Zen Cart has made it possible for anyone with a great idea and a little creativity to create their own online store, selling anything their heart desires. With a bit of know-how and a fair bit of practice, the sky’s the limit with this frankly awesome tool for retail site design and operation.
However, there’s one key trait about Zen Cart websites that often gets overlooked by those involved in the online retails business – one that goes above and beyond the overall design of the site. After all, it’s one thing to create an online outlet that looks the part and offers some amazing bargains, but another entirely to deliver the total experience for the end-user.
Slow-Coaches Need Not Apply
Recent studies have proved conclusively that for more and more people, website performance matters above and beyond pretty much anything else. The way in which web access has never been faster or more sophisticated is of course a great thing, but at the same time it’s made the world’s consumers more and more demanding – expectations are already through the roof.
Put simply, if your Zen Cart site doesn’t load quickly, display fully and run as smooth as silk across the board, one visit is all you’ll be getting from that particular shopper. And what’s more, there’s nothing like a poor-running Zen Cart site to see your reputation end up in tatters.
The trouble is, Zen Cart gobbles up resources like there’s no tomorrow which can in turn make keeping things on the straight and narrow difficult. However, there are ways and means to make a big difference to the speed and general fluidity of your Zen Cart site, which for the most part don’t require the help of a web design genius.
How’s Your Hosting?
For example, the single most important consideration of all when building and running a Zen Cart website is the hosting company and package you go for. If you’re in the slightest bit interested in a site that runs as it should and doesn’t slow down to a crawl every time there’s more than one shopper browsing at the same time, you need to be realistic with your choice of subscriptions. Free web hosting of course will not cut it and neither will the cheap hobbyist packages and their oh-so tempting bargain prices.
For the good of your site and your brand as a whole, it’s a good idea to think about a mid-range VPS at least…or Virtual Private Server. Shared hosting has its benefits, but if you’re really out to succeed and not block the progress of your customers at every turn, it’s best to go private.
If you haven’t already done so in quite a while, you might want to think about getting your Zen Cart database optimised using the service’s in-built tools. It’s as easy as typing a simple command and the results can be pretty impressive to say the least.
All you need to do is hammer in:
mysqlcheck -u<username> -p<password> –auto-repair –check –optimize <database name>
Keep Tabs on Updates
No excuses and no pleading ignorance to the whole thing – you need to be on-point when it comes to taking up the new versions of Zen Cart when and where they’re made available. Even in the cases where the update is no more than a minor tweak or patch, it’s important to realise that it’s often these tiniest of tweaks that plug the biggest of holes in site performance. It’s not as if they cost you anything and nor do they take any effort to get up and running, so in the interests of keeping things fluid and making sure you’re not left open to attack, there’s really nothing to gain from failing to update.
And finally, image optimisation is another example of something that gets done pretty much on your behalf by the system, but can make a huge difference in the running of your site as a whole. If you’ve bothered to follow the above tip and are therefore using the latest build of Zen Cart, there’s a plugin called Image Handler 4 that you really could do with having in your life. It takes over the process of optimising your images without any loss to their quality whatsoever, which in turn means that each and every page and process across your site will load faster and smoother as a result. It’s another example of a freebie working its magic for your benefit and with little to no input required, so use it!