I am thinking about switching our 2 Joomla ecommerce sites across to Magento 2 (community), as it seems like it is better platform for online sales. My general question at this moment is whether it is worth all the time, sweat and tears to do this? Joomla 3 has served me well, but we are outgrowing our 3rd party shop software (too many limitations).
Is Magento 2 stable enough now, without there being lots of bugs which would cause major headaches? Some people suggest to get started with Magento 1.9, but for me that seems like a very backwards approach. The inevitable migration from Magento 1.9 > 2.0 does not seem very simple for people new to Magento who have limited programming skills.
Your thoughts would be very welcome!
Magento is such a PITA. Good luck on just getting a basic v2 vanilla installation together in less than a few hours. Basically, throw out most of the things you know (or don't know) about PHP and Mage (Magento's command line tool). You have to learn new command line tools / libraries to install and manage v2 (or more likely, search Google every single time you want to do anything and search forum posts on how to perform tasks). In other words, you can't just wing it. It's got a learning curve like no other. I've been managing Magento for various clients since v1.2 was released (a long time ago), and while I'm not an advanced coder (just decent)... I can tell you that my clients and have been frustrated more often than not with Magento's (nearly) constant demand for advanced Magento developers. It is not user-friendly or manager friendly (especially if something was customized / coded specifically for your clients' needs -- you will have to fork over the big bucks to the few developers that actually know what they're doing). Heck, even installing minor upgrades in previous versions (for example, 188.8.131.52 to 184.108.40.206) can break a lot of things. Professional Magento developers charge anywhere from $150-200/hour, and firms are about $500-700/hour (depending on your needs). So the costs can get out of hand very quickly. Well-coded extensions can add a lot to the upfront and ongoing cost of Magento as well. Decent extensions usually cost around $150-250/ea. and require 6 month and 12 month commitments for future updates (assuming they work for you out of the box and don't need custom work). Not uncommon to need at least 5 to 8 commercial extensions for your average Magento installation.
I'm seriously considering moving all 8 of my clients' Magento 1.* to Woocommerce (before I lose any more customers to Shopify).
Your mileage with Magento may vary, but I guarantee it will be a huge chore. Just fire up a cheap droplet on Digital Ocean and try to install basic Magento -- you'll see what I mean.
Best of luck!
And by the way... I really, really, really want to love Magento. They just didn't develop it with small business in mind. It's very capable, but better suited for mid-to-large companies (at least doing 400k+/year with relatively good profit margins) to justify the overhead. Or at least that's what you would hear if you took a poll from my (8) Magento clients.
Honest feeback like yours is really what I was asking for, so I must thank you for taking the time out to write to me (essential before jumping into a new long term project).. I have no php programming skills, and was hoping I could buy a decent Magenta 2 template, get it setup and then populate the shop with my products (with some CSS and page layout changes).
I really 'expected' that Magento upgrades would be hassle free and completely tested by the Magento team before they are made available. After what you have said I now really need to think if this is the route I want to go down (my present ecommerce websites on Joomla work very well, and there are virtually no issues when upgrading Joomla as Joomla has been through a real learning curve over the last 10 years).
My reason for going down the Magento route was to give myself more time to get away from webshop work, so I can concentrate on other aspects of the business. We are a small business, so paying developers for the upkeep of our site is not an option. If Magento 2 is going to increase my time and cost overheads, and give me plenty of headaches along the way when upgrading to the latest releases, then that is a huge put off.
Out of interest, you mention Shopify and Woocommerce. Between both of these, would any rank better in terms of functionality, front-end aesthetics and stabilty? I'm ready to improve our ecommerce platform, and maybe one of these options you listed should be where I start looking.
Thanks again. Much appreciated.
The Magento platform is supported and maintained by some amazing developers, but they can only support their system. Anything you add to Magento or customize is not supported by them, so when (for example) a new version of Magento comes out (minor versions or major versions), the upgrade may break your site.
The thing is... each time an update/upgrade/patch is installed, you also have to update your installation with a compatible version of your theme and also make sure your extensions support that version. (like on Themeforest, for example -- theme developers will list out which versions of Magento are supported. Same thing applies to extension providers like Mageworx, Amasty, and others). You need matching, compatible versions on everything. So an update like v.220.127.116.11 to v18.104.22.168 could be a lot more involved than simply executing an "update" command on Magento (if only it were that easy). If you only used core Magento with the default (built in) generic template and did not make any customizations or add any extensions, then yes, it would be much easier to upgrade.
But in reality...
On a typical Magento installation, you could have 12 to 15 extensions installed. Some of them offer minor functionality changes, admin-only features, or things that rely on basic core functionality. Those are usually pretty stable between version upgrades, even when they aren't frequently updated by the developer.
