From 2005 until 2007, five students from the EPITECH IT School in Paris, France, worked together on a project named POS (PhpOpenStore). Their vision: an e-commerce platform that would enable the development of different online shops and comes free of charge for its basic version. As a result of the great potential that this project clearly offered, the group founded the company PrestaShop in 2007 in their native Paris. Fast forward one year, and the first version of the shop software registered under the same name with an Open Software License (OSL) went public. Today, PrestaShop has over 250,000 installations, over 60 different languages to choose from, and optional cloud hosting free of charge; making it one of the most sought-after shop solutions around. The company is financed through cooperation with large e-commerce partners like eBay and PayPal as well as through the sale of additional PrestaShop modules.

As you might have already guessed from the original project title, PrestaShop is based on the scripting language PHP (5.2 and higher). It also requires a MySQL database system for data storage. There are options when it comes to web servers, with Nginx, Apache, and also Microsoft IIS supported, while the user can run PrestaShop on a variety of operating systems including Windows, Linux, and Mac.

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PrestaShop: notable features

When it comes to programming, PrestaShop is characterized by the fact that it keeps its core functions and design strictly separated. This makes it easy to customize the look and feel of your site through PrestaShop templates without having to make any changes on the programming side. In order to create design templates like this, the Smarty Engine is used: a tool that, like the shop software, is also based on PHP. Due to its module makeup, PrestaShop is suitable as a solution for a wide range of different shop projects. Its slim basic framework is perfect for smaller web shops, but you can easily add extra functions to create a more complex online business bit by bit.

Below are some of the most important features for creating your perfect PrestaShop e-commerce solution:

  • User-friendly shops: PrestaShop offers a variety of modules that are designed to make the shopping experience as comfortable as possible for your customers. So alongside first class navigation elements, this e-commerce solution offers specialized layouts for product pages, designed to help you optimize your conversion rate. Search functions with filters can also be implemented, allowing products to be ordered by price, color, brand, and many more. You can also include banners with information about campaigns and special offers.
  • Payment and delivery: with a PrestaShop online shop, you can offer your customers all modern payment and delivery options very easily. But if the built-in features aren’t enough, you can also choose from over 50 different (and in some cases free) modules that can add features like bank transfers, direct debit payments, credit cards, invoices, and more. PrestaShop works in cooperation with payment service providers like Amazon, PayPal and HiPay. Thanks to its connection to the cloud-based service shipcloud, you can link your shop to all the major delivery service providers, like Hermes or DHL. You can choose whether customers need to register before making a purchase, and you can allow order editing and returns functions using high performance customer service tools directly on PrestaShop.
  • Mobile commerce: the standard PrestaShop template is already optimized for a wide range of devices and offers a mobile-friendly shopping cart solution. This means that, whatever device your customers use to access your online shop, you can ensure the design and functionality are fully optimized. The order process can also be specialized for mobile devices, meaning that comfortable and speedy ordering is possible on even the smallest of displays. You can also manage your PrestaShop website comfortably while on the go, thanks to the responsive back office.
  • SEO and user analysis: the shop system also supports you when it comes to marketing, through search engine optimization and a variety of marketing tools. With customizable, user-defined meta information and URLs, you can help get your website to the top of the results pages of search engine giants like Google and Bing. On the dashboard, you can review detailed information about sales, orders, shopping cart values, and the conversion rate in real time. You can then use this knowledge to set individualized prices for different customer groups, to send discount coupons and vouchers, and to start extensive e-mail marketing campaigns. You can also offer your customers the chance to give feedback on your products or your shop in general, in the form of ratings and reviews. Positive feedback will in turn have a positive effect on your search engine ranking too.
  • Localization: the PrestaShop interface is available in over 65 languages as standard. Thanks to the support of country-specific currencies and tax rates, you can create multiple versions of your online shop for international customers with ease. Thanks to the integration fund, numerous modules have been developed which optimize the shop system to specific conditions of other markets. And by using the geo-localization function, you can pinpoint exactly where your customers are located and so include terms and conditions for international orders and shopping.

Back office and PrestaShop cloud

One of the really impressive advantages of PrestaShop is the back office. This is the area where you manage your shop – and it’s even possible to do this on the go, from your smartphone or tablet. The back office distinguishes itself through its pleasing design and its high user friendliness - whether you want to create and update products, edit orders, or coordinate shipments. Any features that are turned off in the standard installation can be activated just as easily as adding additional downloaded modules.

With PrestaShop, the European design team offer a product that is so complete that you don’t need to worry about hosting at all. It may be limited to the core of the PrestaShop software and only offers limited access to the source files, but it’s a hosting solution that comes free of charge. Thanks to its notably limited basic structure, this edition, which can only be extended with modules from the official marketplace, represents an excellent choice for running smaller, more basic web shops. You won’t just save time and effort searching for a suitable hosting solution for installation and maintenance, you’ll also have the cloud as a good basis to build upon later when your shop grows. All of this allows you to concentrate fully on the content and design tasks for your online shop.

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Additional functions through modules from the marketplace

Extending your personal PrestaShop through templates and other add-ons is important to really get the most out of this versatile shop system, and the cost isn’t a significant factor here either. If you’ve only got a limited budget, you should plan in advance and make sure that you have a list of priority modules and their prices. A slight disadvantage of PrestaShop is that it’s still a relative newcomer to the global scene and so doesn’t have as large a community reach as WordPress, Drupal, and other similar content management systems with online shop features. As a result, the number of extensions available – particularly templates – is quite low by comparison with these competitors.

Extensions that are developed or checked by PrestaShop’s creators are published in the PrestaShop Addons Marketplace. There are also many other modules that are created and published by external developers, which you can find elsewhere on private sites and forums. But the functionality of these add-ons won’t have been verified by the PrestaShop team.

PrestaShop: the flexible e-commerce software from Paris

With its open-source approach, module makeup, search engine and mobile-friendly features, and countless tools for orders and delivery options, PrestaShop is certainly one of the best e-commerce solutions available today. When it comes to price, both the basic software and the cloud edition are free to use. And by purchasing additional modules, you can extend the functionality and design of your online shop, allowing you to create large-scale e-commerce websites.

PrestaShop is particularly popular in the European market, partly because it’s available in 65 different languages. Not only that, but it’s also optimized for country-specific markets through currencies, tax rates, and law, making it a great choice for anyone looking to operate in foreign markets. The Parisian company also ensures that PrestaShop meets high standards for data protection as a cloud hosting solution, which makes it a very good alternative to the popular US-based competitor Magento for users who are concerned about the privacy of data.

If you want to get started with PrestaShop, we recommend that you head to the official PrestaShop homepage and download the online shop software so you can conduct a trial run. You can also find a live demo on their website, in which the back office and the front end are presented on different display sizes using an example shop.

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