I have had the privilege lately of working with one of the most powerful and comprehensive eCommerce web platforms around. I now know why it is so popular and highly recommended to many businesses as the CMS of choice. (CMS is short for content management system).
Magento is definitely built and designed for products. If you sell anything more than 50 or so products online I would recommend you take a look at this CMS and product management platform.
I was asked to build a site that was a redesign of the original. The previous design was in need of a new look and some sprucing up. It was decided that a theme would be used, rather than redesigning the look from scratch and we found one that worked well with the overall look and feel they were going for.
Working with databases and spreadsheets is never the most fun part of any job, but one of the most important in this case. I had downloaded a spreadsheet from the previous site (which stayed up and running while I was rebuilding the new site), and it had nearly 4000 entries of products! This included the product variations.
Many of these products were items that had configurable aspects. In this case it was jewelry. There were many rings or necklaces, for example, that had different sizes, chain lengths and gemstones available. Each of these had to be entered separately.
Although most proucts could be uploaded with a spreadsheet customized to Magento, it only took the simple products (the ones without variations or customizable features). The ones requiring customizations had to be entered individually or another plugin had to purchased to help do the job and we decided against it as the individual entries gave us a little more control.
If you have a site with this many products, seriously coinsider your options. You may want to upload the entire spreadsheet with an extension and go in to check product entries afterwards and customize elements, but upload them as ‘disabled’ so they are not immediately viewable on the site. Or make them enabled, if that isn’t an issue for you (it was in our case as we made the site live when many products, and their variations, still needed to be added).
Magento also has the functionality built in to add multiple stores. If you have several stores and want to keep things all under one roof, but individual to each location, than this will do it for you, rather than rebuilding a new site for each of your locations using a different program.
What I love about Magento:
It’s a professional feel and comprehensive database of extensions for customized use and its many built-in features that I think I barely scraped the surface of!
There are built-in templates for emails that are triggered and sent to the customers throughout the ordering process. These can be specially branded to your store or your company.
There is newsletter integration with Mailchimp, payment processing integration tools with all of the most popular payment processors, and a plethora of system configuration settings.
What I didn’t like about Magento:
It took working with the program for months to really feel like I was getting familiar with it and what it was capable of, yet I still feel that I’ve only touched the surface. There are so many customizations that can be made that it is a bit overwhelming, at least on first impression.
I didn’t like that that there were so many places to adjust specific settings. Sales emails, for example.
Sales emails are branded in the email templates section. The email that the emails go to (admin) are set in another section and there are other sales settings in additional sections.
The sales order process is not that intuitive. This site was set up to only use Paypal as the payment processor, and although that kept some payment aspects simple enough, the way Paypal processes different payments caused orders in magento to be handled a little bit differently.
Overall I really like this program and look forward to working with it more in the future. No program is perfect and they all have their frustrating aspects to them, but I am sure I can get past it.
Magento is definitely powerful and I highly recommend a webstore to consider setting up their online shops with it.
If you do, however, and you decide to go with the Community edition, which is the ‘free’ version, the open concept programming, expect to shell out for extensions that will be needed to do specifics for your store that may not already be built in to Magento.
I have to admit, I was extremely disappointed that this powerful program, after being ‘out there’ for years already, wasn’t able to upload configurable products and that a special extension was required.
Free extensions may be good, but also limited, and most are limited on support. So if you need a really special functionality, and you do need an extension, than expect to pay for a good one to get the job done right and that offers support too.
At the same time I was working with this ecommerce site and Magento, I was working on another ecommerce site using WooCommerce on WordPress. I was able to make some great comparisons and I will probably write a review of the two and their comparisons, in the future.