Diving into Drupal E-Commerce: An Ubercart vs. E-commerce Comparison

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While I've built oven a dozen Drupal-based websites spanning almost 2 years, my contact with e-commerce within Drupal has been limited. Two of my latest projects brought me face to face with a need for e-commerce, though, and while I toyed with the idea of using ZenCart once again, after installing it and relearning how to work with it, I immediately uninstalled it and turned back to Drupal.

Faced with two choices, Ubercart and the e-Commerce modules, I was left a bit bewildered. Back when Drupal was still in 4.6, I used e-Commerce for a website where users were rewarded with points via the Userpoints module, and with these points were able to purchase items using E-commerce. It worked well but because it was when I was still very new to Drupal, I remembered it being cumbersome, difficult to configure, and just a big headache, and that was without needing an actual merchant account or payment gateway.

NOTE: These evaluations are based on using Drupal 5.2 with eCommerce 3.3 and Ubercart Alpha7b.

So, for all these reasons when an e-commerce site fell into my lap a couple months ago, I chose Ubercart.

Another project came my way shortly after which used a variation of modules that led me to believe e-Commerce was the way to go, plus I wanted to know how well it held up in comparison - so for that project, I chose e-Commerce.

Having worked with both in overlapping time frames these past few months, I've got a pretty good understanding on how each works, the differences between them, the pros and cons as I see them, and community behind them, yadda yadda. And so here we go, let's jump right in -

The Pros and Cons of e-Commerce and Ubercart

E-Commerce

Pros Cons
Endlessly extensible UI is difficult and confusing
More options for contributed modules Requires a lot of theming
Been around the block longer Feels bloated and cumbersome

Ubercart

Pros Cons
More ready to go out of the box Difficult to customize some areas
Lots of jQuery built in Lots of jQuery built in
Vibrant, active community Still in alpha
User interface is awesome Not as many modules available

What's Available

Payment Gateways e-Commerce Ubercart
2Checkout No Yes
Authorize.net Yes Yes
CCard Yes No
CyberSource No Yes
Eurobill Yes No
Eway Yes No
e-xact Yes No
Fast Transact Direct No Yes
Google Checkout Yes No
iTransact Yes No
Moneris No Yes
Ogone PSP No Yes
Paypal Yes Yes
Viaklix No Yes
Wonderpay No Yes
Worldpay Yes No

Additional Functionality e-Commerce Ubercart
File Downloads Yes Yes (separate contrib)
Donations Yes No
Role Grants/Purchases Yes Yes (separate contrib)
Auctions Yes No

To touch on a few points... Ubercart is strong in that is has a much better user interface, makes more sense to someone not very savvy in the ways of Drupal to manage a store, has a lot of built-in, out of the box features that don't require a lot of customization and frustration, including some cool jQuery usage.

On the same token, that also makes it a bit if a pain to customize in some ways, since you have to strip these things out, overwrite them, etc. E-Commerce gives you what you need, but from there you need to mold it into the desired result.

You may also notice I mention jQuery as both a pro and con for Ubercart. I love jQuery. I've been using it more and more and I'm still amazed at how easy it can be. But, like I said, if you don't want these added features, want to customize the way specific things look and behave, you need to strip them out or overwrite them.

The Community

Community and buzz around projects can be incredibly important. The Ubercart community is active on http://ubercart.org. The guys working on the project answer questions quickly, are friendly, and the community feels vibrant. People are jumping in and writing modules which will possibly bring Ubercart's features up to par with e-Commerce, as well. One thing that has always bothered me, though, is when a project has it's own website and, more specifically, has it's own issue queue. I understand the reasoning behind it, but it tends to make things feel disjointed and confusing.

As for e-Commerce, there are some guys working really hard on it and the issue queue moves quickly with issues being fixed daily. e-Commerce 4 has been released in alpha, which is supposed to be a big improvement and sounds very promising. There's often activity in #drupal-ecommerce, and they have opened http://www.drupalecommerce.org as a more centralized place for communications on the project, raising funds, and building a community. The community doesn't feel as strong here, but appears to be growing and is very positive.

So which is better?

Well, I'm still not sure. There may be no solid answer. If you want to get a site up quickly, Ubercart may be the way to go. If you need something highly customized, then e-Commerce may be the way to go. For many, Ubercart has been the answer to all their shopping cart problems. But in the end, I failed to find anything it actually offered that e-Commerce could not do, it just might require some work to get there. Edited: After my original post I came to realize this is not quite true. There are a few things Ubercart offers that e-Commerce does not. Most importantly, as I see it, is a one page checkout. Ubercart has a really nicely done one page checkout, while e-Commerce's leaves much to be desired.

If nothing else, perhaps having them both will give us two strong options for using e-commerce in Drupal. We'll see how well e-Commerce 4 goes, as well as where Ubercart leads us in a final release. And if all else fails, there's always ZenCart.

Just kidding, of course!

17 Comments

Hi fellow Drupal-ers. I have

Hi fellow Drupal-ers. I have started my first drupal site and have installed ubercart. I am a little stuck at generating my CyberSource HOP.php file. My question: A lot of my peers are recommending that I rather use a payment gate to handle payments for me at a commission. They say with Ubercart I will need to purchase a SSL certificate (pricy), to make my clients at ease about payment security. What are your thoughts on this please. (fyi Im CRAZY about Drupal 7)

I have developed a few dozen

I have developed a few dozen Zencart sites, and it is a complete package, but the learning curve on customization is harsh. Zen does use MVC, which is good - you must have a good understanding of that programming theory to ease the pain, but once you've mentally broken the code it's no harder to customize than any other template solution. I would not use Zencart if I had only a few products though due to the weight of the application, it's a great thing for large store though.

My current solution for ecomm is now a marriage of Joomla and Virtumart. It's nice on the back and front end, totally integrated with the CMS, and is a complete package.

I have an immediate need for a Drupal solution, so further investigation into customizing is in order for me. Initially this makes me lean towards e-commerce vs. Ubercart, but I have to defer to my companies IT crowd.

I'll try to post a follow-up after we get a solution ramped-up.

Hey just wanted to give you a

Hey just wanted to give you a quick heads up.
The text in your article seem to be running off the screen in Internet explorer.
I'm not sure if this is a format issue or something to do with internet browser compatibility but I
figured I'd post to let you know. The design and style look
great though! Hope you get the problem solved soon. Many thanks

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