I have to confess, I was giving a long thought about, should I do this PrestaShop review now and is it still worth it?! My primary question was – who are still using this eCommerce building platform. Anyway, 15,000 monthly google search volume propelled me forward.
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Undoubtedly, today eCommerce segment is dominated by WooCommerce. So, at first, it seems that PrestaShop has little to offer. Their primary features are free, but when it comes to customization (I mean custom themes and plugins), it is much more expensive than its closest competitors – WooCommerce and OpenCart.
In addition, many reviews that you might have read, suggests that if you don’t have any coding skills and if you are not ready to spend more on extras you are stuck with PrestaShop’s basic theme and basic options offered by default.
But believe it or not, there’s an elegance to be found in simplicity.
You see, platform’s default theme is so complete, that it enables complete, functional and nice-looking eCommerce platform straight from the start. Even this default version includes many features that competitors like Ecwid or BigCartel offer as premium extras. So, stick around for a full overview of this remarkable eCommerce platform.
What Is PrestaShop?
PrestaShop is an opensource, self-hosted eCommerce platform. Unlike WooCommerce, Prestashop is a stand-alone platform. It means you don’t need to install WordPress or anything else, to get it to work.
The same as OpenCart, PrestaShop is written in the PHP programming language with support for the MySQL database management system.
As portal W3Techs reports, currently PrestaShop is used by 0.5% of all websites.
Despite this humble presence, this eCommerce platform has a solid history behind. Initially, it was started back in 2005 as a student project under the name phpOpenStore. Two years later, two members of the original project – Igor Schlumberger and Bruno Lévêque founded the company Prestashop S.A.
Back in a day, when I was launching my first online shop, there were not so many decent options to choose from. Especially this applies if you wanted an opensource solution and full control of your shop. A little bit more then a decade ago PrestaShop was a rising star, but it’s promising future was slashed by the emergence of WooCommerce.
Compared to WooCommerce, it doesn’t seem like much, though it is still a significant number and it is twice than BigCartel, for example.
PrestaShop Key Features
The list of built-in features that encourage merchants to opt for this solution is impressive, and it beats any subscription-based eCommerce platform of today. Here is just shortlist of most prominent ones:
- Unlimited listings,
- Inventory management features like item tracking and out-of-stock alerts,
- Simple export and import of data in CSV format,
- Advanced SEO capabilities – management of meta titles and descriptions and URLs,
- Large selection of payment options: PayPal Standard and Pro, Skrill, Stripe, WorldPay, offline processing and many others,
- Precise shipping estimation,
- Creation of custom promotions,
- Customer emails automation,
- Advanced navigation and search,
- Visitors statistics,
- Sales and orders statistics,
- Multiple store management,
- Multi-language: default support of 75 languages,
- Customizable checkout process,
- Cart abandonment notifications,
- Compatibility with a large number of add-ons and third-party integrations.
The full list can be found here.
PrestaShop is free, but the same as other open-source projects, PrestaShop have to somehow generate income to survive, so it adopted the freemium business model. The company has established two primary sources of revenue:
1. PrestaShop Addons – a marketplace through which merchants purchase custom addons and themes for their stores.
2. Strategic partnerships with e-commerce industry leaders such as PayPal, Stripe or Google
Since it is a self-hosted solution, there are also some setup costs that you cannot avoid. This includes Web hosting and Domain name.
Although the majority of required e-commerce features are packed into the basic theme, you still might also spend some money on the premium template and premium modules, but the costs of those are steep. The cheapest PrestaShop template costs approximately the same as the most expensive template for WooCommerce.
To host PrestaShop, you’ll need a registered domain name and web hosting server with the following system requirements:
- PHP 5.4 or later;
- Must-have PHP extensions (in the php.ini file): PDO_MySQL, cURL, SimpleXML, mcrypt, GD, OpenSSL, DOM, SOAP, Zip, fileinfo.
- MySQL 5.0 or later.
- At least 128 Mb of RAM dedicated to PHP. The more, the better.
You’ll also need FTP or SSH access to your server, but this is a standard feature with most hosts. For more info, check the official system requirements page.
How to install Prestashop
There are two ways how to install PrestaShop – automatic installation via C-panel or manual installation.
Automatic PrestaShop installation via C-panel
Usually, it is located somewhere in the bottom of C-panel. Look for it and under the E-Commerce, search for PrestaShop and click on it.
