Magento web Development: A comprehensive guide for beginners

We are living in a midst of a time where most of the customers purchase the items they desire through an online store. However most of the online stores and their shopping carts run on Magento platform and is the key e-commerce platform that is driving growth and prosperity for businesses in the e-commerce industry. In this tutorial, we will take an in-depth look in to the procedures required for installing, configuring and managing a successful online store using the Magento platform. Each of the pages within the tutorial is explained in such a way so that you will find it easier to find out any information regarding how the products has to be added and configured in addition to how the shipment can be setup and the delivery methods can be followed etc. Other relevant subjects include the ways in which coupon codes can be managed and the procedure to be followed in installing the Magento themes to name among a few.

Features of Magento

Get an insight about the various features on offer by Magento platform

The presence of a large number of user-friendly features makes Magento one of the most sought after e-commerce platform by the online retail businesses. Magento has been successful in making the e-commerce stores a secure and safe shop for doing business by making available different payment engines and shipping options.

Analytics and Reporting – Businesses can have a look at different reports that are made possible through the integrated scripts within Google Analytics.

Product Browsing – Multi-dimensional product views are available along with various other options for reviews and wishlist.

Catalog Browsing – This feature provides seamless navigation, comparison of products and highly advanced product filtering system.

Catalog Management – It features effective management of inventory along with batch import and product export. The tax rates would also differ based on each location.

Customer Accounts – Status of the order that has been placed by the customer, purchase history of the customer, newsletter subscription and shipping address.

Customer Service – Enhanced customer service through personalized and customized order emails, contact us form and comprehensive history and order tracking etc.

Order Management – Orders are generated through admin area, multiple invoices are generated for shipment and also credit memos, order creation option for call center.

Payment – A wide range of options can be included for the customers to do payments. The list of choices include making use of debit cards, credit cards, PayPal, money orders, checks, Google Checkout and Authorize.net etc.

Shipping – Shipping can be done for multiple addresses and flat rate shipping with major shipping companies such as UPS, UPS XML, FedEx and DHL etc.

Checkout – Single page checkout process, checkout without creating an account along with SSL Support etc.

Search Engine Optimization – Enhanced support for SEO aspects with the search engine-friendly design of the online store.

Support for multiple languages and currencies – Enhanced support for multiple languages and currencies of different countries.

Promotional Tools – Discounts, deals and coupons etc.

Site Management – Improved control over multiple websites and multiple languages along with customizable outlook through templates.

Magento Installation

Here is how you can install Magento manually.

  1. Navigate to the official website of Magento website and download the latest installation package.
  2. Make use of an FTP client or cPanel > File Manager for uploading the installation package to the hosting account. Upon successful upload of the installation package, it can be extracted anytime from the cPanel > File Manager.
  3. Generate a MySQL database and make use of cPanel > MySQL Databases for assigning a user in to the MySQL Database.
  4. Finally, proceed with the Magento Installation Process.

This is how we can install Magento in the public_html.

  • Check the box with the caption ‘I agree to the above terms and conditions’ after reading the instructions.
  • Tap the button denoted as ‘Continue’
  • Select the time zone, location and currency prior to clicking the ‘Continue’ button
  • Database details such as Database name, user name and user password credentials has to be entered carefully
  • Check the option denoted as ‘Skip Base URL Validation before next step’ option
  • For proceeding, click on the ‘Continue’ button
  • You will be then directed towards a ‘Create Admin Account’ page wherein you will have to enter the personal information and also the login information. However the encryption key column has to be left empty as the script will create one for you. Again click on the ‘Continue’ button.
  • The created encryption key by the script has to be taken note of since it would be later used by Magento for encrypting the passwords, credit cards as well as any other confidential information.
  • With the above step, the Magento installation has been successfully performed and there are two buttons for navigating to front end or back end. You can choose either ‘Go to Frontend’ or ‘Go to Backend’ as per your requirements.

Addition and Management of Products in Magento Website

Products are an important aspect when it comes to managing an online store. We will discuss how products and images can be included within the Magento other than the ways in which product tags and product attributes can be managed.

