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I want to like Magento…I really do…
 
Shpigford
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I’ve known about and have been following the development of Magento for close to a year now. I’ve downloaded and played with dozens of the releases along the way.

Over the past couple of weeks I finally had a “real world” project to use it on so I’ve been able to really get my hands dirty and dig in to the code to see what things are made of.

Unfortunately, I’m not impressed.

It’s absolutely fantastic that Varien has created such a full-featured open-source product. The software is well written and holds to solid coding practices that pretty much every other open-source or for-pay ecommerce solution throws out the window.

But what I think is the unfortunate side-effect of that, is that you’ve got a product here that isn’t really that easy to use when it comes to actually doing anything other than using the default design. The whole templating system just doesn’t feel practical. My guess is that a large portion of users don’t need the level of customization that Magento offers. So what happens is Magento is built trying to take every possible need in mind to the point where only experienced developers can really grasp things and the “average” person just gives up instead of developing how it should be....meaning it should provide basic templating functionality but still allow experienced developers to extend where necessary (Wordpress is a great example of this).

But where I’ve really been turned off in the past week or two is with the community support. Back before Magento hit 1.0, the community was very active, people were staying very involved, and more importantly, Varien staff were involved chiming in on a huge number of threads. But since 1.0 was released, the vibe here has changed. Since paid support plans have been offered, it’s almost as if Varien staff have decided to take a backseat to any “free” support, and just let the community support itself. In theory, that’s actually a great idea. It’s open-source software that theoretically could be self-supported by the community since so many people, theoretically, have been deep in the code customizing it and using it.

Where I think Varien is failing is the fact that the community is far too new to support itself. Instead of the staff staying involved and helping teach the community, they’ve left it to flail and fend for itself. This fleshes itself out as unanswered forum questions that basically turn the potential user off to the software completely and even worse, those users tell other potential users not to use Magento as it’s not supported.

Sure, the easy answer here is “it’s free software, shut up.” But for the sake of forming a solid community of dedicated users, the only way that is going to happen is for Varien to get back involved with the community and not put so much focus on monetizing support just yet.

 
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patricia
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I have to agree with you, magento thought of everything except “average users” who just want to run a store.

It’s impossible to do simple things like, remove the newsletter, remove the comparator, handle correctly sales tax for europe, you need a “PHD in xml” to modify little things.

I’ll wait a couple of more years and probably come back to it when it reaches v2 or 3, magento has good potential, just needs a “ergonomist” to take a look at it under a user point of view.

For now i’ll just stick with virtuemart, it’s not perfect, but at least it’s usable for the average joe like me.
Pat.

 
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sherrie
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I’ve seen new responses by the Varien team multiple times a day since the release of 1.0, received one to my own thread less than a week ago, in fact.  The community itself has been very helpful as well - don’t give up, keep digging and exploring. 

You are right that it’s designed for programmers, not the average person, but an average person can become a programmer with a lot of patience and careful attention - if they want to.

 
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Hoodgrown
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I understand what your saying Sherrie.. but the average person shouldn’t HAVE TO BECOME A PROGRAMMER. Everyone is not meant to be a programmer just as everyone is not meant to be a graphic designer, lawyer, doctor etc. The key to a successful product is to cater to the average person. I don’t think Magento launched with idea of being a niche product strictly for the use of developers or programmers.

The key to their success will be how much they can simplify the use of their product and how active the community is because coming from the OsCommerce community, I’m spoiled and it gets a little frustrating when your questions aren’t answered for weeks at a time.

 
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Hobitnjak
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Hoodgrown - 09 June 2008 05:07 PM

I understand what your saying Sherrie.. but the average person shouldn’t HAVE TO BECOME A PROGRAMMER. Everyone is not meant to be a programmer just as everyone is not meant to be a graphic designer, lawyer, doctor etc. The key to a successful product is to cater to the average person. I don’t think Magento launched with idea of being a niche product strictly for the use of developers or programmers.

The key to their success will be how much they can simply the use of their product and how active the community is because coming from the OsCommerce community, I’m spoiled and it gets a little frustrating when your questions aren’t answered for weeks at a time.

I agree, if Magento want’s to be no1 open source e-commerce solution they must do something to make things easier for average users. They have done great yob for making this application and I’m sure there is much to come (thank you Magento team!) but there is long way to become leader, don’t make it longer.

