10 min read

In this article, Gabriel Guarino, the author of the book Magento 2 Beginners Guide discusses, will cover the following topics:

  • Magento as a life style: Magento as a platform and the Magento community
  • Competitors: hosted and self-hosted e-commerce platforms
  • New features in Magento 2
  • What do you need to get started?

(For more resources related to this topic, see here.)

Magento as a life style

Magento is an open source e-commerce platform. That is the short definition, but I would like to define Magento considering the seven years that I have been part of the Magento ecosystem.

In the seven years, Magento has been evolving to the point it is today, a complete solution backed up by people with a passion for e-commerce. If you choose Magento as the platform for your e-commerce website, you will receive updates for the platform on a regular basis. Those updates include new features, improvements, and bug fixes to enhance the overall experience in your website.

As a Magento specialist, I can confirm that Magento is a platform that can be customized to fit any requirement. This means that you can add new features, include third-party libraries, and customize the default behavior of Magento. As the saying goes, the only limit is your imagination.

Whenever I have to talk about Magento, I always take some time to talk about its community. Sherrie Rohde is the Magento Community Manager and she has shared some really interesting facts about the Magento community in 2016:

  • Delivered over 725 talks on Magento or at Magento-centric events
  • Produced over 100 podcast episodes around Magento
  • Organized and produced conferences and meetup groups in over 34 countries
  • Written over 1000 blog posts about Magento

Types of e-commerce solutions

There are two types of e-commerce solutions: hosted and self-hosted.

We will analyze each e-commerce solution type, and we will cover the general information, pros, and cons of each platform from each category.

Self-hosted e-commerce solutions

The self-hosted e-commerce solution is a platform that runs on your server, which means that you can download the code, customize it based on your needs, and then implement it in the server that you prefer. Magento is a self-hosted e-commerce solution, which means that you have absolute control on the customization and implementation of your Magento store.

WooCommerce

WooCommerce is a free shopping cart plugin for WordPress that can be used to create a full-featured e-commerce website. WooCommerce has been created following the same architecture and standards of  WordPress, which means that you can customize it with themes and plugins. The plugin currently has more than 18,000,000 downloads, which represents over 39% of all online stores.

Pros:

  • It can be downloaded for free
  • Easy setup and configuration
  • A lot of themes available
  • Almost 400 extensions in the marketplace
  • Support through the WooCommerce help desk

Cons:

WooCommerce cannot be used without WordPress

Some essential features are not included out-of-the-box, such us PayPal as a payment method, which means that you need to buy several extensions to add those features

Adding custom features to WooCommerce through extensions can be expensive

PrestaShop

PrestaShop is a free open source e-commerce platform. The platform is currently used by more than 250,000 online stores and is backed by a community of more than 1,000,000 members. The company behind PrestaShop provides a range of paid services, such us technical support, migration, and training to run, manage, and maintain the store.

Pros:

  • Free and open source
  • 310 integrated features
  • 3,500 modules and templates in the marketplace
  • Downloaded over 4 million times
  • 63 languages

Cons:

  • As WooCommerce, many basic features are not included by default and adding those features through extensions is expensive
  • Multiple bugs and complaints from the PrestaShop community

OpenCart

OpenCart is an open source platform for e-commerce, available under the GNU General Public License. OpenCart is a good choice for a basic e-commerce website.

Pros:

  • Free and open source
  • Easy learning curve
  • More than 13,000 extensions available
  • More than 1,500 themes available

Cons:

  • Limited features
  • Not ready for SEO
  • No cache management page in admin panel
  • Hard to customize

Hosted e-commerce solutions

A hosted e-commerce solution is a platform that runs on the server from the company that provides that service, which means that the solution is easier to set up but there are limitations and you don’t have the freedom to customize the solution according to your needs. The monthly or annual fees increase when the store attracts more traffic and has more customers and orders placed.

Shopify

Shopify is a cloud-based e-commerce platform for small and medium-sized business. The platform currently powers over 325,000 online stores in approximately 150 countries.

Pros:

  • No technical skills required to use the platform
  • Tool to import products from another platform during the sign up process
  • More than 1,500 apps and integrations
  • 24/7 support through phone, chat, and e-mail

Cons:

  • The source code is not provided
  • Recurring fee to use the platform
  • Hard to migrate from Shopify to another platform

BigCommerce

BigCommerce is one of the most popular hosted e-commerce platforms, which is powering more than 95,000 stores in 150 countries.

Pros:

  • No technical skills required to use the platform
  • More than 300 apps and integrations available
  • More than 75 themes available

Cons:

  • The source code is not provided
  • Recurring fee to use the platform
  • Hard to migrate from BigCommerce to another platform

New features in Magento 2

Magento 2 is the new generation of the platform, with new features, technologies, and improvements that make Magento one of the most robust and complete e-commerce solutions available at the moment. In this section, we will describe the main differences between Magento 1 and Magento 2.

