Magento versus Proprietary Ecommerce Platforms

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Magento is the ideal software solution for many building ecommerce websites. Magento developers all over the world have built their ideal website using the software, and are now reaping the rewards of plumping for this flexible piece of software. But one question that many ecommerce developers wish to have answered is whether a piece of open source software such as Magento is ideal for their needs, or whether they would be better advised to get hold of a proprietary ecommerce platform.

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Of course, before going any further, it would be wrong to assume that Magento is merely limited to a free version of its software. The Magento Enterprise version offers Magento developers that plump for it an incredible raft of tools with which to develop a professional looking website. And for this sort of quality, it naturally requires a significant initial outlay. But the Magento Community package remains free and open source; so would your ecommerce business be well advised to opt for Magento or a proprietary package?

The most obvious difference between the Magento Community package and plumping for a piece of proprietary software is the type of customer support that you will receive. The Magento software package is entirely built around a lively community of forum dwellers who essentially offer tips, tricks and support to one another in an attempt to help Magento developers get the most out of the software.

By contrast, proprietary software purchased from big commercial companies inevitably offers an entirely different form of customer support. Such set-ups are typically focused around a traditional customer support model, in which there are dedicated teams of experts available to provide assistance. This can often be proffered on a 24/7 basis depending on the particular proprietary package involved.

It might seem that the latter of these two options is superior. Expert assistance would seem be the best way to receive support as an ecommerce developer as a matter of course. But it doesn’t necessarily work out this way in reality. The online Magento community is very vibrant and active, and is naturally attached to a free version of the software. Many Magento developers actually prefer this environment where there is the opportunity to bounce ideas around with other experienced professionals. And the economic model associated with it naturally suits small businesses particularly well.
Aside from product support, the other major advantage of proprietary software would appear to be the relative ease with which such packages be set up. Proprietary packages often demand a pretty hefty initial layout, thus they have to deliver something slick and user-friendly in order to justify this.

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Source: Magento Themes

Many lesser skilled developers find that a proprietary package can suit their needs particularly well.

However, those that back an open source solution such as Magento would argue that this is where proprietary software falls down. While proprietary development solutions can often be very slick packages, they do not necessarily offer the customisation and featured-packed packages that the likes of Magento deliver. If you’re a particularly skilled developer as well, then having direct access to the source code of the program can open up a raft of possibilities for advanced development as well.

The appearance of ecommerce sites built by both proprietary and open source software is another area of comparison. In the case of proprietary software, it is pretty easy for developers to create a uniform look for their sites. This can be particularly useful if one intends to develop several ecommerce sites with a common theme.

On the other hand, open-source software tends to offer a lot more flexibility and variety in this department. In the highly competitive world of ecommerce in which every viable industry is choc-a-bloc with different sites, it naturally counts for a lot to make your site stand out from the competition.  Even an experienced developer might struggle to do this with proprietary software, whereas an open source offering such as Magento makes the process a whole lot more feasible.

So in summary, whether you opt for a proprietary or open source ecommerce software solution is very much dependent on your particular needs. If you’re looking for an ecommerce platform that is particularly easy to use, slick and with round the clock professional support then generally speaking proprietary software will suit. However, if you need an ecommerce package that enables you to develop distinctive websites for a minimal initial outlay then you might find packages such as Magento more to your taste.

image005Stuart Gonsal is the co-founder and managing director of Lava Digital Agency, a boutique web design, development and digital strategy agency in Melbourne. Stuart believes in collaboration and that people and ideas are at the heart of every successful project. Follow Stuart on Linkedin, Google+ or visit at http://www.lava.com.au

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