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post magento construction notes

Posted at 19:48 on Wed, 19th August 2009 in ecommerce, webdev.

Below are a few issues I had whilst recently developing an ecommerce site using Magento.

Functionality Issues:

  • The option in the Site Configuration to "Disable One Page checkout" actually disables the checkout entirely (Disable One Page checkout).
  • You have to install an extension to be able to edit email templates, without them being replaced when you upgrade the Magento Core (CLS Upgrade-proof Email Templates).
  • I installed an upgrade to an extension (Securepay integration) via the Magento connector, and due to an sql issue, the whole site died with debug info on the homepage. I ended up having to restore my backup and then not upgrade to the bad version of the plugin.
  • Page loads are really really slow although it appears to have been improved in the latest 1.3.2.3.

General Magento website issues:

  • You can't actually download the magento package directly (via another machine) from the link issued when visiting their website! They have some sort of cookie check - which means when you want to download the package to a server, you have to open up lynx and go through a bunch of pages rather then a simple wget command.
  • The handbook for developers and designers on their website is really small and outdated. Most of the help online can only be found in their forums, which if your lucky enough, sometimes a Magento developer will actually reply with the 'best practice' way of solving something otherwise it's hacks all the way.

Templating issues:

  • The directory structure can be really really long, i.e. to edit the templates, you have to copy the existing themes, and then you're editing files here: public_html\app\design\frontend\<theme name>\default\template\page\html\.
  • If you want to make sense of what the contents of variables being echoed in template files you have to refer to the really ugly code located in another random place. @OliveChi notes Magento's source code commenting hasn't been properly written to support phpdoc, so you can say good bye to auto suggest/auto complete is ZDE.

On the plus side:

  • The 'Magento Connect' feature of Magento allows anyone with the plugin key (obtained from their website) to download and install the plugin without any technical knowlege. There's no downloading/uploading/untarring/running sql updates/update scripts - something you'd normally have to do for something like Drupal or Zencart.
  • The sales & profit reports in the administration area provide all sorts of pretty charts.
  • (this could also be a bad thing), but just about every facet of the magento ecommerce system can be configured via the Administration Area. i.e. you can have all sorts of product configurations/types.
  • Multi-site/multi-store support.
  • Out of box support for Paypal, and support for heaps of different payment gateways.

Feel free to comment if I've got something wrong!