Given the growing role of eCommerce in the sales process, let’s dive into the endless opportunities that the Internet offers to businesses with Magento Commerce. Increased conversions and sales, enhanced customer loyalty and high brand recognition — you can get it all with this world-leading eCommerce solution, as our clients have already done.
During the time of uncertainty caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, Magento is committed to its customers. The company helps its clients by providing discounts on solution packages and training. Detailed information is available on the Magento website.
In this article, we will show you how to build a Magento eCommerce store with a simple structure — for companies that opt for in-house development.
Rely on SaM Solutions’ experts to tailor Magento to your individual digital retail needs.
A Snapshot of Magento
Why Magento? Within 12 years since its first release in 2008, Magento has evolved into a leading Adobe-owned eCommerce platform that enables creating robust online stores and driving innovations to businesses.
With years of expertise in eCommerce software development, we are increasingly convinced that Magento can help SMEs significantly improve their sales, regardless of a business domain or a company’s scale. Above that, a free-of-charge version is available for businesses that are not ready to make huge investments in their websites.
So, let’s figure out what Magento is all about.
Five Facts About Magento
Did you know that…
- Magento is a number three eCommerce solution among the top one-million websites.
- For several consecutive years, Gartner honored the platform’s offerings for order management, analytics, B2B sales and CPQ, by naming it a leader of its Magic Quadrants for Digital Commerce.
- Recently acquired by Adobe, the platform enhances the commercial capabilities of Adobe Experience Cloud, a world-renowned enterprise platform.
- Since its release in 2008, Magento has made possible gross merchandise sales worth $155 billion.
- A variety of businesses ranging from SMEs to big market players make the most of the platform’s capabilities: HP, Tom Dixon, NCare and others entrust their eCommerce platforms to Magento. Their online stores are great Magento website examples.
Magento’s Strengths and Limitations
Why do numerous companies trust on this platform for their commercial operations? Because of its unlimited business opportunities. Let’s take a look into the benefits and areas of growth of Magento to understand if such an eCommerce solution will be able to tackle your business challenges.
The key advantages of Magento platform for an eCommerce store are as follows:
- Individually-tailored customer experiences that rely on AI-powered content personalization
- Seamless omnichannel B2C and B2B experiences that rely on business intelligence that helps a company approach its customers at any touchpoint and via any channel
- Extensive eCommerce functionality that supports multiple payment methods
- Unlimited customization, both built-in and via extensions — modules or plugins, flexibility and scalability
- Reliable performance during the peak load
- Flawless integration with third-party CRM systems
- Powerful mobile experiences that are based on mobile-optimized checkout, responsive themes and robust progressive web applications (PWAs)
- Insightful analytics that is based on smart algorithms to improve the efficiency of sales and supply chain planning
- A modular architecture that enables endless scalability
- Free-of-charge basis of Magento Open Source
Also, there is an immense number of developers worldwide, which resulted in the creation of Magento Marketplace and Magento Connect — a huge store containing more than 2,000 free and commercial off-the-shelf Magento modules (aka extensions or plugins).
However, the platform has certain shortcomings that can prevent some from opting for the solution. They are the following:
- An annual enterprise edition’s license is quite costly
- The platform is memory-consuming
- Customization is time- and money-intensive
- Flawless performance requires a specific hosting environment
This platform has much to offer both to newcomers that have just entered the online market, as well as to businesses with years of online sales experience. It provides two major solutions for online commerce: Magento Commerce and Magento Open Source.
What’s the difference? The difference lies in their intended use. Magento Commerce is available in the form of an on-premises (ex. Magento Enterprise Edition) and a platform-as-a-service (ex. Magento Enterprise Cloud Edition) solution.
It is a powerful eCommerce system that helps companies develop systems of any complexity and size. Omnichannel order management, BI-driven insights and immense extensions marketplace add value to its commercial capabilities. The solution is available only on a paid basis; however, it is worth every penny.
As for Magento Open Source (ex. Magento Community Edition), it is a light version that is available for everyone on a free-of-charge basis. It provides limited functionality; however, it has what it takes to develop an eCommerce website that suits the needs of small businesses, which include:
- Checkout, payment and shipping functionality
- Catalog management
- Mobile-enabled shopping process
- Access to the pool of marketplace extensions
In our Magento development tutorial, we will show you how to create a Magento-based online store that will include baseline elements — a catalog, payment functionality and a transactional email — by your own efforts. Let’s name it L-Project.
Broadly speaking, the creation of a simple eCommerce website using Magento usually includes the following phases:
- You install the platform to prepare the skeleton of your website-to-be.
- You set up the theme to create a unique look of your Magento website — or at least as unique as possible, given the reduced theme set.
- You build up your website’s character by configuring the required features and capabilities.
