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e-commerce on WordPress?

I’ve got a few clients with e-commerce sites that i have set up and maintain. But this was all before I started using WordPress and decided to make it the CMS of choice for all my new projects and redesigns.

Now, it will soon be time to upgrade one of my clients and I’m thinking of moving them to WordPress, but they have online commerce and its not at all a standard type of shop– they sell both retail and wholesale online with three different tiers of customers. Each tier has it’s own discount and shipping structure. The technology I’m using now is a heavily customized open-source CMS (CMS Made Simple) that feeds Mals Cart for the shopping cart/payment processing/shipping calculations. I have a lot of custom code on the site end to get this all working as the client wants.

I’ve been investigating ecommerce plugins for WordPress, but the results of my initial surveys have not been encouraging. Now I want to say that one of WordPress’ strengths is the open-source community, but it can be a chore to select a plugin for any purpose that works as well as the core application. This is even more true with ecommerce plugins because of the very complex and critical nature of the application.

I know that my needs for ecommerce are not going to fit into anybody’s box. I need to be able to do massive customizations, so the base code I’m starting with needs to be solid, well-written and adaptable without making it vulnerable to breakage with an upgrade from the plugin author. A tall order that probably won’t be fulfilled by any plugin, commercial or not. In fact, the commercial plugins will probably be the worst choice for that as they tend to be unfriendly to user code customizations.

I’m going to further my research into open-source plugins and what I will be looking for is: quality code, an architecture that allows for a customization layer (like WordPress–and I don’t mean being able to customize the look, I need to customize the functionality) and a responsive and low-noise support forum. We’ll see, but WordPress itself proves it’s possible.

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