Death by Magento Customization

Death by Magento Customization

Death by magento customization

The dream website for many eCommerce merchants contains every feature they can imagine, plus any customizations required to make growing and running their eCommerce business a breeze.  

For many retailers, Magento has been that dream. A feature-rich, low-cost, easy-to-customize solution. Unfortunately, we’ve seen that dream morphed into a nightmare for many poor souls who over-extended themselves by adding too many features and customizations to their Magento site.

Upon initial build, it may seem feasible to clear up the outstanding bugs of an overbuilt site. But as time goes on, issues can pile on top of one another, potentially leading to your entire site going down and many customers being lost (along with the corresponding sales revenue).

So — How Much is Too Much?

That question has a unique answer for every individual business. There is a certain limit to the number of features and customization that can reasonably be created and maintained by any organization. Companies with great budgets and technical acumen can support incredibly complex software (ie. Google and Amazon). But every company must understand what their limits are and how to operate and grow within the confines of their capabilities. First, let’s discuss what kind of issues over-customization can cause:

  • Rising Costs – Not only do you have high costs of maintaining and upgrading the customizations, but you also have costs of maintaining documentation and know-how for them.
  • Security Risks – Sometimes extensions can contain code that opens a backdoor breach into your website. Third party extensions can offer some great functionalities for your eCommerce store but they should be thoroughly vetted for quality and security by an experienced developer before being installed.
  • Sluggish Speed – It goes without saying that in a competitive environment today, an eCommerce company must place website speed as one of their top priorities. Most extensions make HTTP requests to load assets like CSS, scripts, images, etc. If coded incorrectly, extensions can cause many different types of performance issues, some of which can be difficult to troubleshoot. Page speed should always be critically evaluated when a new extension or customization is being tested in a staging environment.
  • Website Continuity (or lack thereof) – Due to Magento’s vast and complex architecture, difficulty with code can cause extensions to conflict with one another. This can cause pages to crash unless the code has been fixed. Nothing is more unnerving than a “Page not Found Error,” except for when a customer sees that error. Per the following statistic: “Around 74% of visitors leave and never visit a website again after just one instance of a ‘Page Not Found’ error.” Those aren’t great odds.

I’m sure we’ve spooked you by now. So, how do you prevent these unfortunate consequences? Ultimately, we have to take a look at your company size, revenue, and resources.

Smaller Merchants – Is Magento Right for You?

With the onset of Magento 2, we’ve received migration quote requests from many smaller merchants running Magento 1 Community Edition that would be much better served by instead using a software as a service (SaaS) platform like BigCommerce or Shopify. These companies may have been lured into running Magento because of its many features and flexibility, but the cost to maintain Magento is way beyond what these SMBs are capable of. Instead of Magento working as an engine for growth, it becomes a liability, forcing these merchants to spend precious resources they should be dedicating to marketing on upgrades, patches, and support. In addition to the maintenance costs being (commonly) too steep, these merchants lack the resources in-house to properly administer Magento which further lowers their ROI.

In our opinion, it is usually best for small to midsize merchants with less than $5 million in annual online sales to try and limit their use of custom modules for Magento to 10 or fewer. While this number is somewhat arbitrary, it is a good benchmark for merchants wishing to mitigate the risk of getting into more customization than they can safely handle.  

Most merchants selling less than $1 million online will likely be best served by a SaaS solution like Shopify or BigCommerce. If these merchants using a Saas are looking to safely mitigate any risk of performance issues or compatibility bugs, they should likely look to leverage existing templated themes and fewer than 5 apps.

Larger Merchants – You Aren’t Immune to the Bugs of Over-Customization

While larger online merchants have the budgets and technical acumen to properly run a website platform like Magento, they are not impervious to serious harm from adding too many features and customizations. We’ve unfortunately witnessed large merchants greatly reduce the effectiveness of Magento with too many features and customizations.  Many times in these situations, bullish executives (in an attempt to make a big splash with the launch of a new and better site) demanded the addition of excessive amounts of features and customizations while building a new site on Magento.

For larger merchants needing a large number of complex features on their website, we recommend ensuring that their customizations are loosely coupled and operating by interfacing with the Magento API to minimize performance and code compatibility issues. For example, a merchant wishing to solve complex shipping quote requirements can mitigate the risk of over-customization by using the 3rd party app ShipperHQ. ShipperHQ is a SaaS solution that integrates to Magento via a small bit of extension code and APIs.  Hence the app is very loosely coupled and thus has minimal risk of causing code conflicts or performance degradation.

Customization Doesn’t Have to be Scary

Customization can become overbearing, but it doesn’t have to. Don’t fear Magento extensions — but don’t trust them blindly either. Not all extensions are created equal. As long as you follow these guidelines and are strict about having a senior developer vet and test extensions before using, you can proceed with caution. As always, if you have any questions about this or are in over your head with customizations, call us today to speak with a Magento Developer.

How to Simplify an Overly Complicated Site

How to Simplify an Overly Complicated Site

simple site design

By Tom Deutsch, VP Creative Services at InteractOne

The word “simple” can be a little deceptive. For eCommerce sites, conversion is the ruling metric. So, simplification is a tactic that you HOPE will give you better conversion.

