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Magento: the professional shopping cart software

Magento is a software solution for creating professional web shops. The open source system was launched in 2008, with eBay taking it over three years later in 2011. In 2015, the corporation sold the ownership rights to the British company, Permira. The production was carried out by the company of the same name, Magento Inc. (formerly known as Varien). As Magento’s core files are available free under the open software license (OSL), there are many free extensions and templates developed by the Magento community, which can be used to extend your web store’s range of functions. You can also find many fee-based extensions from developers who are specialised in Magento.

Recent versions of Magento are largely based on the Zend framework and therefore require version 5.5.22 of the scripting language, PHP. MySQL (version 5.6 and up) is required for the database and Linux (x86-64) as the operating system. For web servers, you should use Apache (2.2 or 2.4) or nginx (1.8 and up).

Magento features: what makes the software different?

Magento is no ordinary web shop content management system; it was specifically designed to be an e-commerce solution. This is reflected in the platform’s range of functions. In its fundamental properties, Magento is much like every other CMS, and it even has a typical modular structure with extendibility. However, users will quickly notice that the software isn’t just for managing any old website content, but it focuses on web shops specifically. The diverse range of features are geared towards marketing, product management, customer management, and online payment methods, while comparable systems must first be upgraded in order to be properly equipped for setting up these web shops. It’s for this reason that developers see Magento as an out-of-the-box CMS for web shops.

Magento software’s most important features:

  • Search engine optimisation: SEO is a central issue for all web shops, which is why Magento has many features that help users reach those coveted top spots on the search engine results pages. For example, the system can automatically generate search engine-friendly URLs and sitemaps (hierarchically structured overview of all the web shop’s pages) as well as statistics about the most common search terms entered by customers to find your shop. In addition, you can easily define meta information for all pages featuring products, categories and content. With the support of Google Content API for Shopping, you can also allow your products to appear in the Google Shopping search results.
  • Marketing and customer service: thanks to the software’s diverse range of resources, marketing a Magento CMS webshop couldn’t be simpler. You can use these to create and export gift cards and promotional codes for various campaigns (i.e. newsletters, print media, etc.). Users also have the option to suggest related items and show recently viewed products. With Magento, it’s possible to create polls, and what’s more, users can also give customers the option to recommend products or send wish lists to friends. Furthermore, implementing a shopping cart that can be accessed across multiple devices increases the chance of transactions being completed. 
  • Catalogue and product management: one of the greatest defining features of Magento software is the great variety of ways to design your catalogue, including individual products. For example, you can configure different product categories individually or add search filters (i.e. filter by price range). Magento’s features also include search functions such as autocomplete and day and comment functions. You can give further details in your catalogue by adding multiple images and provide information about bulk prices or how many items you have in stock. By using Facebook’s share buttons and a zoom function, you can make your product images more interactive.
  • Checkout and methods of payment: with Magento, you can choose to offer your customers a one page checkout – this is where the entire payment process is displayed on one page. This enables you to decide whether users need to first register as a new customer, or whether they can continue as a guest. In order to keep the data secure, Magento offers the support of SSL certificates for both front-end and back-end processes. Customers can save their shopping cart and obtain information about shipping cost and tax. You can also offer different payment options, including bank transfers, direct debit, credit card payment, PayPal, and Amazon Payments. Further payment methods can be integrated at any time via extensions. 
  • Globalisation: using international currencies and tax rates, as well as foreign language characters and text that reads right to left, you can offer your products to a global audience. Product and category texts can be entered and displayed in different languages. If you wish to limit your range to specific countries, you can define your target regions by determining permitted billing addresses or setting policies about who can create user accounts (the latter option only works if you do not allow users to purchase products as guests).
  • Mobile commerce: mobile devices have taken on a supporting role in e-commerce. It’s therefore more important than ever to support native apps for iOS and Android, which can take on updates (i.e. promotions) in real time. Thanks to mobile HTML5, which automatically optimises content for mobile devices, your Magento desktop site will adjust perfectly to the display and requirements of any portable device. This programming language also enables you to implement specific functions, including zoom, drag and drop into the shopping cart, and multi-touch.

