Schools & Resources

The PeC Review: “The Unofficial Magento User Guide” Helpful for Novices

Magento Commerce, the open source ecommerce platform, has a massive following and an engaged development community. So it is no surprise that one of its devotees has released an unofficial users’ guide designed to help do-it-yourselfers implement this powerful platform.

REPLACE ALT James D. Ballotti’s “Grow with Magento: The Unofficial Magento User Guide,” is a 350 page ebook that seeks to shorten “the learning curve involved in bringing a new Magento store from installation to operation,” and “provide basic yet complete information about all of the features Magento includes.” The digital tome costs $24.95, and is one in a growing field of books (electronic and paper) that seek to make Magento easier to understand and use.

After Practical eCommerce published my review of “The Magento User Guide”, Ballotti sent me a copy of his book. I spent some time on its virtual pages and decided to include it in this, “The PeC Review.”

“The PeC Review” is my weekly analysis of products or services that I believe could help an online merchant improve his business. With each week’s review, my goal is to identify and then rate these products or services, providing you with good decision-making information. This week, I am awarding Ballotti’s unofficial guide three-and-a-half out of a possible five stars.


Bringing Powerful Magento Features to the Masses

Although I won’t presume to speak for Varien, the company that developed Magento and has guided it to open source popularity, but I think it is fair to say that this platform is not aimed at the Internet novice. As an ecommerce content management system, Magento offers significant features, great third-party integration, and excellent business management tools. But it does require familiarity with HTML, CSS, XML, PHP, and JavaScript if it is to be implemented well.

Novice ecommerce business owners who don’t know an element from an attribute and who won’t invest in a professional web designer can—and I think do—face challenges when implementing this solution.

And reading “Grow with Magento” gave me the impression that Ballotti had just this sort of novice, do-it-yourselfer in mind when he wrote it.

Very Detailed Descriptions

Ballotti clearly spent a fair amount of time with Magento, and he provides some very detailed descriptions of how to complete many of Magento’s basic operations. For example, Ballotti takes ten pages and uses ten images to describe and explain Magento installation. Nine pages of the ebook are devoted to describing the Magento administration panel. And there are also careful descriptions of how to configure a Magento store, including dozens of screen shots from the Magento backend.

An Important Section on Multiple Sites

Ballotti includes a good section on using Magento to manage multiple websites. His description of just how to set this up is straightforward and may well be the most impressive part of the entire ebook. (In a perfect world, with everything configured properly, I believe his description will work well.) This description is one of the few times that the text offers users something more than basic explanations of basic features.

Summing Up

Ballotti’s “Grow with Magento: The Unofficial Magento User Guide” is a good basic user guide that provides understandable and detailed explanations of many of Magento’s elementary features, and does so with many images and examples. The primary concern I have about the book has to do with some lack of authority since Ballotti describes himself as an “intermediate” programmer. For an unofficial guide, whose author did not have insider access, I would prefer an expert.

Armando Roggio
Armando Roggio
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