Often, what we describe as simplification is not achieved by removing content from the page. Instead, site simplification uses UI design principles to focus and compartmentalize shopper activity.

Google is not strictly an eCommerce site, but it is the most-offered example of simplicity.

On the first impression, this baby is zen. You know exactly what to do here, not only because you’ve seen it a million times, but because it is obvious the first time you see it.

Really though – just like on your site – there is a lot going on here.

Given these requirements, Google could easily have looked something like this:

Simple looks easy, but it’s obviously not. As the illustration shows, how a given set of content is formatted and arranged can result in brilliance or an uninspired mess. Obviously, you and I don’t have Google’s resources, but we can take some lessons from the example.

Conquer the impulse to decorate

Communicating your visual brand doesn’t require elbowing aside the eCommerce path to purchase. For example, Magento’s default theme provides for an image at the top of each category. Key to remember – it is optional.

Designers can and do use banners to display beautiful and inspirational images and promotion reminders. In most cases, they are a distraction or an obstacle. They push the products down the page and are literally in the way, whether the user landed here directly or via navigation. Category pages are high-shopping intent; let the people shop! One innovative idea is to package small promotional blocks within the product grid, as seen on Lush:

Another source of clutter included in most eCommerce themes is the sidebar, which often says to the shopper: “you probably don’t want what is on this page; here’s another thought.” Think carefully before including sidebar elements, which do not translate readily to mobile, anyway.

Background textures, colored text, underlining, too many control elements (arrows, buttons and open fields) can stress out your page visitor, often evidenced as increased bounce rates. Use control elements extremely selectively and they’ll provide prominent and effective visual direction for your visitors.

Don’t fear the click

In your home, clothes would be easier to pick out if they were carefully arranged by color on the floor. Will you stop wearing clothes if they are put in a drawer instead? On your website, there are many categories, tools, features, and benefits all competing for attention. It is tempting to use the flexibility of a web page to find places to display all of them. That is designing by fear – thinking the shopper will not click to explore. Instead, set filters to closed by default. Place content in collapsing divs, dropdowns or tabs.

Matsonline.com has a complex product configuration and extensive product documentation, but with a well-managed UI, the goal of the page is still clear.

Think of your shopping pages not as billboards or directories, but as a neatly organized and well-labeled closet. Present a confident, simple and intuitive experience and trust the shopper to shop – that’s what they came to do!

Plan to succeed

To get simple, think integrated. Focus heavily on the things that spur conversion in eCommerce: Blazing fast page load, intuitive user interface, high-quality product images, authentic reviews, high-authority links. When those essential elements are in place, then your site will have the freedom to shed or reduce the emphasis on promotional content, memberships, forums and offers better suited to ads and social media.

The primary technique for maximizing simplicity is something you’ve often heard but is not often practiced: Mobile first design. Designing for desktop usually means you are starting with a grand and polished vision of a home page – that usually gets marked up and appended by numerous well-meaning hands. Designing for mobile forces discipline on your requirements. The best mobile sites behave like a guided tour – with each landing page focused on one thing and branching out from there, presenting choices in clear and manageable chunks. A desktop site that looks and functions like a mobile site is far preferable to a mobile site that looks like a squished and peeled version of a desktop site.

Your website will reflect the state of your business. Clutter within the business will produce clutter on the website. Simplicity breaks down when complex features are tacked on to the middle or end of a project, or if internal buy-in of the requirements was not secured up front. Whether embarking on a new eCommerce site build or revamping an existing one, have a specific plan. Know your requirements and make sure your platform can fill them without major customization. Pick designers and programmers you trust, then let them guide you to achieving a simple, user-friendly, high-converting site.

If you would like assistance with streamlining or otherwise improving the user interface of your eCommerce site, please feel to connect with our team. We’d be happy to lend a hand.

The Complete Magento Commerce Migration Checklist

The Complete Magento Commerce Migration Checklist

magento commerce migration

After spending countless hours researching whether or not to upgrade to Magento Commerce or keep with your existing platform, you’ve finally decided to make the jump. If you haven’t decided yet, read our recent blog to help inform your decision-making.

Before you can bask in the success you’re sure to see from making the upgrade, there are a few things you’ll need to do to ready your eCommerce business for it. Make sure to check off the following boxes before actually upgrading to ensure a smooth and successful process:

Take Inventory of Your Current Implementation ☑

Upgrading your eCommerce website is a long, ongoing process that never really feels completed if your business is looking to stay ahead of the next trend. If your website features this kind of next-level functionality and capabilities, chances are the complexity of implementing a new platform will be greater. This is why it’s essential to review the current state of your website through the lens of user experience, configuration, and customization. For more information on how to best review these components on your website, take a look at this Magento article.

Check Extension Compatibility ☑

Another component to review before making the upgrade is what extensions your website currently has installed. Most eCommerce websites feature a variety of extensions, some that are useful and some that seemed important but don’t have much functionality. The extensions that you plan to keep should be reviewed and tested to make sure they run properly or will need to be upgraded on the new platform before making the switch, otherwise you could run into a slew of functionality issues. If making the jump from M1 to M2, every extension must be updated to the M2 version in order for them to function properly. If you aren’t sure what other extensions will need attention when you make the upgrade, be sure to ask a Magento-certified developer. This is also an opportunity to clean up your website from unnecessary or non-functional extensions that you may have installed in the past, which could end up helping your website run faster.

