The time is nigh. Magento 2 is about to make itself public and shake up the eCommerce game. Are you prepared? Just what is Magento 2 anyway? Let’s find out!
What is Magento 2?
Magento 2 is the latest version of Magento Inc’s hugely successful open source eCommerce content management system. Unlike the various 1.X versions that you’ll have seen over the past few years, Magento 2 is a complete overhaul of the entire platform – rebuilt from the ground up.
From its initial announcement in October 2010, Magento 2’s development got off to a rocky start; early estimations by Magento Inc. had a release date of Q4 2011. In February of 2011, online powerhouse eBay bought their way to a 49% stake in the company until, in June of the same year, they owned 100% of the company and made it part of their newly formed X.Commerce initiative. Months later, Yoav Kutner (Magento CTO and co-founder) left the company. In a now-deleted Quora post, he cited concerns over the direction that eBay was taking the platform and their lack of understanding in what it meant to be an ‘open’ platform. In April 2014, Roy Rubin (Magento COO and remaining co-founder) also left the company, albeit on markedly better terms.
After almost five years, we’re now nearing the period of public release. Magento 2 entered its Merchant Beta Testing phase in July 2015 and is scheduled to begin General Availability in Q4 of this year.
What’s new in Magento 2?
Although Magento 2 is still in its Merchant Beta phase at time of writing, it’s far enough along that we know which features are set in stone and are heading our way. There’s lots of exciting additions to look forward to, though there’s also a few hurdles to leap before we can truly start reaping the benefits. Let’s look at some of the new features that Magento 2 has to offer:
New User Interface
With a new version, it’s no surprise that there’s going to be a graphical overhaul. What might surprise you, is the direction that the user interface has taken. If we start by taking a look at the Magento 2 login screen, things might begin to seem familiar:
Straight away the login screen looks much more contemporary than its predecessor. The design is cleaner and flatter. There’s just something…eerily familiar about it. Let’s take a look at the dashboard:
It’s the same clean design that we saw on the login page, but the layout is a a big change from 1.X. We’ve moved from top-nav to a side-nav and the headings have been adjusted for a simpler, more intuitive user experience. There’s still that nagging familiarity; the whole dashboard looks a lot like what you’d get from WordPress. That’s not to say it’s a bad thing, especially if it helps users to get things done.
A frequent request from clients is that their site should run faster; something that’s entirely understandable when the marketing world continuously repeats reports of dwindling user attention spans. In an effort to make everything faster, Magento have built in a number of improvements to help both server-side and client-side speeds, including:
- Varnish 4 Support
- Effective Image Compressions
- Comatability with Hip Hop Virtual Machine 3.6
- Layout Performance Improvements
- Static Content Caching
A lot of technical stuff that won’t mean much to the uninitiated, but let us assure you that those are all steps in the right direction – especially those caching changes.
Magento 2’s caching improvements are significant enough to mention twice. While Magento is a powerful database driven eCommerce platform, its reliance on database calls (at times more than 100 per page) can cause slower load times. Caching full pages as basic HTML will mean that users can access the cached version without needing to make all those database requests every time the page is accessed; what this results in are lower load times for the user and less load on the server itself. Win-Win!
What does this mean for me, the user?
Magento 2’s release has a lot of implications (especially if you’re a developer). For customers, it will mean weighing up the cost and benefit of upgrading to a new platform that doesn’t have the same swathe of support as its predecessors; such are the risks of being an early adopter. This will create a short-term dilemma for new entrants to the platform who haven’t used any form of Magento before; they’ll be stuck choosing between a version on its way out or the comparatively untested version that’s now entering the arena. What we’re likely to see is that only the higher spending enterprise level eCommerce outfits move to Magento 2 initially. They’ll be the ones with large enough throughput to see the large-scale benefits of Magento 2’s new features and will also have the wherewithal to fund the inevitably higher development costs of taking up such a development project in the early days of the platform’s lifespan.
When should I move to Magento 2?
It’s almost inevitable with any new tech product that, in the first few months, there will be some kinks to work out. If you haven’t already been involved in Magento’s Merchant Beta, you’ll want to wait for the release bugs to be worked out. Conservative estimates would say that any time after Spring 2016 will be sufficient for a set of solid upgrade principles and processes to be established within the overall Magento developer community.
If you’d like to take a look around a Magento 2 site for yourself, the fine folks at UberTheme have been kind enough to create a Magento 2 demo store where you can log in and explore the dashboard of Magento 2 – make sure you check them out!