New technologies

  • Composer: This is a dependency manager for PHP. The dependencies can be declared and Composer will manage these dependencies by installing and updating them. In Magento 2, Composer simplifies the process of installing and upgrading extensions and upgrading Magento.
  • Varnish 4: This is an open source HTTP accelerator. Varnish stores pages and other assets in memory to reduce the response time and network bandwidth consumption.
  • Full Page Caching: In Magento 1, Full Page Caching was only included in the Magento Enterprise Edition. In Magento 2, Full Page Caching is included in all the editions, allowing the content from static pages to be cached, increasing the performance and reducing the server load.
  • Elasticsearch: This is a search engine that improves the search quality in Magento and provides background re-indexing and horizontal scaling.
  • RequireJS: It is a library to load Javascript files on-the-fly, reducing the number of HTTP requests and improving the speed of the Magento Store.
  • jQuery: The frontend in Magento 1 was implemented using Prototype as the language for Javascript. In Magento 2, the language for Javascript code is jQuery.
  • Knockout.js: This is an open source Javascript library that implements the Model-View-ViewModel (MVVM) pattern, providing a great way of creating interactive frontend components.
  • LESS: This is an open source CSS preprocessor that allows the developer to write styles for the store in a more maintainable and extendable way.
  • Magento UI Library: This is a modular frontend library that uses a set of mix-ins for general elements and allows developers to work more efficiently on frontend tasks.

New tools

  • Magento Performance Toolkit: This is a tool that allows merchants and developers to test the performance of the Magento installation and customizations.
  • Magento 2 command-line tool: This is a tool to run a set of commands in the Magento installation to clear the cache, re-index the store, create database backups, enable maintenance mode, and more.
  • Data Migration Tool: This tool allows developers to migrate the existing data from Magento 1.x to Magento 2. The tool includes verification, progress tracking, logging, and testing functions.
  • Code Migration Toolkit: This allows developers to migrate Magento 1.x extensions and customizations to Magento 2. Manual verification and updates are required in order to make the Magento 1.x extensions compatible with Magento 2.
  • Magento 2 Developer Documentation: One of the complaints by the Magento community was that Magento 1 didn’t have enough documentation for developers. In order to resolve this problem, the Magento team created the official Magento 2 Developer Documentation with information for developers, system administrators, designers, and QA specialists.

Admin panel changes

  • Better UI: The admin panel has a new look-and-feel, which is more intuitive and easier to use. In addition to that, the admin panel is now responsive and can be viewed from any device in any resolution.
  • Inline editing: The admin panel grids allow inline editing to manage data in a more effective way.
  • Step-by-step product creation: The product add/edit page is one of the most important pages in the admin panel. The Magento team worked hard to create a different experience when it comes to adding/editing products in the Magento admin panel, and the result is that you can manage products with a step-by-step page that includes the fields and import tools separated in different sections.

Frontend changes

  • Integrated video in product page: Magento 2 allows uploading a video for the product, introducing a new way of displaying products in the catalog.
  • Simplified checkout: The steps in the checkout page have been reduced to allow customers to place orders in less time, increasing the conversion rate of the Magento store.
  • Register section removed from checkout page: In Magento 1, the customer had the opportunity to register from step 1 of the checkout page. This required the customer to think about his account and the password before completing the order. In order to make the checkout simpler, Magento 2 allows the customer to register from the order success page without delaying the checkout process.

What do you need to get started?

Magento is a really powerful platform and there is always something new to learn. Just when you think you know everything about Magento, a new version is released with new features to discover. This makes Magento fun, and this makes Magento unique as an e-commerce platform.

That being said, this book will be your guide to discover everything you need to know to implement, manage, and maintain your first Magento store.

In addition to that, I would like to highlight additional resources that will be useful in your journey of mastering Magento:

  • Official Magento Blog (https://magento.com/blog): Get the latest news from the Magento team: best practices, customer stories, information related to events, and general Magento news
  • Magento Resources Library (https://magento.com/resources): Videos, webinars and publications covering useful information organized by categories: order management, marketing and merchandising, international expansion, customer experience, mobile architecture and technology, performance and scalability, security, payments and fraud, retail innovation, and business flexibility
  • Magento Release Information (http://devdocs.magento.com/guides/v2.1/release-notes/bk-release-notes.html): This is the place where you will get all the information about the latest Magento releases, including the highlights of each release, security enhancements, information about known issues, new features, and instructions for upgrade
  • Magento Security Center (https://magento.com/security): Information about each of the Magento security patches as well as best practices and guidelines to keep your Magento store secure
  • Upcoming Events and Webinars (https://magento.com/events): The official list of upcoming Magento events, including live events and webinars
  • Official Magento Forums (https://community.magento.com): Get feedback from the Magento community in the official Magento Forums

Summary

In this article, we reviewed Magento 2 and the changes that have been introduced in the new version of the platform. We also analyzed the types of e-commerce solutions and the most important platforms available.

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