4 Reasons Why Magento Belongs In My Ecommerce Portfolio
I don’t always use Magento, but when I do, it’s for a serious project. I love Magento, even though I don’t talk about it as much as Prestashop, Zencart, or my new boo Woocommerce. It’s only a “go-to” platform for me when I know I need the muscle, loads of features, and I am in the right frame of mind to invest the time into a mega project. Even though I currently manage 6 online stores, Magento is rarely an option due to is robust presence and server resource devouring appetite. After all, I don’t just build dedicated servers to try eCommerce. I start slow with VPS’s and then gradually scale out. Magento comes into play from time to time and I want to discuss why and when I deploy it and hopefully explain when you should take a look at it as well.
First, I think Magento is an amazing platform, but it’s for those serious online shops that are going to scale with thousands of products and continuously bring in massive amounts of customers and sales. Most of the time a solid install of Prestashop, Hikashop (Joomla), or even Woocommerce is going to be enough to get the job done. This week I decided to talk about my last go in 2013 with Magento Community 1.8.1 (currently 2.0.2 for the community open-source download). The last install I built before this was 1.5 so I have skipped 2 versions of this and to be frank, I was looking forward to seeing what improvements have taken place since my last stab at Magento. I could only image the awesomeness I might find in today’s build.
So, since I have taken the step and committed to my store install, let me touch on the 4 reasons I decided to use it instead of Prestashop 1.6 for my vector art retail site.
Prestashop can handle 50,000 products and probably more. I don’t doubt that other carts can do a damn fine job at scaling, but Magento brags about it on all levels, and they put real numbers to scaling. They are built for mega box stores that transition to online sales and they are owned by eBay, which happens to be really good at scalability. For my downloadable art project, I was anticipating millions of projects potentially across several stores. At least I had hoped I would eventually be able to take it there. I openly admit that I was unable to do it on my own. I still needed something that allowed me to sleep at night and Magento is that platform.
Look, their customer base for the enterprise edition, which happens to be very expensive, it huge. Here is the list of Magento’s client base to back up the scalability claim.
I think this might be the weakest point of the 4 because we are far enough down the path of development that we expect carts to scale without issue. This isn’t 2007 where it took a village to expand unless you had resources to hire huge teams. Prestashop can handle 10’s of thousands of products, so can osCommerce, in fact many can, but the experience and seriousness of the Magento team just puts my uneasiness to rest when it comes to the massive potential of the database lines I am about to add. Having the backing of one of the biggest online titans is also ensuring that things will be well.
Magento is by far the most robust ecommerce platform that I know of. It has more options than you would expect a shopping cart to have. This thing was built for business and even today I am struggling to configure it correctly because of how robust it is. This is also why I don’t use it very often. Most of the time I am just looking for a lightweight solution that gets the registers rolling. Hats off to Level Up Tuts for their Youtube videos to re-educate me.
This is the area that most impressed me as well because I needed a professional theme, and a platform that came with downloadable products in it’s core. Prestashop didn’t come with downloadable products and I would have had to buy an unreasonably priced module(s) for that. Woocommerce wasn’t in my field of view at the time, but I don’t remember if they had that feature when I built it in 2013. I was also nervous about the capabilities of WordPress and Woo a couple years ago as well.
Today, if I had to make the same decision knowing what I know now, I would use Woocommerce based on knowing that I didn’t have tens of thousands of products or incredible sales. I had 300 products and about 30 sales. Woocommerce and WordPress should have been used, but I still got to play with Magento and I didn’t mind that at all! One last thing, this site is using WordPress and Woocommerce.
Slight Off-Topic Rant
Prestashop and Joomla carts have done many good things in the past, but I think people are moving on with their eCommerce lives. I don’t personally know anyone using Joomla, but I know there are lots that do still use it. While Joomla always had a great community when I was using it. Prestashop’s biggest downfall was a community full of unanswered questions and frustrated users. In addition, we were paying hundreds for plugins that are core features in the other shopping carts. This year I finally took my mother’s coupon service off of Prestashop and went to Woocommerce and her sales has exploded, and the customers are having far less problem. I am left believing that Prestashop’s time to shine is nearing the end of many people’s interest.
Nothing gets me more upset than spending a ton of time working with a platform and getting far into a project to only find out none of my questions are being answered in the community and information is rarely a quick find using Google. It’s a downright bummer. Google is my buddy, and usually the go-to for many, when I run into a scripting problem or a configuration problem. If I can’t find an answer within the first few keyword searches, then I know I have bigger support issues. Put of all the communities I have had to use, the best ones have been Magento, WordPress & Woocommerce, Magento, and Drupal.
Magento has a solid community, both free and paid. So many developers have jumped on the ecosystem to build relationships and real experience. People are behind Magento and that is where the difference is. I have yet to find another ecommerce community that has even an average response rate. Prestashop boasts 500,000 members, but getting a response to a question is like playing Russian Roulette. Several of my questions still have gone unanswered to this day. This has become a huge deal for me because time is money and every hour my shop can’t check someone out, I lose money.
When I go through the Prestashop plugin store, I feel like it’s a complete mess. They don’t have their add-ons sorted very well, their developers seem to just abandon projects they released, and overall there just doesn’t seem to be very many polished add-ons. I hate going to the addon section there because I feel like I am getting a mediocre deal and being charged twice as much for something that isn’t going to be well supported. Prestashop is a platform that developers are only halfway on board with. Joomla hasn’t been in my court in a long time, but I took a look at Hikashop and that looks promising. I couldn’t bring myself to use Woocommerce, because WordPress is a blogging platform and I had zero experience with it. I have to say that both have come a long way since they began and certainly far in the last couple years.
Truth is there are tons of options, but when I go to Magento’s addons, I feel like they are polished, supported, and reasonable in the price developers ask for the most part. Plugins are a big deal for me. I usually find myself needing at least a couple. I don’t want a free plugin from Prestashop’s forum that might or might not be supported and or to navigate my way through GitHub to get what I need. Magento brings me right into the sales room floor, shows me a solid product, and I get awesome support from that product. I pay a bit more, but I know it’s going to be completely worth it. The real beauty when it comes to Magento is that more so than not, I don’t need any. Magento takes up resources and is true enterprise software because there is so much functionality built into the core. This is something that I love, obviously since I wrote this article about it.
Wrapping It All Up
In the end, I use Magento 1 out of 10 times. That 1 time is when things are going to be BIG and serious. By that I mean, lots of products, many customers, polished look, and my rock for ecommerce. There are many more than just 4 reasons, but the biggest 1 is that I sleep better at night knowing my Paypal account is getting love. Magento is a lot more work up front for many and it usually costs me more money to get rolling, but once you have it good to go, you can rest easy. By costs, I mean in time & money. If you walk away with nothing more than Magento is an option I have done my job. Keep it in your back pocket!