– Our first Prestashop Experience

Anybody who knows us, knows we’re pretty much a Magento house when it comes to ecommerce. But that doesn’t mean we won’t rise to a challenge and mix things up with other platforms from time to time. We’ve built ecommerce sites in WordPress and Expression Engine, and we’ve written extensions for VirtueMart, but this week marks a new departure with the launch of on Prestashop.

Medco are a family company who have become one of Ireland’s largest manufacturers and suppliers of nursing uniforms and other medical related uniforms and garments since 1981. They’re also an exceptionally professional bunch of people and a pleasure to work with 🙂

Alongside Nursing Uniforms, the site sells Lab Coats, Chef and Catering Uniforms and other accessories such as Jackets, Trousers and Cardigans.

So what did we think of Prestashop? Well Alan isn’t convinced, but it definitely helped us build a faster site for Medco’s uniforms come with a variety of options, such as colour, size and trim, this together with the requirement to manage stock yielded an unusually large catalogue which on Magento required some serious caching efforts and a complex catalogue build that was not very easy to update or maintain.

Why so? Well when a product page is rendered on Magento, every option for that product (so every simple product associated with the complex product), along with pricing information and so forth, is created and loaded as JSON object. That was a serious strain on page load times.

The site was originally built in Magento, and to get around this problem we cached the JSON, and set up the site to prime the cache when the catalogue was changed. It was a solution that worked but it wasn’t ideal.

Meanwhile, Medco wanted to integrate with their ERP of choice SalesOrder – which by the way they highly recommend.

SalesOrder didn’t have an integration module for Magento – but they had one for Prestashop which they recommended as an ecommerce solution. We checked it out and found that Prestashop also has a different method for rendering the product page that made it a great option for dealing with the speed issues we were seeing in Magento. Instead of creating and loading JSON on page load, Prestashop updates pricing and option information using Ajax calls – so the load pain is essentially avoided.

So that was a nice win. Other than that, I guess we can say we liked the platform in general – the learning curve isn’t as steep as Magento’s – but to be frank the modules and other options for extending the platform aren’t the same level of quality as those you can find for Magento. The Realex module is exceptionally basic and we had to modify it to get it to work, the WordPress integration extension is a joke – an expensive one at €89 or so – and we had to do a lot of work to get it to the level the free WordPress integration for Magento gives you out of the box, the onepage checkout took a lot of polishing too.

On the plus side – I quite like the default add to cart behaviour – an animation that works really well visually… and oh yeah – the speed, the site feels quite snappy compared with the version we had built on Magento.

All in all, a good experience after some work – we’re also happy to see that Prestashop 1.5 offers multi-store functionality so we can build out a version of the site in future.

Meanwhile, we wish Medco the best of luck with this new endeavour – and if you need a nursing uniform made in Ireland – you know where to go!