Magento is a powerful e-commerce platform, and like any other type of site, it requires using multiple extensions and modules to provide the full online shopping experience. These products cover fundamental aspects, such as adding shipping restrictions, to more sophisticated offerings, such as building and managing a customer loyalty program. If you want your site to succeed, it is well worth your time to explore your options here.
How do you begin navigating this process? You need to determine which extensions would be the right fit for your site and your needs. You need to know whether or not you are ready to add extensions and modules to your site. Once you are ready to start shopping, you need to find the best options. There are literally thousands of extensions to choose from on the Adobe marketplace, let alone the numerous private developers with their own product suites.
In this post we’ll discuss steps we recommend to prepare for adding extensions and modules to your Magento store front and how to begin identifying, buying, and adapting them to your needs.
Module Vs Extension
First, a quick explainer of these terms. You may see them used interchangeably, and for the most part, this doesn’t cause issues. However, it can be useful to separate them in a couple of ways. Extension most often refers to off-the-shelf options that add to the functionality of your site. They are usually easy to install and manage and require minimal customization. Modules are more likely to be custom coding. This can range from building an extension that you aren’t finding on most marketplaces to simply adapting an existing solution to work on your site.
Is Your Site Up To Date?
Before you go looking for extensions, you should be clear about what version of Magento you are using, and whether or not you need to upgrade to the latest version. We always recommend staying up to date with the latest version of the Magento platform. This ensures you have the most up-to-date security on your site. It also means you are less likely to have functionality issues, and will have an easier time finding extensions that will work right away. More often than not, when extensions don’t function as intended, it’s because there is a version disagreement.
Is Your Site Secure?
This is related to the question about your Magento version, but includes an additional aspect. Managing your security vulnerabilities is about more than just managing your core code and internal processes. Most security vulnerabilities are introduced by not vetting and reviewing third-party services. Lets say you would like to add a form to your website for customers to contact you. How does that form work? Does it allow for customers to submit links? Where is the form hosted? How does it interact with your site? Once you’ve found a form that seems to work the way you want, how do you know the developer is reliable? Is the developer responsible about keeping their extension up to date with the latest security needs? Even if you take every care to ensure that your site has the latest protections, a poorly maintained extension can add an angle of attack you don’t anticipate.
Finding the right extension
Once you’ve completed a review of your site and determine you are up-to-date, secure, and ready for new extensions, you need to determine what kind of extensions you need. This can seem overwhelming, but there’s a simple way to approach this process.
Think of it as you would any other strategic decision that you make for your business. Consider questions like these:
- What kind of problem are you trying to solve with this extension?
- What opportunities do you see for your business that an extension might help you seize?
- What can you afford?
- What internal processes do you have or would you need to create to support the use of this extension?
- How will this change the customer experience?
For example, let’s say that you want to implement a customer loyalty program. An extension like Amasty’s Loyalty Program for Magento 2 may seem like a good option. You see an opportunity for this because you find that you are experiencing some customer churn and you believe exclusive discounts may reduce this. The annual cost is within your budget, and you have run the numbers and determined that even a minor reduction in customer churn would be well worth the cost. You already offer special discounts but don’t have the best method for communicating them or tracking their use. Your customers will need to go through a simple process of signing up for the program, which you are prepared to walk them through.
As you can see, in this instance, choosing a module made by a reliable developer is a decision that can be made confidently when you understand the needs and capabilities of your business. However, there is one final step to consider when choosing an extension.
Off-the-shelf vs Custom
Extensions are built with the goal of being usable with little to no adaptation, but it is often not that simple. Every storefront is a little bit different, and you may have implemented lots of adjustments to get your store working exactly the way you want. Chances are, you will need to do at least a little coding to make a new extension work. The more complicated your site or business, the more coding you will need. In extreme cases, you may need to build an extension from scratch.
Of course, whether or not you can do that depends on your capabilities. Do you have the technical skills on staff or through a partner that you need to heavily modify an extension you want to use? What upkeep will that modified extension require? Premium extensions can be expensive, but you must weigh the cost of that vs the cost of extensive custom coding. This will also require a thorough understanding of your business processes to know where custom work will be required.
Good Developers are Key for Adding Extensions
As you can see, there are some clear steps that everyone should take when looking for extensions to add to your storefront. They are powerful tools, but they still require good information and ongoing support to be most effective.
Our team has extensive experience helping our customers understand how to choose extensions, adapt them, and get the most out of them. We also help ensure that extensions don’t create new vulnerabilities or hamper your business in unexpected ways.
If you’d like to discuss what extensions you were considering and how best to get them going, we’d love to meet with you.