Jumpstart UX Design ☑

Whether you’re upgrading from a different version of Magento or another platform altogether, design is something you should consider right out of the gate. Though there are many third party templates out there, we recommend skipping those and reaching out to Magento-certified developers (like us) instead. We can tailor Magento’s template to fit your needs and ultimately avoid any headaches shabby templates can create.

If you do decide to go with a third party theme, reach out to a reputable Magento expert before you purchase. Though the most popular themes are usually the most well built, that’s not always the case. Be sure to check with an expert first.

Test Your Website—Extensively ☑

When you make the upgrade, it’s important to test out your website before you publish it. Put your website in ‘maintenance mode,’ a Magento feature that allows you to test your website without it being live. To do so, create a maintenance.flag file in the root of your site. Once completed, many Magento Specialists use this 3-step process to see if their eCommerce website is ready to roll:

  1. Start at the homepage, navigate to a category page, then a product page. Add a product to your cart. Repeat these steps by choosing all the different possible paths to find that and other products. 
  2. Run a full checkout to test the various payment and shipping methods. 
  3. Test other functionalities such as price rules.

After extensively testing your website and checking all of the other boxes listed above, it’s time for the big moment: going live with your new, upgraded website. 

Be sure to continue running tests after publishing your website to ensure everything is working smoothly. To do so, consider running analytics and comparing the results to your old website. If you find any glaring differences in traffic or conversion rates, there could be an issue as a result of upgrading.

Making the upgrade to a new platform is a long process, but one that can pay large dividends to a growing eCommerce business. If you need any help along the way, be sure to contact our team of Magento-certified experts.

Why B2B Companies That Embrace eCommerce Perform Better

Why B2B Companies That Embrace eCommerce Perform Better

B2B companies have traditionally sold their products via a long sales process with multiple stakeholders and purchase influencers culminating with a handshake and a written contract. These days, that just doesn’t cut it. Buyers want to take care of business quickly, with one or two clicks, rather than back and forth calling or emailing.

B2B commerce has evolved – and in order to keep customers happy and maintain revenue growth – you must too.

Now, we know that B2B eCommerce can often be more complex than B2B eCommerce. B2C sales usually entail fixed prices and straightforward information. With B2B, that’s not necessarily the case. Some companies sell products that are too complex to be sold online, and that’s ok. eCommerce websites can do more than complete a sale. They serve as sources of information (about both the products and the company) and can help walk buyers down the purchase path.

Whether a B2B eCommerce site serves as a purely informational tool or contains multiple catalogs of products, it still benefits B2B companies overall. Here’s why:

Increased Customer Satisfaction

It’s no surprise: B2B buyer preferences have changed in recent years. The rise of online shopping and technology usage continues to grow at a rapid pace and people seem to be in agreement: B2C retail practices have influenced customer expectations. Those practices, namely personalization, online catalogs, and SEO continue to be the top three B2C practices that influence revenue for B2B companies. So if the buyer preferences have changed, why hasn’t your B2B company adapted?

SAP Customer Experience states that business buyers are planning to make 55% of their work purchases online within the next two years. If buyers need a product, they expect to be able to compare prices or information quickly. eCommerce sites allow this information to be shared immediately, and (if feasible for that specific company) allow for an order to be processed shortly after.

An article from Magento indicates that “almost 80% of ‘digitally-mature’ companies surveyed report that their current set of B2B eCommerce technologies have been ‘very’ or ‘extremely helpful’ in improving their overall customer satisfaction and revenue.”

In order to stay relevant in the ever-changing sphere of commerce, you have to stay up to date on what the customer wants. In this case, they want company and product information at their disposal at all times.

It’s Efficient

Traditional purchasing methods simply aren’t as efficient as eCommerce. Technology eliminates the need for informational pamphlets or booklets, and in doing so, simplifies the buying process. When customers are able to visit a website and get almost all of the information they need,  it speeds up the purchase process.

Plus, if orders can be completed completely online, then errors from handling multiple orders are reduced. It’s convenient to complete a purchase at the snap of a finger, and even more convenient to be able to track a purchase instantaneously.

Development Has Been Simplified

In the past, upgrading to an e-commerce business was a long and arduous process. Now days, platforms have been updated to make the switch more palatable. There are agencies, such as InteractOne, whose sole purpose is to migrate clients onto the best possible platform for their mission and products. Though a significant project (like a new site build) will take a fair amount of time and be a financial investment, it’s worth it when taking into account the boosted revenue and satisfied customers.

Outsourcing help for a big project like a migration or site build is usually a good idea. It grants the customer the flexibility and focus to keep their company the main priority while allowing them to get the help they need from trained and experienced developers.

It Gives You A Competitive Advantage

Take a look at your competitors. Have they already launched an eCommerce store? If so, you probably already know the answer to this one.

