It's no secret that Magento is the world's leading open source e-commerce platform. According to BuiltWith website, since its introduction in 2008, the versatility and power of this system has helped it grow into an installed base of over 220,000 online stores. Thousands of developers work with store owners like you to harness this power to accommodate a wide variety of products, markets, and customer types. The "Magento ecosystem" includes thousands of third-party add-ons, design themes, and services that increase Magento's ability to fulfill almost any online commerce need.
However, as we all know, you can't stand still in the competitive world of e-commerce. Changes in the marketplace constantly force all of us to re-evaluate every aspect of our online efforts. Whether it's a change in Google's search algorithm, the impact of mobile commerce, or the ongoing influence of social media, those who stand still quickly fall behind.
The same goes for e-commerce technology. Despite changes in ownership over the past 3 years, Magento management has continued to push their teams to create the next, improved version of Magento. As we in the Magento community championed for some time, Magento needed more than incremental changes if it were to remain at the top of the charts. Magento needed a complete review and reworking of all its systems.
Today, we can now celebrate the completion of this huge undertaking. Magento 2 represents a total overhaul, poising it for the demands of e-commerce today and in the foreseeable future.
In this chapter, we'll cover:
What's new in Magento 2
Using Magento for e-commerce
What you need to succeed with Magento
First, let's discuss for whom this book is primarily written.
This book is crafted to be an ideal companion for Magento store owners as they explore and benefit from the features and power of Magento 2. After installing and initially configuring a new Magento 2 store, what comes next? Once you read through this book, you'll be able to not only understand the various tools at your command, but you'll also be able to profit from operating a Magento-powered online store by leveraging these tools to your advantage.
You should also make a copy of this book available to others in your organization who:
Process orders (refer to Chapter 3, Catalogs & Stores)
Manage products (Chapter 4, Preparing to Sell)
Handle design changes (Chapter 5, Products)
Add and edit site content (Chapter 6, Themes)
Promote your products and site (Chapter 7, Content & SEO)
Are in charge of site security and technical issues (Chapter 8, Promotions & Communication)
Once you read through Learning Magento 2 Administration, you'll find a great checklist in Chapter 9, Security and Administration to make sure you address all the key configurations and processes when launching a new store.
If you currently use or have previously used a Magento 1.x store, you'll notice that many things look different in Magento 2. Throughout this book, you'll note from various screenshots that the backend interface is easier to use and rich in new operations features. We'll explore these in later chapters.
While the new UI is pretty slick, it's the under-the-hood improvements that you'll come to truly appreciate in your Magento store. Magento has long been challenged by a lack of speed. Even on servers and systems specifically tuned for Magento, heavy traffic from online visitors, large backend operations (for example, importing, reports, and so on), and inherent code bottlenecks have made many Magento stores slower performers than similar stores on other platforms. At times, it's even made us step back and compare the benefits of Magento against other platforms, although we keep coming back to Magento due to its unique features.
The Magento team focused considerable energy in making Magento faster. At the expense of getting too "geeky", let's explore some of the most important improvements:
To improve scalability (which is the ability to increase resources during heavier traffic loads), Magento now includes full page caching as part of Community Edition. Caching reduces the number of operations needed to render a web page to your visitor, greatly improving user experience.
The "rearchitecture" of the entire system has truly improved code efficiency. This work also helps developers by making the code simpler and more accessible.
Magento 2 uses the latest HTML 5 and CSS 3 code frameworks optimized for modern browsers. In addition, CSS code can be more efficiently built in SASS and "preprocessed" by Magento. For theme designers, these features help create more mobile-ready designs that give your visitors a much richer shopping experience.
Upgrades and add-ons are easier to use and manage. Magento is creating an extension verification program as well to validate new add-ons. There will be no more buying of third-party add-ons that break a Magento store due to poor coding.
People often ask us why we recommend Magento as an e-commerce platform more times than any other platform. After all, there are so many solutions available, many with less startup costs (and many with higher startup costs too).
The key to our recommendation is that as owners of e-commerce businesses ourselves, we know that operating a profitable and vibrant online store is much more complex than many would guess. If you've been in e-commerce already, you know too well that establishing, growing, and managing a web-based retail business can be every bit as challenging as building a brick-and-mortar business. Although the downside is much less than a traditional storefront, e-commerce adds business considerations and processes that are unique to online commerce, especially in today's highly competitive online marketplace.
If you haven't already, let's discuss some of the primary considerations of running an e-commerce business you do or will do and how Magento can help resolve them.