Adding Products in Magento

For adding products in Magento;

  • Navigate to Magento Admin Area
  • Click ‘Catalog’
  • Select ‘Manage Products’
  • Click the option denoted as ‘Add Product’ displayed on the right at the top
  • Choose an ‘Attribute Set’ and a ‘Product Type’ before selecting the ‘Continue’ button
  • Fill up the blanks with the details of the products regarding the name, stock keeping unit, weight, status and tax class etc. The ‘Create New Attribute’ option can be used for including additional custom attributes to the product.
  • Click ‘Save and Continue Edit’ option.
  • The next step would include filling in the price of the product. Special Price can also be included.
  • Again click ‘Save and Continue Edit’ which would take you to the next page wherein you will have to add product descriptions.

Adding Images within Products

Including images within the products is a simpler process. Only thing you have to do is to determine the products from the product list for which the images are about to be added. Once the products are shortlisted, the images options can be selected along with selecting the image files by locating the files within the computer using the ‘Browse Files’ option. Then the ‘Upload Files’ option have to be chosen. The radio buttons can be used for labelling the image and the place where you want it to appear. The product image can be the saved using the ‘Save’ button.

Managing the Product Attributes

New attributes can be added by clicking the ‘Create New Attributes’ option. Once the details are filled up, the ‘Save Attribute’ button has to be clicked. The product information can be then stored by clicking the ‘Save’ button. The new product will then have to be assigned to the selected category finally.

Managing Product Tags

Customers can tag products by default in Magento. However you will have to approve the tag before being displayed on the product page. Unless you approve it, the tag would appear as pending.

For tagging a product, the below mentioned steps has to be followed.

  • Navigate to the ‘Add Your Tags’ title
  • Include the tag word within the field below the add your tags title and then click on the option denoted as ‘Add Tags’
  • Now navigate towards the option denoted as ‘Pending Tags’ under Magento admin area > Catalog > Tags
  • Once you click the words entered for tagging, you will be then redirected towards a page where you can again change the status of the tag from ‘Pending’ to ‘Approved’. Finally click the option denoted as ‘Save Tag’

The tag has been approved and customers will be able to take a look at the same within the product page.

Configuring Payment Methods in Magento

Magento offers a wide range of choice for customers when it comes to making payments for the items being purchased from online stores. Customers can make use of debit cards, credit cards, Visa, Master Card, PayPal and Authorize.net etc.

Payment methods can be configured by following the below mentioned steps.

  • Login to the Admin Area
  • Navigate to System > Configuration
  • In Sales, select the option displayed as ‘Payment Methods’

For example, this is how one can enable the credit card payment method. Saved CC section can be configured for this method.

  • The method would be first enabled
  • The title would be entered then
  • New order status would be set
  • Supported credit cards will then have to be selected
  • Choose whether the credit card verification is required or not
  • Define the countries from which the payments have to be accepted
  • Determine and sort where the payment method has to be included within the payment method list comprised of other payment methods too. Thus the credit card payment method can be enabled for your customers.

How to configure shipping methods in Magento?

First thing to do is to login through admin area by following the navigation System > Configuration > Sales > Shipping Methods. But the Shipping settings has to be configured before enabling the Shipping System by following the navigation System > Configuration > Sales > Shipping Settings. The ‘Origin’ section will then have to be expanded. The address of the warehouse from where the shipping is done has to be entered.

By enabling the ‘Allow Shipping to Multiple Addresses’ after expanding the ‘Options’ section; goods from a single order can be shipped to different addresses. It is very useful for customers whenever they want to order something for different individuals and wants it to be delivered for different addresses. The maximum number for which the shipping addresses can be entered has to be defined by the online store vendor in the ‘Maximum Qty Allowed for Shipping to Multiple Addresses’ field.

For example, USPS shipping module can be enabled through the below mentioned steps.

