Taming Magento

One of the projects I have been assigned at work is to create a new eCommerce website using an eCommerce platform known as Magento.  Magento EcommerceMagento version 1.5.1 to be precise. It is not the latest version, but it is the latest version that is compatible with our current inventory management system. The importance of having a shopping cart that is integrated with a store’s inventory management system cannot be overstated. When you have thousands of products, the only way to effectively maintain your website’s products is to have an automated system for doing so. And if your inventory management software can update not only prices and quantities, but also images and product descriptions, then you are in “Hog Heaven” from a webmaster perspective.

Doing a little Googling around, it appeared that Magento was an extremely capable platform. So when I was presented with the list of eCommerce systems compatible with our software, I felt Magento was the way to go as it has most every imaginable capability. I have had some experience with other cart systems such as Zen Cart, osCommerce, x-Cart, etc. It usually takes me one to three weeks to set one up with a custom look and functions. I hadn’t heard much about Magento, so I estimated a month just to be on the safe side. Surprisingly, I didn’t find much on Google that could have prepared me for the beast that is Magento.

This post is just a description of the Magento Platform itself. A forewarning, if you will, of the complexity of the platform and some of the notables. I will be doing some followup posts describing “shortcuts” that I wish I would have known about ahead of time. But this is more general and I will try and avoid it becoming a rant, which is one of my weaknesses.

First a little Q & A:
Q : Will Magento do ______ ?
A : Yes. Magento is capable of doing whatever you could want an eCommerce platform to do.

That’s pretty much it. Magento will do pretty much anything you would want it to do… just not easily. At all. You can download the “Designer’s Guide to Magento” and have a look. I highly recommend trying to read it. The difficulty in understanding the guide will give you some preparation for the difficulty to come in trying to make it look and function the way you would like. Thankfully the designers of Magento have included a default “Theme Package” that looks so incredibly hideous you will be highly motivated to change it right away. Seriously, you cannot install Magento, plug your product and settings in and expect anyone to want to visit your site. No. Not going to happen. It’s like Austin-Martin decided to roll out a new sport coupe and instead of paint, they decided to cover it with glued on sections of striped clown pants. What were they thinking?
Here, have a look for yourself:

Default Magento Page

The Default Magento Themed front page.

Yeah, you’re going to want to change that. And if anyone posts comments saying they like that look, be prepared to be sprayed with shame and rolled in a paste of broken glass mixed with humiliation.

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