A growing number of companies tend to skim the cream off endless opportunities the Internet offers to businesses and go digital. Statista proves that online sales gain an increasing power: the number of digital buyers worldwide will reach $1.9 billion by 2018, compared to $1.32 billion in 2014. Also, online sales are expected to increase 60% over this period.
Both a newcomer that has just decided on entering the online market and a mature business that has years of online sale experience under belt may seek for an eCommerce solution. The former – to boost their sales to the maximum, the latter – to uplevel them.
Backed up with a significant experience in eCommerce software, SaM Solutions recommend making an eCommerce website with Magento, which suits both purposes.
Magento is an open source eCommerce platform, and Gartner has again considered it a leader in its 2017 Magic Quadrant for Digital Commerce. Since 2008, 260,000 merchants have improved their businesses and delivered products and services to 51 million consumers worldwide with the help of this eBay-owned solution.
Although thousands of companies, including Philips, Nestle, Coca-Cola and Canon, opt for Magento, this platform is not a one-stop shop for businesses of all sizes and various specifics. Experts consider it to be the first choice for medium- to large-sized companies that would like to digitize their stores.
Magento’s Strengths and Limitations
Let’s check out its strengths and limitations so that you can understand if such an eCommerce solution will get through the challenges your business delivers. The advantages of Magento platform for eCommerce store:
- Unlimited customization, both built-in and via extensions (aka modules or plugins)
- Free-of-charge basis of the Community edition
- Open source nature enables ongoing code improvement
- Convenient upgrades that prevent losing current customization
- A modular architecture that facilitates scalability
- The support of various payment methods
- Built-in SEO
However, some companies may find that the solution does not meet their business requirements because of the following shortcomings:
- An annual enterprise edition’s license is quite costly
- The platform is memory-consuming
- Customization is time- and money-intensive
- Flawless performance requires specific hosting environment
Phases of a Magento-Based Website Development Project
Let’s imagine that a company has realized that they need a web store but they cannot afford to hire a professional web developer. However, this is not the reason to close the door on an opportunity to add value to business operations.
In our short tutorial, we will show you how to build a Magento eCommerce store by your own efforts, using the example of creating an e-store with a simple structure. It will include a catalog, payment feasibility and transactional email.
As a rough guide, the creation of a simple eCommerce website using Magento includes the following steps:
- Platform installation
- Theme setup
- The configuration of required features
The Choice of the Technology Stack for Magento 2.1.x
Before starting a project, make sure that your system meets standard requirements, such as:
- Environment: LNMP or LAMP (Linux, Apache, MySQL and PHP) stack
- Memory requirement: 2GB of RAM
- Web Server: Apache 2.2, Apache 2.4, Nginx 1.8
- Operating System: Linux x86-64 (CentOS, RedHat Enterprise Linux (RHEL), Debian, Ubuntu and more)
- Database: MySQL 5.6 (MariaDB or Percona), MySQL 5.7
- Server Hosting: Ability to run scheduled jobs (crontab) with PHP 5; ability to override options in .htaccess files
- PHP: PHP 5.6.5-5.6.x, PHP 7.0.6-7.0.x, PHP 7.0.4, PHP 7.0.2
- Required PHP extensions: bc-math, curl, gd, ImageMagick 6.3.7 (or later), intl, mbstring, mcrypt, mhash, openssl, PDO/MySQL, SimpleXML, soap, xml, xsl, zip; PHP 7 only: json, iconv
- Enabled PHP OPcache
- SSL: a valid security certificate for HTTPS, self-signed SSL certificates are not supported; PayPal and repo.magento.com require TLS 1.1 or later
- Mail server: SMTP, Mail Transfer Agent (MTA)
- Supported technologies: Redis, Varnish, Memcached, Apache Solr, Elasticsearch and RabbitMQ 3.5
- Php_xdebug2.2.0 is highly recommended
After you have prepared your system for Magento eCommerce website development and decided on its version (Community or Enterprise edition) you can start with its installation. Let’s assume that you have chosen a Community one.
The installation of the database on the server always prefaces the setup. You create a new database that will be used for the installation via phpmyadmin and name it ‘Magento’.
After the database is ready for further installation, we fall on downloading the platform. There are two versions – the complete package and the online installer – and they are both available on the official website. However, we suggest the full setup to leverage the platform’s full functionality. Download a ZIP file and unpack it to a folder of your choice.
Then, go to a chosen web browser folder and start the installation. Simultaneously, accept the terms and conditions and make proper localization settings to proceed with its configuration. For this end, fill in the following fields:
- Database connection fields
- Web access option fields (check if you marked ‘Use Web Server (Apache) Rewrites’ to enhance the platform’s SEO-friendliness)
- Personal and login information, encryption key (optional)
Now the platform is ready for further configuration. You receive a greeting message and a suggestion to go to the frontend. If you have set it up on a local host, you need to replace a code block in line 78 with another code in app/code/core/Mage/Core/Model/Session/Abstract/Varien.php to deal with session cookies. However, this rule is applicable for local hosts only as live servers do not require customization.
There is one option that is especially relevant for small companies and startups: a hosting server with a pre-installed Magento. Such a way out relieves a non-‘techie’ staff as they do not need to master platform installation. Also, such hosting companies provide some basic support in case a company faces problems with their website.
Now the platform is ready for further use. As the next step, you need to make it look nice and eye-catching to grab potential customers’ attention. However, this does not necessarily mean hiring a professional web designer. There is a variety of free and fee-based themes that are available on Magento Marketplace. The most expensive off-the-shelve one will stand you in $200, which is ten or twenty times cheaper than a web designer’s services. In most cases, all you will be required to do is changing the logo.
