Crash Course in Magento e-Commerce

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Crash Course in Magento e-Commerce

According to Google Trends, it’s official. More people are are searching for “Magento” than “osCommerce”. And it didn’t take long. Less than two years.


I noticed it a little over a year ago and kept watch. It was in beta at the time and I wasn’t about to switch our active sites over to it until I was sure the software would still be around. Most of the software we had looked at was not worth switching to. And I had tried about everything. We had even purchased one shopping cart system with hope that it would do the job we wanted and it didn’t. All the features we wanted had to be built in or be able to be added with extensions or it was just not worth making the change.

And with over 750,000 downloads, Magento more than stuck around. It is now the most popular open source e-Commerce solution around and no longer in beta. So I decided to make the change.

Why Magento?

Magento is a complex beast. That being said, a lot of the features that you normally would have to hire a programmer to add in are already built into the software.

  • Coupons and discounts – And tier pricing and free shipping.
  • Google Analytics – As easy as pasting in your Google site id and clicking a button.
  • Google Website Optimizer integration – Split test your landing pages.
  • An Extensible API – Forget importing orders or typing them up. Connect to your site remotely.
  • Complex products with attributes – One of the type of products I have added to a site consisted of a bundle or three mix or match parts and each of the parts had seven possible configurations.
  • One click upgrades, extension installs and theme installs – WordPress doesn’t even have remote theme installs yet.
  • One installation can control multiple sites – Whether you want a Spanish and English version of your site or a high-end and low-end version of your site, Magento will comply.
  • Integration with UPS, USPS, Fedex and DHL – No updating of shipping prices and tables.
  • Easy SEO – Google sitemaps and full controls of URL rewrites.
  • Multiple themes – Need a theme to run just during the Christmas season? Set the dates and forget about it. Magento will do the rest.
  • User generated content – Built in tagging, reviews and ratings.

And there is much, much more. And if you need more features than what Magento comes with, there is Magento Connect which houses extensions that will add even more functionality to Magento. And because Magento is open source, new extensions show up all the time. As the community grows bigger, the chances that you will find the extension you need right away gets better.

Learn More About Magento

As I said, Magento has a lot more built in features that I could list here. You can read about more of the features here.

Magneto also has very specific server requirements, which you can read about here.

While Magento comes SEO ready, there are still some tweaks that could make it better. One of the issues I noticed off the bat was that a site with only 1000 products may have 20 times the amount of pages. But a recent article on Magento SEO will help a lot with that and other SEO related issues.

While there is a book on developing for Magento and a new one coming out soon on using Magento, the Magento forum is the best place to ask questions and get answers. I have bookmarked over 60 threads there and most of the modifications I have done to Magento installations would not have been possible without the information I found there.

Is it a choice for you?

This was not meant to be an article to sell Magento to you. Everyone has there own preferences and needs. But after hitting dead ends with other e-Commerce platforms, it was the right choice for the company and clients I work for.

Magento does have specific server requirements. It is probably not best to run it on a shared server and it needs custom settings for PHP. There are some issues with the SEO. And it does have a serious learning curve if you are a developer or designer working with Magento. There will also be a learning curve for employees using the software, as there is with any change. Technology that does a lot on the frontend requires work on the backend.

And there will be growing pains. After I built my first Magento site, I wasn’t so sure about my decision. It’s structure is not comparable to any other CMS or shopping cart software out there. And in a lot of ways, I could compare it to first learning PHP. But 4 sites later, I was sure my decision was right and the structure started to make sense.

Like anything new, you must put the effort in to get it to work for you.


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Stephan Miller

Stephan Miller blogs at

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