 
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patricia
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I’m sorry but I prefer to learn the guitar than to learn programming, yes i have a life.  So i just use a solution that works , i just want to run a store, not a nuclear powerplant.

Magento as really a huge potential, they just need to address all those template/front end design and enable/disable user functions issues that should have been thought of in the first place. They’re loosing tons of potential customers because people can’t even reach step 1. I’m not even sure many people even manage to install it, since it requires a geekesque modification in the config file to install it correctly, else the installer fails.
most people get the error:
Url “http://sitename.com” is not accessible
Error parsing body - doesn’t seem to be a chunked message

Luckily i could figure how to solve that issue ( thanks to google! ), but it’s a bad introduction to the software in the first place…

Note that it’s also impossible to get a quote for custom work, you need to pay them to be able to access the quote system. I was even ready to pay someone to do the modifications i wanted, but it’s impossible to ask.

Yes i’m kind of pissed because magento is a wonderful tool that i would really love to use , but i can’t because it’s too complex to customize, i feel soooo frustrated.
Pat.

 
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Did
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patricia - 09 June 2008 08:49 PM

I’m sorry but I prefer to learn the guitar than to learn programming, yes i have a life.  So i just use a solution that works , i just want to run a store, not a nuclear powerplant.

100% agree !

Don’t get me wrong, I am very impressed and grateful for the the work done by Varien, but at this point even slight modifications of Magento gives me the very unpleasant feeling of being dedicated to few skilled geeks and/or web agency staff, very, very far from the average user. 

Let’s hope it will evolve soon in a easier way to handle according to the roadmap.

 
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adimagento
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@Patricia

it’s also impossible to get a quote for custom work, you need to pay them to be able to access the quote system. I was even ready to pay someone to do the modifications i wanted, but it’s impossible to ask.

The Request a Quote form is and ALWAYS has been available for NO fee to the entire community. You don’t even have to be a registered community member to request a quote. We get quite a few of those each day and the process of returning quotes is a complicated one that takes time.

 
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TomC
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I have to agree with the general sentiment of those who have posted here.  I have been a Joomla user for a little over a year, and when I started to read through the Magento User Guide and saw how things were structured, it was immediately intimidating for me - someone who is not a coder/programer.

The screencasts are somewhat helpful - but, again, they are presented by someone who seems to assume that the viewer has a pre-determined intermediate/advanced level knowledge of coding and programming.  I would dare say that for the majoiry of users who will want to be using Magento - this is not the case.

As a suggestion, the Magento Development Team should very strongly consider developing tutorials fro ALL level of user - including beginner.  Tutorials for the beginners, therefore, must be written/presented in such a way that one should be able to be taken through a general process step-by-step in easy to understand terms (visual representation is always a preferable medium in this regard).  The reason that applications such as Joomla and WordPress have such a large user and third-party base is because the developers understand the importance of considering ALL LEVELS of user - and develop their products for relative ease of installation and use.

 
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slaction
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I have to agree is everything Shpigford said in this post.  Its all things that I’ve been wanting to say myself, and does so in a non-destructive manner.

The bottom line is, Magento is a great e-commerce application for developers to work with, its just not up to par with its competitors when it comes to things like ease of use , which is a very important factor in e-commerce applications.

I’m going to conitnue to use Magento because I’m an e-commerce developer, and its a great product for me to provide my clients, and I thank Varien very much for that.

 
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Shpigford
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I wanted to chime in here again and say, in addition to the fact that I find the method of customization overwhelming (and I AM a developer), but also to say that I think the real solution here is not necessarily some big rewrite of code or anything but rather better community involvement from Magento. I’ve still got half a dozen posts that have gone pretty much unanswered in the past week and find myself having to “bump” posts for them to ever really get attention. It just seems like if Varien is interested in Magento really becoming the open-source ecommerce solution they’ve seriously got to step it up on teaching the community how to use Magento.

 
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Jennifer M
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I think the real solution here is not necessarily some big rewrite of code or anything but rather better community involvement from Magento. I’ve still got half a dozen posts that have gone pretty much unanswered in the past week and find myself having to “bump” posts for them to ever really get attention. It just seems like if Varien is interested in Magento really becoming the open-source ecommerce solution they’ve seriously got to step it up on teaching the community how to use Magento.