  • Navigate to System > Configuration > Sales > Shipping Methods
  • Navigate to the USPS section
  • Once the shipping method is enabled, Gateway URL and User ID has to be enabled
  • The next option is used for describing the packages based on the size and weight etc
  • Handling fee has to be defined and then the delivery methods has to be selected
  • A free shipping method can also be enabled, but you will have to define the maximum purchase amount that will allow customers to avail the free shipping offers
  • Finally, you can determine the countries where the shipping is supported along with the default error message that should be displayed whenever a service is refused for the customer

Managing Pages in Magento

Users will have to navigate towards the CMS section within the Magento admin area in order to manage the website pages. For editing the pages, you will have to click the Manage Pages link. The page can be edited by clicking the ‘Edit Page’ link and make the required modifications as per your needs. The footer block can be edited using the ‘Static Blocks’ option where as the polls can be created and edited using the ‘Polls’ section. Thus with an efficient and fully-integrated CMS system in place, Magento allows e-commerce stores to add different elements towards their website.

Installation of Magento Themes

For installing a theme, all you have to do first is to select a theme and then open its details page. Once the ‘Install Now’ button is selected, choose the ‘Magento Connect Version’. For receiving the ‘Get Extension Key’ button, you will have to accept the extension license agreement. A visualized view of the extension would be displayed which will help you to select and copy it with ease. Once done, users have to navigate to the Magento Admin Area. Navigate to Magento Connection Manager by clicking System > Magento Connect > Magento Connect Manager. After entering the details regarding Admin Login, the extension key can be pasted within the field next to ‘Paste Extension Key to Install’ option. Once done, click on the ‘Install’ option and then you can return to the Magento Admin Area and navigate to the ‘Themes’ option placed under System > Configuration > Design. The theme name then has to be entered within the Default field before clicking the ‘Save Config’ button. If you feel that the front page is not displaying correctly with the theme, then it might be a problem that occurs due to the number of columns in the home page layout of the new theme. The issue can be fixed by navigating towards CMS > Pages and enable the home page with one column layout and disable the home page with two columns layout.  The front page would be now displayed correctly with the new theme.

Installation of modules and extensions in Magento

Additional modules are automatically installed for the online store with the help of a built-in functionality in Magento. Extension key is what is required for installation and only a few clicks would be required for installing the modules by the script.

For installing additional modules and upgrading the existing modules or extensions, the below mentioned steps has to be followed.

  • Login to the Magento admin area
  • Click System > Magento Connect
  • In Magento Connect, tap the option denoted as ‘Magento Connect Manager’
  • You will have to enter the login details again since a new page would be displayed again for Magento Connect Manager
  • Of the two sections namely ‘Extensions’ and ‘Settings’, you will have to go through and verify the options provided in the Settings Section initially
  • Let all other options in the Settings sections remain with their default values

Three preferred state options namely Stable, Beta and Alpha are responsible in controlling the state of the extensions being installed. Out of the three, the Stable option is the most recommended. It is also desirable to create a backup prior to downloading extensions or extensions upgrades. Once the backup is created, users can go towards the Extensions tab by navigating to Magento Connect Manager. Thus users will be able to browse through the available extensions through Magento Connect. Modules are further differentiated in separate categories along with a search functionality also included in it.

There are free as well as paid extensions which all requires the user to register for getting the extension key while downloading from Magento Connect. Each specific extension will have different instructions. Upon deciding the extension, the Install Now button has to be clicked. Depending upon the Magento version being used, you will have to choose the Magento Connect Version. Click the checkbox ‘I agree to the extension license agreement’ after reading the extension license agreement. Click the option denoted as ‘Get Extension Key’ button. The key then has to be copied and pasted in the Magento Connect Area. Once done, select Install and then choose the ‘Proceed’ option. The new extension will be downloaded and installed automatically.

Using Magento Connect for updating the modules and extensions

For checking the upgrades in Magento extensions, follow the below mentioned steps.