This will open the installation screen.
Click “Install Now” button. This will open the next page where you will have to choose the installation version, Choose Installation URL, set up store name, set up admin e-mail and admin password. When it’s done, hit “install”.
That’s it. Usually, the installation process takes 2-3 minutes. When it is done, you will see the confirmation page with your newly created shop address and also with admin dashboard address. Note this down, because you will need it to log on into dashboard.
PrestaShop Manual installation
For manual installation, first, you have to download PrestaShop software to your computer. For that, go to go to the official download page.
You have to accept the terms and conditions and Data protection policy, if you want, you can also select your profile and give your e-mail address, but that’s optional. Hit the big pink “Download” button. This will start the process.
Once it’s finished, you will have a zip file: prestashop_1.7.X.X.zip
Next, you have to create a MySQL Database for your shop. For this, log into your hosting’s C-panel, go to Databases – MySQL Database Wizard and click on it.
On the next screen, you have to create a new database.
Next to New Database enter a name for your database and click Next Step.
Then enter Username and password, then confirm the password. Do not forget to write this information down somewhere. Then click “Create User”.
On the next page, you’ll assign privileges for the user to the database. Check the box next to All.
When it is done, let’s go to the next step.
Upload the Files to server and Start Installing PrestaShop
In the C-panel go to Files – File Manager.
Open root directory (usually it is called public_html) and upload previously downloaded PrestaShop.zip file.
When it is done, extract prestashop_1.7.X.X.zip file.
When it is done, delete prestashop_1.7.X.X.zip file. So you should end up with three items in the root directory: an index.php file, another file called Install_Prestashop.html, and a zip file.
Now you can start the installation by going to your shop’s domain name. The installation will start automatically.
Wait while the PrestaShop files will set up.
After the initial setup is done, you will find yourself on the screen like this:
This installation wizard will walk you through the final part of the installation. You will have to:
- Choose your preferred language from the drop-down menu then click the Next button.
- Agree to the license agreement and hit Next to continue.
The system will run a short diagnostic to see if your server has all requirements. If everything ok, input your store information – shop name, category (they call it main activity), country and time zone you will operate in. Then set up an admin account by entering your first and last name as well as e-mail address (this is also your username!). Then set up a password, confirm it and move on.
Here, you need to input your database server address, database name, login, and password. Test if everything works as it should and move on to the next step.
PrestaShop will unpack the files, populate the database, and create whatever it needs to run.
When it is finished, you will get “installation finished” screen.
The last step is, you have to delete the install folder.
You can do that C-Panels File manager. Install folder is located in the main PrestaShop directory. Find and select the install folder and click, “Delete.”
For more details you can check official installation guide or watch this video.
First Log into your new PrestaShop
On the installation finished screen, you will also find two buttons – “manage your store” and “discover your store”. These will take you to the back-end and front-end of your site. When you click “Discover your store” or simply type the domain name into the browser, it will get you to the front-end of your brand-new shop.
By default, it is already filled with some dummy information that serves as an example of a finished shop.
When click Manage your store, it will take you to the login page of stores dashboard. PrestaShop generates a random address for the admin area, something like http://yourdomain.com/admin123.
Make sure to bookmark it or note it down somewhere to be able to find it later!
Enter the username and password you created during the installation and select “Log in”. This will lead you to the admin dashboard.
As you’ve logged in, you see an Administration panel.
Above there’s a white bar containing some tabs and buttons.
If you click the Quick access tab, you’ll get to the dropdown menu containing some links like “Catalog evaluation”, “Installed modules”, etc.
The main menu is located on the left by default. However, you can change its position if you want to. It is done at “Admin menu orientation” panel.
The Main menu is divided into 3 main groups: SELL, IMPROVE and CONFIGURE.
The central part of the screen is filled up with information about the state of your shop. Here You can adjust all the statistics you see by changing the time frame at the top to the current or last day, month, or year.
Suppose you enable the demo mode in the top right corner. In that case, it will populate all the statistics with dummy numbers so you can better understand what they are for.
Most of the elements here are self-explanatory. Anyway, here is detailed video walk-through.
Product creation in PrestaShop
This eCommerce platform enables a powerful and intuitive product creation and management section. It is located on the left side of the admin dashboard.
From there, you can quickly add new products to catalogue, configure product features, and setting values. You can also create product attributes and product groups.