So, replace ‘Magento’ logo that is in the page’s upper left corner with the one that will represent your e-store. On the right, there are a default greeting message, login links and a language bar that you can also change at your discretion.
If you launch a mobile version of your website, you must ensure that it also looks attractive and fits the image to any mobile device’s monitor size.
After you have brushed up the shop front, you need to fill the solution with relevant content and specific capabilities to make the website user-friendly, efficient and informative.
As soon as customers’ positive experience is a priority, let’s start with how they see a company’s web store and what they interact with: its frontend. In this case, it includes the catalog creation and payment method installation, via the Catalog Tab in the admin menu.
In Magento, a variety of products are grouped by categories, and each item falls into one or more category and sub-categories and requires individual pages. On a demo store, there is a right and a left sidebar and the product landing page is in between. When developing your own webstore, you can change their position and fill them out with appropriate content.
A category page allows sorting items by multiple attributes, such as the name, price and position. Also, a user can choose the number of products of a certain category that are shown on a page and switch between the list and grid views.
To create a new category creation or manage existing ones, go to the Catalog tab and choose a required action.
A page that is linked to a certain product, it contains the product’s description, both short and detailed, price and image. Also, there is a comparison feature in Magento to let potential customers compare the products by a variety of attributes. Product creation and management are the same as the similar manipulations with categories: you go to the Catalog tab and then proceed.
Product’s General Tab contains the following information fields that concern the selected product:
- Detailed description
- Short description
- Stock keeping unit
- URL key
- And more
The Price Tab contains information on the product’s price, its special prices for a limited period, cost and more. The Image Tab is as important as the previous two as a product’s image is one of the key aspects that influence customers’ buying decisions. So, add high-quality base and small images and the thumbnail to let buyers have an overall view of the product.
Invisible to website users, there are other tabs that contribute to product portraying and page’s facade, such as Meta Information Tab, Design Tab and Inventory Tab.
Unlike simple products that do not have a specification, most widespread products offered in online stores are configurable ones. So, product’s attribute availability is another important requirement as they not only describe items in more detail and provide their image more comprehensively, but enable more advanced search results.
Products are configured by their attributes, such as the manufacturer, color and others. You can add them and manage in the Catalog Tab. Start with adding the number of options you require and fill out the fields with relevant information. So, you will compile attribute sets that combine a variety of product features and suit each possible search request.
Payment Method Configuration
The out-of-the-box version of Magento provides a variety of basic payment methods, such as:
- Bank transfer payment
- Cash on delivery
- Saved credit cards
- And more
An out-of-the-box version contains a pre-integrated PayPal module, so if you can start accepting orders immediately after its adjustment to your requirements (if you use PayPal at all).
Payment Method Setup
You can set up payment options in Admin menu, System > Configuration > Payment Methods. Let’s learn how it works on the example of a bank transfer.
- Expand ‘Bank Transfer Payment’
- Enable the method by clicking on ‘Yes’
- Enter ‘Bank Transfer Payment’ into the title for identification purposes
- Set a ‘Pending’ payment status up to its authorization
- Select the countries from which to receive payments
- In ‘Instructions’ field, specify the steps your customers should follow when making a bank transfer. You may also require them to enter the bank name, number, code and address, account number and other information.
- Set minimum and maximum order total if applicable
- Determine the position of this method in the list by sorting the order
- Click ‘Save Config’ to complete the setup of this payment method
The installation of other methods is also self-explanatory and can be made self-administered. However, if you need a method that is not on the list, check Magento Connect for it, download it and install following the developers’ instructions.
Transactional Email Setup
To make your buyers feel confident about their orders and payment events, configure a transactional email function in System > Transactional emails. Although Magento has this option pre-installed, you will need to make some adjustments.
Naturally, as your business grows, you will require extended Magneto features and functionality. Its admin menu contains a variety of tabs that are linked to the backend and their proper configuration enables platform’s enhanced performance. Let’s look into some of them.
The dashboard provides a graphical representation of data on best-selling products, customers and others.
Sales tab contains information on orders, invoices, shipments, terms and conditions, taxes and more. So, you can monitor orders that your customers have made, hold them or cancel, see invoices and shipped items, apply taxes and many other opportunities.
Besides product-connected information, the catalog tab also contains SEO-related sub-tabs, such as URL Rewrite Management, Search and Tags. They allow changing a link to get better search engine results, investigate keywords that helped customers find certain products and more.
Also, the installation of a reliable analytics package allows having up-to-date visitor statistics to track their origin, the sums they have spent in your e-store and the products they viewed and actually bought.
If you use the platform’s out-of-the-box functionality to the full and seek to hang on to its further extension, go to Magento Connect. It offers 2,000+ of both free and commercial ready-made modules to make up for the features that an out-of-the-box edition lacks.
Despite that the number of ready-made extensions on the Marketplace is almost limitless, there is still a possibility that a company cannot find an extension that suits their needs. In such cases, custom module creation is the workaround. A service provider will create a Magento eCommerce website that will fit into the business specifics and IT landscape perfectly. Before taking this road, get familiar with the aspects of Magento Custom Module Development to avoid possible pitfalls.
Magento for Business Development
This topnotch platform provides ultimate customization by adjusting to specific company requirements and IT landscape. Being capable of meeting most sophisticated requirements of big market players, it does not set aside smaller companies. The self-administered installation and configuration of the platform empower them to make the best use out of its benefits and add value to their businesses.
For more information on our expertise, check out our website.