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Magento is one of the biggest open source e-commerce platforms. There are many plug-ins to customise it to your own (local) needs, allowing you to create and tune your perfect online store!

What is open source?

Open source means the code is public. This means that you can make adaptions to your online store yourself without any restrictions. Because Magento is open source there are thousands of extensions which were developed by Magento’s active community of developers.

Creating an online shop with open source is often more difficult than other e-ccommerce solutions. You mostly have to configure and arrange more things yourself.

Magento is fairly easy to use and because of the very active community. There is an answer for any question. Even more importantly are the thousands of free and paid extensions available for Magento. In short, there is a solution to any problem.

I make all my online stores with Magento and I don’t think I will quickly turn to another supplier. Magento is very suitable for both small and big online stores.

Magento’s advantages:

  • Open source
  • Hundreds of plugins
  • Hundreds of templates
  • Big community for questions
  • Search engine-friendly
  • Translated to many languages for local use
  • Multiple online stores from one installation (allows joint stock management)
  • Adoptable for your local market
  • For that reason also easy to open shops for foreign markets (also within one installation)
  • Good statistics
  • Easy to make split-tests

Installing Magento

Installing takes quite some time. It is possible to lay the foundation of your Magento online store in an afternoon, but that is only the start. You will need to configure many things and use various tweaks. Because Magento is used worldwide you may need to tune it for your local market first. You need quite some knowlegde to get this done. For those reasons I advise you to outsource the installation. By googling you will find many companies who can do this for you.

What are the costs of Magento?

You can download Magento for free. However, a lot more costs are involved. It is not hard to spend more than 2000 dollars. When you spend such amounts the comparison with suppliers such as Shopify becomes interesting.

Magento Templates

After installing Magento you need to install a template. It is possible to use a standard template but I advise against doing that. It is best to buy a professional template through ThemeForrest or TemplateMonster. They start at 80 dollars.

I buy my templates myself from ThemeForrest or TemplateMonster. When I do so I am sure the template comes with good documentation, a money back guarantee in case I am not satisfied, and a helpdesk.

What should I keep in mind when choosing a Magento Template?

Choosing the right template is very hard because you have to take into account potential adaptations and expansions of your online store.

Don’t chose you template for these reasons:

  • Color. You can always easily change them (through CSS).
  • Pictures. You will always need to change them anyway.
  • Price. I rather pay 50 EUR extra for the perfect template then having to work on it for hours to make it perfect myself.
  • Don’t decide within one day. Make a shortlist of the most beautiful templates and have a look again in a couple of days. Often you will drop quite a few of them from the list again after a few days, slowly narrowing down to the final choice.

Use these criteria when choosing a template:

  • The menu. Will it be able to accommodate all your (future) menu items in it?
  • The features. Examples: “wishlist”, “e-mail to friend” and “social buttons”. How are they integrated into the template and do you want to use them? If they are a part of the template it may be difficult to turn them off.
  • Is the design responsive? Mobile use (smartphones and tablets) of your website will take a large part of your traffic and you want to make sure your online store is displayed well on all devices.
  • Pay attention to the template’s grid. A Magento template is alsways built up by way of a grid (header, footer, sidebar left, sidebar right, etc.). It is normally easy to change colors, fonts and pictures but changing a grid is often very difficult.
  • Check the documentation of the template to find out if there is enough documentation. Perhaps an extra check could be to contact the helpdesk to see how fast they respond to questions.

Magento Plug-ins

The big advantage of Magento (vis-a-vis other open source software) is the great diversity of plug-ins for you to use. You can install an infinite amount of plug-ins through Magento Connect to fully design and adopt your webshop to your wishes and expectations.

Make sure that you don’t just install everything that seems interesting to you. Using more plug-ins makes Magento heavier and you increase chances on bugs. Everyone can design and offer plug-ins which makes that if you install the wrong plug-in, it may ruin your whole Magento installation. 😉

I rely for most of my plug-ins on aheadWorksAmastyAitoc and BoostmyShop. When I use their plug-ins I know for sure they are well-made and that in case problems do arise they deliver good support.

Also read these blog posts:

– Magento plug-ins I use and recommend

– The costs of Magento on a yearly basis

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