As to our L-Project, it will consist of two simple steps: platform installation and its further customization to your needs.
Technology Stack for a Magento Website Development Project
Before starting a project, make sure that your system meets the requirements of this platform that is written in PHP and powered by Zend Framework. Сurrent requirements for the development based on Magento 2.3 are the following:
- Operating systems: Linux x86-64 (Debian, RHEL, Ubuntu, CentOS and other); Mac and Windows are not supported
- Web Server: Apache 2.4, Nginx 1.x
- Memory requirement: 2GB of RAM
- Database: MySQL 5.6, MySQL 5.7
- PHP: PHP 7.1.3, PHP 7.2.0, PHP 7.3.0
- Required PHP extensions: bcmath, ctype, curl, dom, gd, hash, iconv, intl, mbstring, openssl, pdo_mysql, simplexml, soap, spl, xsl, zip, libxml
- Enabled PHP OPcache
- ‘memory_limit’ PHP configuration is recommended
- SSL: a valid security certificate for HTTPS, PayPal and magento.com require TLS 1.2 or later; self-signed SSL certificates are not supported
- System dependencies: bash, gzip, lsof, mysql, mysqldump, nice, php, sed, tar
- Mail server: SMTP, Mail Transfer Agent
- Supported technologies: Redis 3.2, 4.0, 5.0; Varnish 4.x, 5.2, 6.2; Elasticsearch 6.x (depending on Magento version); RabbitMQ 3.7.x
- php_xdebug 2.5.x or later, mcrypt and PHPUnit 6.2.0 are highly recommended
Database Installation [Step 1]
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.
Platform Installation [Step 2]
To proceed with the installation of Magento, you need to decide on a method: installation using the Web Setup Wizard or the command line. In our L-Project, we’ll set up the platform using the Wizard. However, you will not be able to further upgrade Magento or extensions with the Wizard, as it is only available with the command line or Composer. At the same time, the Setup Wizard allows you to disable modules that you will not need before the start of the installation.
You can download Magento software with the Web Setup Wizard from the official website. There are two software versions — Magento Open Source and Magento Open Source with sample data. The latter is designed to help developers with learning Magento and leveraging the platform’s full functionality.
There are three types of archives available for download: .zip, .tar.bz2 and .tar.gz. So, select the required software (with or without the sample data) and archive type, and then download the package.
Extract the software to a directory that you prepared on your server and then install it using the Magento Setup Wizard. Also, you need to set read/write permissions that can vary depending on the number of users — shared hosting with one user or a private server with two users.
Then, start the installation with the Magento Setup Wizard. It involves the following steps:
- Run a web browser.
- In its address or location bar, enter
http://<Magento host or IP>/<path to Magento root>/setup
- Press ‘Agree’.
During the installation process, provide the following data:
- The URL for your store-to-be, for example, http://www.l-project.com.
- The URL that enables access to the Magento Admin.
In advanced options, you may provide the following information:
- For ‘HTTPS Options,’ enable SSL after you are sure your web server supports it.
- For ‘Apache Rewrites,’ mark it to enhance the platform’s SEO-friendliness.
- For ‘Encryption Key,’ to enable the enhanced protection of your sensitive data, check the respective field so that the platform generates a key for you. If you have your own key — select ‘I want to use my own encryption key.’
- For ‘Session Save,’ select how to store your session data by clicking the corresponding option.
Also, make proper localization settings to customize your online store: select your time zone, currency and language. Create your Magento admin account to manage user roles.
After you have performed all the steps above, you can set up Magento by pressing ‘Install Now.’ In case of a successful installation, a message that says Success is displayed. Now, the platform is ready for further configuration.
If you have issues with the installation, you can repeat the setup process from the beginning. Also, a ‘Previous’ button allows for making timely corrections or checks.
Magento Hosting [Replaces Steps 1 and 2]
There is one option that is especially relevant for small companies and startups: a hosting server with a pre-installed Magento. This can be a way out for non-‘techie’ staff as they do not need to master platform installation. Also, hosting companies provide some basic support in case a company faces problems with its website.
Magento Customization and Configuration
Now your Magento platform is ready for further configuration and customization as to provide a positive customer experience and an attractive user interface.
Theme Setup [Step 3]
To grab the attention of potential customers, you need to make your website look nice and catch your potential client’s eye. However, this does not necessarily mean hiring a professional web designer. There is a variety of free and fee-based themes available on Magento Marketplace that are much cheaper than a web designer’s services. In most cases, all that is required of you is to change the logo.
So, replace the ‘Magento’ logo that is on the page’s upper left-hand corner with the one that will represent your e-store. On the right, there is a default greeting message, along with 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 adapts the image to fit the screens of mobile devices of all sizes.
