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    How to choose Magento Extensions

    Choosing the right Magento Extensions

    You’re looking for a feature or functionality that you’ve definitively identified is not achievable with Magento 2’s core features. You’ve determined that building a custom Magento 2 extension is not ideal because of the upfront costs, testing + quality assurance time, and ongoing maintenance. So you want to find a Magento 2 extension instead. However, like any good consumer, you’re worried about making the right choice. After all, choosing an unreliable or unsupported extension can have real consequences.

    Luckily, there are many things that you can look for when trying to identify if an extension will be a good fit for your Magento 2 site and your business goals. We’ve put together some of the most valuable data to consider when evaluating Magento 2 extensions:

    Is the extension in the Magento Marketplace?

    The Magento Marketplace is run by Adobe, the owners of the Magento brand, and includes rigorous review processes for extensions. This includes both a tech review of the code itself and a marketing review of the content that describes the extension. In fact, it’s not unusual for extension developers to need to adjust their submission multiple times before Magento ultimately approves it for listing. 

    While you could look for extensions somewhere else, it only makes sense to start with the place where you know that an independent review has taken place. 

    Is the extension compatible with your version of Magento?

    If you’re using Magento 2.3.x, and you’re looking at an extension that isn’t listed as compatible with your version of Magento, you may run into compatibility issues.

    Similarly, if an extension is listed as only being compatible with Magento Open Source or Magento Commerce, you’ll want to make sure that your version of Magento is supported. 

    If an extension is not listed as compatible with your version of Magento, you could find that it conflicts with modules in your Magento instance, or is otherwise not functional in your website without some level of retooling. 

    Is the extension compatible with your web hosting? 

    At JetRails, we pride ourselves in tailoring our Magento hosting to fit your needs. Some hosting is not as flexible and therefore cannot support a wide variety of Magento extensions. Case in point, as of August 2020, there are 1,010 extensions listed as compatible with Magento Commerce on prem (EE), but only 545 of those are compatible with Magento’s cloud hosting product, listed as Magento Commerce on Cloud (ECE). 

    Magento Extension Hosting Requirements

    Are you using other extensions from the same Magento extension developers?

    When a Magento development team creates new extensions, they test them to ensure compatibility with their other extensions. This is a common practice amongst popular extension creators, like the teams at AheadWorks and Amasty. 

    By choosing multiple extensions from the same vendor, you can cut down on your risk of conflicting extensions.

    Is there a demo, user-guide, or screenshot that validates your use case for the extension?

    Just because you think an extension does what you need, doesn’t mean that it will in real life. See if there’s a demo of the extension that you can test. If not, at the very least, review the available documentation, screenshots, and user reviews to verify that the extension meets your unique requirements. 

    Even if it doesn’t fully deliver, you can reach out to the extension developers to see if they’ll quote you on customizing their extension to meet your requirements, but it’s much better to identify this before you purchase and install the extension.

    What are the extension reviews like on the Magento Marketplace?

    The percentage of users that leave a review or feedback for an extension in the Magento Marketplace is low, but you can still gain insights from the feedback that is available. While some bad reviews may stem from user error, it’s still useful to look for any trends.

    What is the support policy of the extension developers?

    Some developers provide free patches and updates for their extensions as well as free bug fixes. Others charge by the hour or require support subscriptions. While it’s not unreasonable for development teams to earn a living, life is about managing expectations. Be sure to research what ongoing support for an extension will cost you.

    Does the extension come with a money-back guarantee?

    You can’t recoup your time or money once you’ve paid your web developers for their labor, but if an extension is indeed a dud and the extension developers can’t remedy the problem, will you at least get a refund on the cost of the extension? While some issues may stem from your website and not from the extension itself, it’s always best to know these policies upfront.

    When was the extension last updated?

    While some extensions are comparatively simple and don’t require much maintenance, it’s common for extensions to receive periodic updates. If nothing else, developers will make adjustments to keep their extensions compatible with new versions of Magento and changing coding standards. If you check the release notes and don’t see much happening, and the extension has not been updated in a long time, it may or may not be receiving much attention from its developers. 

    If you look at a competing extension and see a much more active history of recent fixes and updates, you won’t be guaranteed a better extension, but you can at least anticipate a product that’s not stagnant or somewhere on the path to obsolescence.

