Considering a Magento 2.0. Upgrade? Here’s What You Should Know
By Charles Kain, senior technical architect and Eric Marsh, technical architect
Since the release of Magento 2.0 last fall, you may have asked whether you should upgrade your eCommerce website from Magento 1 and what new features and functions to expect. Whenever a software company updates its major version number (for example, version 1.0 to version 2.0.), the technology undergoes significant changes that affect both the administrative back end and customer-facing front end. This is no exception with Magento 2.0, and you’ll want to keep this in mind when considering an upgrade.
Before we get into some of those important front-end changes, you should ask yourself a couple of questions as you consider an upgrade.
When Should You Upgrade to Magento 2.0?
When planning your upgrade timeline, you should know that support for Magento 1 will continue until November 2018, but only for enterprise versions 1.13 and 1.14. This includes only bug fixes and security patches, which means no new features will be released. Also, developers working on third-party extensions are shifting their focus to Magento 2.0 and moving Magento 1 extensions into support mode only. This means over the next couple of years, Magento 1 extensions will become largely obsolete.
So what does this mean for your eCommerce site? It means the longer you wait to upgrade, the more your website risks having out-of-date functionality and support. If your website is small and simple it might only take a handful of months to upgrade, which means you could be up and running before any support or functionality issues surface. However, if you have a massive website with many properties and hundreds of thousands of SKUs, upgrading could take well over a year. Before upgrading to Magneto 2.0, you should understand the size, scope, and needs of your website and then develop realistic timeline expectations.
Are Your Third-Party Extensions Compatible with Magento 2.0?
Developers are releasing new third-party extension updates for Magento 2.0 on a daily basis. You’ll want to be sure any third-party extensions you’re using are compatible with Magento 2.0, and if they’re not, when a compatible version will be released. If your extensions haven’t been upgraded to support Magento 2.0, you’ll need to either replace or customize them while you implement Magento 2.0. If your website depends on tons of extensions or those not supported by Magento 2.0, the upgrade cost and complexity can significantly increase. For this reason you’ll want to review your extensions as early as possible in the upgrade process.
Now that we’ve touched on two important questions to ask when considering an upgrade, let’s move on to the fun stuff. What’s new in Magento 2.0?
The biggest change in Magento 2.0 involves responsive themes, or how well your website adjusts when viewed on a phone or tablet. Unless you’re using Magento Enterprise Edition 1.14, Community Edition 1.9, or a custom, third-party theme, your website will not be responsive and that’s a huge deal in 2016, considering nearly 50 percent of all eCommerce traffic comes from mobile devices. If your website doesn’t let customers easily navigate, shop, and order from a phone or tablet, you’re missing out on potential sales.
With Magento 2.0, you get a responsive theme right out of the box. Check out these examples of eCommerce category pages optimized for a desktop, tablet, and phone, respectively.
This desktop version offers a left-hand navigation menu for product filtering and displays three products across the page.
The tablet version adjusts to remove the left-hand navigation but keeps three products across the page.
The phone version has no left-hand navigation and only displays two products across the page.
Responsive design is a must-have in today’s eCommerce landscape and can even contribute to reduced bounce rates. If your current version of Magento doesn’t support responsive themes, this is a great reason to upgrade to Magento 2.0.
Faster Page Load Times
Ever wonder why some web pages load faster than others? In Magento, that’s because of full page cache, a feature that caches an entire web page to make future pages load faster. Magento 2.0 relies heavily on an extension called Varnish Cache to speed page load times in both the enterprise and community editions. Of all the improvements in Magento 2.0, the addition of Varnish is probably one of the most important in terms of driving shopper satisfaction. Varnish makes the difference between a page loading in less than a second versus waiting several seconds for it to render.
A lightning-fast site that loads in less than 200 milliseconds on all of my devices? Yes, please!
This is crucial in today’s competitive eCommerce environment where customers have tons of options and will leave your site if it doesn’t load fast enough. Slow page load times lead to lower conversion rates and Google rankings, which mean missed revenue opportunities. Speeding your page load times is also an easy way to reduce your bounce rate.
Like any eCommerce platform, Magento doesn’t operate in a vacuum and work on its own; rather, it connects to various business systems already in place such as fulfillment systems, credit card processors, and inventory management systems. Magento connects to these systems using APIs, which are behind-the-scenes programs your customers can’t see.
Because Magento 1 had limited APIs, you probably relied on a lot of custom development. Luckily that’s a thing of the past with Magento 2.0. Integrations are much simpler in Magento 2.0, since virtually everything can now be updated with an API.
Want to export all orders from the last three hours? You can do that in Magento 2.0. Want to create a Magento order from an external system? You can do that too. What used to be custom modules in Magento 1 can now be removed, which reduces the scope of your upgrade and speeds the process. You’ll need a good understanding of how Magento 2.0 will fit into your current eCommerce ecosystem and how it will work with different types of information, whether transactional or inventory related.
You’re Now Ready for Magento 2.0!
Now that you know some basics of upgrading from Magento 1 to Magento 2.0, it’s time to start planning your upgrade timeline. Based on years of successful Magento implementations, we recommend you start by documenting your business needs, requirements, and goals for Magento 2.0. Next, you should understand what features and functions you’d like for your website.
Have you noticed other important differences between Magento 1 and Magento 2.0 we haven’t discussed here?
Charles is a senior technical architect at LYONSCG eCommerce Implementation team. He leads discovery and refinement processes for client requirements, develops scalable enterprise solutions to fit client needs, and acts as a primary technical lead for projects. Charles is a Magento Certified Developer and has several patents in the knife industry for products he has invented.
Eric is a technical architect on LYONSCG’s eCommerce Implementation team, and has worked on such sites as Rockler and Pharmaca. Eric bleeds Maize and Blue, having graduated from the University of Michigan with both a BS in computer science and economics and a MS in operations engineering.