Taming the Magento eCommerce Behemoth

When we learned we were developing a robust eCommerce solution for fashion company Laure Nell, I thought my various experiences with different CMS’ and standard eCommerce frameworks were sufficient enough to expect what was to come. From what we’d read on the topic, the documentation for Magento has improved over the past few years, though being relatively new to the platform, we were still left with many questions and almost nowhere to turn for answers.

After a few days perusing the forums, the documentation, and collaborating with our Magento consultant some relatively simple starter steps that shouldn’t have taken so long to figure out surfaced. This article will attempt to outline some of these starting steps in hopes that it helps someone else in a similar situation.

Magento Hosting

One thing we discovered quickly was having Magento installed on a standard LAMP box wasn’t going to cut it. Performance was nearly unusable on a standard Linux server. SimpleHelix ended up being the go-to host for Magento, as their PHP rules are optimized to run PHP-based CMS’ much faster than a default LAMP setup other hosters offer.

Essential Magento Setup Tips

We found that Magento’s MVC-based framework did a great job of making it difficult to keep things like CSS and page markup within easy access of each other. There were two primary access points within FTP where we could access most of what we needed in order to manipulate the default Mage core:



Once we located these paths and understood the separation of phtml files and Pages/Blocks available through the admin, we hit the ground running. The next step was figuring out how to get at the markup for the stuff we couldn’t find. One Config setting made this process wonderfully easy – pay attention here because every Magento beginner should enable this commonly overlooked setting:

System > Configuration > Advanced > Developer > Translate Inline > Enabled for Frontend > Yes

This setting essentially makes all database driven dynamic elements able to have their values edited directly from the front-end of the site. For example, changing the text of the Search Box was easily done using this option. Must-have Magento Extensions Being somewhat new to Magento, one of the first areas of experimentation for us was in the dynamically generated navigation bar. The typical workaround for adding static pages to the nav seems to be involving adding categories to the product catalog – not something we were entirely comfortable doing.


Our first round of experimenting landed us in search of something that would let us specify exactly what items were being called up in the nav. We ended up with an Extension called NavAdmin. Setup was straight forward but understanding what the extension required in order to reference a page was less obvious. After ensuring all paths were hard-coded to the domain, the extension took a bulk of the worry off our backs. Unirgy_Giftcert Gift Cards are something that will eventually be offered on LaureNell.com. The Unirgy_Giftcert extension from Unirgy covers all of the bases regarding certificate code generation and PINs. Conclusion Magento is a very robust eCommerce platform that has more than delivered against our needs. We think you’ll find that through some due diligence you will discover several game-changing settings and extensions… and ultimately experience an eCommerce platform that is hearty enough to capture nearly all client requirements.