Magento Worst Practices for Ecommerce

magento worst practices

In my last post, I addressed my second pick for Magento Worst Practices: Not understanding the differences between CE and EE. The article received some thoughtful feedback regarding the overall ecommerce implementation process; so that seemed like an appropriate segue to my next Worst Practice selection: Blaming Magento for your ecommerce problems.

Whether you are using Magento to launch a brand new site, or switching to Magento from another platform, successful ecommerce relies on much more than just your choice of software.

Long before design and development begin, a successful project requires thorough planning. During this stage, a lot of information gathering is required:

  • Who is the target market?
  • What are the long-term goals for the website?
  • How large is your product database and has all the necessary data been gathered into an appropriate format for import?
  • If not, who is leading that effort?

Now is the time to discuss project scope, growth expectations, and resources; and not just financial resources! What is your staffing situation? Do you have an in-house team to support your ecommerce effort or will you outsource? This is the time to be as detailed and thoughtful as possible.

Once development begins, you’ll want to pay close attention to recurring topics of discussion, even if they are not on your launch list

For example, if global shipping has been considered in recent meetings, find a compatible overseas shipping extension that can be implemented quickly and smoothly when the word comes down (because let’s face it, it probably will.)

Design and development provide the obvious front-end project essentials. An appealing UI and intuitive UX (i.e. user-centric design) should be supported by good quality control and attentive project management.

There are also marketing essentials (not necessarily configured or maintained in Magento, but important nonetheless): social media, email campaigns, PPC, and advertising campaigns. There are important infrastructure demands to consider (see blog 1). Then there are essential guidelines to understand regarding Magento’s configuration and data management.

Why hasn’t Magento…

On several of the Magento projects that I’ve joined in progress, I’ve heard the same questions and comments repeatedly, including:

  • “Why hasn’t Magento improved our sales?”
  • “Magento is broken”

But, my personal favorite is typically delivered short, sweet, and without supporting details: “Magento sucks.”

Just as important as what you experience on the front end is the stuff going on in Magento’s backend. It’s there — in Magento’s administrative panel — that configurations are set, options are enabled, and tables are populated with vital data. Essentially just a Content Management System, navigating Magento’s administrative panel is not rocket science, but still requires an understanding of its capabilities, constraints, and options; as well as instructions on how to actually populate essential data.

If no one is trained on how to properly administer Magento, fundamental settings could be neglected. The result? A seemingly broken or “sucky” platform.

Storytime

Here is one example I encountered:  A client told me they were extremely dissatisfied with Magento’s native search; offering proof by attempting to search for a product on their website. The results were unfavorable, to say the least. In short, either every product or no product was displayed after any keyword search. I logged into the admin panel and discovered the problem.

Imagine an online pet store that names every leash product “leash” and populates every leash’s product description with “leash available in a variety of lengths.” Then imagine said company wondering why, a search on the word “leash”, results in a list of every single leash product; and similarly, a search for the word “retractable” returns nothing at all.

With this client, I found that their product descriptions (and titles and short descriptions) all contained 3 words or less.

If you neglect to import meaningful data into the appropriate database tables, is it fair to blame Magento for poor performance?

Here’s another example: One client felt Magento was the wrong solution (and was therefore “broken”) because they believed it could not support the type of products they sold. They said they were unable to offer bundled products with varying options and price differentials. When I looked at their product data, I saw no configurable products and noticed that product attributes had been used very sparingly.

I told the client to create configurable products from many of their simple products.

The client’s reply?

“What is a configurable product?”

If you don’t educate yourself on all of Magento’s capabilities and learn the correct procedure for taking advantage of them, is it fair to claim Magento is “broken”?

The basic approach to launching an ecommerce site is logical and straightforward:

Plan – Educate – Design – Develop – Test – Launch

But like with anything, we are only human. Mistakes are made, items are forgotten, deadlines get pushed, employees come and go, shortcuts and “temporary fixes” are used, and project meetings are replaced with quick hallway questions and IMs. Under pressure from the powers that be, the site is launched. Then, as soon as an important element appears to be non-functional, the platform is blamed.

You will need an all-in approach from your team for a successful Magento project (something that will be discussed in greater detail in a future blog).

Look, I too was hoping that by now we’d have Jetsons-style fold-up cars and awesome robotic housekeepers like Rosie to keep us organized. The reality is that the ecommerce platform you choose can only be as good as the team that plans, designs, develops, and supports it.

 

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