    Are there ongoing fees?

    Some extensions are listed as $0, but require an ongoing subscription in order to be utilized. This is particularly common for extensions that integrate SaaS solutions with Magento. You’ll undoubtedly want to know about any additional subscriptions and fees before you install an extension.

    Are integration extensions different in other ways?

    If an extension connects Magento with another software system, such as a payment gateway, point of sale platform, ERP, accounting suite, CRM, was the extension built by the software publishers? Or, was it built by a 3rd party development team? If a 3rd party built the extension, are they partnered or certified by the platform they’ve written an integration for? 

    When possible, it’s a great idea to reach out to the publishers of the software that you want to integrate and ask them if they recommend a particular extension. Their team may have experience and information that would be highly valuable to you.

    Does your Magento agency have any experience with the extension or extension developers?

    Magento agencies build a variety of websites with a multitude of Magento extensions. As such, your agency may have experience with an extension or extension development team. If you don’t have an agency, we can help pair you up with a Magento consulting or development firm through our Find a Magento Agency complimentary service.

    What if there isn’t an acceptable solution in the Magento Marketplace?

    While this is probably a good time to think about a custom solution, there are extension developers that have not invested the necessary time to get their extensions submitted and approved by the Magento Marketplace team. This is especially true for free extensions where the extension developers are making something available to the community for free, and may simply not be willing to invest their time into listing an extension in the Magento Marketplace. There are also developers that do not want to pay Magento the required revenue share for selling an extension through the Magento Marketplace.

    While we at JetRails believe that extensions should be selected through the Magento Marketplace, as an option of last resort, you can certainly search Google for solutions. There are popular high-quality extensions that are not in the Magento Marketplace. For instance, many Magento store owners use an extension from Fishpig to integrate WordPress with their Magento websites. This extension is not available on the Magento Marketplace, but it’s very popular. 

    When selecting an extension that’s not in the Magento Marketplace, it’s a good idea to do additional research, such as Googling to find reviews and complaints related to the extension or its developers.

    Are developers that have written many extensions better?

    Yes and No. Working with teams that have been building and maintaining Magento extensions for years can certainly have benefits. However, it all comes down to quality. If you’re buying an extension from a developer that’s written dozens of extensions and hasn’t put a lot of time into perfecting or evolving the extension you’re considering purchasing, or if you’ll need several extensions from a developer to do what a single extension from another provider can do, you may be falling for the allure of quantity over quality.

    With that in mind, if a developer has written multiple extensions, take a look at their partner landing page in the Magento Marketplace. You can access this by clicking the “by_______________” link on any of their extension listing pages. By reviewing this page, you can easily see if they have a pattern of extensions with poor reviews, and you can click through to see feedback about their individual extensions.

    Magento Extension Developers

    Are there any organizations that help promote the building of high-quality extensions?

    The Magento Extension Developers Network, known as ExtDN, is made up of a wide range of members that are committed to helping Magento merchants achieve success through high-quality extension development. ExtDN members agree to follow coding standards and other important best-practices. This includes well-known extension development teams like BlueJalappeno, Ebizmarts, Firebear Studio, Fooman, Paradox Labs, and WebShopApps. A special shout out to our partners at OneStepCheckout, another extension development team that’s active within ExtDN. They noticed that we didn’t mention ExtDN when we first launched this article and helped us understand what ExtDN is doing for the community.

    Has JetRails written any Magento Extensions?

    Yes! We’ve written multiple Magento extensions to improve the ease of use of the Magento platform. We decided not to charge a fee for any of these and make them available to the Magento community. These include our Cloudflare Dashboard Extension for Magento 1 & 2 and our Magento 1 2FA Extension. We also have a Varnish Caching extension for Magento 2 that is available for JetRails clients only. 

    What are some other commonly recommended Magento Extensions?

    You’re in luck! We polled Magento experts and put together a list of their most commonly recommended Magento 2 extensions.

    About The Author
    Robert Rand
    Director of Partnerships & Alliances

    Robert is a Magento 1 and 2 Solution Specialist with over a decade of experience in helping merchants benefit from sound ecommerce and digital marketing strategies. He’s highly experienced at harnessing the power of ecommerce technologies and solutions to help businesses of all types and sizes grow and succeed.

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