Companies who have already launched on an eCommerce platform are likely capturing some of your business. Buyers are using their knowledge and experience with eCommerce and have begun incorporating it into their work lives, welcoming the simplicity it brings them.

And if they haven’t, get ahead of the game! Don’t be afraid to trail blaze – competitors will most likely follow in your footsteps shortly or immediately after.

How Should You Proceed?

Explore your options and do your research. But, as Magento Certified Developers, we certainly recommend looking into Magento Commerce 2.2 for the many core capabilities it provides. Namely:

  • Company account management: Supports sales for companies with multiple buyers or differing organizational structures. Self-service tools allow customers to track their quotes, orders, and credit without having to fax or phone you.
  • Custom catalogs and pricing: Allows for custom catalogs and price lists to ensure unique contract terms are supported online.
  • Quick ordering: Quick order forms, requisition lists, and easy reordering make online purchasing easy and efficient.
  • Mobile-ready sites: A mobile-first strategy is obviously important. With a fully responsive Magento site, orders can be taken on the go at any time.

If you are a B2B company looking into the possibilities that eCommerce can provide for your company, feel free to contact us today or feel free to check out some of our experience working with B2B companies.

Are You Ready to Upgrade to Magento Commerce?

Are You Ready to Upgrade to Magento Commerce?

magento commerce upgrade

Whatever eCommerce platform your website is currently running on, it’s important to have a set of metrics you can continuously monitor to make sure you’re still benefiting from a well-tuned, right-sized solution. These metrics will help you determine if the platform you use is still viable or if you would be better off upgrading to a new one, like Magento Commerce. Whether your site is currently powered by Magento Open Source or a Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) platform such as Shopify, these are the signs you should upgrade to a more high-powered and advanced platform like Magento Commerce:

Sign #1: Visitors Are Overloading Your Current Site

Lower cost SaaS platforms and open source solutions are great for smaller eCommerce merchants looking for support and reliability. While these platforms work wonders for many businesses, a significant increase in traffic can push the limits and overload them, leading to slower load times, broken pages, and even total website crashes. Considering that a staggering 79% of shoppers reported they wouldn’t return to make a purchase from a website with slow load speeds, it’s critical to make sure the platform you’re using can handle spikes in traffic.

Magento Commerce is built with enhanced caching and databasing capabilities that deliver the extra-needed muscle during high traffic times to keep your website running speedily.

Sign #2: You Want to Expand Your Customer Base

Even if your website is currently doing a good job of handling a significant increase in traffic, there may come a point in time where you want to start selling your product to new customers in new markets. Magento Commerce has more than enough capabilities to ensure successful growth and scalability in any area, including expansions from B2B to B2C, the introduction of a new vertical, and even jumping into a new geographical area for business. Additionally, the platform offers target content and promotion, Google tag management, Enterprise business analytics, and integration with best in class third-party marketing technologies. If your business is growing in any of these directions, it’s important to consider upgrading to a platform such as Magento Commerce to ensure you’ll be ready.

Sign #3: Fulfillment is Challenging

If your website has been seeing a steady increase in purchases, fulfillment can start to become challenging. The fulfillment process may already complicated, with a number of factors outside of your eCommerce platform like warehousing and carriers that can influence your ability to deliver. This makes it all the more important to ensure your website can handle an increased capacity and is able to push orders to internal and external fulfillment models.

Magento Commerce has a number of features that can accommodate an increase in demand:

  • Improved database support: Create both a faster front and back-end experience with Magento’s multiple databases.
  • Streamlined admin experience: Manage orders more effectively with the upgraded Magento admin interface.
  • Customer-initiated returns: Free up admin time by allowing customers to begin their own returns process.
  • Broadened Magento Marketplace: Access exclusive extensions available only to Magento Commerce merchants.

Sign #4: You Haven’t Updated Your Website in Years

The average lifespan of a website is less than 3 years. This means that in order to keep up with the latest design trends and technologies, eCommerce merchants must redesign their website frequently. If your business hasn’t updated their website in a number of years, it might be smartest to pair your redesign with an upgrade to your platform too.

Magento Commerce is one of the most advanced platforms available to merchants, ensuring that your website will be ahead of the next trend. If you need an expert opinion on whether or not your eCommerce business should upgrade to Magento Commerce, contact us today.

Magento 2.3: What to Expect and When

Magento 2.3: What to Expect and When

Magento 2.3

While this year’s Magento Imagine Conference happened months ago, the buzz surrounding the release of Magento 2.3 has only gotten stronger since. Magento initially introduced version 2.3 at Imagine back in April, where it was promised to come “by the end of the year.”

So, when will the update finally hit? Magento has been mum on giving an exact release date, but we still expect it to come by the end of 2018, especially since it’s been over a year since the last major Magento release (2.2).

Magento 2.3 is anticipated to make an even bigger splash than 2.2, which focused mostly on smaller bug fixes and refinements. 2.3 promises an exciting mix of new core features paired with smaller optimizations and back-end efficiencies.

These are the expected features we’re most excited to see from Magento 2.3.

Progressive Web Application Studio

Progressive Web Applications (PWA’s) utilize the latest technology to combine the best of web and mobile applications. PWA’s essentially load like any other webpage but offer the user the functionality to work offline, receive push notifications, and much more.