  • Enter your login credentials in the Magento admin area
  • Click System > Magento Connect > Magento Connect Manager
  • Click the option denoted as ‘Check for Upgrades’
  • The upgrades would be checked automatically by the Magento Connect Manager after establishing connection with the Server
  • If an upgrade is available for the extension, a yellow colour would be displayed and users can apply the upgrade to their Magento module
  • For proceeding with the upgrades, ‘Commit Changes’ option has to be clicked upon

The upgrade would be then automatically downloaded as well as applied. The page will then have to be refreshed by clicking the ‘Refresh’ button. Ensure the online store is working properly once the upgrade is done.

How to make use of Magento Widgets?

Magento widgets can be defined as a predefined configuration options based set of Magento extensions. The functionality of the front-end blocks can be enriched by the store administrators using the Magento widgets. Magento store administrators can anytime tune the widget options after installation.

A few examples of Magento Widgets Implementation are as follows.

  • Dynamic lists comprised of items that were recently viewed
  • Promotional images applied on various front-end locations in Magento
  • Action blocks and navigation elements that are interactive
  • Flash elements that are dynamic and which can be easily included within the content pages and can be easily configured too

For installing a widget,

  • Navigate to the Magento Admin Area
  • Then click System > Magento Connect > Magento Connect Manager
  • Once the login details are entered, the extension key has to be pasted in the ‘Paste Extension Key to Install’ field
  • Proceed by clicking the Install button
  • Upon completion of the installation, the widget can be used
  • The widgets can be inserted within the pages by navigating to Magento Admin Area > CMS > Pages
  • Identify and select the page where you want the widget to be included and then click the ‘Insert Widget’ icon located within the Content Section
  • From the drop-down menu within the new window, select the ‘Widget’ type
  • Finally, click on the ‘Insert Widget’ button and the widget would be inserted
  • Click on the ‘Save Page’ button located within the Magento administrator area
  • Finally ensure the widget is being displayed properly by checking the front-end

Enabling Magento in to Maintenance Mode

There would be circumstances wherein you would like to inform your site visitors that you are working on your website. Mainly two steps needs to be performed.

  • Generate an empty maintenance.flag file
  • Uploading towards the root folder of the website

It has to be taken note that you will not be able to access the front-end whenever the maintenance mode is enabled

Easily Setup Magento with SSL

Private SSL certificate can be considered as a very important upgrade for the website. SSL has an important role in encrypting all sort of communication between the browser as well as server. In addition it, SSL also ensures the data passes through a secure HTTPS connection. Having an SSL certificate is very important especially in online stores wherein the customer data has to be processed securely through the software. This helps in increasing the trust of the customers as well as improves the search engine rankings of the website.

For configuring Magento in working with your SSL Certificate, the below mentioned steps has to be followed.

  • Login to the Admin area
  • Navigate to System > Configuration
  • Navigate towards the left menu and click on the Web link that is located under the ‘General’ tab
  • Click on the ‘Secure’ tab
  • Check to ‘Yes’ the options ‘Use Secure URLs in Frontend’ and ‘Use Secure URLs in Admin’
  • Now the Magento application functions perfectly with the SSL for those parts of the online store

Pros and Cons of Magento

Magento has the reputation of being one of the most popular e-commerce platforms among businesses. It is widely known for its robust, scalable and flexible characteristics. However like most of the shopping carts, Magento also has its benefits and drawbacks.

Benefits of Magento

  • Everyone can make use of Magento because of its open source characteristics.
  • Enhance and harness the potential of Magento platform with the availability of free and paid Magento extensions.
  • It is very powerful at the same time effective also. Thanks to the seamless way in which it handles the code re-use, debugging, maintainability and support etc.
  • Proper and organized handling of concepts by Magento.
  • Several extensions by Magento available for the future growth of the online store.

Drawbacks of Magento

  • Most of the users are complaining about Magento to be relatively slower compared to other e-commerce solutions. This is because codebase in Magento is written in PHP.
  • A proper budget should be put in place as Magento is comprised of a complex system that is not very user-friendly to work with.
  • An efficient hosting environment along with a store management is required for running Magento. Users will face speed related issues if the hosting environment is not set up properly.
  • As it is an intensive resource, considerable space and memory is required.
  • Safe mode has to be used during installation as the installation process is not as intuitive as in the admin area.

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