OK so i am now a Magento convert, before going to the X.Commerce conference this year i really didn’t like it mostly because its a pain to dev in. Well to be fair its still a pain to dev in (the folder structure alone will do your left mouse button in) but once you get used to it its kinda not that bad and it does have a great community supporting it which would be one of the many reasons why eBay/PayPal purchased it.
From a developer point of view (especially the new developer to the Magento Scene) it is very clunky, the theme files for instance can sit in anyone of about 5 different locations depending on module and theme structure. This really is one of the biggest let downs and in comparison to something like Prestashop which uses a smarty based system with .tpl template files Magento really does loose out.
There are however ways to get around that in Magento by switching on some hidden developer settings buried deep with in the admin panel well out of reach of the client who likes to switch things on randomly, from here you can get all sorts of path hints to the location of those elusive theme files and also any number of debugging options.
From the admin user the admin panel is actually quite professional and really doesnt feel like many of the other carts available. Its the difference between picking up an expensive metal pen vs a plastic bank pen (the ones that come on metal chains), both will do the job but only one will do it in style and one wont have you washing your hands later so you dont catch anything.
Then theres the versions which reminds me of the Internet Explorer scenario in that theres so. In the community edition alone theres currently version 1.4 1.5 and 1.6 that are supported, which from what i can tell, appears to be because there were slight changes made to each that made things like plugins and themes not compatible leaving people unable to upgrade ergo legacy versions had to be supported.
There are many little things that Magento has in it that other carts don’t by default such as watermarked sizing options on images (for full size images, small images and thumbnails!) but then many other things it doesn’t have like a addthis module (you have to manually insert the embed code) and while some of the modules are completely overpriced Magento is one of the few carts that has trusted modules and plugins not to mention a developer certification program.
One of the biggest announcements this year at the X.Commerce conference was the X.Commerce bus which is infact a play on words and uses some of Magnetos hidden talents to a whole new level allowing developers to connect the Magento messaging system to create their own API.
Magento has a built in messaging system that allows different parts of the script to let other parts know if something is happening, this takes that to a whole new level and opens it up at the server level so that external programs (authorised ones) can also add and modify information within the messaging via a API.
All in all if done right Magento is a viable solution especially for anyone wanting to take their e-commerce seriously especially if scalability is going to be an issue. Its got the grunt and power to be able to deliver to high end traffic (if the server architecture can handle it) but still maintains the flexibility and customisation for low end stores just starting out (if they can afford to have it built of course).