I’ve been pondering this a lot in the last few days. 

I agree that not all the making-it-more-friendly is necessarily about code.  For instance I’m sure that some of the experiential user-friendliness of WordPress nowadays comes from the fact that there are lots of templates already written by people in the community. 

I’m not sure to what degree the team’s forum presence has actually diminished, as opposed to the “question load” and “question importance” increasing.  Even before 1.0 came out, some questions to the team went unanswered.  And until 1.0 came out, a lot of questions really just needed the answer “Wait for 1.0” or “Yes that’s on the roadmap”, and anyone who took the risk of using a pre-1.0 version “for real” could legitimately be told “On your own head be it”.  Whereas now, those answers won’t suffice, and some of the questions are of the kind which need serious bug-hunting detective work to resolve. 

But I agree the level of team presence isn’t high enough at the moment to qualify Magento as the top quality product it evidently aspires to be. 

Mind you, I can understand a focus on getting the income stream up & running at this point.  There were a lot of person-hours before this which didn’t bring any cash.  And it must be hard to plan in advance for such an unknown-in-advance workload as they’re presumably experiencing now.  I’d hope that as things settle down and the workload becomes more predictable, Varien will be hiring, and that there will then be people available with time for the forums, and for proactive explanation-type writing. 

(I too currently have an unanswered question waiting for the attention of the team.  And it’s partly alluding to a bug which probably does need team person-hours to solve properly, but on the other hand if there were already a knowledgebase article about the database structure, I could probably rescue my work and get on.  As it is, I just have a broken installation with an hour or so of work trapped inside, and I’m very wary of starting over without some kind of rescue strategy - because next time, it could be 10 hours or 100 hours of work that I can’t get back, not one.  So this is my personal pointy end of the team’s absence.  But like I say, I’m hopeful that the climate will change as things settle, and we’ll see more picking up of that kind of thread.)

What I’m really in disbelief over, though, is the “This URL is invalid” bug in v1.0.19870.1.  The bug prevents an installation from proceeding.  You can see in that thread, at comment #33, that Moshe from the team is offering a one-line fix.  And that comment is now dated “Two weeks ago”, yet still no repackage with the fix included, and not even a warning on the download page! Every single user of that package has to run into, identify & research the problem and either edit their own PHP or else revert to the previous package.  And I PM’d Roy Rubin a week ago to point him at that thread too.  Every time I think about it I’m just shaking my head like “What can they be thinking?” Not only offputting to newbies, but what a disrespectful waste of the time of everyone who unwittingly gets that package! 

So yeah.  For me it’s exactly like the thread title says - “I want to like Magento”.  I was in raptures over the “blocks” design concept when I first saw it, and the setup of these forums had “professional” written all over it, and the fact of 1.0 coming out on time was by no means lost on me - “respect is due”.  But my faith in the team has taken a denting this last week.  I just hope it’s only a temporary blip. 

Anyway, thanks for the conversation, people - it may or may not have any practical effect, but it’s somehow reassuring to swop stories and know that other people are having similar thoughts… better than a forum full of tumbleweed :-)

 
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adimagento
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@Jeniffer,

What I’m really in disbelief over, though, is the “This URL is invalid” bug in v1.0.19870.1.  The bug prevents an installation from proceeding.  You can see in that thread, at comment #33, that Moshe from the team is offering a one-line fix....

This fix was implemented in the very next patch/release immediately following Moshe’s answer. This has not been a problem for people who have downloaded the current release.
 
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Jennifer M
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This fix was implemented in the very next patch/release immediately following Moshe’s answer. This has not been a problem for people who have downloaded the current release.

Thanks for the correction Adi!  Sorry, yes I was wrong about “still no fix” - I see now that the .2 update was announced on June 10, a couple of days before I posted above. 

Mind you, your phrasing ("immediately following") makes it sound as though there was no issue except in my imagination.  In fact, Moshe’s answer was already labelled “one week old” when I downloaded the unfixed .1 package on 5 June, as other people commented too.  So the total delay from known fix to new package must still have been at least 10 days.  But I’m sorry I made it sound worse than it was.

Anyway, glad it’s been sorted out now - that situation was bothering me.  (OK in a way not my business, but like most of us here I have reasons to wish for Magento’s success.) Phew!

