Another Trip Through the Inferno: Magento

DISCLAIMER: This is a follow-up post to my previous entry about Magento from September 2013. Again, this is simply an opinion piece and not meant to speak definitely about the platform, but only share this user’s thoughts and impressions about the Magento eCommerce platform.

Fuck you Magento. Fuck you for doing nothing at all.

Well then, now that I got that out of my system and cleared the air a little bit, where to begin?

Two and a half years ago, I had the misfortune to be working on a Magento-based eCommerce site. It was supposed to be a quick and dirty job, one week at most, where we simply had to reimport a site from one domain to another, add a few products, and finish off a tiny checklist to launch.

Oh how foolish and young we were.

One week with Magento was like one month in hell. A few of the fun and unexpected migraines we encountered were:

-We imputed more than 600 products by hand because the spreadsheet import option flat out refused to work (even though we exported it from the exact same site).
-We had to redesign and repeat virtually every single line of code we changed because, again, nothing managed to be imported.
-We discovered that finding missing images was one of the biggest nightmares this side of hell (hey Magento, still waiting for a media manager like WordPress has had this whole time).
-Going more than double our estimated total hours in the first week alone. – and then trying to renegotiate when we knew things were going downhill.
-What it feels like to waste an entire month of our lives working with a system that made us hate said lives.
-Realizing that I never want to do any eCommerce webwork, design or development again (I haven’t, but I have thankfully found it in my to still write about commerce platforms and work on non-eCommerce sites).

Essentially, nothing went according to plan; not because we had a shitty plan, but because Magento public edition (the “free”, open-source version our client was running) was simply a big bag of trash. A big, hellish bag of trash.

At the end of the day, the most unexpected and simultaneously comforting / discomforting part of the whole project was realizing we’re not alone. There are dozens of horror stories related to Magento. Many of them shared right here on my blog.

You know it’s a hot day in hell when people are still running into many of the same agony inducing problems with Magento I railed about years ago.

The big question, therefore, is: why the hell is this still going on? Haven’t the designers at Magento realized their system (though powerful) is a bug-ridden developmental hellhole?

An aside: funny how the word “hell” keeps coming to mind, keeps finding it’s way on my screen as I write this. If only myself and the countless others who’ve used this system had some sort of Virgil figure to lead us safely through the ever burning circles of Magento. I doubt such a person exists, or would want to exist.

So where does that leave us? What do we do when a client asks us if we “do Magento”? Do we say yes? Do we bite the bullet and make a few bucks at the expense of our sanity? I suppose the answer for far too many of us has been “okay, why not. One last time”.

But there is no last time with Magento. It lingers and it haunts us.

The only real hope is working with a different platform. But where do we go from here? Well, I don’t have all the answers, but I have a few honest-to-God better options for eCommerce that I’ve learned from experience (and don’t worry, I’m not getting kickbacks from any of these folks listed below):

Woo is easy to use, if basic and kind of ugly, but my goodness is it friendlier than Magento. The big downside here is that if you hate working with WordPress and its damn loop, then you should probably stay away!

But if you just want something quick, a little dirty, and so easy that even your client can even add the products themselves, Woo is a good starting choice. It won’t do everything (or even most things), but it’s free, and even the paid extensions aren’t too pricey.

Spree Commerce
So I’m a bit biased when it comes to Spree (I did some contract work for them in the past, and am good friends with some people at the company), but I honestly wouldn’t be listing them here if I didn’t know like the system they put out.

Based on Ruby on Rails, Spree is is the friendly Border Collie to Magento’s rabid pitbull of a PhP nightmare. It’s truly open source, simpler and was even designed by programmers with users in mind (unheard of!).

What that boils down to is that Spree still takes work to get going but it doesn’t actively try to kill whoever is working on it.

Other Options
Lastly, if you never want to program again and just want to set up an eCommerce site that your client can use without any training, go for a hosted solution like Shopify or Payeezy. You can’t do a hell of a lot of advanced things with them, but if all your client wants is a simple store (as most of them tend to want), take the easy route for once.

By alexander

Drinker of bad wine and writer of many things. Alexander used to be in web development. Now he writes and edits and dabbles in SEO. He has a master's degree and is slowly trying to complete his PhD. One day you will refer to him as Doctor. One day...