Overview: How Multiple Websites & Stores Work

Global | Website | Store | Store View

One of Magento’s advanced features allows for management of multiple websites and stores within one installation, and we have an amazing system to support this:  GWS - aka “Global, Website, Store.”

  • Global: This refers to the entire installation.
  • Website: Websites are ‘parents’ of stores.  A website consists of one or more stores. Websites can be set up to share customer data, or not to share any data
  • Store (or store view group): Stores are ‘children’ of websites.  Products and Categories are managed on the store level.  A root category is configured for each store view group, allowing multiple stores under the same website to have totally different catalog structures.
  • Store View: A store needs one or more store views to be browse-able in the front-end.  The catalog structure per store view will always be the same, it simply allows for multiple presentations of the data in the front.  90% of implementations will likely use store views to allow customers to switch between 2 or more languages.

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Example scenario

Let’s say you want to sell appliances, consumer electronics, and DVD’s and CD’s.  For the purpose of this example we’ll separate the catalog into two stores and three websites.  The appliance line will be sold on its own website, and the remaining items on another website.  You bought appliances.com and coolstuff.com for this purpose.  You don’t want customer data and order data to be shared between the two websites, so data sharing will be turn off in the configuration between them.

Under coolstuff.com you create two stores - Electronics, and Media.  Consumer electronics will be sold through the electronics store, and the media items through the Media store.  Since each line of items is very extensive, it makes sense to create a separate category structure for the Media store and the Electronics store… otherwise the category tree would be large and cumbersome.  When the stores are created, you simply assign a different root category to each store.

In addition, you want to feature your catalog for both websites in English and Spanish.  To do this, you will create an English and Spanish store view for each of the three stores.  When entering catalog data you can switch store views in the admin to create the additional product titles, descriptions etc…

Configuration

The configuration of Magento uses GWS as a kind of tree when setting up the stores.  When it is initially installed, all configuration settings point to “default”, meaning the global installation.  A check box next to each configurable item can be un-checked in a particular website or store view, to indicate that this item will be specific to this website or store view.  For example, you will offer authorize.net as a payment module on both websites, but you only want to offer google checkout on coolstuff.com.  In the configuration, you’d select coolstuff.com in the store view drop-down, find the google API settings, and un-check “use default” in the google checkout tab.  For this specific website you can now enable or disable google checkout.

All modules in the configuration function the same way.

Moving on to store views - after a store view has been created, you can configure the layout and visual settings of the store view however you’d like - a drop-down allows customers to switch between store views.  This will reload the current page with the alternate view.  This can be used for multiple languages, but can also be a way to easily do A-B testing between several design packages to see if one yields more conversions.  The possibilities are endless!

The above is meant as a basic overview of this functionality - the best way to learn how to set it all up is to install Magento and get in there and start playing around.

I also created two short videos that go into a little more detail regarding the configuration.  Enjoy!
Video: Creating Multiple Online Storefronts, Part 1
Video: Creating Multiple Online Storefronts, Part 2

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