 
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Lance Monotone
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I am beyond frustrated.  Just this minute I got another complaint from my client, who says that they’ve gotten two Authorize.net charges without corresponding orders recorded in Magento.  We’ve had problems with multiple charges for the same order.  I have posted about my problem at least twice and I have yet to hear anything from the “Team”.

I have been a PHP developer for almost a decade and I think I know my way around the language.  Somebody above said that the code used best practices and was well written.  At first glance, this is true.  I, too, was impressed by the coding and looked forward to working in such an environment.  But as I dug into it I found too many instances of uncommented code and even uncommented functions, along with a complete lack of an API, which I don’t understand at all.  Does the “Team” keep it all in their heads?  I’ve spent days backtracing variables and methods trying to figure out where they get their values. 

I’m completely tired of fixing bugs and trying to figure out why basic functionality doesn’t work as it should, let alone trying to do any actual programming to get it to do things not featured in core.  This software is not ready for prime time and the lack of response from the “Team” on many, many forum issues is maddening.  I’m done with Magento and I’m switching to ZenCart for my client’s site, which means that the last month I have been hitting my head with a hammer trying to figure out the software with outdated or nonexistent documentation I have been working for free. 

I’m sure there will be a cheerleader with a trust fund and time to kill who will pipe up and ask what I want for free.  I say to that, if a piece of software is out of beta it should be stable in a real-world environment.  Magento is not and I’m pissed, yes, pissed, that I spent so much time on it.  It does not live up to its promise and it will be a couple of versions before I come back to take another look.

See ya.

 
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Jennifer M
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@ Lance - Thanks for posting.  That was food for thought. 

The crucial issue for me is “basic functionality” that ”doesn’t work as it should”. 

I don’t mind climbing a steep learning curve.  I know that e.g. the complexity of the template system has put some people off, but that side of things is OK with me.  Given the choice between an elegant, complex thing and a not so elegant simpler thing, most times I will choose the former and invest the time to make use of its potential. 

My fear is that I would invest a lot of time in climbing that learning curve only to find that I still couldn’t make the system work reliably.  I’ve already spent considerably more time trying to trouble-shoot than in happy creative tinkering.  For me to get as far as you’ve got and then encounter something like your “duplicate payments” problem (rare enough to not get mass attention, but serious enough that it would be unprofessional to let it go by), and be trying to fix it on my own - it just doesn’t bear thinking about. 

In other words it’s not the complexity of the system in itself that I mind.  It’s that there’s a combination of the complexity of the system making it hard for non-team people to contribute, and the lack of documentation, and the fact that you currently can’t rely on the team to come to the rescue, and the presence of some non-trivial bugs.  They form a sort of “four-sided corral of doom” in which it’s all too possible to get trapped.  The phrase “Up the creek without a paddle” springs to mind :-/

==

I still think Magento has enormous potential.  It really goes against the grain to walk away from something with so much potential, and go for the more mundane solution which leaves out some of the cool bits.  But I just think I might have to - for now at any rate. 

I was talking to a friend about it last night and going round in circles!  “But it’s what I want… But I’m not sure I can count on it not to cause me loads of trouble… And I can’t afford to waste the time if it doesn’t work… But it’s what I want… But I’m not sure I can count on it not to cause me loads of trouble… And I can’t afford to waste the time if it doesn’t work...”

So I’m not even sure that stepping away is the right decision.  It’s not that I definitely know it wouldn’t work for me.  It just feels like a big risk at the moment - a gamble that I can’t necessarily afford to take. 

Even if I do ditch it for now, I still think I might come back to Magento in a year or two.  I want to be able to surf the bug reports and not see serious unpredictable ones, and I want to be able to surf the forums and not see people going unanswered for more than a few days.  Those are the signs I’d be looking for. 

==

@ Ron - I don’t necessarily agree entirely with your take on the wiki.  I think it’s not ridiculous to suppose that the community will contribute tutorials and suchlike.  I think the problem is an information bottleneck between, on the one hand, the team, and on the other hand, the developers and skilled people.  (I wrote about this in more detail here.) Once the info gets through that bottleneck, it can propagate to the less skilled people.  It’s just that at the moment, a lot of it isn’t getting even that far - it’s only known by the team.

 
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