Backups are your best friend! Lots of backups! Also, make sure you have a trustworthy Magento developer somewhere that you can reach out to when things go wrong. Google searches can only get you so far, and some things just need developers that really understand what's going on. (Developers will almost always require root access for Magento work since many operations have to be run from command line)
The reason why people recommend v1.9 over v.2.* is because the 1.* versions are much easier ("easier" is a relative term) to understand and troubleshoot (more history, more community involvement = easier to find solutions -- but don't let that fool you. There is no such thing as "easy Magento"). I mostly agree with others recommendations to try v.1.9 first. (Magento is layered like an onion. and v.1.* has fewer layers). If you locate a tutorial on how to install v1.* and compare that to "how to install v2.*", you may see what we're referring to. The main downside to v1.* is that you would have to rebuild on the v2.* platform when and if you decide to upgrade.
Really, I know it doesn't sound exciting, but you should get your feet wet with Magento first. Go ahead and set up a cheap Digital Ocean server and try installing Magento v2. See how much work it actually takes, and know that technical issues are just part of the territory. If you can successfully install Magento v.2 on your own (using your friend Google as necessary) and actually get the platform online and working (both front-end and back-end), then you might be a candidate for basic Magento maintenance in the future. Gotta clear the first major hurdle first and see if Magento is suitable for your needs.
Magento is the most powerful platform on the planet. It's capable of just about any feature or function your heart desires -- but that comes at a cost (usually a high development and resource cost) and healthy doses of patience. Try to decide if you need the complexity and overhead and capability of a Magento system, or if something easier (like WooCommerce) will do the trick. Just don't bite off more than you can chew -- development and maintenance should be manageable for you -- not a downward spiral of frustration.
Magento WILL definitely put you to the test (it puts EVERY developer to the test, regardless of skill set) -- so play with it, learn it, troubleshoot it, and see if there's a chance you want to take it further. It's a big commitment, so test the waters before dropping your client in the deep end of the pool. You have to be the one to watch over them, and save them from drowning when things go wrong. Find out how well you can swim, or be prepared to hire a trained lifeguard. And if you decide that you don't need an entire waterpark of functionality, then just stay in the shallow end of the pool (WooCommerce or similar).
I've never used Shopify personally -- I only know that it's a proprietary system with decent set of functions. Nothing fancy. Several of my customers have moved over to that platform. It's fully managed / hosted service, so you never have to worry about upgrades and platform maintenance. Customization options are pretty limited, and it won't meet 100% of the needs of most businesses (but that's pretty much the case with any "out of the box" system). I understand that it's pretty easy to use and manage (from what my clients tell me). It's not cheap, but in the grand scheme of things, not terribly bad either. Ease of use and stability can be (arguably) more important than functionality. A few of my clients chose to sacrifice certain functionality in exchange for not having to deal with some of Magento's annoying quirks. (Note: they were on the 1.* platform -- no guarantee those problems would be addressed in 2.*, but they didn't want to invest even more $$$$ in the new platform and still continue to hire developers every time they need something changed.)
WooCommerce is a self-hosted platform which runs on top of Wordpress. It's more customizable than Shopify, and certainly has the nicest looking themes around (if you're going for pre-built themes, e.g., from Themeforest) and potentially less expensive (with the right hosting service and assortment of plugins).
Good hosting should always be a top priority. WooCommerce can run just fine on a good VPS, whereas Magento typically requires a dedicated server. I've seen a few customers run Magento on a "high quality" ($150/mo.) VPS, but most of the time you should go with a dedicated server. (You'll need shell access and command line tools for Magento anyway).
Thank you again for your exceptionally detailed reply. It's all very interesting (and somewhat depressing) and nice to hear the opinion of someone who seems to have not just fully tested, but worked with Magento software for quite some time.
I am at rather a loss here in terms of which ecommerce platform to start looking at (which would improve on the ecommerce plugin I am using with Joomla 3). I have looked at about 8 different platforms in the last few days, and there does not seem to be one which is perfect (and yes maybe perfect does not exist).
If only Magento 2 had been the answer I had been looking and hoping for! I certainly am not interested in having to always use a developer each time I update Magento to the latest release, so this sort of drop kicks Magento 2 right out the window of a very high building. It's a complete non starter hearing that.
OpenCart and Woo Commerce started to seem like interesting options, but not without their failings. If I had to take the plunge and learn a new platform and ecommerce system, it would possibly be with WooCommerce at the moment. Saying that, I will need to continue the research for another few days then pick a couple platforms to test out - and I don't think Magento will be one of them.
Thanks again for your time. If I come up with anythign in my research I will post it hear. I'm sure this thread will be of interest to others in my position.