Magento Extensions are add-ons for Magento that extend or change its basic functionality. There are thousands of extensions already available for Magento, and almost every simple use-case has already been covered. However, if your ecommerce needs are more specialized then you may need to write your own custom Magento plugin. Here are a few resources that will help you get started on the road to Magento Extension development.
Magento’s Official Extension Pages
The official Magento website is a treasure-trove of information relating to extension development. The site offers advice for how to build-in compatibility for Magento connect if you wish to share your extension with other users, and how to optimize your extensions for best performance. It also offers a range of tools to make creating and sharing extensions easier.
T.Wits.sg Development Page
If you’re an experienced developer then the articles offered by T.Wits.sg should be very useful to you. The blog has not been updated for quite a while, but much of the information offered is still valid and useful to new Magento developers.
Alan Storm’s Blog
Alan Storm is a professional web developer who has a lot of experience working with Magento, Druopal, Python, WebOS and AppleScrip. His series of articles on Magento development includes a useful explanation of Magento’s configuration, the request system, the Magento API, and more. He even offers solutions for common bugs and browser compatibility issues.
Magento Page Request Flow
This large flowchart shows the page request flow that takes place every time visitors view one of the pages on your Magento website. This request flow is broken in to View and Model sections. It is important that you understand what happens at each point in the workflow before you attempt to build an extension.
Magento is a great ecommerce solution, but out of the box it offers a rather bland shopping experience. Here is a list of a few of the best premium Magento extensions for building a successful, feature rich and professional looking ecommerce website.
1. One Step Checkout
Fast and easy to use checkouts are a must-have today. Shoppers are accustomed to smooth and convenient shopping experiences thanks to Amazon’s one-click system and similar offering by other popular online stores. The One-Step Checkout extension, which costs just $85, allows you to add similar features to your website.
2. Media Gallery and Product Videos
The premium Media Gallery Extension for Magento allows you to add product showcase videos, galleries and other media to your product pages. You can add multiple videos to one product, allowing you to show testimonials, unboxing videos, advertisements and tutorials if you wish. This extension costs $85, but makes your website look incredibly professional.
3. Advance FAQ Management
Advance FAQ Management is a MAgento extension produced by FME. This extension allows you to add to and edit FAQs, and allows your users to search those FAQs for answers to their questions. The extension costs $59, and is far more feature-rich and flexible than most equivalent free offerings.
4. Enquiries Management
The Enquiries Management extension allows your customers to send messages to you enquiring about specific products. You can then respond to those queries. This extension is useful if you sell bespoke products, clothing, or expensive items that users may want to learn more about before purchasing.
There are thousands of other Magento extensions available, including ones for SEO, Media, testimonials and even niche specific extensions for selling products by size, area or weight. You can make Magento do almost anything you could possibly imagine.
Magento is a free and open source eCommerce platform, and like most other popular open source platforms, it has a huge library of extensions available for it – some free, some paid.
If you’re a small business owner on a budget, then it may be tempting to stick to using free Magento extensions to build your store. It’s certainly possible to do this – many of the free extensions are well made, feature rich, and flexible, but there are benefits to purchasing extensions in many cases.
You Are Paying for More than Code
When you purchase a paid-for extension, you get more than just code for your money. Many extension developers offer installation services (sometimes for a nominal extra fee). You also get technical support to setup Magento extension, bug fixes and patches for a given period after the purchase.
If you download a free extension, you’ll have to install it yourself (or pay to professional programmer to do it). You will get updates – if the developer chooses to update the package, but you have no guarantee that your questions will be answered or that any bugs you report will be fixed. If the extension doesn’t work with your server software, or doesn’t play nice with other extensions then you are on your own.
Professional extension developers make their living by producing plugins. It’s in their best interests to stay up-to-date with the latest Magento releases, patch issues and pay attention to their users.
Making Your Site Unique
One of the biggest problems with using free themes and extensions is that you end up with a website that looks exactly the same as thousands of other sites out there. If you’re selling an expensive product and need to inspire trust in your customers then this is not a good thing! Paid extensions have a smaller user base, so your site will appear more professional and look less like a turnkey store.
When you install Magento for the first time, it’s easy to be overwhelmed by the admin panel. Even out-of-the-box, Magento has a stunning array of features and it takes people some time to get used to it. At first, you may find yourself wondering why anyone would want to add even more plugins! It is well worth learning how to use Magento Extension.
Assessing Your Needs
Some people make the mistake of installing every “must have” extension, whether they need it or not. This is a mistake because each extension adds extra complexity and performance overhead to your site. The more you have running on your site, the more can go wrong.
Before installing an extension, think about what you need it for. Some extensions, such as SEO ones, are well worth having on any site – but others, such as light-boxes, video feeds, programming tests and one-step checkouts may not always be necessary.
Avoiding Extension Overload
When you are designing your eCommerce site, think about what it is that you want your site to do, and map out the full purchasing experience for your visitors. Try to make the shopping experience as close to your goal as you can, without using extensions. Test your shopping cart in its stock form and make a note of things that are missing. Track the conversion rate of the site in its stock form.
Once you have a few week’s worth of data, start adding features to the site and tracking what they do to the conversion rate. You may be surprised at the effects that some extensions have. Not all demographics appreciate flashy shopping carts or one-click purchases. Expanding your site gradually over time will give you the opportunity to get to know your demographics and figure out how to improve your conversion rate.
Magento is a free and open source ecommerce platform based on the Zend Framework. It has a large and active community of users, and it is easy to modify or extend its functionality via extensions which usually follow top trends in web design. Here is a quick look at some of the best free Magento extensions.
1. Fooman Google Analytics Plus
Every website owner should watch their Google Analytics carefully. This extension enables you to know exactly what is going on with your website. It allows you to track every single page, track secondary profiles, and access detailed information about user paths on your website quickly and easily.
2. Canonical URLs for Magento.
This extension was created by Yoast and is a must-have SEO extension for Magento users. The extension is quite simple – it adds canonical links to the head of your pages. This one change can make a big difference to your search rankings, however.
3. Bouncing Orange TinyMCE
The Bouncing orange TinyMCE WYSIWYG editor is a fast, lightweight and easy to use editor which is highly configurable. If you’re looking for a good editor that does not require programming knowledge to set up, then you should definitely give this one a look.
4. Checkout Newsletter
This clever extension adds a “Sign up for our newsletter” option to the OnePage Checkout. Sending out a regular newsletter to former customers is a great way to increase customer retention. There are a few formatting issues with this extension on some popular templates, but the issues are easy to fix if you have some basic coding knowledge.
5. Magento EasyLightbox
Add professional looking lightboxes to your product pages with this simple and easy to use extension. Magento Easy Lightbox is free and open source, and requires no coding experience to install.