We Can Program It For You Wholesale
January 17, 2012 11:00 AM   Subscribe

Should I knuckle down and learn to use Magento, or is there a friendlier option that will do everything I need? I am building an commerce site for a small business that needs to serve both the general public and their wholesale clientele. I've got some experience with several Wordpress-based ecommerce solutions, but am I going to find them limiting in the long run?

The ecommerce side will be fairly traditional. There's going to be a minimum order amount. There are currently something like 120 products, and it grows by approximately 20-30 every year.

The two slightly abnormal things that I need this site to do, when a wholesale customer is logged in:
  • Show an alternate price.
  • Give an extra checkout option (of invoicing seperately)
There's also the potential possibility of a subscription-based web service in the next year or so, but we'll worry about that when it happens.

Unfortunately, this precludes the usage of any hosted solution.

Not very complex, and I can easily do it in one of the Wordpress-based plugins. However, I can't shake the nagging feeling that they're all a bit of a fudged solution, which slightly scares me off them. The past feedback on this very site has also been rather off-putting.

So I've also been looking at a dedicated system, which has seemed to boil down to Magento being unanimously declared the bestest. The complicated structure is scaring me off, as I know I don't need a massive unfriendly system, and the admin page will be tough for the client to use. But I feel more confident that it'll handle anything thrown at it.

So there are two things I'm asking:
  • Should I take the Wordpress ecommerce solutions seriously? If so, are there any that you particularly recommend for my purposes.
  • Is Magento worth working with for a small business, and does it start to become easier to work with over time? Any recommended resources?
posted by Magnakai to Computers & Internet (8 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
I don't have a solution for you, but have spent some time recently looking for information on various ecommerce solutions as well. I also was a bit distressed after reading that thread and came across the WooCommerce plug-in. I was looking for ways to avoid up-front or recurring payments. One thing I noticed with the WooCommerce was the clear desire to push you toward one of their subscription plans -- sort of a your-on-your-own if you just use the plug-in, but will got a lot of support if you opt-in. Also, apparently they started after some sort of split with a company called Jigoshop, so the latter's plug-in may also be a fairly similar option.

Though you aren't looking for a hosted-solution, the one thing Shopify had going for me was that I was able to call them and someone immediately answered and spoke with me about the various options which was nice. However, they seemed confused that I wanted to just spend time working on setting up the design before I started paying monthly costs (they offer a free month, but I wanted an open period to work on it before flipping the "on switch" as it is something I am working on a few hours a night and may take a few months to set up).

From my research on Magento, it seems to be quite extensible, but the learning curve up-front is a bit steeper.
posted by This_Will_Be_Good at 11:20 AM on January 17, 2012

Response by poster: I don't mean to threadsit, but I though it's worth clarifying things. I have used WooCommerce (and Jigoshop), which I found very user-friendly. Unfortunately, there's no support for user groups and differing price levels. I'm sure it could be hacked in using roles, but I think I'd rather try something more purposeful.

Shopify has a very nice admin panel, but they simply won't work for wholesale pricing, and a hosted solution can't be hacked up. So they're out the running.
posted by Magnakai at 11:53 AM on January 17, 2012

Magento is way too bloated and confusing for 99% of situations.

I'd check out Volusion's solution. I've worked with them, osCommerce, Magento, WordPress solutions, Shopify, and others, and they by far have the most complete solution if you're going to do wholesale and retail from the same site (it does pricing for different customer types out of the box). You can get a demo account for free on their site.

MeMail me if you have specific questions.


posted by chrisfromthelc at 12:07 PM on January 17, 2012

Magento is incredibly powerful, but as others have said, it can be pretty complicated on the "writing an extension" side of things. It's more a problem in wrapping your head around its concepts than any real difficulty in programming. Once you get it, it actually doesn't take much code to change its behavior pretty significantly.

From the user side of things it seems as good as any of the others I've trialed, so if you're just buying extensions from other people, the complexity is well hidden. It only took a couple of days for me to get comfortable enough with it to write API extensions and the like.

In our case, hosted solutions were all right out because we have more SKUs than any of the hosted providers will allow at a reasonable price, but if you're not in that position, definitely take a long hard look at all of them before deciding to run everything yourself.

It sounds like you won't need to do much if any modification since you can use tier pricing and customer groups to do what you want with the differing wholesale/retail prices, so I don't see much of a reason not to go with Magento.
posted by wierdo at 2:25 PM on January 17, 2012

Response by poster: Thanks you for your offer Chris, but Volusion is a bit too restrictive on their customisation for my uses.

Sorry, I uselessly didn't really mention the main thing that I was going to do (bar setting it all up.) I am writing a custom theme, which I am very experienced at doing in a Wordpress-based environment. I think I just need to get used to thinking in the Magento way.
posted by Magnakai at 3:28 PM on January 17, 2012

Magnakai: I'm wondering what your customization case is. It's far more configurable than their feature set lets on. It will perform the unique situations easily that outline in your original post.
posted by chrisfromthelc at 5:58 PM on January 17, 2012

Response by poster: Ah, okay. I thought I wouldn't be able to replicate my design with their system without external hosting, but I didn't see that you could upload your own assets. I think that means that currently the only part that's totally restrictive is their shopping cart, which I find very clunky. I was hoping to do a nice AJAXy cart with jQuery UI Transfer and a popup on hover with a list of the items in the cart. TBH, I'm still a bit suspect of a hosted solution, but it could suffice for the next year or so.
posted by Magnakai at 6:26 PM on January 17, 2012

After trying some of the Wordpress e-commerce plugins (and osCommerce, but definitely don't do that) I have been using Lemonstand for my recent e-commerce projects and I love it. (I haven't tried Magento because it would be overkill for most of my clients.)

It is relatively new and more expensive than some of the other options (a license is about $300 and you host it yourself), but it supports customer group-based pricing out of the box and I've set up purchase order-style ordering easily.

You do need to be pretty comfortable with PHP to do any serious customization, but it has a well-organized module/plugin and theme system that makes writing custom features much easier. So far it has worked out well for me with a few clients who had somewhat unusual requirements.
posted by firefleet at 6:37 AM on January 18, 2012 [1 favorite]

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