By the way, PrestaShop has a full feature set for selling digital products like software, e-books, or photographs.
The product pages are highly customizable, with options for attaching files or adding whatever additional information is needed. You can set a minimum quantity and set up a message to display whenever an item goes out of stock.
Here is a detailed video on how to add products in PrestaShop.
Along with categories and subcategories, inventory tracking, supplies management, and manufacturer creation, the product management area is one of the bests in the industry.
Although the default PrestaShop theme is excellent and brings to the table everything essential to a modern eCommerce platform, there are addition 2404 premium Prestashop themes available at the official Prestashop Addons marketplace.
As I mentioned before, those all are premium products and prices starts from $50 and can go up to $599.
If you want to change a template go to Dashboard – Modules – Themes & logo.
From here, you can upload your store header logo, as well as mail logo and set a favicon (this will appear in browser tabs). To do that, just click Browse or Choose files. Then upload the desired file and save it. You will also see the size recommendation in the upper left corner.
On the bottom of the page, you will see your current theme and find buttons to visit the theme catalogue and modify page layouts. Also, you will see the themes available. By default, you should have the “classic” theme. If you want to change it, just pick up something you wish from the PrestaShop marketplace.
From there, you can filter themes according to your PrestaShop version, shop category, language, and much more.
Here is a video tutorial on how to do that.
Even by default, PrestaShop comes with most complete functions of modern eCommerce platform. This includes product adding, editing, deleting, listing manufacturers, distributors, customers, etc.
Besides mentioned, PrestaShop Addons marketplace enables many additional modules offered by PrestaShop and its Partners. All offer is organized in two big groups – Needs and Features.
Furthermore, you can also select only free modules, must-haves or local modules.
he good thing is that you can get free version or alternative for almost every possible PrestaShop addon out there. In my opinion, unlike with page templates, with PrestaShop addons, you don’t need to spend extra, unless you are looking for something particular.
Curiously there is even PrestaShop Integration with WordPress.
How to set up payment gateway for PrestaShop
To set up a payment gateway go to Dashboard – Payment – Payment Methods.
At the top, you will see the payment methods already available to your customers. By default, you will be prompted to install PrestaShop checkout. This is the Payment option powered by PayPal.
Here is short video introduction of this payment method.
Besides PrestaShop checkout, almost all major payment providers have plugin for PrestaShop. Here is the list of most popular ones:
Paysafe, pay later.
3-D Secure Payment Gateway by Cardinal
Note that, unlike some SaaS platforms, PrestaShop does not charge any transaction fees even if you use something else than PrestaShop Checkout.
Honestly, PrestaShop is one of the most complete eCommerce builders out there. It comes with tons of features already built-in, and these include all the basics most merchants need to get started. Let me highlight just a few.
Let’s start with unlimited Listings. Unlike most SaaS eCommerce builders, PrestaShop does not limit any listings. You can display as many products as you like.
With PrestaShop merchants can sell digital products. Merchant also can set a download expiration date for time-sensitive products.
There is also an option of bulk Import or Export. You can import any CSV file to PrestaShop. This is a nitty feature for those who migrate from any competitor’s platform.
PrestaShop storefront is translated into 65 different languages. You can also set multicurrency pricing for your products.
Similar to WooCommerce or Shopify, you can set individual tax rules for different regions. With the help of free or paid addons, you can sync shipping with carrier of your choice.
There is built-in estimated shipping feature by default. You can activate an option gift packaging and set your site to charge extra for it.
Customer Relationship Management
PrestaShop has automated emails function. This means you can send an automated post-transaction email post-transaction.
This eCommerce platform has abandoned cart notifications. When you set it up, your customers will receive an automated email with a reminder of the products they’ve left in their carts.
Obviously, there are also customized promotions. You can set promotions to apply to specific customer groups, products, and orders.
PrestaShop SEO Features
With PrestaShop you have easy inventory tracking and restocking alerts. And last but not least this is one of the few eCommerce platforms which comes with excellent built-in SEO Features: You can make custom URLs, edit meta titles and meta descriptions.
There is also an analytic tool called PrestaShop metrics. It will give you insights similar to Google analytics. Her is a short video description of this tool.
Obviously, there are also customized promotions. You can set promotions to apply to specific customer groups, products, and orders.
