Not so long ago i downloaded the Magento Ecommerce Platform and installed it on my server. I did this because a few people asked me about this platform they heard of and i didn’t know anything about it. The installation is not too complicated, anyone with reasonable knowledge in this area should be able to install it.
The testing of the platform was quite a different story. I wanted to change some things on the default installation but this became a problem as documentation is not the strong part of Magento. As one user points it out, the Varien forums are full of unanswered threads which end like this “Nevermind. Solved it myself.”. The company that develops Magento has no real interest to put online some good documentation as i see it, probably because they are making their money from support. And if everyone finds the documentation he needs there is less need for support.
Changing only small things took some hours. Don’t get me wrong, i am used to learn difficult frameworks and cmses. I worked for years on Typo3 which is also hard to learn. But even Typo3 is easy to learn when you compare it with Magento.
And the performance of the application is bad. It is very very slow. This is espacially annoying when you try to work on it. The frontend that is supposedly cached isn’t too much better then the backend. For an ecommerce platform speed is a major factor. Customers are used to fast webpages and if the user needs to wait for a webpage a longer time to load, he probably has already opened up some other ecommerce site. Competition is fierce and you cannot afford to loose customers because your site is slow. Sure you can throw more hardware at it, but that will cost you and from what i’ve read this wouldn’t speed it up very much. And forget about installing it on shared hosting, you will need some powerful stuff to run this platform (something around the 100$/month mark to be reasonably fast).
If you want to tinker with the code you should know that the codebase is huge (~6000 files) and the quality of the code is not so good (see here what others are saying about this).
My overall impression is that Magento has a momentum now based on hype but this will fade away as soon as people will realize that not everything that flies is edible. Sure, Magento can be a choice if you have very much money to spend on support or to hire a company that has relevant experience with it. Or if you have lots and lots of time on your hand to experiment with the product and you can afford to host it on some powerful server. And if you don’t really care about performance. Otherwise you should stick to other ecommerce platforms.
Yet again one of the Frequently Forgotten Fundamental Facts of Software Engineering is proved to be true:
“T1. Most software tool and technique improvements account for about a 5- to 30-percent increase in productivity and quality. But at one time or another, most of these improvements have been claimed by someone to have “order of magnitude” (factor of 10) benefits. Hype is the plague on the house of software.”