Magento 2.3 is expected to capitalize on the many benefits of PWA’s by releasing a ‘studio’ which will contain the tools developers need in order to design their own PWA in Magento’s front-end. Additionally, the Magento PWA Studio will have a demo site feature that will make testing its features much easier for developers. Read more about Magento’s PWA Studio here.

Page Builder (GraphQL)

GraphQL is a query language for API’s, as well as a server-side runtime for executing queries by using a type system defined by a user’s data. Magento 2.3 will introduce the new GraphQL API language, which will make data retrieval possible for PWA’s. By optimizing these queries, developers will see a much speedier front-end experience with Magento 2.3.

Currently, Magento supports only REST and SOAP API requests. In order to also offer support for GraphQL, Magento 2.3 will include an all-new layer that interfaces directly to the query API and could provide even greater functionality in the future by supporting mutations to checkout and payment processes. These mutations would impact storefronts through checkout, order, and my account functionality.

Multi-Source Inventory

The Magento community is helping bring the much-requested Multi-Source Inventory (MSI) functionality to Magento 2.3. This new core feature will allow merchants to natively manage their inventory and tap into separate warehouses for order fulfillment.

Additionally, Magento’s MSI system will feature a reservation system for inventory that will replace the direct decrementing of stock. This will virtually eliminate re-indexing and performance issues during peak order times.

Declarative Database Schema

Currently, altering the schema of a Magento database is done by writing code with InstallSchema and UpgradeSchema. With Magento 2.3, developers will be able to make this change by using a declarative database schema. This will allow developers to define database structures and changes in XML, making it possible to roll back a module or functionality to an earlier version.

Two-Factor Authentication and Google reCAPTCHA

In an effort to enhance the security of the platform, Magento 2.3 will implement two-factor authentication. This will require users to verify their credentials to sign in by sending a security code to their phone or email. Although two-factor authentication is already used by many companies, the feature is surely a welcome extra layer of security for members of the Magento community.

Magento 2.3 will also implement Google reCAPTCHA, a security service that protects websites against spam and harmful bots. In addition to the new two-factor authentication system, reCAPTCHA will help ensure that Magento 2.3 is the most secure version of the platform to date.

Additional Features

In addition to the impactful new core features already mentioned, Magento 2.3 will include many more key refinements and optimizations:

  • Instant Purchase
  • Cache Management ACL
  • Import/Export improvements
  • Package Versioning
  • WYSIWYG Update
  • Message queue moved to Open Source
  • Elasticsearch Updates
  • Upgrade Patches
  • Asynchronous Web API
  • PHP 7.2 Support

Magento 2.3 promises to bring significant changes to the platform that will greatly improve the experience for developers. Although a specific release date has yet to be announced, expect it to arrive before the end of the year. Click here for more information on the update.

InteractOne can help with your Magento site build or upgrade. Contact us for help with getting your site updated. Or, call us to talk with a Magento expert at 513-469-3345.

Our Thoughts on the Evolution of Magento 2

Our Thoughts on the Evolution of Magento 2

It’s no secret that feelings about Magento 2 range from utter delight to hair-pulling frustration. It can be downright confusing. Should you upgrade? Should you get off Magento?

While the answers to those questions are always on a case to case basis, we thought we would share our perspective on the topic.

The first point to make is: each platform has its own issues. While Magento is a powerful platform, it is NOT for every business. Smaller merchants may not be able to take advantage of many of the customizations available and may be frustrated with the investments required to keep their site upgraded and patched. But for merchants with sufficient sales to support the upgrading requirements, there are still many advantages to Magento 2, like the size of the community, the amount of extensions available, and the number of developers.

Complaint #1: The Investment Can Be Substantial

We won’t deny this. What we will say is the cost of building a Magento store can vary greatly depending on what your business requires, who you hire, and the desired results. Designing, building and configuring a Magento website requires time and advanced PHP development knowledge. Don’t believe someone that says they can get it up in a week. It won’t happen. And firms like ours who choose to staff certified developers and solutions strategists will charge more than some guy in his garage who kinda knows PHP.

It’s also worth noting that although it may be costly, if your eCommerce store is on Magento 1 you will need to consider that it will not be around forever. Its end-of-life may not be set in stone, but it will happen eventually. Don’t get caught off guard; even if you aren’t ready to move to M2  now, consider it as an investment in your future eCommerce store.

Complaint #2: The Stability is Questionable

At first, M2 did have some hiccups. But, M2 was released almost 3 years ago (November 2015) and since then much of the technology has been stabilized and continues to get better every day.

Magento addressed these stability concerns at the beginning of the launch and stated that they were “going to continue investing in addressing issues in what is already out there, with a lower priority on new features.”

M2 is continually being updated, actively developed, and improved upon. The bugs have been worked out, the platform has matured, and the question of stability has since been put to rest.

Complaint #3: It Doesn’t Seem Any Different

M1 and M2, although maybe not at first glance, are significantly different. For one, M2 is faster. Faster site speed encourages more sales and encourages better search engine optimization. Full-page caching built into the platform means pages load a lot faster, 1-2 seconds compared to the 5-10 seconds for non-caching pages. M2 can also handle a large product catalog with many multi-variant options per product (ie. apparel like scrubs with 7 size and 30 color options per product) without slowing down which makes it scalable for large stores looking to grow in eCommerce.

