7 Best Magento Extensions That You Must Start Using Today

You know what? The total average e-commerce spending per customer over the course of the year is estimated to be $1,800 in the US and 1,600 in the UK. With ever increasing online e-commerce business, more and more businesses are emerging online with various platforms available out there in the marketplace.

Magento is one from the many reliable platforms out there to build your store on. It is backed up by an army of 315k developers to support your store. Not just that. The reason why Magento is very popular is because it gives the store owners maximum functions and a range of extensions to enhance the overall user experience of their website.

While there are many Magento extensions available out there in the market, I have taken some time to filter some of the best from the rest that you must equip your website with:

1. Catalog Search Refinement:

This Magento extension, refines your store’s search capability, as suggested by the name. Normally, when customers use multiple terms in the Magento search bar, the products listed do not take into consideration the link between the terms and the result may not be relevant.

With this extension, though, your store smartly displays those relevant products containing all the search terms. For example, if a customer searches for ‘blue headphones’, they will find blue-colored headphones instead of items that are only ‘headphones’ or ‘blue’.

2. Sidebar Navigation Menu Professional:

This Magento Addon adds a vertical collapsible navigation menu to your store’s sidebar columns. The extension also shows thumbnail icons for categories. SNMP has flexible configuration settings with 30 options to control your website’s navigation.

3. Shipping Rule:

Shipping is the essential part of any E-commerce store. Although Magento 2 provides general shipping features and configurations but there are needs to charge custom shipping rates to your customers based on certain conditions. With the help of this Magento 2 extension, you can have completely tailored shipping rules as required.

4. Free Shipping Bar:

Make customers aware of the free shipping offer on your store in a non-intruding manner. Allure your customers with custom text and show them how far are they from the minimum order total to avail the free shipping offer. Increase the average order value on your store by installing the free shipping bar extension.

5. Easy Lightbox 2.0:

Easy Lightbox displays your product image in a good-looking lightbox window which helps your customers get a better view of your products. The extension allows you to customize your product thumbnail, lightbox window, and main image size. Lightbox settings such as label image, overlay fade and resize duration can be configured.

6. Facebook Connect & Like:

Facebook Connect and Like allows your clients to register to your store through their Facebook accounts and enables the Like feature on every store page. You can customize the login button design to match your website’s theme and also insert an image in the login button field.

7. Free Banner Slideshow:

The Free Banners Slideshow extension enables users to add and manage banners with ease from the frontend in an image slider. The extension offers a number of configurable options such as banner resizing, transition effects, autoplay settings and other options to enhance the banner display.

So those were some of the best Magento Extensions that you must have installed on your Magento Store. These will help you grow your business exponentially by increasing the functionality of your e-commerce store. At the end, UX is sum of all! If you sincerely want to grow your business, you should consider to have these plugins on your site.

How to Start Your E-Commerce Business

So you want to start an online business and wonder what to do. Well there are two options one get a professional company to build your store for you and spend a lot of your hard earned cash or build it yourself.

These days building a website is not so difficult, there are many community programs and tools out there which make the job easy and best of all they are free of charge. So first thing first lets make a check list of what you need, then I will explain each of the items on the check list.

  1. Domain name: the name of the website in the navigation bar www. your keywords here.com
  2. Hosting Space: the place where all the information on your site is stored.
  3. The actual website: the codes, text, pictures that make up your site.
  4. A payment Gateway: ways to accept online payments like PayPal or credit card
  5. Time:)

Now before I get to analyzing each of the points above, here is something important to keep in mind. The Domain name of your site plays a major role in Search Engine Optimization. This is something I didn’t know when I build my first site which lead to bad Google ranking thus little sales. You have to make sure your domain name contains keywords that represent your products best. I highly recommend seeking the advice of an SEO Specialist before you choose your domain name.

So lets get started, where do I get a domain name? There are many domain registrars that offer domain names and good prices, for example Godaddy.com, netfirms.com and planetdomain.com to name just a few. Personally I have been using godaddy so far who have a pretty fast an professional service. Once you have purchased your domain you must point it to your Hosting Space. This is done by editing the A record or CNAME in the setting of your domain. Most large registrars will help you point your domain and it is usually even faster and easier if your get both domain and hosting space from the same company.

No that you have your domain name, it is time to choose a hosting company there are hundreds if not thousands of Hosting companies. Here are the important thinks to keep in mind before choosing a hosting company.

  • Where is the server located? If you host a website that is targeting audience in Cyprus for example and you pick a host in America. Then chances are you will have a slow Ping and the shopping experience on your site will be slow and shoppers like fast sites.
  • What kind of support and guarantees come with the server? Is there a guaranteed up time? Is there a 24hour support? What does support include? Some of the Host Provides will pre-install the CMS (Content Managment System) for you.
  • And finally what is the cost per month. Some hosting companies offer shared hosting which is basically one physical server split in to many virtual servers with individual control. This solution is usually cheap and good for starting your first website.
  • Which operating system is used by the hosting company? Personally I recommend Linux, it is very fast and reliable and I have had great experience with it so far.

So now you have your domain and hosting space, it is time to pick the CMS or Content Management System.

What is a CMS? A CMS is one of the most important parts of your online store. The Content Management system has to sides, the front end and backend also called Extranet. The frontend is what the customer sees while the backend is where you enter your products, check your sales and add content to your site. Personally I have tried Joomla with the Virtuemart Plug-in and Magento. And here is some information about both.

Joomla is one of the largest community supported CMS around. It has hundreds of free modules and components as well as thousands of forums on the internet. Joomla has a component called Virtuemart which is also an open source community program. It is simple to install and has a lot of additional Plug-ins as well as a large community for support. Joomla and Virtuemart both run on very simple servers and don’t have many special needs. I have used this solution for my first web-shop (which I still run today).

Magento is aE-commerce solution it is build and designed to sell, while Joomla can be used to build non Ecommerce websites Magento is strictly business. One of my favorite parts of Magento is that it is all Integrated, here are some of the features that are already in the package of version 1.4.1.1 which I am currently using.

  • PayPal Website Payment Standards integrated
  • Canonical URL’s for SEO
  • Google Sitemap (SEO)
  • Reports
  • Wishlist
  • Compare products
  • Google Analytics ECommerce Integration
  • Easy Backup
  • Import and Export Via XML or CSV

There are many more options that come in the Magento Package that must be installed separately in Virtuemart. But its not all sweetness with Magento, the down side is that it is more demanding then Joomla and virtuemart which means you will need a dedicated or Virtual dedicated server. Most shared hosting will not be sufficient to run a Magento store. Which means it will be more expensive to run, a shared host could cost as little as 4-5 Euro’s a month while a virtual dedicate server will start around 20-30 Euros a month and a dedicated server at 150 to 250 Euro’s. I have been using virtual dedicated servers which has been working great on all my stores. I even added 3-4 more websites on the same server without any significant speed issues.

So now that we have almost everything done we need to enter our products, sell them and receive payments. There are various ways of accepting payments depending on your region and country. If you are in the UK or US for example PayPal offers a full integration accepting PayPal Payments and Credit Card Payments without the customer needing a PayPal accounts. If you are not in the UK or USA then there are other options like Moneybookers which has a module for Magento is easy to set-up. Its important that you can accept payments otherwise how are you going to sell? Some delivery companies will do cash on delivery for you but that would be for a more localised sale.

I do recommend that you get an SEO expert to help you with optimization and and that will give you important tips BEFORE you start building your site.

So now that you have the guidelines do some more research and conquer the online world of ecommerce.