Magento – What is it and why is it so popular?

Magento is one of the most flexible, comprehensive and powerful e-commerce platforms currently available. If your intention is to sell goods, then this (in my opinion) is the place to start.

What is Magento?

Magento is software that you can install on your website that will provide intuitive menus and tools to allow you to build an e-commerce store (i.e. sell products online).

Who is Magento suitable for?

Whether you are going to sell just a few goods, or thousands, Magento provides you with the interface and tools to ensure that your website is easy to navigate, organised in terms of stock content, and logical in terms of flow to the checkout.

It is therefore appropriate for businesses big and small.

I would also like to point out that I believe Magento is particularly relevant to bricks and mortar stores who are going to make the leap online. The reason I mention this is that Magento has the ability and features available to integrate point of sale and inventory type functionality, which you may not find in other e-commerce software.

How easy is it to use?

I will be honest, there are other e-commerce platforms out there that are much simpler to use than Magento, but it should be noted that none of them are as comprehensive in features and future expansion possibilities.

It is not that the setup process is particularly difficult, and there are some hosting providers that make available a “Magento Installer” setup such as Hostgator (who I recommend, and use as a host), but there is potential requirement for the following should you need particular features:

  • basic coding and/or add-ons
  • themes

In terms of usability there is an intuitive menu system available to carry out tasks on the site on a day to day basis (add new stock, add pictures, add to menus etc.).

Doesn’t sound like it is worth the effort. Why should I bother?

Rather than put huge lists of features of Magento, and long drawn out comparisons to all other e-commerce platforms I will state the following:

Magento is easily the most comprehensive and feature rich e-commerce solution on the market. You can argue about the many facets of usability, but as yet there is nothing that compares directly in terms of features.

If the above statement tells you all you need to know then you can stop here…otherwise I explain in the rest of the article why I believe that, even while it may be perceived as being more complicated than some if its competitors, you should still use Magento.

Comprehensive features are not enough, why else should I use it?

Magento community edition is completely free. I don’t mean, it is a trial or limited in anyway. It is just free. There are of course commercial “enterprise” editions of Magento that cost thousands per year, but they are aimed squarely at large companies who need live support.

Magento is open source, and therefore has a healthy and thriving community that provides:

  • free and paid apps
  • themes
  • access to a large community of freelance developers

This allows the integration of additional functionality  into the basic software package without coding, but crucially this gives access to seasoned professional coders should you need help with something more bespoke and complicated in the future.

Potentially, the apps and themes may cost you something, but I will get to why that is likely not to matter below. Alternatively you can code your own functionality in if you have the ability, although I’m assuming in this article that that is not the case.

As an example of why I believe the app and theme costs are not really that relevant, let’s take two alternative, simpler to setup (and very popular) e-commerce platforms:

Shopify and Woocommerce
Shopify is a popular e-commerce all in one solution and woocommerce is a very popular wordpress plugin

The one thing that sticks out is that they both charge a fee to use them. (Before anybody tells me WooCommerce is free, this is only the case if you are happy with the very limited payment gateways they make available for free, otherwise you need to pay).

Based on this, I believe it would be a wiser use of the money that you will inevitably spend on subscription or upgrades on the simpler platforms, to customise and add functionality to your own Magento e-commerce website. Should you be lucky enough to be successful in the long run, it will make your life easier when you need to expand. Not least because of the large web development community that exists for Magento.

Who uses Magento and how popular is it?

Magento is used by some very big names:

Magento Brands

This obviously conveys a lot of credibility to Magento as it can clearly manage what are likely to be some very large and very active e-commerce websites.

Some other numbers of note:

  • In 2015 magento powered more than double the amount of  “Internet Retailer Top 1000 Websites” than anyone else
  • Almost 25% of the top 1 million and 23% of the top 50 thousand e-commerce websites use Magento (according to HiveMind), more than any other e-commerce solution

All in all it is the most popular, and tends to be at the cutting edge of e-commerce. Backed up by some big names in commerce.

Conclusion

From my point of view the reasons to use magento are clear. It can be applied to so many scenarios and different types of retailer and budget:

  1. You have no money to invest – No problem, the software is free, and a little learning may be required if you want bespoke features you can’t find in the free addon apps, but your task is far from impossible. I am not a website developer and I have managed to setup a fully functioning Magento website without spending a single penny
  2.  You have a small amount to invest – Great, the software is still free and you can also get some great apps and website themes which will be more than enough to get you online and looking great
  3. You have a significant amount to invest – well it’s a no brainer…the only question you should be asking is if you should consider the commercial options Magento has or whether to hire a developer

Do you agree with my selection for an e-commerce platform. If not what would you go for and why?

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TestSpecimen

TestSpecimen

TheTestSpecimen is the creator of thetestspecimen.com and the Wanderfile app (https://wanderfile.app). Passionate about technology, coding, photography and travel.

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