The Internet is not only means of communicating with people from all over the world, sharing experiences and obtaining new information - it is also a perfect business opportunity. And the most common way to earn money on the web is online shopping. Online stores sell by far more goods and services than the physical ones. It comes as no surprise considering that they can be visited by thousands and even millions of people daily, and that they're open 24/7, even on weekends and bank holidays.
CMS Magento offers you a great opportunity to set up your own online store at minimum cost. Creating the store website, filling it with content, managing and maintaining your store, adding new products, launching promotion campaigns, and much more – with Magento you'll be able to perform it all by yourself, no programming skills required.
Magento has a clear advantage over other open source CMS: it can support several online stores at once. Bear in mind, however, that with the free version you can control only one store, while the premium version allows you to manage multiple stores linked to different URLs, changing the settings and updating product catalogues for all of them simultaneously. But not to worry: due to the platform's high flexibility, even if you initially install the free version, you can extend the configuration later on, as your business grows and the need to expand arises.
Next, you need to decide on the template for your future online store. Templates (or themes) determine the website design and functionality. In other words, it's the interior of your store, the environment with which the potential buyers will interact. Usually when you choose a certain interface, the system will automatically install the default theme for it. You can then upload another theme compatible with the given interface, or create a unique personalized theme and add it to the default interface configuration. On top of that, CMS Magento eCommerce provides you with the option of incorporating several themes that are to be displayed during certain periods. For instance, if you decide to have a Christmas sale or a summer sale and want a fresh temporary design to reflect it, all you have to do is upload several images and update a few CSS.
Another thing you will have to decide is whether you want a free template or a premium one. Using a free template means that you can start your business without making any substantial investments, but you still will have to purchase some extensions to expand your website's functionality later on, when your store starts attracting more visitors and transactions. Premium templates have much wider functionality compared to the free ones. And, what is more, buying a premium template guarantees that your website will have a unique design and interface, as all the premium templates are exclusive - once you've purchased yours, no one else can get it.
Uploading a Magento theme
Uploading a new template can take 5-10 minutes of your time, depending on the speed of your Internet connection. The template archive can be downloaded from our website. There are two methods for uploading a new theme that is different from the default
- 1.) Extract the template archive into the website root directory.
- The archive has the “app” and “skin” folders. The website root directory also has the folders of the same name, so the files of your new theme will simply merge to them. Log in to admin area and on the admin panel on top click "System"-> "Design", and then press the "Add Design Change" button on the appeared screen. Select the template you've just installed from the drop-down "Custom Design" menu. Then pick the dates at the "Date From" and "Date To" fields to specify the period during which you want the theme to be displayed, and click "Save". The new changes will be applied to the website starting from the date you've picked. This method is suitable when you need to change the theme for some occasion, such as a Christmas sale.
- 2.) There is a different way to set a new permanent theme for your Magento-based online store
- On the admin panel click "System"->"Configuration", and then press the "Design" button on the sidebar on the left. At the appeared menu open the "Package" tab and select the theme that you want to upload on the website from the "Current package name" field
Templates determine the website functionality and the degree to which it can be extended through free and premium add-ons. Choosing the right template is crucial for the success of your online business.
When Magento was just at the development phase, it fell under a storm of criticism, pretty much like any other emerging free CMS does. Critics claimed that the platform is slow and clumsy, that it takes up too many resources, that it's not attuned to the current trends of e-commerce sector, and that the free configuration has very low functionality. But given that the platform is still new and that its forte is medium and large-scale projects, not many developers had the chance to fully examine all the features and potential of Magento and personally experience its high usability, so most negative comments about it are completely unfounded. The truth is, once you get to know this platform, it's hard to deny how powerful, multi-purpose and cost-effective it is.
Now Magento is rapidly gaining popularity: more and more people are choosing it for their online business and they are not left disappointed.
Terms of distribution
CMS Magento is generally distributed as an open source software, but in reality it is not entirely free. There is a free version available on the official website, and it does have a rather wide range of useful features, which would be sufficient to build an average-sized online store. Nonetheless, the free version of Magento is hardly different from any other open-source CMS. The premium version, on the other hand, can fulfil any development needs. It has countless modules, add-ons and extensions that can make the platform super-multi-functional and take care of all the tedious manual operations. And its principal extra feature is the possibility to control multiple stores from one admin panel.
As was mentioned above, even the free version of CMS Magento has quite an extensive set of functions and useful perks. The platform offers a great variety of design and product classification options to make your store catalogue as informative and as attractive as possible. Products can be broken into categories and subcategories, marked with tags and filtered by category. There is also an option of searching or comparing products based on certain characteristics. But most importantly, all the items and their description can be imported into the system from a pre-existent product catalogue, thus sparing you all the time and effort of filling them in manually.
As for the layout solutions, each product section can include a number of images and an extra space for filling in all the necessary technical specifications. Also, each product can be linked to a number of similar or related products, so that they can be auto-suggested to the customers. The catalogue can display not only information on the current availability of each product, but even the exact number of items left in stock.
The platform also features a complex order placement system consisting of five stages, and a shopping basket.
Control and administration
CMS Magento features two independent areas: clear, attractive and accessible customer area and a complex restricted administrator area.
Magento's admin panel is highly sophisticated, and learning all its ins and outs can take quite a while. But the platform's most impressive functionality and flexibility totally make up for it. Administration panel can perform a vast number of functions, including
- import/export of products
- managing mailing lists
- monitoring user content
- collecting and processing statistical data
- generating reports for different product categories and subcategories
Admittedly, the admin area interface can appear discouraging at first, but you'll get used to it pretty soon. Besides, it does have some handy gadgets, such as a flash uploader that can upload multiple images to your website at once. And if you have several online stores built on Magento, you can manage them simultaneously from one central admin panel.
If your target market is limited to a single country, and your store only requires a monolingual interface, you probably will have no need in a platform like Magento with all its numerous functions and complex admin settings. But if you aim for international sales and visitors from all over the world, Magento is your best option.
Also, if you want to expand your online store's target audience from one country to two or more, CMS Magento will greatly facilitate this process. For instance, you can change the settings so that previously uploaded products and their specifications can be displayed in other stores as well. Localization process will also run very smoothly and effortlessly. You can start optimizing your store for multiple countries right away - all you have to do is install the necessary module.
Magento is an incredibly flexible and adjustable platform. Its open source code gives you freedom of choice in regard to your working arrangements. You can either cooperate with professional developers or just purchase ready-made premium modules and extensions for yourself. Although if you haven't worked with systems based on Zend Framework before, you will definitely need the help of a developer to configure your website.
Since it is built on Zend Framework, Magento does take up quite a lot of resources. Consequently, if you use a free hosting, your website is likely to slow down even if the number of daily visitors is just about 15. But with a decent hosting plan, your website will work like clockwork, even when it attracts over 300 visitors per day. Magento excels at providing comprehensive marketing tools and customer service solutions. Even if you struggle with the website's internal configuration and adjustment, your efforts will be paid off in full by the remarkable external results: your customers are bound to be impressed with this fresh, user-friendly, reliable and inviting online store.