Selecting a framework for your online store can be a daunting task. Even if you were to speak to several trusted web developers and include your own google search, you will see and hear several different opinions and conclusions as to which e-commerce framework is the best, or you will simply hear the standard fallback answer of “it depends.” All of the major e-commerce platforms offer compelling case studies and success stories, but which one is right for your store? In this blog post, I am going to explore some of the best and worst aspects of arguably the most popular e-commerce platform: Magento.
What I love about Magento:
Popularity matters. Looks matter. Speed matters. I may not ever say that to my children, but I definitely want clients to know that in the web world these things make a difference; and if you are selling online, that difference could mean a lot of money. Of course, I am by no means saying Magento is fast, and you can make a good looking website on any platform, but it makes sense to consider the popularity of Magento.
Imagine a scenario where your web developer creates an amazing e-commerce store from scratch and then he leaves for a more lucrative job offer, leaving you without help for your website. How easy is it going to be for you to find another programmer that can pick up where the previous one left off? The more popular the framework, the easier it will be for you to find help.
As you can see in this graphic, Magento has dominated interest for awhile, although new solutions seem to be gaining ground quickly. This popularity means that in terms of getting help, it will be much easier to find. The Magento website boasts on their homepage that 1 in every 4 online stores choose Magento. Its nice to know that help is near if you should ever need it.
It’s free, open-source, and extensible
Who can beat free? With hosted solutions, as long as you own your store, you are paying for the software. Open source means you have full control over the code and can do what you want without having to wait. I like the idea of controlling my own store 100%. While hosted solutions such as Shopify and others make alot of sense to get an online store up and running for cheap, you are limited in how you can extend your store. Shopify and the others are definitely great solutions in many cases, but if you are the type that likes full control, you will want to go with a self-hosted open source solution such as Magento, OpenCart, WooCommerce, or other.
They are partnered with eBay and Pay-Pal
I was one of thousands of developers who attended the Innovate Developers conference in 2011, where eBay and PayPal spoke of their recent acquisition of Magento, along with their vision for e-commerce in the coming years. For the first time in a few years, I was actually excited for the new developments in e-commerce. Magento was already the leader in open source e-commerce frameworks, and many thought that the new relationship with eBay and Paypal signaled that Magento was primed to grow and dominate the market even further. A new offering for small stores (MagentoGo) along with the promise of Magento 2.0 in 2012 solidified in my mind that Magento made sense for the majority of our e-commerce sites.
Speakers at the conference, including Magento core developers, knew that for all the benefits of Magento, it had some serious downfalls: Magento is clunky, difficult to develop and enhance, slow, and the code is bloated. Most Magento store owners are familiar with the need to have advanced technical support due to its complexity. Innovate 2011 sold us on the promise of a faster, more efficient and lightweight, much updated version of Magento: Magento 2.0.
So how did the roll-out of Magento 2.0 go in 2012? It didn’t. Since the conference (and all of the momentum we thought Magento had) they have only released 1.7.0 and 1.8.1 (the current version.) Magento continues to be bloated, slow, and difficult to extend. Which leads me to what I hate about Magento.
What I hate about Magento
Just because its popular and 1 out of every 4 online stores use it, does not mean its necessarily a good choice for your store or that the people that use it like it. Remember the comment above about how speed matters? Yeah… Magento has a horrible reputation when it comes to speed. There are countless tutorials, suggestions, hosting platforms, and extensions specifically addressing Magento performance. Even Magento itself all but admits their software is meant for higher end servers when trying to dispel the performance “myth”. Legends and tales aside, in my experience when it comes to performance, frameworks such as OpenCart, PrestaShop, or even WooCommerce fare much better than Magento.
Look at the chart again. Even though Magento has the highest popularity, its easy to see that the others are gaining significant ground. As long as the e-commerce framework isn’t declining in popularity, I personally wouldn’t hesitate choosing any of the major platforms depending on the situation.
Okay, okay, it is a little misleading to say that Magento is free. While it is true you can download and use the software for no cost, there are definitely costs associated with running a Magento store. In the previous point, we mentioned how speed is a problem for Magento. That can be solved with high end servers, advanced caching tools, and some good technical support. Unfortunately, that all costs money. And remember the point about how Magento is open source and you can extend it to your hearts content? Also true, but because of its complexity, you may find development and developers costing a bit more for Magento development as compared to others.
They are partnered with eBay and Pay-Pal
It remains to be seen what the partnership will do for Magento, but my impression is that they are more focused on the Enterprise and hosted solution (MagentoGo) than on the Community (free) version since partnering with eBay. I haven’t given up hope completely, but my faith in Magento Community version at this point is dwindling. While I can see integrating with eBay stores easier in the future, I also feel like any new innovation may be much slower to come by due to the new company.
So is it a good choice or not?
Even for all of its downfalls, Magento still makes a good choice for large stores where the store owners have some money for good servers and support. However, if you have a small store, limited budget, or need something that is just plain easier to use, you will likely be more pleased with one of the other e-commerce platforms. Which one you ask? “It depends.”