This is part of a series designed to help businesses discover the best content management system (CMS) for their website’s needs and goals. We will break down broad CMS concepts as well as review specific CMS platforms over the course of this blog series.
Last month we jumped into the open-source versus proprietary content management system (CMS) debate. For this second installment of our investigation we are going to be diving right into the weeds of an individual CMS: Magento. Magento happens to be one of the most popular and most robust eCommerce platforms available on the market today. Part of that popularity comes from the flexibility it offers by existing in two different versions—Magento Community and Magento Enterprise.
Magento Community is the every man’s version of the software. Community is an open source platform that can be downloaded for free—three cheers for free! There is a large network of developers that can build and expand upon its free code base. Community is considered robust because it has a wide range of application extensions that can simplify everything from inventory management and shipping options to customer registration and account creation.
Magento Enterprise is the “high end” solution. Enterprise is more secure and reliable with more add-on features than can be found in the Community edition. Many large eCommerce companies would require the added stability and support that comes along with Magento Enterprise. That said a Magento Enterprise license comes with an annual price tag of just over $15,000—which is significantly more than free.
Magento Enterprise edition is a great piece of software and an easy to use, dynamic, CMS designed for companies that are managing tens of thousands of products online. Since we find the majority of eCommerce websites don’t require all of the features and functionalities that come with that price tag this post will focus primarily on the Community edition.
How is Magento used online currently?
According to BuiltWith, as of June 22, 2015, Magento is the CMS for a total of over 23% of the top 100,000 eCommerce sites they track. This goes to show what a huge player Magento is in the digital marketplace today but how did we get here?
Magento was a product produced by Varien, a company that came onto the map in the early 2000’s as an eCommerce company and consulting agency. Magento became a stand alone in 2010 when eBay invested heavily in the software. In 2011 eBay acquired Magento for upwards of $180 million and has been pushing the platform ever since. This dedication to Magento is why it continues to be one of the most rapidly adopted content management systems for eCommerce with no reason to expect that growth to slow.
Growth and popularity is great for Magento, but does that mean this platform work for well you? If you don’t have an online storefront for eCommerce, then probably not. You can stop reading now. But, if you’re looking for a CMS that will make it easier for your users to buy online let’s continue on and examine some of the reasons for and against this highly revered piece of software.
Why Magento Might be the CMS For You
Magento as a CMS was developed with eCommerce in mind. Not only that, but it touts itself as having been developed by marketers and business owners. They believe this separates Magento from the majority of open-source platforms that were designed primarily by developers. Magento was designed with user experience, marketing, search engine optimization (SEO) and reporting as the primary objectives instead of a sleek beautiful code.
Does this come through in the final product? In my opinion it definitely does.
Pros of the Magento CMS for Ecommerce
- Magento has more options for SEO and reporting – No competitor I know of on the marketplace has more out of the box eCommerce features. Not only does Magento Community come with loads of tools out of the box but it is extremely scalable with a large community of developers working to build out and expand the reach of their websites every day.
- Magento is Open-Source – The community edition is FREE. Have I not said that yet? Everyone loves free. The other major benefit to open-source is the strong development community keeping it up to date and expanding every day. You won’t have to look far to find support for your Magento website.
- Simple integrations – When running an eCommerce store you will need to be integrated to more systems than you can shake a stick at. Luckily Magento has you covered. With prebuilt interfaces to a multitude of ERP systems, payment portals, shipping and tracking options, inventory databases and much more. Magento easily has the most out of the box integrations to make running your digital storefront as easy as possible.
- Multiple storefront management – This is a big one for some companies. Magento can run multiple online storefronts from one single dashboard. If your company has more than one online store you should heavily consider using Magento. Your webmaster will thank you for not putting them in an early grave on this one. The amount of time and energy saved by having one central dashboard for multiple sites cannot be fully appreciated until you have done it yourself.
Why Magento Might Not be Right For You
I may have used the words free and simple a few too many times in this blog post. While Magento Community is free to download and has a large community of developers available it can be an expensive backend to develop with an agency.
Magento being designed by marketers is great for user experience but calling the code base robust is an understatement. With the high number of features and built in functionalities behemoth may be a more apt term. This leads to a few potential issues.
Cons of the Magento CMS for eCommerce
- Magento build costs and time– As I briefly mentioned, development of a Magento site can be very costly. First, an experienced developer for Magento is far harder to find than a good WordPress or Drupal developer. The codebase is huge with over 200,000 files and the developer you hire should be able to manipulate the flexible framework in a lot of ways customizing it for you. As wonderful as that is, your site is going to take more time in development than a more streamlined platform would, no matter how good your developer. More time in development means more money out of pocket up front.
- Hosting and pageload speed– I’ve heard many people say that Magento is too large and clunky. Your load speeds will be terrible. This is only partially true. Yes Magento is huge but it can still have some of the fastest page load speeds on the web. To accomplish this a Magento site should (almost) always be hosted on a dedicated server with an environment configured for Magento. Don’t be scared, Magento has great caching options and can be very fast when in the right environment. Your consumers will love it. With dedicated servers and Magento hosting environments come higher hosting cost however. The long term hosting costs for Magento will be higher than almost any other open-source platform. Many small businesses shy away from Magento for this, and only this, reason.
- Magento has too many options – Have I said Magento is big yet? This makes it extremely complex to customize. Unless you are a developer, or have one on speed dial, expanding your site can be treacherous. Magento is not a platform I would recommend to a friend starting their first website. Magento is not forgiving. If you want new customizations it will have to be done by a developer and remember, you can’t expect quick turnaround times when developing in Magento so you need to plan accordingly.
Magento would be a fantastic content management system for the majority of medium to large businesses with an online store front. I would recommend it highly to most companies that have the time and capital to spend on making sure their storefront is user friendly, secure and integrated. With the wide range of out of the box tools and the seemingly infinite customization options Magento is an eCommerce platform to believe in.