Working with Magento vs WordPress for eCommerce

If you use WordPress as a publishing platform with which to operate your website and find yourself with the need to incorporate some eCommerce functionality in order to support or enable your business’ growth, you may be asking yourself which solution is better for you and your business? Will you use WordPress or Magento?

Furthermore, if you have some experience with developing for WordPress, Magento’s complexity in comparison may be somewhat intimidating. In this entry to our eCommerce blog, we highlight why Magento is the preferred eCommerce solution for your business and provide some tips on how to use Magento, while thinking like WordPress.

On the surface, the two platforms may seem similar. They both are highly customizable, are very SEO friendly, can be extensively themed, and feature a strong online support community. In addition, of course, they are both essentially content management systems, enabling you to add, modify, and manage your content in a simple yet effective manner. However, the differences become apparent when you examine their core purpose.

WordPress

WordPress is a popular open source publishing tool and content management system. Upwards of 17% of the Web, or over 60 million websites, is powered by WordPress. Even eBay Inc., which owns Magento, uses it to publish their blog. It is notable for featuring a plug-in architecture and template system in addition to being very user friendly. WordPress can be extended to support some basic eCommerce functionality through a number of third party plugins.

Magento

Like WordPress, Magento is built on open source technology. It is a feature-rich eCommerce platform trusted by more than 150,000 online retailers, including some of the world’s leading brands, ranging from small websites to large multinational businesses. Magento offers a level of functionality and customizability that provides merchants with the flexibility and control to create online stores that fit their business needs while also supplying powerful features like marketing, multi-store management, mobile commerce, business reports, search engine optimization, and catalogue-management tools. Magento’s CMS facilities also support the creation of complex content pages, version control, and menus – much like WordPress.

What is your site’s purpose?

While both platforms are content management systems, it is clear that Magento was developed specifically for eCommerce. Its functionality overall is tailored towards a business structure and selling online. If your goal is to sell products, then using Magento is highly recommended. If the purpose of your website is primarily to post content or blog, and you don’t expect to offer for sale more than twenty different products, then WordPress may be an acceptable choice. However, the functionality that is provided by WordPress’ eCommerce plugins is limited. Maybe you want to support different shipping options or multiple payment methods; WordPress would not be tailored for this purpose. Just by navigating through the Magento Admin Panel, you’ll notice that an overwhelming majority of it is devoted to eCommerce capabilities like shipping options, payment integration, inventory, price management, gift cards, or order fulfilment. Magento is also more secure than using WordPress third party plugins.

If your business is growing, or if you want to support its growth, then Magento should be your platform of choice. Magento is the WordPress of eCommerce.

Development Differences

The differences also become clear, between WordPress and Magento, as you begin development. Magento is a complicated platform to learn, especially if you are previously familiar with WordPress due to differences in terminology and thinking. However, as both platforms are content management systems, learning Magento may be easier if you try to recognize where the platforms are similar.

WordPress is made up of a series of editable Posts and Pages. When developing template files, Loops and function tags are used to call the Page or Post content. Custom template files can also be added and applied on a per-page basis. Magento features CMS Pages and they largely function the same way as a WordPress Page. However, as is often the case in Magento, something that can be accomplished through WordPress in a few quick clicks is done in a more programmatic fashion by following Magento best practices. For instance, to set up additional CMS Page templates you do not simply create a new template file; in Magento you must also create a new module that updates the list of templates available to it. The equivalent content call within these templates is performed through a PHP method as follows:

WordPress Magento
<?php the_content(); ?> <?php echo $this->getChildHtml('content') ?>

CMS Static Blocks in Magento act somewhat like a combination of Posts and Widgets in WordPress. CMS Static Blocks are good for placing images and/or text on a CMS Page or in a template file. They can be a useful way to separate content from markup or feature a list of editable links. They act similarly to Widgets in WordPress, which control design, and structural elements in a theme. It should be noted that Magento does offer true Widget functionality as well, which provides a greater level of functionality than using Static Blocks. In WordPress, you must first register a “widgetized” sidebar as well as the widget itself in the functions.php file in order to be editable through the CMS front end. In Magento, a CMS Static Block can be created in the front end, but before it can be used in a template file it must be registered as a block in the theme’s local.xml file. For a Widget to be used within a Page’s content in WordPress, some code must first be added to the functions.php file to enable the use of a shortcode in the front end. With Magento, such shortcodes are active by default: {{block type="cms/block" block_id="your_block_id"}}

The greatest difference between the two is that WordPress has its programming contained within a set of sequenced PHP scripts while Magento is object-oriented and spread across a great number of files and folders. Further, whereas WordPress has relatively unique naming conventions for template files, and those files are largely contained within a single theme directory, Magento has several folders and files that share the same name. In WordPress, a theme is contained to one folder. With Magento, there are a series of nested folders. Template files and skin files are also located in separate directories. Lastly, unlike WordPress where themes are independent of one another, Magento features fall-back logic and relies upon its default theme.

Magento > WordPress for eCommerce

Presented here were just a few tips and techniques for WordPress developers who are struggling to familiarize themselves with Magento. Being able to develop for Magento, or ultimately use Magento for your business, is beneficial due to the functionality offered from using such a robust eCommerce solution with the focus of selling products. I hope we have demonstrated how Magento is a more fully featured and recommended alternative to using WordPress eCommerce plugins when you want to enable and support the growth of your business online.

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