Another added bonus is the new, streamlined checkout process in M2. It’s sleeker and highly customizable which eliminates steps and reduces rates of abandoned carts.

Those are just two of the many advantages M2 brings to the table. If you want to learn more, we have an entire blog dedicated to the differences here.

Our Final Thoughts

Here at InteractOne, we believe in transparency. We aren’t going to sugarcoat M2 or tell you that any and all circumstances require Magento. The reality is that Magento isn’t for everyone. If you’re unsure, give us a call today and we can help you decide. It’s that simple.

Magento 1 End of Life: When is it? What Does it Mean?

Magento 1 End of Life: When is it? What Does it Mean?

Update September 2018: Magento has announced that support will continue for both Open Souce and Commerce 1 through June 2020. Although the EOL was initially speculated to be at the year’s end, Magento extended the date to ensure their customers have enough time and confidence to upgrade when they feel the need to. Note: Magento software support only applies to Magento software and not any third-party extensions or customizations.

At first, the only emotions surrounding the arrival of Magento 2 were excitement, interest, and curiosity. An upgraded version that promised enhanced performance and scalability was all anyone could talk about.

After that initial enthusiasm wore off, people began to wonder: “What will happen to Magento 1?” The question about Magento 1 end of life is not so much a question of if, but of when. As many can acknowledge, the birth of a newer, more enhanced platform ultimately leads to the retirement of its former edition.

In our search for the answer to this popular question, we first need to define what Magento 1 end of life truly entails.

What Happens After EOL?

Don’t worry Magento Community Edition 1.x will continue to work even after its end of life date. M1 eCommerce stores will continue to function as they do now and businesses don’t need to worry about Magento 1 disappearing altogether.

*This may not be the case for the paid commerce edition since there may be contractual regulations restricting the use of the M1 commerce edition post EOL.

But, it does mean that Magento will not release any more security patches or updates for Magento 1.x once EOL occurs. Essentially, there will no longer be support for the platform and merchants should consider migrating to M2 when this happens.

So when will this occur? Speculations began popping up after a specific Magento Conference in April 2017.

The Start of Speculation: Meet Magento Conference in Prague

On April 27th, 2017, at the Meet Magento Conference in Prague, a screenshot surfaced showing a presentation slide that read: “Magento 1 End of Life: 17 November 2018.”

Articles began popping up left and right, all claiming that this was the official EOL date. Social media was buzzing with chatter about Magento 1 and many businesses feared that they would soon be kicked off the platform they needed to stay in business.

Magento 1 End of life screenshot

Soon enough, even more articles were emerging with a different EOL date: November 18th, 2018, just one day after the “original” EOL date was stated in Prague the month prior.

Much of this theory was backed by information given out prior to Magento 2’s release. Magento executives circulated the idea that Magento 1 would reach its end of life three years after the release of Magento 2. Magento 2 was released on November 17, 2015, which meant Magento 1’s end of life would be November 18, 2018.

People began to support their theories by citing the presentation screenshot from Prague as well as a screenshot of a twitter conversation between two Magento employees:

Magento 1 end of life twitter conversation

It seemed to be decided: 11/18/2018 was its EOL.  

And then Magento spoke up.

When is the “Real” End of Life for Magento 1?

Our honest answer: we aren’t sure.

We aren’t sure because, as of right now, no one is sure. After speculations began circling, Magento addressed the issue head-on in a blog post published on May 30th, 2017. Magento stated: “Magento 1 has been and will continue to be supported for the foreseeable future.” They also promised to give “a minimum 18-month notice” before making any changes to their support levels. The full post can be seen below.

As for now, we will be waiting for an OFFICIAL end of life date for Magento 1 just like the rest of the Magento community. And when it is announced, we will be here to help any businesses that need assistance migrating to the Magento 2.

Contact us if you want to get the ball rolling today or if you have any questions about the transition. We have the experience you need to get your Magento 2 site up and running.

6 Things Merchants Need to Know About Re-Platforming in eCommerce

6 Things Merchants Need to Know About Re-Platforming in eCommerce

re-platforming in eCommerce

There are many reasons why merchants consider re-platforming. Perhaps the business has outgrown the current platform. Maybe it’s a struggle to keep up with the platform financially. Alternatively, the platform is cumbersome to manage from the admin. Regardless of the scenario, making a switch isn’t an easy decision.

Put simply, re-platforming describes the process of moving a website, the online product catalog, shopping cart, and payment system from one eCommerce platform to another. We say simple, but in reality, the process can be complicated.

The word “re-platform” tends to generate very different reactions from eCommerce merchants. Some merchants shutter because of the complexities, budget, and potential problems of the entire process. Other merchants are excited about the opportunity of leveraging a new platform to fuel growth. Whether it’s an exciting opportunity or a necessary evil, when re-platforming in eCommerce, preparation is vital.

Here are six tips merchants need to know about re-platforming in eCommerce.

