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GUEST COMMENT Developing an ecommerce store with Magento: should you wait for version 2.0?

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Magento has been growing in popularity for a number of years and continues to go from strength to strength as the ecommerce platform choice for a wide variety of online businesses and internet retailers.

It’s easily adaptable and completely flexible for a multitude of products and business needs, and is at the cutting edge of responsive web design and multiple system integrations.

As a result of being at the forefront of ecommerce technology and design, the team at Magento are currently hard at work developing a brand new version of the platform, version 2.0, the first full re-imagining of Magento since its initial release in 2008.

It promises to be an evolved and refreshed platform, and is generating a lot of buzz in the industry at the moment about its potential. But as a merchant, you might be thinking, ‘where does that leave Magento 1.9.1?’

If you’re planning on upgrading your current store or launching a new one in the next few months, the big question is whether or not you should develop on the existing platform, or wait for release of the new version.

Why choose Magento now?

It’s important to make clear that the current version of Magento is by no means ‘old’. Developing an ecommerce store on this platform would certainly not mean you were using an outdated and soon-to-be-defunct web design and product system. Magento 1.9.1 has been an extremely popular and stable version since November 2014, and is still the preferred choice of many merchants.

It features:

• jQuery as standard, so JavaScript libraries should function without any problems

• A default responsive theme, so your site won’t be behind the times when viewed on mobile devices

• Lots of plugin extensions with proven stability, help and support

• An active community forum, so if you do run into any trouble, the chances are someone there has either experienced the issue themselves or knows exactly how to help

Magento have also indicated that 1.x versions of the platform will be fully supported with security patches for at least three years after the release of 2.0, and most developers and web design companies will likely follow suit.

There will also be a data upgrade path available for existing Magento users to migrate their ecommerce store from 1.9.1 to 2.0, so porting products across to a newer version shouldn’t be a problem.

The limitations of version 1.9.1

Of course, when something new is released attention often shifts to the latest product, and old versions can get left behind. This may happen once Magento 2.0 is fully released, as developers instead focus on all the new features they can take advantage of.

And whilst there is a data upgrade path, there isn’t currently one for modules, which is why Magento have recently offers a $5000 prize to any developer who creates a tool for conversion. No theme upgrade process exists at the moment either.

As technologies develop too, version 1.9.1 will fall behind with its outdated technology stack – one of the reasons behind the development of 2.0. And as mobile devices continue to be a big factor in online purchases, the responsive theme of the current version may not stand up to the true mobile first experience promised by 2.0.

The benefits of waiting

That’s perhaps one of the main reasons that businesses might want to wait for Magento 2.0 to develop a new ecommerce store. Mobile devices are a big focus with a fully responsive experience. If you have a high proportion of customers using phones and tablets then this is great news.

The new technology stacks include PHP and MySQL, which should mean faster loading and processing times and an assurance that your site will be futureproof. More efficient indexing processes will benefit those stores with large catalogues, and the new UI library and use of CSS Pre-processors should make customising Views a lot easier and quicker.

There’s also been an announcement of a Magento Testing Framework, which will mean developers can test code more reliably than ever and produce better quality modules for businesses to take advantage of.

Other than that, we’re actually still waiting for more news on the features of the new Magento.

The downsides of newer versions

With any new platform, you’ll initially be in untested waters. Magento will undoubtedly perform rigorous testing themselves, but ultimately all new codes and features will be unproven.

That means there could well be teething issues to contend with.

And because not much is known about the development, with only a beta version currently available, many extensions will not be ready at launch as the development companies behind them won’t fully know what they’re dealing with.

Whilst many developers have lots of experience with Magento 1.x the new version promises to be a learning curve for everyone.

And the fact remains that 2.0 is not ready yet. The official plan from Magento is to release it before the end of 2015, but that’s still a few months to wait before you can actually get the ball rolling.

Start now or wait a while longer?

There’s no easy answer to whether you should build or migrate an ecommerce store to Magento 1.9.1 now, or whether you should wait until 2.0 is ready to go. It all depends on the needs of your business and your current circumstances.

Magento 1.x isn’t going anywhere. It will be supported by Magento themselves, extension developers and the wider community for quite some time. A good few years at the very least.

Magento 2.0 is sounding very exciting, but there are almost certainly going to be some teething issues, and it could take a year for these to be fully ironed out. You should also allow time for extension developers to close the plugin gap on the new version too.

But, if you want the development of the new version to directly meet the needs of your ecommerce store (if you’re a large, specialist online business for example) then you might want to consider upgrading early and feeding back on the process to have some influence.

If you want stability though, Magento 1.9.1 is for you, and you should consider waiting a while before upgrading to 2.0.

For most small to medium sized projects, building in 1.9.1 is a no brainer. Larger projects though should weigh up all the pros and cons listed above, before deciding whether it would be worth waiting and starting a build in the new version of Magento.

Nick Pinson is the director at iWeb Solutions

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