What is open source?

We’ve been discussing how Magento is an open source platform but if you are left feeling a little confused about what that means, don’t worry you’re not alone!

The source code is the part of a piece of software that most users don’t ever see. It is the foundation of the piece of software that allows it to look and function as it does.

If a piece of software is ‘open source’ it means that the source code is free for anyone to use, modify and enhance. Of course, if you are not experienced in web development, it is likely that you will want to leave the modifying and enhancing parts to the experts. An experienced web developer will be able to change, manipulate and add to the code in order to tailor the software to the needs of the user and fix any parts that may not be working correctly.

Open source software can be downloaded, installed and modified free of charge.

Open source software can be downloaded, installed and modified free of charge.

Web developers and users often prefer open source software as it gives them increased control over the application. For example, if there are parts of it they don’t like, they can simply get rid of it and replace it with something else. They also have the option to use the software for any purpose they wish to, not just how someone else thinks it should be used.

Another reason open source software like Magento is held in high regards is because many people consider it to be more secure and stable than proprietary software. Seeing as anyone is allowed to view and study the code, if there are any errors or bugs, they are more likely to be noticed and corrected. Many developers also constantly work on improving the software (for their clients) and share it with others, allowing everyone to benefit from regular updates. This is certainly true of Magento, which is regularly fixed, maintained and upgraded by dedicated web developers from all over the world.

If you want to brush up on more terminology related to Magento and eCommerce, visit our Magento Glossary of Terms.

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Is Magento free?

Magento Community Edition

The Magento Community Edition is offered free of charge under the Open Source OSL 3.0 license. It is completely free to download, install and modify as you wish too. There are no registration fees to pay and you will not have to pay any commission to Magento. 

Magento Enterprise Edition

On the other hand, you have the Magento Enterprise Edition, which is offered as an annual subscription. There are costs involved in using this version of Magento and they will vary depending on the package you go for. What we will say is that this version of the software is designed for larger and more established businesses that require additional features and professional support.

For all other eCommerce businesses, the Magento Community Edition will make a better choice. However it is important to remember that whilst it is free to download and install, there will be costs to cover aspects like themes and widgets (unless you use free ones) and Magento services provided by professional developers. It is possible to build a great Magento eCommerce store on a tight budget but if you want to benefit from bespoke themes and extensions, you will need to consider the costs charged by Magento developers.

Magento provides open source eCommerce

One of the best things about using an open source platform like Magento is that developers around the world are constantly working to improve it. Many web developers dedicate themselves to improving the Magento platform, not only by fixing bugs and creating updates but also by building themes and extensions.

Themes are templates that alter the look of your Magento eCommerce store and extensions are used to add to its functionality. If you want to give your Magento store a unique look and ensure it offers your site visitors a great user experience, then you will need to make use of Magento themes and extensions.

Many web developers create themes and extensions for other merchants to use, selling them on marketplaces like Magento Connect. Some web developers also offer their Magento themes and extensions to users for free under the open source license, again this means that people are free to modify and extend the code in order to make it a better fit for their needs.

As well as building themes and extensions for Magento merchants to use, they also provide on-going support and updates to ensure users get the most out of their purchases and the Magento platform as a whole.

Free Magento extensions and themes can be downloaded from the Magento Connect store.

Free Magento extensions and themes can be downloaded from the Magento Connect store.

Free Magento extensions

There are many Magento extensions available to download and some of them are even free! If you are looking to build your Magento website on a budget, it is highly recommended that you take advantage of the free extensions available.

Magento extensions can be used to extend the platform for both a business and its customers. Whilst some extensions are designed to improve the website’s user experience for site visitors others are designed to aid the business owner e.g. extensions for reporting and analytics.

Take a look at the Magento Connect store and you will see there are thousands of free Magento extensions available. They have all been grouped into categories to make it easier for you to locate the type of extension you require. Whether you are looking to integrate your Magento store with social media platforms, create an online feedback form for your customers or make it easier for you to track your orders, you are sure to find a free Magento extension to meet your needs.

Just to be on the safe side, it is recommended that you always check the ratings and reviews before you download a free Magento extension to ensure it actually does what it claims to. You should also see if the web developer provides on-going support and updates, as this will be very beneficial to you.

Our last tip is not to get too carried away with free Magento extensions. Whilst they’re great for adding functionality to your Magento store, they can slow Magento down considerably and you always need to check the reviews, ratings and check for compatibility with the version that you’re using. This is why we recommend only using extensions that add significant value to your website.

Build your eCommerce store on a budget using a free Magento theme.

Build your eCommerce store on a budget using a free Magento theme.

Free Magento themes

Customising your Magento store to make it stand out to your customers is a very important process. Whilst you could invest in a bespoke Magento theme to give your eCommerce store a completely unique look, if you are on a tight budget, you may opt for a free Magento theme instead.

Like with the Magento extensions, there are plenty of free Magento themes to choose from. Web developers design themes to suit all business types and many these days are responsive meaning that they are compatible with mobile and tablet devices too. Having said that for a relatively small free you can get some exceptional paid templates that are responsive and worth every penny.

Before downloading a free Magento theme, you should check that it has good ratings and reviews. If you are unsure how to install the theme and customise it, you may want to get in touch with an experienced Magento developer, as they will be able to get it set up for you and ensure there aren’t any compatibility issues.

For more information about the Magento platform, please have a read through the other pages we have linked to in this article and if you have any questions regarding Magento or our web development services, feel free to contact us.

Image credits: pharadaka and sprovoast04