers a variety of Zen Cart-compatible mods that plug in and function without notice from your site visitors.

Installing the Basic Credit Card Module

One module you'll want to install right away is the basic credit card module located at Admin>Modules> Payment. If you have never accepted credit cards before, you will need a merchant account. Authorize.net payment gateway is included with our merchant accounts so you can accept orders in real-time.

However, if you wish to simply "collect" the customer's credit-card information and run it through your own Swipe Machine or Virtual Terminal manually, or wait until the item ships to calculate shipping costs, here is how to configure and use the Zen Cart basic credit card module:

Go to Admin>Modules>Payment.

Credit card module

Click on Credit-Card>Install> Edit.
On the edit page, you can configure the following to suit your store’s particular needs:

- Enable Credit Card Module = true
- Collect & store the CVV number = true
- Store the Credit Card Number = true
- Split Credit Card E-Mail Address ---> <enter your email address here>
- Payment Zone ---> leave as -none-
- Set Order Status ---> Pending (unless order has been filled or back-ordered)
- Sort order. Create the order you want to appear relative to other payment
modules on the customer's checkout page.

6. Click Update

Enabling SSL on a Zen Cart site -- "Must-Have" Security

  • Enable SSL on your website before your site goes live. This will ensure that your customers' credit card information is secure. If you need to purchase a SSL certificate, we offer discounted prices through our sister company, LowPriceDomains.com.

1. An order is placed. The buyer provides credit card information.

2. In Admin>Customers>Orders, the order will be visible.

3. If you click on that order, you'll see the order details. The CC number will appear.
However, the middle eight digits will be blanked out.

4. Check your email for a message related to the order number.

5. In the email are the eight digits that were blanked out. Assemble the CC number and
enter it into the merchant terminal to process the transaction.

6. When the CC purchase is approved mark the order as "Processing."

7. Add an Authorization Number to the "Comments" field before you save the new order.
This makes it much easier to reference and track the status of a given order.

8. If you want the customer to know the payment is approved, check the "Notify
Customer" box. An automated email will be sent showing the authorization number
you entered (and any other comments), and current order status.

9. Once shipped, update the order status on this same screen to "Delivered".

Customer Tracking

Provide the name and address of the customer and the status of all outstanding orders -- a real time saver when you're in charge of customer care. This link also allows you to create group or quantity pricing and to list your PayPal IPN.


This feature adds even more flexibility to your pricing and calculations identifying countries and zones with special mailing procedures. This feature also enables you to set tax classes (state, federal, local, etc) and tax rates by location.


If your site caters to a narrow, geographic market segment, no problem. Or, if you're building a global meg-conglomerate, Zen Cart can adapt to any scenario.

Here, you can indicate which currencies are accepted, you can change languages with a click to maintain dozens of sites in different languages, and you can even quickly check order status by region. Again, it's as simple as a click.


Site metrics analysis is essential for online business success in this lava-hot market and Zen Cart provides all the numbers you can crunch to improve links popularity, page rank, conversion rate and, of course, your revenues.

Zen Carts offers metrics on:

Products viewed (what's attracting visitor attention)

Products purchased (Isn't this something you have to know?)

Customer orders by total count

Inventory management -- low stock warnings

Customer referrals -- (to whom are customers recommending your site)

Page Creation Tools

A bunch of them -- all easy to use and install.

Let's start with the template selector. The default template is called "Classic Contemporary Green" but with Zen Cart, you can edit the template or create your own custom template. Templates can be modified as you see fit.

The optional pre-made Zen-Cart templates are a real time-saver.


There's an easy-to-use control function to layout and place boxes on any page of your site -- boxes announcing specials, coupons, new products and other information you want to stand out.

The "banner manager" does just what it says. Create and add a banner to your home page, to your clearance pages or anywhere else on your site. Infinite color and shape choices.

The Zen Cart tool kit also includes a newsletter/product notifications feature to keep
your customers up to date and your company name in front of previous buyers.

Server info provides information including available disk space, bandwidth usage and other must-have data.

See who's on-site in real time, where they are and what they're doing. This is a great way to discover means of improving both site navigation and conversion rates.

EZ Pages is a fast and easy way to create additional pages on your online store.

EZ Pages

Administrator Settings

Probably not needed if you're running a single site but for those entrepreneurs with five or 500 websites, this tool not only saves time, it saves money by monitoring all sites from a single location -- quickly. And in the world of e-commerce, time is money.

Other tools -- all part of the Zen Cart shopping cart include: personalized email welcome; a complete "store manager" to track sales activity, inventory and shipping status; a complete site developer's tool kit with everything you need to build a great-looking site with a few clicks and some original text; a define pages editor and even a database sync function so your checkout automatically keeps your database up to date.

Special Product Services

From this section of the back office you can oversee coupons distribution and use, maintain a list of outstanding gift certificates, send personalized gift certificates (great promo for your best customers) and track gift certificates that have already been sent. One location to manage all of your special product services.

And a Couple of Extra Goodies for Free

Zen Cart also brings it when it comes to various types of media, such as video demos, used on today's Web 2.0, Flash animations and other "data-dense" features. Zen Cart provides the tools you need to manage your site's multi-media -- from dancing .gifs to a full-blown, how-to demo designed to keep client care calls down to the bare minimum. Show them how to put it together and they won't have to call to ask what the barrel axle is.

Website Source, Zen Cart and You

Website Source wants you to have the very best tools, services and applications for site success. Why? Because if you grow your site to profitability, we succeed by keeping you as a satisfied client.

That's why we now offer Zen Cart with more features, user-friendly GUIs, regular FREE upgrades from within the Zen Cart community and a simple process of installation. You can try it off line until you're familiar with all of its many features, hook it up to your online site and you and your customers are good to go.

Still have questions? No problem.

For answers to the most common questions, visit the Zen Cart FAQ page. You'll find the answers to just about any question you have.

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