Knowing how to choose the right extension for Magento 2 is a skill that all merchants should have. Whether you have spent hours chatting with an extension company’s support staff or installed an extension that worked on the Magento 2.1.6 release but broke on Magento 2.1.7, many store owners are experiencing the frustrations of volatile and fragile extensions available for Magento 2.
This isn’t to say that all of these extensions are poorly coded or untested- the reality is that the platform these extensions operate on is in a constant state of change which software developers and systems integrators are continuously chasing from the rear. Extensions that just “seemed to work when I dropped them in” on the Magento 1.x platform are less common on Magento 2 largely because they have been reworked to integrate with the new Magento 2 codebase.
Instead of worrying about low-quality work and unstable coding (which was often the case for extensions released on Magento 1.x), we are here to help you navigate the Magento extension ecosphere and provide you with the education on what to look for when selecting an extension for Magento 2 for your store, and what to expect moving forward once those extensions are installed.
Utilize the Marketplace
From the start of the Magento 2 platform, Magento has made an effort to refine the vetting process for extensions entering the new Magento Marketplace.
Magento introduced an Extension Quality Program which puts all applicants through a rigorous review process to ensure that any incoming extensions pass the platform’s expectations from a business, technical, and marketing perspective. Magento engineers review all extensions for quality assurance before they make it to the marketplace for store owners to purchase. The goal of this process is to create a more reliable pool of feature-enhancing modules.
The first step you should take when seeking an extension for your Magento 2 store is to look through the Magento Marketplace. Most extensions on the marketplace can be trusted as largely stable and give you the highest chance of a positive experience. Not all extensions on the Marketplace are going to be perfect- the extension developers still need to maintain their extensions as the platform changes and progresses, and there is still nothing preventing quality extensions from conflicting with one another. However, given the option of selecting an unvetted extension versus a product which has gone through a process like the Extension Quality Program the choice is clear.
Evaluate the Extension Company
The search doesn’t end at the Magento Marketplace. Whether you are able to find what you are looking for on the Marketplace, or you can only find an extension that meets your needs outside of the Marketplace, it is always worth evaluating the company that built the extension.
Contact the extension company’s support staff. This will help you gauge the degree of support the extension company offers and gives you some insight into the build quality of their product and how much assistance you will receive should a problem with the extension arise. Be sure to ask whether the extension has been tested and proven to be compatible on whichever version of Magento 2 you are running. If you see on the extension company’s website that the extension is listed as compatible with your version of Magento 2, reach out and ask how long it typically takes for the extension to be updated when a new version is released (this can be monumentally important down the line). This will also provide some insight into how quickly they respond to their customers.
When vetting the extension company, look for a partner or technology badge. Magento’s partner programs hold agencies accountable for producing consistently high-quality work that serves the interests of moving the platform forward. Technology Partners are required to update and recertify their extensions on the Marketplace within 30 days of a point update to the platform (a jump from Magento 2.1.6 to 2.1.7 for example). Most Magento partners boast their badges in a prominent location in their site’s header or home page, look for this badge as an added point of security when making the decision to purchase or download an extension. Again, there is nothing to say that even a Magento partner’s stable extension won’t conflict with that of another company, but you can more confidently trust that their extensions do what they promise in a stable manner.
Another great place to get feedback on how the extension performs is to read the extension’s reviews. Although many extensions available for Magento 2 have not been out long enough to generate a large number of reviews, evaluating the reviews that do exist can make an impactful difference in your decision to purchase. Magento is an open source platform boasting a full community of users eager to share common issues and solutions they encounter through reviews which could provide crucial information on the extension you are considering.
An extension with a few dozen reviews and a poor or mediocre rating tells you that either the extension may be buggy, may not actually accomplish what it claims, is not frequently updated etc. On the flip side an extension with hundreds of reviews with a high rating likely mean that it’s safe to trust from a functional and sustainable standpoint. Reading other merchants’ experiences with an extension can make or break your buying decision in a marketplace full of horror stories and glorious successes.
Finally, you may want to check the extensions changelog. Most extension companies openly display every extension’s changelog. Reading through an extension’s history gives you a number of valuable pieces of information including, how frequently the extension is updated, what sort of changes are typically packaged within these updates, and how closely the extension company monitors their products’ performance in the industry. For example, if an extension was released in 2016 and you don’t see any updates in the change log since this date, it is much more likely to cause problems on recent versions of Magento 2, if not break your website entirely depending on what version of Magento 2 you are running.
What Can You Expect with Your Existing Extensions in the Future?
Once you have chosen the right extension for your store, whether a pre-build option from the marketplace or a customer-build extension, installed it, tested it, and have launched your live site, what next? Ideally, most storeowners will say they hope this is the last time they have to touch this extension and everything will just continue to work as intended. Inevitably you will have to perform some degree of maintenance as Magento 2 progresses with releases. We recommend you keep a running list of the extensions operating on your site at all times. Anytime a major update is released for Magento 2 review your list, and verify that all of your extensions are compatible with the new version before upgrading. We also suggest performing a yearly review of your extensions. If there is an extension that works for the most part but ends up needing a high-degree of maintenance you should consider searching for a different solution that will be less time consuming for you to upkeep. New extensions are emerging every day, bringing new functionality to the Magento 2 platform and offering alternatives to known problem-extensions. It is always worth considering a new extension or custom-built solution if it means saving your business money over time.
Hopefully this guide has given you some valuable advice on how to choose the right extension for Magento 2. Running a Magento 2 store means that you will likely encounter the occasional poorly built extension, extension conflicts, and frequent extension updates corresponding with updates to the platform since it is still a young platform. Magento is making notable efforts to improve the quality of available extensions on the marketplace, combined with a cautious and well-contemplated approach to evaluating the additions you make to your website will lead to overall cleaner and more functional Magento 2 websites. Working closely with Magento Professional Solutions partners like Customer Paradigm as you add, build and improve upon your store will ensure you are leaning on expert-advice and industry-proven excellence geared towards driving your business forward. Connect with us today and let us help you reach your e-commerce goals!