Magento is a feature-rich, professional open source e-commerce solution that offers merchants complete flexibility and control over the look, content, and functionality of their online store.
Magento’s powerful marketing search engine optimization and catalog management tools give merchants the power to create ecommerce sites that are tailored to their unique business needs. Magento is distributed free under the
GNU General Public License OSL license.
Magento is a registered trademark of Irubin Consulting Inc. DBA Varien. It is currently listed as in a preview release mode and not recommended for use in production environments. There are articles written by community members who have tried this new program and available for your benefit at http://www.magentocommerce.com/wiki/
Is this software compatible with your server?
Megento can be used on any server that is Linux or UNIX based. It can be run on a Windows based platform but at the moment there are some known issues that are being worked on and it may cause some conflicts, although, there are some documents on the main site to help. You can find some guidelines here
One of the known issues is the image uploads do not work in Windows.
This system is a Linux based software program and was designed with ease of install on a Linux based platform that has PHP 5 installed. This software is a PHP 5 only application and may cause issues if your system only supports PHP 4, although there is a work around solution found here
If you do not have any programming knowledge or skills, this system may not be suitable for you unless you have a technical support team who can assist you.
The server requirements for this software are:
- Linux or another UNIX-compatible operating system
- Apache web server (1x or 2x)
- PHP 5.2
- MySQL 4.1
- A sendmail- compatible Mail Transfer Agent (MTA)- if not Megento connects to SMTP server.
Also recommended is the use of APC as a bytecode cache for performance improvements. You can find it in the PECL archives here: http://pecl.php.net/package/APC
Other bytecode cache systems are not supported at this time.
Getting Your Store Installed and Online
You will need to manually install this software on your server by the use of an FTP client such as Filezilla or SmartFTP. You can download the Magento ecommerce software from here http://www.magentocommerce.com/download
You will need to unzip the folder. If you are using Windows XP you can just right click on the folder and choose the unzip option. Often times if you just double click the folder it will unzip as well. If you are not using Windows XP you can find a zip utility for free such as Winzip.
You will want to transfer/upload your extracted Magento folder from your desktop to your hosting account. An FTP client enables you to transfer large amounts of files quickly and directly into where you would like it to be on your hosting server without any long time manual hassles of uploading each file alone. I find Filezilla www.filezilla-project.org is quite an easy to use FTP client.
Once you have entered you host address, username, and password (all things that should have been in your welcome email when you signed up with your hosting account), the FTP client connects your computer directly to your server.
Depending on what hosting company you are with, your files might be listed under www. or public-html. Drag the Magento folder with your mouse to the left hand side and drop it in the proper folder on your right where you would need it to be .
Since this is a rather large program, I highly recommend, if you find that you are having any difficulties transferring the complete files and folders, you may want to see if you can transfer the zipped program and extract the files once they are on your server.
Once you have the extracted files on your server, you will need to create a MySQL database. You can find the icon in your cPanel control panel such as the following picture shows.
In order to create a new database all you need to do is enter the desired name for the database in the New Database field, then click the [Create Database] button.
You will also have to create a username; this is so you will have access to the database. You should see the option underneath for name and password:
Then go to the next option and make sure you add the username to your database, and checking to make sure all privileges are given.
You will need to set permission (CHMOD settings), for the following files to 777:
- and all directories under magento/media
Once you have set your permissions you will want to open a new browser window and type in the address for the Magento Installation Wizard.
Most configurations in the setup wizard will be automatically guessed for you, you may need to change things as needed (country, currency, etc.)You do need to change the database parameters in the first box “Database Connection” to match those of the database you set up earlier.
There are a lot of errors associated with this setup. I was receiving error such as SQLSTATE  Access denied for user ‘o0o0o0o0o’@'localhost’ (using password: YES) Database connection error
After checking to see what could be wrong with the username, I created another one to see if that would help. That was a solution on the Magento forum. It did not help. So, I created another database and username for magento to try again.
This install wizard may not have the correct settings for your local host. Always make sure to contact your hosting administrator if you do not know exactly what the host name may be.
If you encounter any other errors you can review the answers on the forum here http://www.magentocommerce.com/boards/viewforum/9/
Or you can review the topics listed in the knowledge base http://www.magentocommerce.com/knowledge-base
This software is still in it’s early stages, so if you encounter an error you do not find an answer for, the Magento team would really appreciate your posting the question to aid in their research and testing to come out with a newer and more improved version with less installation bugs.
Using Your Magento Control Panel to setup your Store Properties
When you have successfully installed your software you will be able to access the admin section and setup your product list and set all attributes as needed.
When setting up your products, you will see a screen shot such as the one below.
You will be able to enter the name, description, assign an SKU, price, weight, manufacturer, page title, and meta keywords so you can optimize for search engine crawls.
When your products have all been added you can see them in the admin catalog section such as the picture below.
This will be able to inform you of what products are selling as well as any other stats you would like to track.
Another feature that is very nice due to the extra income that can be generated is the cross sell feature. This is a feature that posts other related products you have on a page to entice a buyer to buy the extra product to go with the one they have already chosen. A lot of people are willing to buy additional items if they are right there in front of them instead of having to think and go searching for something related.
Here is a screenshot of what the cross-sell feature set up looks like:
The Magento software has few templates available right now since they are only in the beginning stages of development. If you are PHP knowledgeable, you may be able to change the configurations or add new images to the existing templates as they are given.
The following is a picture of the main home page of a demo store developed.
Notice how clear the graphics are. I have found with some ecommerce software I have used one of the disadvantages were the inability to maintain a fresh clear graphic overlay to compete with the bigger companies such as Walmart, Zellers, or any other big company you may have in your own country.
The products page when displayed to the customer is a condensed yet fully detailed layout of the product with a simple description box and even a rating system to inform the customer on other buyer’s opinion of the product.
The following is a screenshot of an average product for sale.
Comparisons with other Ecommerce software
This software has many features to boast over other software such as single page checkout, ability to ship to multiple addresses from one order, advanced marketing tools with search engine optimization features. With the ability to control multiple sites and stores from one control panel, one click upgrades, ability to take orders over the phone, the ability for a customer to place an order without creating a customer account if they do not want to, and many more marketing and promotional tools such as search engine friendly urls, upsells, cross-sells, RSS feeds for new products, and auto-generated sitemaps.
This software does not have the ability for digital downloads, as other ecommerce sites do such as osCommerce, Cube Cart, and Zencart. The Magento software is for physical products.
This software program is hard to install and many may have problems with the configurations. Other programs such as Cube Cart and Zencart are installed with a few easy configurations.
I have not been able to locate any plugins or extensions for the Magento software as it is meant for an enterprise level ecommerce solution and therefore incorporates everything with the ease of an update feature.
For a list of templates or add-ons you can incorporate you can visit the following site. This directory contains links to websites that are currently working with the Magento team to add an even more advanced opportunity for the user www.mgosites.com
I find that for the small business owner who would like to do most of the work himself with a limited background in programming, this software is not suitable for them. This software is meant for a larger based organization who may have multiple stores and need an easy to use system to incorporate all of the combined stores attributes.
This software is still in its growing stages, and there needs to be more upgrades before all the bugs will be worked out.
I would recommend that any individual or small business owner who would like to be able to install and configure settings for a store for digital or physical products, would best be more comfortable using a software program such as osCommerce, Cube Cart or Zencart.
Melanie Bremner has been running an online business teaching software programs to new beginners for the last 6 years. She creates lesson plans with easy to follow instructions in which she teaches to her students in an online classroom for which anyone globally can participate. She is presently living in Toronto, Canada.