Magento CMS: complexity with high user comfort

The features listed here illustrate why Magento software is so popular, although they also expose just how complex the open source program is. While experienced CMS users often express delight in Magento’s diversity, beginners might initially experience difficulties; this is a common problem, as free software often places functionality as a top priority, while usability, though not unimportant, comes in second place. Magento is therefore an out-of-the-box CMS – as long as users already have knowledge of comparable systems, and take time to get to know the program. Only by investing time in understanding the program can users gradually learn how to use the many functions and subsequently how to maintain the Magento online shop from day to day. The complexity can also have an impact on the hardware requirements, which is why Magento is among the more expensive pieces of shopping cart software.

However, the popular program also offers a great number of advantages, especially with regard to user comfort; a central administrator panel makes it possible to manage several web shops at once and distribute individual user roles and rights. Magento’s features also enable users to put their customers first at all times; for example, the platform provides users with detailed reports about their turnover, product reviews, most viewed or sold products, use of promotion codes, and much more. Additionally, the open source software supports users in processing orders. The program gives users an easy way to check and edit incoming orders, create and print invoices, as well as set up automatic e-mail messages for orders.

Magento: templates and extensions

Expandability is one of Magento’s greatest strengths. Since its release, thousands of extensions have emerged, which has been made possible by the free program code and the modular structure. But in order to really understand the program, it’s important to first learn the differences between Magento templates (most of which can be found under ‘Magento themes’) and Magento extensions. The latter constitutes the typical, functional platform specifications, which can be used to add further payment options or an age verification function, for example. Magento templates, on the other hand, influence the layout of the web shop, allowing users to be more free and imaginative in their site’s structure and design. In the Magento Marketplace, you’ll find useful extensions and themes for the most recent version of Magento. There are also many extensions available for older versions of the CMS, which you can find on Magento Connect.

Community, Enterprise, or Enterprise Cloud Edition?

There are three versions of Magento available from the developers’ website:

  • The Community Edition includes the source code, which also includes access and is available to download for free. The system’s extensions and hosting are the user’s responsibility. For developers and small businesses, this can be an opportunity to keep costs down in the day-to-day running of your web shop, although it does also require a high level of effort on the user’s side. The Community Edition can also be upgraded to Enterprise or Enterprise Cloud Edition at any time.
  • Subject to licensing fees, the Enterprise Edition offers a more comprehensive version of the Community Edition with technical extensions. It offers a number of advantages, namely its improved performance; this version includes cache storage and separate media storage in the form of a CDN as well as a hosted database. AES-256 encryption of data, back up functions, and the Magento Secure Payment Bridge (separates platform core from the payment functions) ensure additional security. The program also includes automatic updates and 24/7 support from the Magento team. This edition is an excellent solution for established web shops with a higher budget.
  • The Enterprise Cloud Edition can be viewed as a typical platform-as-a-service solution. The advantages of the normal Magento Enterprise Edition are enhanced by a perfectly tailored cloud hosting environment. Additional performance tools and unlimited scalability pave the way to a successful future for your online shop. The scale of your shop’s growth is completely irrelevant, meaning you don’t encounter hardware problems (i.e. being forced to switch server) even if you experience leaps in traffic.

Magento as a long-term e-commerce solution

With its versatility, Magento is a CMS that proves an excellent choice for budding entrepreneurs and established web shop operators alike. With an extremely active community and its excellent range of offers for both small and large businesses, the open source project’s modular software architecture is fully explored. A great number of extensions have been developed to improve the already impressive range of functions. Magento was developed specifically for e-commerce and the Enterprise Cloud Edition is equipped for future developments. The software’s versatility does come at a cost, however; when creating a Magento online shop, both the complexity and the cost of the software is towards the higher end of the spectrum. If you have the budget and you can afford to spend a while getting to know the program, you can be sure to find success with Magento software.

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