It would make e-commerce so much easier if all products were alike—if we only sold shoes or backpacks online. Of course, this would make for a very small group of online stores.
Apparel, for instance, is one of the most complex products to sell online from a configuration and presentation aspect. Sizes, colors, collar styles, gender, and so on—so many attributes for each product. Add to this the idea that inventory for each variant may need to be tracked, and you can quickly see the challenges any platform has in providing customers with easy-to-use selections while meeting back-office business needs.
You may want to sell bundles of products, such as a bed linen collection with sheets, pillowcases, and duvets, yet also offer these products separately. This complexity can truly exceed the capability of many platforms.
We work with clients who have tens of thousands of different products and others with many complex product types, such as variants and bundles. Magento's unique and extremely powerful management of attributes and product types is one of the most powerful reasons as to why we prefer Magento as a platform. We have yet to experience another platform that gives the store owner the depth and power to manage products from tractor parts to cleaning products and t-shirts to computers.
Many online businesses begin as sole stores selling a particular line of products or services. However, the relatively low cost of entry allows many merchants to develop multiple product lines or retail brands that can be managed by the same staff and resources.
Without having to install and manage multiple platforms, a company can manage all the products, customers, and web content with a single login. Although not generally a good idea due to logistical considerations, we've seen as many as 96 separate websites managed in a single Magento instance.
The multistore feature of Magento also allows the easy creation of multiple language versions of the same brand. Many global brands use Magento in order to provide content in multiple languages.
It was the multiple store feature of Magento that originally lead us to commit our own resources to learning Magento several years ago, and it continues to feed our interest in this evolving platform today.
We have yet to work with a client that doesn't need to add some feature or function to the base Magento installation, not because Magento is weak but rather because Magento is so capable of supporting the myriad of business needs across so many retail and wholesale sectors.
Many popular hosted solutions, such as Shopify and BigCommerce, are subject to limitations in functionality because their code base is "locked down." In other words, if you want additional features added to these platforms, you're limited to only what these platforms expose via their Application Programming Interface (API). While there are many add-ons available to these platforms, customization is still limited.
Magento is an Open Source platform. This means that the code is fully exposed and can be customized however needed. We've worked with a client who wanted to present their products in a unique manner that was not natively supported in Magento, and there was no third-party extension to meet their needs. We were able to easily add code to the Magento code that solved their requirement. This particular modification would not have been possible with a closed platform.
In addition to the customization of the Magento code, more features can be added using third-party extensions. With Magento 1.x, there were over 3,000 extensions offered on Magento Connect (www.magentocommerce.com/magento-connect). Hundreds more are available via other outlets such as Code Canyon (www.codecanyon.net). This is, by far, the largest collection of add-ons for any popular platform.
Some might answer "courage." In fact, after writing Mastering Magento (also from Packt Publishing), we heard from a lot of readers how they struggled with Magento and how undertrained developers jeopardized their Magento stores with poor coding. Many store owners have less than stellar experiences with Magento, and as a result, Magento has earned a dubious reputation on many blogs and forums.
We would suggest that a better requirement for success is "planning." In fact, planning is the focus of Chapter 9, Security and Administration of this book. If you understand how Magento works and take the time to construct a proper plan to fulfill the requirements of this incredible platform, you'll have much better success.
As a store owner, though, don't expect to install, configure, and design a Magento store by yourself. Unless you have real experience with Magento, it's best to find a professional with strong Magento skills. And, hopefully, you find one that understands e-commerce and not just the programming aspects. The right partnership will ultimately save you thousands of dollars in lost opportunity as well as direct costs. If you already have Magento 2 installed, we suggest giving a copy of this book to your developer, as well, so that both of you are on the same page. The more they know about how you wish to run your business, the better they can help make sure that Magento is configured "under the hood" for your purposes.
If you're building a store in Magento, you're embarking on a wonderfully exciting journey into serious e-commerce. You may be moving from a less powerful platform or migrating from an earlier version of Magento. However you arrived to this point, you'll be using the most advanced open source platform in the world. The power of Magento also gives this platform considerable complexity. This book is created to help you navigate the operational aspects of your Magento store and give you the confidence to build a successful and profitable online business. Magento 2 is more powerful, runs faster, and has more features than Magento 1.x. With this book in hand, you're ready to take full advantage of Magento 2.
In the next chapter, we'll begin this journey from the topmost level: your stores and catalogs.