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Magento Review - Why Its Good and Who Its Good For

By Chris Pentago

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Magento is a powerful e-commerce platform that is meant for resource-hungry and large e-commerce sites. It has a steep learning curve, which can make it foreboding to some smaller e-commerce websites. It also offers tools that may be wasted on the smaller e-commerce site.

 

http://magento.com

 

For multi-million dollar operations or businesses that need a complex custom built system, however, the platform offers tools to run a streamlined business provide the best user experience and make it cost effective at the same time.

 

Who Can Use It?

The platform is not meant for everyone that runs an e-commerce enterprise.

How do you determine at the outset if it is good for you?

 

 

A basic rule of thumb is, if your expected turnover is less than $1 million a year, then this particular e-commerce platform is not going to be cost effective for you. Smaller e-commerce clients should look for a simpler, hosted solution like Shopify for instance.

 

 

The Magento webshop has a steep learning curve as mentioned earlier; it is designed to offer plenty of power, so it is not for enthusiastic amateur PHP hobbyists either. It is a serious and complex tool that is really meant for the professional web store owner.

 

Tackling The Learning Curve

Magento Dashboard

(click here for larger preview)

 

When you’ve made sure that Magento is going to be beneficial for your business, it is time to face the learning curve. Nearly all users unanimously agree that initially they may have had to struggle with it.

 

But once developers have become more familiar with its features and complexity, they realize how powerful the platform is. Many users agree that they haven’t come across other CMS platforms that can compare.

 

However, despite the notorious learning curve, a simple tailored version of the webshop can be set up with relatively fewer hurdles than expected. Many developers have said that a standard installation is easy to do. Some developers have compared it favorably to the simple one-click installation that is usually associated with WordPress.

 

Users that are intimidated by the sheer complexity of the platform can start with a simple default installation. It is easy to alter the skin within a few days of default installation, and to set up categories and products as well as an appearance that appears different from the original installation. For more complex customization, the webshop has a vast range of features.

 

Advanced Features Offered

When one looks deeper, the e-commerce platform is highly flexible and customizable, as befits a serious platform for enterprises. It includes all the features that any professional store owner would insist on. This includes the capability to handle complex vouchers and discounting, robust reporting features, as well as the ability to integrate with other systems such as accounting.

 

Additionally, it offers plenty of customization options. Most of these customizations can be done at the admin interface. This is relatively easy to use, but at the same time it does have some unusual features that need getting used to.

 

Customization can also be done with XML modules and the help of documentation provided with the system. But this process of customization can be somewhat elaborate. A plugin system, similar to that of the WordPress plugin system and community, is also available for customization, with plugins being developed by a community similar to that of the WordPress community.

 

 

The community that supports this platform is one of its strongest strengths, as members develop plugins, provide tutorials, blog posts and answer questions that other users may have. At the same time, the community can be a little confusing because of a lack of documentation and reliability of published information.

 

Another issue with the community is caused due to the existence of two versions of Magento – the open source version and the enterprise version. The majority of the support provided by the community is for the open-source version. Occasionally, Magento conventions are held (such as MagentoLive 2013 event) throught the world where developers and web stopre owners can meet and discuss ideas.

 

The Two Versions of The Software

The community version of the software has a strong community backing it but you can’t be sure that the plugins developed by the group will work with the Enterprise version. However, the open source plugins do usually work with the other version.

 

 

The Enterprise version on the other hand offers better official support, better functionality and indemnity insurance, though it is not inexpensive. Most businesses find that the open source version of the software is more than enough for their needs. Choosing between the two becomes a case of considering business needs rather than technical needs.

 

Coming To A Decision

When deciding on whether or not to invest in the webshop for your business, it is important to keep business goals as well as the users in mind. Too many times businesses recommend the platform to their clients without realizing that they need to know the capabilities and the structure of the system. The platform’s aggressive marketing has also made it familiar to many people that end up investing in it and spending time over it before ultimately realizing that their business doesn’t really need it.

 

If you are unsure about whether or not you need the advanced capabilities of the webshop platform, you can talk to consultants and seek advice. Spending a little on good consultation to verify will be far better than spending a whole lot more on the software and then finding out it is far too advanced.

 

The software also needs a robust server, so businesses that are seriously considering the software will need to be ready to invest in server hardware. Some time and money will also be needed to take employees through the learning curve; you may also need to experiment before finding the right customization for your website etc.

 

But for businesses that the software is perfectly suited for, all the hard work in the beginning will ultimately pay off. It will add far superior functionality than any other CMS system, offer greater flexibility and help to set your web store apart from others. However, when choosing an agency to help you and your employees with the training, be sure to find one that already has a reputation for delivering an ROI through their e-commerce advice and recommendations for creating a great user experience.

 

Alway good option is to try the live demo.

Published on Feb 27, 2014

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