Magento – The New Standard in Open Source eCommerce
Magento has only been around about 6 months now, but in that short time has vaulted to become the preferred choice for ecommerce development for many web designers working with Open Source solutions. What is the reason for this vast popularity and is it justified? The biggest factor is a combination of design improvements with an administration panel that includes everything you need to manage any kind of ecommerce site. Magento has the professional, Web 2.0 look many designers love, and it sets itself apart immediately from OScommerce, Zen Cart, and the other existing ecommerce systems with well laid out templates and easy set up of site sections for your catalog display. Magento offers a shopping cart with a large number of payment gateways integrated out of the box, product comparisons, tags, polls, internationalization support, advanced reports, analytics, and SEO optimized URLs. There is support for coupons, discount codes, catalog management, wishlists, cross-sells, and related items. You can create orders from the admin section for offline or call center sales, and managing shipping is easy with built in calculation for USPS, UPS, DHL, Fed Ex, and other delivery services. Magento will also automatically calculate sales tax on orders and supports multiple currencies on the same site.
The user experience with Magento is what really distinguishes this ecommerce platform from other comparable software systems for ecommerce. The user account stores existing order information, shipping and billing information, as well as a user’s wishlist, recently viewed, and recently compared products. Users can submit reviews, edit and manage them from their account pages. They can also submit tags for products, subscribe to newsletters, and send recommendations and wishlists to friends. The closest approximation to the Magento user experience most people will recognize is amazon.com. With time and effort, web masters can build an online “shopping experience” for customers similar to Amazon, which is really quite amazing coming from an Open Source, freely available software.
Magento will scale depending on the time and effort you put into the design and configuration. It uses a template system, so you can customize the layout and display of the site through CSS, using blocks to rearrange content as in most CMS platforms. There is a fair amount of information on site about building themes and layout design, as well as a growing developer community on the forums. The Magento admin section is optimized for product creation, catalog management, and order tracking. After setting up the payment gateways and display options, there are a lot of advanced reporting, tracking, and analytic functions to allow you to manage the sales and shipping. Set up discounts, seasonal sales, related product promotions, and cross-marketing across pages and site sections to keep the user experience dynamic. If by some chance the features that you need on site are not included in the core package, the PHP architecture allows for the easy creation of custom code to implement extensions for clients and businesses that require unique solutions.
Another popular feature that has people flocking to Magento is the optimized support for ecommerce involving virtual products and digital downloads. For software sales, ebooks, and template sites, this makes Magento’s feature list highly attractive for online sales.
Development & Implementation:
Magento is rapidly developing a community that provides support and solutions. Some modules, themes, and extensions have been made available under an Open Source license, while others are being released for sale under a proprietary one. These innovations allow you to extend the core system in custom ways, import data from other platforms, create mobile & iPhone friendly sites, and much more. You can also use Subversion for keeping your site up to date with security releases and upgrades.
Magento is recommended for new ecommerce sites and the remodeling of old ones, but expect OScommerce and other ecommerce platforms to retool and offer new features in an attempt to bring users back soon. For designers and developers, Magento is one of the best choices if you need another Open Source platform to add to the toolbox, and is the most professional of all the ecommerce packages available on the web today.
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