How To Find The Best Magento Extensions

Blog, eCommerce Operations

GUEST POST BY ROBERT RAND, VP OF OPERATIONS, RAND MARKETING

One of the main reasons that so many businesses choose Magento as their eCommerce platform is the wide range of extensions available to add additional features and functionalities to your online storefront, or to connect it with other systems. On the other hand, many Magento website owners have experienced extensions that don’t work out. Sometimes, this is because they don’t work as intended. In other cases, it’s because they’re not compatible with other extensions and customizations that you’ve already integrated with your website, causing conflicts between the extensions. So how do you avoid these pitfalls? When looking for extensions in Magento Connect, we recommend taking the following steps:

1.) Look for extensions that are compatible with your version of Magento. If the developer has not tested it for your version, your chance of success with an extension go down significantly. Occasionally, extensions are up to date, and the developers just haven’t gotten the listings updated, so in a pinch, reach out to the developers to confirm.

2.) Take a look at the reviews of the extension. This includes the rating, but also the comments. You can learn a lot from previous user experiences, but sometimes you’ll notice that negative feedback is irrelevant – such as someone complaining that an extension is free even though a monthly subscription payment is required. Use your best judgement. Keep in mind that some reviews may be “shill” reviews left by developers or people in some way related to them for marketing purposes, so if there’s only one or two positive reviews, take these with a proverbial grain of salt.

3.) Click on the developers logo to see the other extensions that they’ve built, and ratings of those extensions. If the extension developers seem to get lots of bad reviews, or don’t have many reviews, they are probably new to the game, and you’ll have a better idea of your overall risk.

4.) Look at the popularity score. This indicates how many people have showed interest in the extension… but not how many have actually used it. If there aren’t many reviews, you can still get an idea of potential usage. Chances are if it’s very popular, and there aren’t bad reviews, it may be ok.

5.) If you need multiple extensions in your website, try to get them from the same developers when possible. A development team is more likely to have tested compatibility between their own extensions, and addressed any conflicts, so this cuts down on your risks of problems.

6.) Look at how the developers address support and money back guarantees. For instance, many free extensions don’t come with any support, and may wind up costing you more to get working in the long-run than spending a few dollars on an extension from a development team that’s offering to stand behind their product.

7.) Check out screenshots, demos, and guides. Don’t assume that everything works exactly as you would expect it would.

8.) Check out the Staff Picks and Featured Extensions on Magento Connect. While there may be other strong contenders that may be a better fit for you, most of these are pretty good extensions.

9.) Once in awhile, you may just need to take a leap of faith. If there’s an extension that doesn’t have a lot of positive indicators, but may meet your needs, you may want to try it out anyway. Every extension starts without popularity or reviews, so you could stumble onto a great extension before many others do.

Overall, we recommend minimizing the number of extensions that you install. This will cut down on your risk of conflicts when you go to install an extension that you really want or need. Keep in mind that conflicts aside, extensions can slow down your website, bloat your databases, create security holes and other problems for your website. They can also make it harder to upgrade your Magento site, as you may need to upgrade your extensions to do so if upgrades are even available. While you can generally remove extensions, they can still leave remnants, just like PC software. Our team gets paid to install and debug extensions, so take our word for it, less is more.

If you can’t find an extension in Magento Connect, you can always try a search engine like Google. Occasionally, you’ll find good extensions that aren’t listed in Magento Connect. These are rarely great finds, but once in awhile we do luck out. In some cases, you may need to invest into a custom extension, or hold off on a feature set. In some cases, especially for a simple extension, custom building it may not be out of your budget, and very well may be better than what’s available on Magento Connect or other extension sites.

When in doubt, ask a group of Magento professionals like the team at Rand Marketing for advice. Providing solutions to many clients, we’ve run into many extensions and extension developers, and may be able to make strong recommendations for you. In some cases, we may have custom extensions that we don’t sell online, but offer only to our clients as part of our Magento development services. We can also help direct you when you may not really want an extension per se, but may be better off with a 3rd party system. For instance, if you needed an ERP, we’d be able to recommend SalesWarp as a cloud based system with a strong connector for Magento. Sometimes, a standalone extension simply won’t meet your needs.

Stay tuned for more information about the Magento Marketplace, the newest way to find Magento Extensions. This new marketplace has many benefits over Magento Connect, but as it’s only recently debuted, is currently only showcasing Magento 2.x Extensions.