Is Magento for you?

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This article draws on my own impressions. The conclusions in it are the result of decisions I have made, which could be interpreted to mean that it is a subjective article. Please read carefully and take everything for what it is worth; this, after all, is my own opinion. I would hate to kill someone’s hopes. If you feel you have any criticism about what’s said in here, please send me your comments.

I was provoked by the fact that there are companies, which recommend Magento to their clients without realizing the need to know the architecture and capabilities of the system in advance. It also seems like Magento have made quite an impressive marketing campaign and the owners of online stores have gone crazy about the platform. I’ve noticed that some of the owners of online stores choose Magento as a platform with no preliminary examination of the system; they’ve simply heard somewhere that it’s great!

Just found that when I finished with this article – MageBase: Is Magento For Me?. If you are interested, just read it!

When I finished drafting this article, I decided I should start writing it from the end. And so I did!

Some advice:

If you own an online store and have made up your mind to migrate to or start a business based on Magento, I recommend that you:

  • Talk to consultants and see if Magento is suitable for your needs. It’s better to spend some money before than spend a lot after and only then realize Magento doesn’t fit in with your business model…
  • Be ready to invest money in server hardware if you are thinking of doing serious business.
  • You will need to make frequent changes on your website before you find the best approach to selling your products, so get some qualified developers who are familiar with Magento. This will save you time and money and you will be sure that if you ever have to look for another developer, you won’t be giving them a store that is difficult to modify.
  • Play for a while with the client and the administration section of the official demo store at the Magento frontend and backend, in order to find out if you at least like it.
  • Make sure Magento is what you are looking for!

If you are a company looking to offer Magento-based store development:

  • Be prepared to invest a lot of time and money teaching your employees.
  • Be careful when recommending Magento to your clients because you may find yourself in a dead end street and your project may fail, or you may have to start it from scratch.
  • Be careful when giving deadlines! Better give unoptimistic deadlines for tasks you haven’t performed before.
  • There are many modules that help expand the Magento functionality greatly and in the majority of cases, they shorten the development time needed. Still, be careful, because owing to the complexity of Magento itself, many of these modules are not well coded and can create a host of other problems. Before you install anything, read through people’s comments, see if the company offers any support and if the module is available for your version of Magento.
  • Too much of a good thing is no good. What do I mean? If you have installed many modules, get ready for problems. Often, there are collisions between modules as it turns out they modify the same methods or classes. It’s possible that none of the modules work or only one of them works, and you’ll lose many hours before you figure out what’s wrong. Read this for more information: Magento Extension Clashes – Winners and Loosers !

If you are a developer:

  • Be prepared to invest plenty of time studying the system.
  • You’ll find that having some knowledge in object-oriented programming will do you a favor. Some experience with Zend Framework will be useful but you can do without it all the same.
  • It’s difficult to find any documentation. At least for the time being you’ll have to be finding your way around using Google and the articles you will find on the blogs of a few enthusiasts.
  • Sometimes you will need to modify your project code many times only to add a single column in the database.
  • Currently, Magento is using Prototype JavaScript framework, version 1.6.0.3 and Scriptaculous Js 1.8.2; if you have any experience using these, so much the better. Of course, if you are not a fan, you can easily add a jQuery.
  • If you are doing teamwork, you manager must be well aware of what they are doing and what promises they are giving to clients. Personally, I have some very negative experience from the bad management of one of the projects I did.
  • Estimate your price and sell your skills and time at a high price. The complexity of Magento and the good marketing the company Varien has done have created a niche for Magento experts who are not easy to find. So try to sell yourself at as high a price as possible!

Some provocations:

I had the opportunity to be contacted by a client in order to continue the work on an e-commerce site. The store had been developed by one of Bulgaria’s leading wed design companies.
I found out they had been working directly on the base theme – a glaring mistake!
It was a multilingual site and some of the texts in the templates were not displayed by the __() function, which translates a given string according to the site’s currently selected language. That is a flagrant lack of knowledge of Magento’s translation mechanism.
I received a client request for assistance in completing his Magento-based store.
Curious, I decided to ask the client why they had chosen Magento. The answer was: “Well, I heard that this Magento thing was nice.”
When we started talking money and discussing my price, we were unable to reach a consensus. It seems the client wasn’t ready to invest and was looking to achieve big results with minimum investment. Well, that’s an approach that rarely works in Magento!
About a year ago, I completed a project, which was my biggest nightmare. Here is the scheme: Client → Client’s intermediary → my intermediary → myself.
The intermediary was again a leading web development company in Bulgaria. The tasks assigned were completely inadequate. They had told the client that anything he wanted, Magento could do. For me this meant a glaring failure to comprehend Magento’s architecture and zero experience managing a Magento-based project. Well, I was screwed. I spent many sleepless nights working at a fixed price and every week I received another insane list of requirements and unrealistic deadlines!

I will be happy if any of the above proves useful to someone. Good-bye and see you in the next article!

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Tsvetan Stoychev

Tsvetan aka. Cecko is the founder of Cecko's Lab. He is Magento addicted since Magento CE 1.2.1.2 and has worked on over 30 Magento projects. At the moment he is in charge to take care about the money flow of the company, to keep constant communication with the clients and to keep the people in the office busy.

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