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May 20, 2013

Five Pitfalls to Avoid While Installing Magento Themes or Extensions

Magento is a developer’s delight. Developers can give vent to their imagination and see it coming to life with the use of all the themes and extensions available for this open source eCommerce platform. Add to that, the ever increasing developers’ community that is always coming up with new updates, plug-ins, modules, themes and extensions for Magento and you have a development ecosystem that is creative, future proofed and results focused.

But, this doesn’t mean that you won’t make mistakes; developing a website, however good the platform may be, is never easy. Of course, as a developer, your expertise and experience of handling the process of web development does come into play to determine if you find developing a website a challenging experience or something that is easy enough.

This article is not about the difficulty or the ease of development, however, but about the pitfalls one needs to avoid while installing Magento themes or extensions. Let’s take a closer look at these pitfalls:

1. The Wrong Choice of Themes and Extensions

In most cases, the success or failure of a Magento site is determined in the initial stages itself, right when the developers choose the theme or extension of the site. The pitfall to be avoided here is choosing the wrong theme or extension. It is easy to go wrong if you are swayed by your client’s brief that calls for a visually striking theme.

The question is, who knows more about what makes for a successful shopping site when it comes to features and functionalities — developer or the client? I think it’s the developers who understand what works and what doesn’t, provided they are experienced and experts in website development.

By focusing too much on the looks when you choose themes, you might be ignoring the fundamental factor that ensures website success — usability. Also, at times, developers can choose a theme that doesn’t fit the purpose of the website or the products being sold. Don’t go overboard in choosing extensions that don’t suit the purpose of the website.

Making the right choice is crucial — choosing the wrong theme or extension will mean you lose the plot even before starting the actual process of development.

2. Not Consulting your Hosting Provider

Discuss the modules/extensions/theme installation you are considering for your Magento website with your provider. By keeping them in the loop, you will ensure the Magento experience you create can actually be supported by the hosting provider. Before zeroing in on the hosting solution provider for your site, make sure you have an idea of what your site is going to look like, the kind of theme you want and the extensions you want installed. This will help you give your hosting solutions provider an idea about the scope and scale of your website which, in turn, enables the provider to offer a hosting solution that helps you administer a seamlessly performing website. Also, in case you are suffering from certain technical or non-technical issues with respect to installation, there is a very good chance the provider will be able to help you out.

Not consulting with your hosting provider leads to all sorts of problems, especially those related to the stability of your site and the overall user experience it provides customers.

3. Not following the Installation Guide to the Letter

You will be surprised to hear this, but it’s true nonetheless: there are some developers who don’t follow installation guidelines. Now, I know the question that is at the top of your minds is “why?” Well, that’s what I wondered too and, although I am don’t have a definite answer yet, I believe these developers are either inexperienced or over-confident. But whatever the reason for not following the installation guides that are available with the themes or extensions, there is no doubt they are making a critical error. Chances are, going about the installation the wrong way will lead to code-related issues that, in turn, will lead to user experience problems later on. Another pitfall? Not cleaning up the sessions and cache before installing extensions.

4. Version Incompatibility

This is a simple and common enough mistake made by developers, and usually happens to those who are not paying attention. If you come across a theme or an extension you believe is a perfect fit for the objective of your site, check its version compatibility. You don’t want to end up in a situation where the extension of the theme doesn’t execute smoothly because it isn’t compatible with the version of Magento that you are using. So don’t fall into this pitfall and choose your themes and extensions with care and attention.

5. Not understanding the Extension or Theme

Always understand what the extension or theme brings to the table, before using it.

There are some who are so taken in by the looks of a theme, they fail to analyze it for UX and its shopping friendliness. There are others who read only the name of the extension before choosing it — they don’t bother to find out how it will help the site or if it is the kind of extension they are looking for.

This is yet another pitfall that needs to be avoided.

End Note

It’s important to read up on the experiences of other developers who have developed a Magento site or, better still, talk to them if possible. This will give you clarity on the ins and outs of installing Magento themes or extensions and help you avoid mistakes.

Aanya Dsouza works for Rightway Solution Corp. Rightway Solution offers Magento Web development service supplier around the globe. Aanya has a passion for Internet technology, Web development, eCommerce and software and always loves free and open source software.