An Honest Magento Review

Albatross or Liberator?

I have been meaning to write this post for a long time now. It is a topic that will surely resonate with anyone who currently has a Magento store or is thinking of using the e-commerce platform. My opinions and perspectives are based on years of Magento clients, interactions and work.

What I don’t want to write is a Magento feature comparison or code exploration — that has already been covered over and over again. You can read about the bells and whistles and how Magento stacks up against other options on countless other sites. This is not that sort of article.

This is simply a narrative that every single Magento 1 or Magento 2 prospector should read.

Personally, I love Magento. Perhaps it’s because I have Magento designers and developers sitting around me which gives me great comfort — and that my friends is everything.

We have moved plenty of clients from Volusion, Bigcommerce, Miva Merchant, Oscommerce and Yahoo stores to Magento. On the other hand, we have moved Magento clients over to Bigcommerce. Why all the flux?

Many clients are easily swayed by the feature-rich software from Magento. If you start to delve into what it can do and the extended functionality Magento Market Place can give you, wow, you immediately start to think, “At last, my problems are solved! I can do anything I want with this Magento thing and I’m going to make a ton of dough — all I need to do now is install it.”

Hold on there, Buster! These questions are absolutely essential in the process:

  • Can you afford Magento?
  • Can you bounce back from the development costs?
  • Can you manage this thing?

Magento, the Albatross

Believe it or not, there are some necessary mathematics you need to calculate when embarking on development of a new site. Generally, it’s not just what sort of money you have allocated for it that counts. It’s a 360- degree approach to your costs that is the dividing line between success and failure.

Human Resources

Hmm, you are pretty sure your in-house team is not able to develop this store. Few in-house teams have this capability. Ok, you have have some pretty clever people on staff but developing for Magento is different than scripting from scratch.

After some internal meetings, your staff might even have trouble managing this project with an outside agency along with their regular duties. They know a ton about your business but they are not very savvy when it comes to Magento or even e-commerce. They may even think it is easy so they decide not to participate in the project or Magento education until launch.

A bird is seen in the distance off the starboard side.

Development Budget

You look at your gross sales and what you have allocated for your marketing budget. Will that cover the initial cost of development, design, post-launch support? If you are looking for “professional” custom Magento design and development here in the USA, it can be anywhere from $30K onwards up to the hundreds of thousands. It’s gonna be tight but you think you can squeeze it.

Yes, the bird is coming closer. It appears to be white and black. It’s coming in quick.

Retainers and Support

Wait, more money? You just put down a bunch of money for the design and development, why do you need to budget for post-launch stuff?

Well, here’s something that’s often forgotten — a website continues to evolve. It is never done. Never. Did you account for those costs? For reputable U.S. agencies, they offer rates of $100 to $200 an hour.

The Albatross takes a few dives and squawks loudly. Dark clouds fill the sky.

OnGoing Fees and Extension Development

In addition to the costs mentioned above, don’t forget dedicated hosting, SSL, 3rd party security monitoring, patches, upgrades and extensions. We generally stay away from answering every problem with a Magento extension. It gets messy and, sometimes, extensions that are great on their own, don’t play well with others. There are some extensions out there that are fantastic. Amasty and Aitoc are established companies to trust. They write extensions for a living but if/when things break, you have to coordinate with a development agency to fix your site.

The Albatross doesn’t seem like it’s going away. It drives everyone crazy with it’s squawking. No one is getting anything done. The captain is at his wit’s end. So he kills it (the project)! We know what happens after that.

Now that I have outlined the Albatross scenario, let me bring in some sunshine.

Magento, the Liberator

Ok, it’s not all bad. It doesn’t have to be that way. Nope. I have seen Magento work effectively for many clients.

For some, a new Magento store has transformed how they do business and brought 20%-28% more revenue than the year before.

Some migrated off their antiquated systems and now have the impressive features sets of Magento at their command.

Here is what they did right:

  • They budgeted for the design, the build, possible set-backs, and monthly retainers for an entire year.
  • They found a company they could trust, did what they say they would do, and communicated with daily.
  • They also had a solid (not dreamy) forecast of what the increase in revenue would be, once launched. That is important with respect to the retainers and fiscal sustainability.
  • A specific person was assigned to the whole project. That e-commerce manager was savvy enough to manage the requests coming in as well as articulate to the agency what the site needed.
  • At the very beginning of the project, the discovery and requirement gathering was a full collaboration, fully vetted by both parties and articulated in a written document.
  • In a timely fashion, the client communicated clearly when and where necessary.
  • The client understood their business and their presence online.
  • They invested in security, back-ups and speed. These are generally 3rd party services.

Oh, it’s a bright day. Not a bird in sight. Sunshine and pleasant breeze. Ahhh!