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Order Form vs. Shopping Cart: Which is Right for Your e-Commerce Site?

So you’re ready to make the leap and take your business online, but you’ve already come to a fork in the road. Is an order form generator the way to go or do you need to invest the extra time and tech in a full-fledged shopping cart?

Shopping carts offer a great deal of flexibility and functionality compared to order forms, but they’re harder to implement and not the best answer for every company. Sometimes you’re better off with order forms even if your organization employs a crew of top-notch developers.

Before we getting into the differences between order forms and shopping carts, let’s see the similarities. According to an article on OrphicPixel, both order forms and shopping carts give a good range of features, such as:

  • Real-time pricing calculation
  • Transactions processing via online payment gateways (PayPal, Square, Stripe)
  • Opt-in for product features
  • Product image attaching
  • Anti-spam measures (reCaptcha, Smart Captcha)
  • Data encryption

Both the order form and the shopping cart are connected to a data management system that helps track customer orders.


If order forms can do all that, why get a shopping cart? Shopping carts have special capabilities that you’ll need if either of the following applies to your online business:

  • Does your selection of products change regularly? A shopping cart dynamically adjusts to changes in items, whereas an order form would have to be edited every time an item is added or removed.
  • Is the customer expected to shop continuously and buy multiple items rather than make a single purchase? In that case, you need a cart which enables customers to store items and continue browsing.
  • How many products will you be offering? If you have more than about a half dozen, you better spring for the shopping cart. Displaying too many items on an order form quickly gets unwieldy and frustrates customers.

Access Payment Systems puts it this way: “If you have a large number of products that will be spread out over many pages, then a shopping cart is probably a must. If you have a smaller number of products that can be placed on one page, you may not need a shopping cart. If you decide that you need a shopping cart, choose the one that best fits your particular needs.”

If that sounds like you, a good start would be to check if your hosting provider offers any shopping carts, and then do online research to see which might suit you best.

When less is more: Sometimes order forms are your best bet

In the past, order forms lagged behind shopping carts in terms of payment flexibility. If you wanted sales taxes calculated, multiple countries’ currencies converted, PayPal integrated, or installments billed, a shopping cart was your only hope. Thanks especially to third-party integrations, now there are order forms that can do all that and more.

Order forms are great for situations when the customer makes one purchase, perhaps with some customizations. Online concert tickets work this way. You can only buy one set of tickets and have to check out. You can’t leave tickets sitting around in a shopping cart when other people might want them. That just wouldn’t be right!

Event planning companies also prefer order forms to shopping carts. A good event planning website often includes an order form that customers use to request a booking. The order form collects the relevant data, such as the type of the event and how many people will attend, the budget, the photography package, the catering options, and more. With the click of a button, the details are submitted electronically to the event planner.

Believe in yourself. You, too, can build an order form for your business.

If your site is a candidate for an order form, you’re in the right place. With 123FormBuilder, you can create a reliable, customizable form without having to touch any code. And pretty sophisticated at that:

  • Built-in payment gateway integrations that can be mixed and matched on the same form
    We support over a dozen different payment gateways, and they can be active at the same time on the same form.
  • Mobile-friendly
    In a world where mobile shopping is edging out computer-based shopping, mobile users
    have come to expect a hassle-free transaction.
  • VAT/sales taxes calculation
    Don’t limit your customer base by geography! Calculate and charge tax by location.
  • Coupons and discount codes
    Convert your customer with that extra bit of motivation.
  • Customizable autoresponders
    Have an email sent automatically upon order submission or payment confirmation.
  • Brand personalization
    Take all the credit for your fancy, secure form! Add your company colors and logo to any form.


123FormBuilder has a form for everyone, from free personal use to corporate solutions. Although our team of programmers could build a good one, we don’t happen to need a shopping cart. When you sign up for any of our premium plans, the magic will happen on an order form.

You can also use our form builder to integrate your forms with various payment gateways, so you’ll be able to build PayPal order forms and more.

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