Many beginners in eCommerce choose SaaS solutions like Shopify or Ecwid, just because of the sweet promise of support. Usually, all SaaS eCommerce platforms emphasize that by choosing them, you are guaranteed customer support.
You see, inexperienced merchants may think that this support is like apple “genius bar “style support. Besides, there is a generally accepted view that that support is a complicated issue with much open-source software. But, let me uncover the brutal truth about this “guaranteed customer support”.
In most cases, this support is in the form of open tickets or email support. If you do have an entry-level package (and a majority of new merchants have precisely that), forget about phone support or dedicated account manager. And even with those, no one will perform some extra codding just for you.
If you want to achieve something particular and don’t know how to do it yourself – hire a developer.
The way I see it, in eCommerce word, the most useful and practical is community support – such as forums and dedicated blogs. WooCommerce is an excellent example of this.
Also, PrestaShop does have a vast community that that work together to solve a comprehensive variety of problems via forums, YouTube channels and blogposts.
If free community support is not enough, on their webpage PrestaShop offers the search tool which helps you to find a certified PrestaShop expert near you. You can filter through what’s available according to the skills that you’re specifically looking for. The bottom line is that these experts can give professional and custom-tailored solutions for any of the potential problems that may come up with your store.
The PrestaShop Expert network enables for merchants premium assistance that they might need to run a successful online business.
PrestaShop training courses
On their webpage, PrestaShop also offers a variety of training courses with or without certification. These courses cover different specific topics about PrestaShop. Some of them are paid, some are made as free YouTube videos.
I’ve spent many hours researching what PrestaShop users say about this eCommerce platform.
From skilled developers point ow view, the main issues lie in the fact that PrestaShop was designed using design patterns that were commonplace in the PHP world 10 years ago but have now become obsolete.
The most critical opinion is about the newest 1.7 version. It receives a quite hard backlash from the community. The overall opinion is that 1.7.0 was a very ambitious release, but this version was released prematurely.
However, this does not apply to the average user. For those, there are two main complains. First is problems with PrestaShop 1.7.X.X installation on some hosting servers, known as “blank white screen”. Usually, this occurs when PrestaShop is hitting the PHP memory limit. This eCommerce platform is resource hungry and requires at least 128 MB to function, and some addons can take more memory than that. A right setting would be “256 MB”, or “512 MB” if you have a VPS. So, my advice, check out with Hosting service is it optimized for PrestaShop before you buy it. PrestaShop has a partnership with IONOS hosting service.
The second complaint is not precisely about PrestaShop itself, but about relatively high prices for PrestaShop addons.
Positive Reviews & Testimonials
On the flip side, lots of merchants use PrestaShop for their online businesses and love it. Over the years PrestaShop has gained an excellent reputation, and according to customer testimonials, this is the right platform if you are building large (2000+ products) online shop because PrestaShop has a well-optimized stock management system. It is straightforward to use, and it is very user friendly as compared to other frameworks.
According to users’ testimonials, PrestaShop is easy to set-up, it is intuitive, and it looks good. According to customer review site g2.com, PrestaShop eCommerce platform scores 4.5 stars from 5.
Another customer review portal: Captera.com similarly rated the platform with scores of 4.5 stars from 5.
Let’s wrap it up
PrestaShop is an open-source eCommerce platform for developing e-commerce websites. It backed by solid history and a large and active community. PrestaShop is one of the most complete eCommerce platforms out there and owes its success mainly to its ability to be extended and customized.
However, in the age of WooCommerce (opensource) and Shopify (SaaS), people who download PrestaShop and use it as-is, belong to a declining minority.
According to PrestaShop lead core developer Pablo Borowicz, most people who are choosing to use the PrestaShop project in these days and succeed in doing so, do it to kickstart their own development—that is, a product based on the PrestaShop project.
You might come across the opinion that PrestaShop is not for the beginner and that you have to be tech-savvy with some knowledge in CSS, HTML, and PHP to successfully operate it.
I totally disagree with that. As I mentioned earlier, I have built several eCommerce shops with PrestaShop before, and I am familiar with all major eCommerce platforms of today!
PrestaShop is no more complicated than its closest competitors – WooCommerce or OpenCart. It has a beginner-friendly interface and is suitable for non-technical users. So, to work with it, all you need is motivation and a little bit of patience, because, even if you don’t know something, you will definitely find a solution with community help.