1. The Strategy Should Guide Your Process

In the early stages of re-platforming, doing preliminary legwork and planning is critical. It’s important to not only think of the here and now issues, but also goals and needs for the future of the website and business.  Consider why the re-platform needs to happen.

Is the product catalog or sales volume outgrowing the current platform?
Is there a need for more flexibility or security?
Is there a need for more out of the box features and functionality?
Does the current platform not have all the tools needed to best serve mobile customers?

Plan out what needs to be accomplished from doing the transition. Rather than going for a catch-all solution, choose a platform that best meets the end goal. For example, a website design refresh will require a very different process than a complete migration to an entirely new system. A failing legacy system may call for a condensed timeline, while a full expansion may require more strategic forethought.

An actual re-platform project will generally involve complexity, time, and monetary resources. Only a carefully crafted migration plan will ensure the project is completed on time and budget. In the early stages of re-platforming, doing preliminary legwork and planning is critical. It’s important to not only think of the here and now issues, but also goals and needs for the future of the website and business. Consider why the re-platform needs to happen. 

2. The Potential Advantages Are Transformational

Given the complexities involved, many merchants are hesitant to go through with a migration. They recognize the time and budget it takes for success, and look to maximize the legacy system for as long as possible. In reality, it’s important to recognize just how transformational the advantages of a new system can be. A platform suited to the current and future eCommerce needs can quite literally transform a business. The right eCommerce platform will integrate well with marketing efforts, better serve customers, and will increase the efficiency of the team running it and ultimately fuel growth.

The complexity of the process is not always apparent at the beginning of a migration project. Experience, planning, and research will help avoid surprises as much as possible. However, when executed successfully, re-platforming will make the process well worth the effort. If the upside is a positive transformation of current business operations, then pushing through even the most difficult stages will become more palatable.

3. The Disadvantages Can Be Significant

Despite all of the advantages listed with re-platforming, it’s important to balance those with potential drawbacks. Preparedness is especially true if the project goes wrong. When a migration effort goes south, merchants could lose significant revenue, audience trust, and efficiency. Being realistic about possible disadvantages can help to prevent issues and setbacks from happening.

An article from Forbes.com outlines some of the most common re-platforming risks, along with valuable suggestions on how to prepare for and overcome them. 

Detailed below are several common re-platforming risks

Delays and Budget Overruns can kill a project if not careful. Fortunately, careful planning, regular benchmark reports that measure progress and current budget spend can help to avoid this issue.

Incomplete Product Features occur either due to overpromise on behalf of the developer or partner, or a tight timeline that pushes previously in-scope implementations out of scope. Merchants can overcome this risk by carefully vetting individual partners and agencies, while strictly focusing on the minimum viable product (MVP) for phase 1 of development.

Indecision can become fatal if it begins to impede project timelines. A previously streamlined process can get out of whack quick if a lack of decisions halts progress. Assigning defined decision makers within the implementation team and determining communication/decision standards ahead of time can help.

Perfectionism is a valuable business trait. However, taken to the extreme, it can become dangerous. The goal of the initial re-platforming project should be improving the current situation, not getting everything right the first time. Avoid this risk by keeping a list of desired features for the future, and setting expectations on what the first new iteration will provide, again focusing on MVP.

Knowledge Gaps tend to manifest themselves between a legacy platform and the new platform, primarily if the new platform depends on the organizational buy-in. Manage them by training staff on the new platform, and keeping a representative from each affected area of the business involved in the implementation.

4. The Timeline Tends to be Extensive

A complete re-platforming of an eCommerce website will take time. Part of that is evident from the points discussed above; the planning itself should be done carefully, instead of rushed or ignored.

Comprised of six phases, a complete migration or re-platform project will include:

  1. Planning and Strategy
  2. Data Migration
  3. Platform Integrations
  4. User Design and Experience
  5. Launch
  6. Post-Launch Evaluation

These phases are not always linear.  Data migration can occur even as a development team begins to work on the user-facing design of the new platform. Still, each of these steps comes with time commitments that are important to bear in mind.

At the very least, that process can take a few months. In many cases, the entire project (including pre-project planning and post-launch evaluation) can take much longer.  Either way, never go into a project without at least some realistic idea of the timeline required for successful completion.

5. The Budget Can Make or Break the Re-Platforming

Like time constraints, budget tends to be among the most critical variables in the process. Simply put, not being careful could mean exploding the project or seeing it fail to come to fruition. At best, the project goes over budget. At worst, the entire business is at risk of survival.

Consider the case of the U.S. Air Force, which spent more than $1 billion on moving to a new ERP platform before scrapping it because of a lack of progress. This case study has become a cautionary tale for any merchants looking to engage in a similar process, even on a smaller scale.

That doesn’t mean every project is doomed to fail. It does, however, suggest that merchants need to be both careful and strategic in the budgeting process. In the earliest planning stage, determine how much is willing to be spent while still getting a positive return on investment for the migration. Then, stick to that number as an upper limit, even in the face of anything bar exceptional circumstances.

That means evaluating all options according to their price and opportunity cost. Don’t forget that it’s possible to experience some downtime and lost revenue. In the initial budget evaluation, include hidden or continual costs that may incur after the initial migration. The more planning done early, the less likely it will be to break the set budget.

