Back in 2010 I spoke to Magento about, amongst other things, how we could get standards around Magento extensions so that merchants and web designers/agencies could make educated decisions on which extensions and companies are good/bad/trustworthy.
Magento staff have moved on, we now have 5000 extensions and the issue remains, in fact I think its got worse.
What are the Problems?
Let’s start by saying there are many many great extensions out there and some great extension companies as well. If there weren’t Magento would not be as successful as it is today and I wouldn’t have a business as the trust in extns would be lost.
But, based on my experiences with WebShopApps customers, there are issues with quite a few Magento extensions aswell. The most common issues seem to be:
- No support and/or documentation
- Extension stops being maintained
- Support turnaround time is slow (>2 working days per email)
- Support packages integral to extension sale (no support without)
- Codebase is poor, resulting in many bugs and problems with extension conflicts
Are these issues that are specific to Magento? I very much doubt that, I expect this is a problem with all e-commerce platforms, maybe an even bigger problem as there is less transparency on some. Its certainly an issue you see with the Apple iPhone Apps, so its not unique and it’s hard to solve.
What about Magento Connect?
You could argue reasonably that Magento Connect is the portal for reviewing extensions and companies. After all it has a review capability and extensions are ‘checked’ by Magento staff. But its open to many forms of abuse and fixing. I won’t detail them here as it will maybe encourage more, but let’s just say the figures and reviews aren’t always what they seem.
It’s a well known fact that you have to work 10 times as hard to get someone to leave you a good review as getting a bad review – customers who are happy or of that disposition where they dont complain also often don’t go out of their way to give praise either, they just want to get on with their day-2-day work and who can blame them?
What has Magento Done?
Magento has introduced many initiatives to help improve Magento Extensions. Their efforts include:
- Developer Certification
- Free training materials for developers to self-learn
- Trusted Extensions
- Greater checks on Magento Connect applications
- Community Managers being involved at grass root level
- Industry Partner Programs
But Magento are busy, having eBay around must take up a fair bit of their time nowadays(!) and they are coping with massive growth, it is impossible for them to be all things to all people. Maybe we have a responsibility to assist here?
What Can WebShopApps Do?
Back in August WebShopApps launched the AppShop which has been extremely well received. The aim here is to market the top 50-70 paid extensions, with a focus on companies/developers that have a high level of customer service and good quality supported extensions.
But this doesn’t really go far enough, really what is required is a central place where people can easily get detailed information about extensions and the extension companies.
Can WE Change Things?
So it’s easy to complain, to blame magento, or to blame extension companies. But can WE change things together and improve the situation here? Can we ‘raise the bar’ and push extension companies to improve their offerings? Can we give objective unbiased information to extension buyers?
I actually think this is possible. The reason I think this is because I think the Magento Community is one of the best tech communities in the world, and I know we really care about this. How do I know – well see the twitter comments from last Saturday – it exploded when this conversation started there.
The vast majority of us want to evolve, we want to improve and we want to make Magento great. This isn’t about self-promotion, or marketing, its about being the best engineer we can, about how we can introduce process and standards to improve the e-commerce space for today and tomorrow.
How do I get Involved?
So how can you help? Well we need to pool ideas and come up with a plan. Maybe we have an extension review panel, maybe we have an extension provider directory, I’m not sure. It’s not my decision, it needs to be a joint effort for it to truly succeed. I don’t see myself as running the show here, I helped the Magento Meetup London back on it’s feet and now I’m no longer required as an organiser – that’s what I hope will happen here because this isn’t about me or WebShopApps.
I’ve organised a skype meeting for 10AM PST on Wednesday 5th Sept. Contact me via email or twiter to get involved, or simply add me on skype (id is WebShopApps) and send me a message. I am in the process of getting a Google+ circle together.
If you want to get involved make your voice heard, leave a comment here, tell us your ideas, it sounds corny but I do believe we can make a difference here. Thanks to all on twitter for your contributions so far, its been fantastic and inspiring.
Magento inc – we would love to get your involvement, your support and your ideas. I see this as very much a collaboration, us working with Magento to improve it, I hope that’s understood. If we are doing something that you have on your roadmap and you can see issues then let us know, I’m sure we all have better things to do if thats the case.