Catalog Configuration [Step 4]
After you have finalized the shop front, you need to fill the solution with relevant content and specific capabilities to make your online store user-friendly, efficient and informative. Because positive user experience is a priority, let’s start with how your customers see the website and what they interact with: its frontend.
In case of the development of our L-Project website, it includes catalog creation and payment method installation, via the Catalog tab in the admin menu.
Category pages. In Magento, a variety of products are grouped by categories, and each item falls into one or more categories and sub-categories and requires individual pages. For the demo store, there is a right and a left sidebar and the product landing page in-between. When developing your own webstore, you can change their positions 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, as well as switch between list and grid views.
To create a new category or manage existing ones, go to the Catalog tab and choose the required action.
Product pages. A page that is linked to a certain product contains the product’s description, both short and detailed, its price and image. Also, there is a comparison feature in Magento to let potential customers compare products based on 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 General tab contains the following information fields attributed to the selected product:
- Product name
- Detailed description
- Short description
- Stock keeping unit
- URL key
- And more
The Price tab contains information on the product’s price, or special prices for a limited period. The Image tab is as important as the previous two because a product’s image is one of the key aspects that influence customers’ buying decisions. Make sure to add high-quality base and small images and a thumbnail to let buyers have an overall view of the product.
Invisible to website users, there are other tabs that contribute to product info and the page’s appearance, such as the Meta Information tab, the Design tab and the Inventory tab.
Product properties. Unlike simple products that do not have a specification, most widespread products offered in online stores are configurable ones. So, the availability of various product attributes 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 more. You can add and manage them in the Catalog Tab. Start with adding the number of options you require and fill out the fields with relevant information. You will compile attribute sets that combine a variety of product features and cover each possible search request.
Payment Method Configuration [Step 5]
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 that you can start accepting orders immediately after its adjustment to your requirements (if you use PayPal, that is).
You can set up payment options in the Admin menu: System > Configuration > Payment Methods. The installation of all payment methods is self-explanatory and can be self-administered. However, if you need a method that is not on the list, check Magento Marketplace, download it and install while 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.
Advanced Configuration [Step 6, Optional]
Naturally, as your business grows, you will require extended Magento features and functionality. Its Admin menu contains a variety of tabs that are linked with the backend and their proper configuration enables the platform’s enhanced performance. Let’s look into some of them:
- The Dashboard tab provides a graphical representation of data on best-selling products, customers and others.
- The 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 more.
- SEO analytics tab contains SEO-related sub-tabs, such as URL Rewrite Management, Search and Tags.
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.
Magento Modules for Extended Functionality
If you use the platform’s out-of-the-box functionality to the fullest and seek to hang on to its further extension, go to Magento Marketplace. 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. To enhance the platform and add required functionalilty, a company may access the core or the community pools of extensions. Core pools contain modules that were created by Magento developers, and the community pools contain custom modules that were written by third-party developers and complement and enrich core modules.
However, despite a great number of ready-made extensions available in the market, certain projects have the requirements that existing modules can’t cover. In such cases, companies go for Magento custom module development to ensure a positive user experience. Shaped by the specific character of eCommerce, the most sought-after module types are purchase- and trade-related.
Based on our experience in Magento extension development, we can point out the following types of custom modules that are in high demand with our clients:
- Search extensions. A carefully designed search extension is not only sensitive to search queries and provides the list of goods that correspond strictly to the request, but it also helps to cross sell.
- Shipping module. A shipping module that supports a specific forwarder is crucial if the retailer’s audience frequently uses this forwarder’s services.
- Payment module. Similar to the shipping module, this module generally allows for using a specific payment service provider, other than the one Magento supports in its core. Also, creating a payment plugin that fully suits a company’s individual strategy, such as those that allow discounts, payment in several currencies and more, enhances sales.
- Checkout module. No need to fill in dozens of forms encourages ordering and buying and increases conversion.
- Blog extension. A blog module allows creating an easily readable blog with rich content, which seamlessly integrates with Magento, enables commenting and social networking, and uses best SEO practices.
- SEO extension. This type of extension adds SEO value to a website by making its content more visible for search engines.
Magento for Business Growth
This topnotch platform provides ultimate customization capabilities by adjusting to specific company requirements and IT landscape. The platform has much to offer both to newcomers that have just entered the online market and to businesses with years of online sales experience. The self-administered installation and configuration of the platform empower businesses to make the best use out of their benefits and add value to their operations.
However, your project may include the requirements that are beyond the capabilities of Magento Open Source. In such a case, feel free to contact SaM Solutions — we will help you create a powerful solution based on Magento Commerce to increase conversion rates and boost your sales. Backed by more than 100 projects, our Magento team will make the most out of the platform’s capabilities so that you enjoy an efficient online store.