One of the toughest things about using Magento as an e-commerce platform may be simply getting started. This platform is so powerful, so feature rich – and so vast! Part of its appeal is that it’s open source, it’s easy to customize, and it’s scalable. All those facts make Magento website development very appealing to companies large and small. But those same things are also what make it difficult to navigate Magento development sometimes.

To get the most out of Magento, you need to know:

  1. What you need and want from your e-commerce site
  2. What Magento’s features are, as well as the available modules and extensions (so you know which to take advantage of)

So, to make it easier, RTS Labs has put together this list of the 10 most important things every e-commerce business should know about Magento development and customization. This list just scratches the surface of Magento’s capabilities. However, these are some of the most surprising or most effective things you should be aware of when working with Magento, whether you’re just getting started or you’ve been using Magento for a while.

Here are some tips about how to tell when it’s time to consider Magento web development for your e-commerce platform and what to be thinking about once you’re using Magento.

First steps: How to tell when it’s time to upgrade to Magento

1. It’s difficult to update your product content.
If you can’t update your content on a consistent basis easily and quickly, you need to be using a better e-commerce platform. Not being able to make updates easily becomes a barrier to keeping your website updated the way it should be. Having an out-of-date website in turn ruins your SEO and kills potential revenue from the lack of web traffic and outdated product offerings. You and your team will dread the task of making updates, which means you’ll be more likely to put it off. And when you do get around to updating it, you’ll waste far too much time getting the task done. If this scenario sounds familiar, it’s time to bite the bullet and start exploring custom Magento development. Magento is powerful and user friendly.

2. Your website as a whole is hard to update and modernize.
If your e-commerce website lacks the flexibility of modern programming languages, putting off updates is only going to make the problem worse. Using a platform like Magento will help you instantly tap into a system that has plenty of features and extensions, many modules to choose from, and terrific support – both from the company and from the public (which is the beauty of open source programs). You’ll have plenty of options as your company matures.

3. Your website isn’t responsive.
Speaking of updating outdated websites, now that Google has announced that being mobile responsive will be taken into account in search rankings, having a mobile-friendly e-commerce site is more important than ever. Fortunately, Magento customization lends itself easily to mobile-friendly design.

4. Try what you may, your search engine rankings aren’t improving.
Magento’s extensions and modules are designed to give you more clout when it comes to Google search rankings. In addition to the SEO-friendly nuggets built into Magento’s framework, the fact that so many thousands of businesses use Magento for their own e-commerce sites gives automatic clout to anyone else using it, too. Google recognizes Magento and looks at it favorably as a trusted e-commerce platform, giving automatic credibility to the companies that use Magento for their own online shopping carts.

Next steps: Best practices for using Magento

Once you’ve decided to go with Magento, here are the things to think about that will help it work better for you and keep your e-commerce site secure.

5. Always be thinking about security.
Unfortunately, the very things that make Magento so amazing (such as being based on open source code, being customizable, and being able to accommodate flexible payment options) also make it a prime target for hackers. There are lots of things you can do to make it more secure, such as creating a custom admin path instead of the standard path and restricting admin access to a few specific IP addresses. Security should be your first priority when it comes to developing your Magento-based site. Check out this terrific article by Brendan Monahan, titled “22 Ways to Bulletproof Your Magento Security”, for a comprehensive list of security measures you should be building into your own custom Magento development.

6. Don’t settle for ordinary – choose a custom Magento theme and brand your new site.
One thing you definitely don’t want to do is to have a site that looks like everyone else’s Magento site. Take some time to make the site look like your own. Look at other sites to get a feel for what you like, what you don’t like, and what is most functional and flattering for your own business. For example, why call your wishlist a “wishlist”? Why not come up with a more original name that reflects your business? A jewelry business might call the wishlist a “Jewelry Box”. A bookstore might call their wishlist a “Dream Library”. Do something memorable that will resonate with your users. When setting up a blog (which will require a custom extension), you don’t have to call it a “blog”. A home repair site may call it a “DIY Resource” or a clothing site may call their blog a “Fashion Journal”. Get creative and have fun with it!

7. Create opportunities for user-generated content (UGC).
Include space for review, testimonials, case studies, or even community chat space. Not only does this create valuable content on your site that you don’t have to come up with, user-generated content is some of the most trusted content on the Internet. Users see reviews from other users as more sincere, since in theory they’re not trying to sell people something. (And people can usually detect when someone is trying to sell something in their reviews!)

8. Don’t duplicate content.
We feel this is a really important point to make that not enough people are aware of. Using duplicate content is a common mistake. In an effort to save time, or perhaps because they feel it will be more accurate, companies and web developers will reuse content from other product pages on their own site or from the product descriptions manufacturers provide. Resist the urge to do this, though. Here’s why:

  • Google algorithms don’t look kindly on duplicate content across multiple sites. If they see the same product description, blog, or review in multiple sites, it can actually make your searching rankings go down.
  • If a user sees the same review across different sites, it could make them question the authenticity of the review.
  • Creating fresh content for each page is more likely to be more engaging to your own customers.

So, just as you don’t want to reuse other people’s content, protect the content, reviews, and testimonials on your own site as well.

9. Make sure SEO is built into the structure of your site.
Make sure you have the right keywords from product and service descriptions baked into the pages that house those descriptions. Focus first on your primary queries and make sure those pages are set up right, because they’re your foundation. Then, once you know those are strong, work on setting up secondary queries that are right for your business and build out those pages, too. One of the best ways to make sure your keyword information is always current is to use a tool such as Google Analytics in conjunction with your Magento development. The default module for adding Google Analytics to your Magento website is Google Analytics+ by Fooman. However, there are many analytics modules for Magento ecommerce development that you can explore in order to find the one that’s right for your business model.

10. Understand the many features of Magento – and which ones will benefit you the most.
Magento has scores of features, some of which you’ll need more than others. For example, Magento offers a great way for users to compare similar products. Home Depot uses this on their site. And that makes sense, because they offer dozens of products that have similar features and pricing. Comparing so many similar things can get confusing. If you have a smaller site and don’t offer as many products, you probably don’t need this feature. Take a close look at the features Magento has available. And for the ones you don’t understand, seek a knowledgeable consultant or Magento web developer who can work with you and walk you through the Magento development and customization process.

These are just 10 of the most important things businesses should know about Magento development and customization – the things we think people are most surprised to find out or consider for their own sites when we’re working with them. For more information, a great place to start is with the training resources on Magento’s own site. They offer training courses on everything you could ever want to know about Magento, Magento modules, and Magento extensions. You’re also welcome to contact us at RTS Labs, and we’ll do our best to answer your questions.