Platforms & Apps

An Overview of Magento Go

Magento Go is the software-as-a-service ecommerce platform from Magento, a leading open-source ecommerce solution. Magento Go may be an attractive choice for some online merchants.

SaaS or hosted ecommerce platforms generally offer a few advantages for merchants. First, many of the headaches of setting up and maintaining web servers are taken care of. Second, SaaS ecommerce platforms generally manage any Payment Card Industry (PCI) requirements, which is a huge benefit. Third, SaaS ecommerce solutions can be much faster to set up.

Registration and Prices

Magento Go has four pricing plans that range from $15 per month to $125 per month, depending on the level of support the merchant wants and the quantity of domains, bandwidth, and storage desired. Magento Go also offers a free plan via its “$1 Million Stimulus,” which effectively makes the $15 plan free for a year.

The registration process is easy enough, although when I registered the store I was building for this article, I received a message saying that it would be a few days before my account was ready. In fact, it took almost four days before I was able to log in and begin working on the site.

Theme Selection and Customization

The Magento Go dashboard and user interface is easy to use. The navigation is intuitive, and it is clear that the Magento Go developers wanted to make it simple for budding ecommerce entrepreneurs — even ones without much web experience — to interact with the administration panel.

The system takes new store managers through the process of selecting a store theme, and even offers tools for basic customization. When I looked for a theme for the comic book store I was going to build, I found that I had exactly six to choose from. While these were all attractive themes, there are not yet, in my opinion, enough options.

Magento Go has a few attractive themes to choose from.

Magento Go has a few attractive themes to choose from.

Fortunately, a user does have a significant amount of control over the theme, so that customization is fairly easy. This being said, the customization did require a working knowledge of Cascading Style Sheets.

Here is a semi-custom theme page.

Here is a semi-custom theme page.

Product Entry

In Magento Go, it makes sense to begin by defining attribute sets — lists of characteristics for a particular type of product. As an example, for my test store, I listed several comics. I wanted the comics to include information about the publisher, issue date, and grade. So I began my Magento Go test by creating a custom attribute set, called “Comics,” that included those attributes.

Attributes are dragged and dropped into Attribute Sets.

Attributes are dragged and dropped into Attribute Sets.

Compared to other SaaS ecommerce platforms, Magento Go asks for a lot of product information. When products are being added, this means that it could take a little bit longer. But overall, it also means there is better data for coupon codes, shopping cart rules, or on-site merchandising like cross selling.

The product entry screen has navigation on the left and forms on the right. You will need a product title, description, short description, SKU, and weight. The description sections have a built in what-you-see-is-what-you-get (WYSIWYG) editor that will make it easier for some users to format the descriptions.

For products to show on the external site, they must have their statuses set to “Enabled” and visibility to either “Catalog, Search,” “Catalog,” or “Search.” There is also an option for products to be not visible individually. This option is for what are called configured products. For example, imagine you wanted to sell tee shirts that were available in small, medium, and large sizes. Rather than showing every option separately, in Magento Go, you would create a configured product that listed the sizes as options.

Inexperienced storeowners should review the Magento Go user guide as they go through the initial product entry process.

Overall, the product management — including the ability to upload product listings in bulk — is extremely robust.

Payment Solutions

Magento Go offers payment-processing integration with PayPal — which, like Magento, is owned by eBay — that seemed good for me since I already have a PayPal account. In truth, the process was a bit more confusing than I would have expected. There did not seem to be a clear resolution to the step, nor were the Magento Go instructions completely clear. Nonetheless, in less than five minutes my store was ready to sell.

Magento Go PayPal integration makes it easy to take orders.

Magento Go PayPal integration makes it easy to take orders.

Summing Up

Magento Go was a bit more complicated to get going than it advertises. But overall it offers an extremely good SaaS ecommerce platform that is competitive with any I have seen.

Armando Roggio
Armando Roggio
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