6. The Right Partner Can Make All the Difference

Finally, don’t underestimate the importance of a reliable development partner that can guide the team through the re-platforming process. The platform options will be immense; in addition to individual platforms, merchants will have the choice to go with cloud-based SaaS or on-premise hosted solutions. Each comes with challenges and benefits, all worthy of consideration based on the situation.

The complexity of the project calls for a development partner. Almost by definition, most merchants don’t go through the process of migrating to a new eCommerce platform frequently. As such, recognize the value in a partner with the experience in the individual steps involved and required, along with the best practices outlined above. Even one step in the wrong direction, particularly if it comes early in the planning and direction-setting stage, can go south quick.

For this type of project, it is essential to choose a reliable partner. Not a quick-fix developer with a fundamental goal of getting the business at all costs, but a partner who has your best interests in mind. This partner can help guide throughout the process, and help educate why re-platforming is necessary in the first place. The result will be a more goal-driven, strategic process with a significantly higher chance of success.

Finding that partner, of course, can be tough. Merchants need professionals who are certified and experienced in this area, while also being willing and able to accommodate every unique situation. After all, no two eCommerce merchants are alike.

InteractOne has significant experience in eCommerce migrations, re-platforming and data migrations, and we can apply that experience. Contact us to get to learn more about migrating or re-platforming to Magento, and to discuss potential first steps in a future partnership.

An Introduction to Magento Commerce (Cloud)

An Introduction to Magento Commerce (Cloud)

Magento Commerce Cloud

Magento Commerce (Cloud), formerly known as Magento Enterprise Cloud Edition, was introduced in early 2016 as Magento’s third platform option, alongside Magento Commerce and Magento OpenSource. For more information on the differences between Magento Open Source and Magento Commerce, reference this comparison. Magento Commerce (Cloud) is a managed, and automated hosting platform for Magento specifically created for Cloud infrastructures. Magento Commerce (Cloud) combines the power of Magento Commerce, Cloud infrastructure hosting, along with a few differences and added features.

Magento Commerce (Cloud) offers several features and advantages that set it apart from Magento Commerce and Magento Open Source.

The Difference Between Commerce (Cloud) and Magento Commerce

Although much of Magento Commerce (Cloud) and Magento Commerce are the same, there are a few fundamental differences. For one, Magento Commerce (Cloud) offers all the benefits of modern cloud computing: scalability, high resilience, PCI compliance, availability, automated patching – but also with the advantage of Magento’s successful and established architecture.  

Cloud computing is possible because Magento Commerce (Cloud) runs on Amazon Web Services (AWS), which is known for its reliability, scalability, and low cost. Notably, with AWS powering Magento Commerce (Cloud), merchants can eliminate the need for self-hosting. Further, 30% of Magento Commerce merchants already utilize AWS for hosting. Therefore, Magento Commerce (Cloud) offers a natural hosting option for Magento Commerce merchants.

Also, Magento Commerce (Cloud) offers B2B features designed to boost B2B market capabilities. These capabilities help reduce the high implementation costs that can occur with multi-tenant Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) solutions, such as Magento Commerce.  Specifically, there is generally less customization required with the Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS) cloud system. The Cloud flexibility allows merchants to tailor their technology quickly to what works best for their eCommerce business.

Magento Commerce (Cloud) Features

Magento Commerce (Cloud) comes with a variety of additional features that help set it apart from the other Magento platforms. A significant advantage for merchants using Magento Commerce (Cloud) is that it features fully customizable, secure and scalable Web storefronts. Scalable storefronts give merchants an opportunity to develop highly differentiated customer experiences.

Mark Lavelle, CEO of Magento, explained the importance of the scalability Magento Commerce (Cloud). Lavelle states, “With Magento Commerce (Cloud) merchants have the agility to respond to a rapidly changing environment, can continuously deploy innovations, easily scale to meet unexpected demand and don’t have to worry about the day-to-day management of infrastructure.”

Magento Commerce (Cloud) Features Overview

  • Plans include an integration environment for development, testing, and integrating services
  • All environments run with active Git branches of code
  • Unlimited number of inactive Git branches available
  • Add fully managed services like MySQL, Elasticsearch, Redis, RabbitMQ, without requiring external add-ons
  • Increase the amount of memory and CPU as needed

Cloud Hosting with Magento Commerce (Cloud)

With cloud hosting, websites are lightning fast and optimized 24/7 for customers. Magento Commerce (Cloud) combines all of the functionality that Magento Commerce offers plus bonuses such as Git integration and key environments for development, staging, and live production. Specifically, merchants can code, test, and deploy across Integration, Staging, and Production environment for continuous integration in stores.

Magento Commerce (Cloud) hosting plans bring support and cloud-based hosting on a subscription basis. Currently, Magento offers the Magento Commerce Starter plan or Magento Commerce Pro plan. Merchants can choose the subscription that best fits their business while also enjoying the benefits of Magento Commerce.

Want to get started on Cloud or learn more? Contact us for more information on Magento Commerce (Cloud) and what sets it apart from other eCommerce platforms.