Developing a Magento E-Commerce Web Application
The Magento CMS
Magento is a powerful, open-source e-commerce platform that is known for its flexibility and wide array of features and extensions. Ideal for medium to large online stores, Magento offers an enterprise version, Magento Commerce, and counts many high-profile retail brands like Nike, Olympus, Stella & Dot, and Ghirardelli among its customers.
Keep in mind that what you get in the way of customization with Magento you also get in complexity, so you’ll probably want to hire an experienced Magento developer to help you maintain its layered code.
Magento’s best features
It’s important to know the basics of what Magento offers—and some of the features that make it stand apart—when you’re planning what you want to get out of your site. Magento pretty much offers anything under the sun in the way of e-commerce extensions and add-ons, but here are just a few core features to know:
- Administrative interface. An intuitive portal makes it easy to access tools for marketing, SEO, and more.
- Magento Marketplace. The Magento extensions marketplace lets you shop for add-ons by category, from blog support and paid search marketing, to AJAX-powered features and integration tools.
- Browsing made easy. Enhance your customers’ browsing experience with images, reviews, wishlists, and more. Enable product filtering and comparisons for a catalog-style browsing experience.
- Managing inventory is easy. Magento gives you hands-on access to how your inventory is organized with product attributes, tax rates, and more.
- Boost your marketing efforts. Take advantage of coupons, promotions, and discounts. Magento also has powerful SEO support to improve your store’s visibility in search.
- Customize a theme, or build your own. A Magento platform can look virtually any way you want—pick a theme and customize it, or design your own.
- Customer account management. Customers can review their order histories, track orders and shipments, set up default billing and shipping when they create accounts, create wish lists, subscribe to a newsletter, and more. Communicate what you want with your customers when they’ve made a purchase with customizable emails.
- A seamless check-out experience. Magento makes checking out easy for customers with a one-page checkout option. Allow customers to make purchases without having an account set up.
- Payment options are covered. Choose from credit cards, checks, money orders, or any number of external payment options.
- Shipping options are flexible. Get access to different carriers and the option to ship to different addresses. Also, Magento comes with internationalization capabilities so you can sell overseas.
Magento tech basics
From a technology perspective, here’s a quick look at the platform so you know what capabilities you’ll need from your developer, and what software you’ll need in your stack.
Note: Magento 2 was released in July 2015 and has an entirely different architecture than Magento 1. Support for Magento 1 will no longer be available as of June 2020.
Magento has a flexible architecture. Magento is easy to scale up and add as many features as you want. Out of all the e-commerce platforms on the market, it has the most to offer in the way of customization and features.
- Built on the Zend PHP framework. It’s open-source, so there’s excellent support and documentation available.
- Integrates with an SQL database. Magento uses an EAV-based database model (entity, attribute, value), so all aspects of a transaction, from customer information and shipping data, are tracked in your database.
- Employs object-oriented, MVC programming principles. Magento is built on an OOP, modular code base, with an MVC-style framework.
- What you need in your software stack to run Magento: Apache, MySQL, and PHP. You’ll need a dedicated server or VPS to host your site.
Hire a Magento developer to build & maintain your e-commerce site
Using the Magento platform is user-friendly once it’s set up, but it’s also one of the more complicated platforms on the market due to its flexible architecture and customizable features. Having an experienced Magento developer is important to the long-term health of your e-commerce site. Like most web and mobile applications, your online store is never really “done.” Even if you’re not adding new features down the line, your site needs regular maintenance; updates to aspects like themes, add-ons, or license renewals; and, any fixes that may be needed.
Some skills to look for:
- PHP programming language
- Experience designing and customizing themes
- Good hosting environment to combat issues with speed
- SQL database integration—an SQL database will need to be set up for your Magento site to use
A note about Magento certifications
Magento offers a variety of certifications that let developers hone their skills in niches of e-commerce like PHP programming, business logic, content marketing, design, and more. There are Magento-certified front-end developers or more specialized certifications like the Magento Solution Specialist whose area of expertise is aligning your business objectives with the functionality of your site.