When thinking about an upgrade to Magento 2 it is important to understand what is involved and what advantages upgrading to Magento 2 actually offers.
The expected landrush to upgrade to Magento 2 through 2016 and early 2017 has not materialised. The current thinking is that it will happen through Q3 of 2017, as the platform reaches full stability and the developer community has enough experience to manage the upgrades successfully and in an economically viable manner.
The Magento platform has always been promoted as the most flexible ecommerce platform in the world, accessible to all due to its foundations as an open source project. Whilst this has been a major strength, the process of moving towards Magento 2 and the focus by the new owners to grow the Enterprise channel and achieve top Magic Quadrant status at Gartner shows us the intended trajectory of travel for the business.
Its also important to understand that Magento Enterprise 1.13 and above are only supported until November 2018. Magento Community 1.x is unsupported anyway, but there are no further releases to this version and any security patching for this platform ends in November 2018. The move to Magento 2 is not an option, its a reality. We want to help you understand what is really involved in an upgrade to Magento 2.
So what is involved in the upgrade to Magento 2?
It is often referred to as an upgrade but the increasing view across the Magento Community that this is a re-platform and needs to be approached as a new project. That is not to say it is as difficult as a total new build, but there are elements that need to be considered as part of the process.
Firstly, the data from the Magento 1 build can often be migrated across without too much difficulty giving us a skeleton Magento 2 build in a reasonable amount of developer time. This is akin to an upgrade experience.
However, the front end template cannot be migrated. It has to be completely rebuilt, and the majority of the learning curves that developers and agencies have had to go through are in this area. This has also been one of the most ‘buggy’ areas of Magento 2 since launch. With the release of Magento 2.1.4 our front end developers have stated that Magento 2 is now stable and are beginning to ramp up the number of new clients on the platform. But, you need to be aware that this is a time consuming area of the Magento 2 upgrade.
The next area that is a challenge surrounds plugins and custom modules/components. In many cases the original software developers have not yet released a version for Magento 2, or will not be doing one. Therefore a full audit of any 3rd party plugins is essential before any upgrade to Magento 2 begins. It may be necessary to custom code the functions or look for reputable, fully tested 3rd party plugins compatible with Magento 2. Developers then need to test all of the upgraded and new plugins in the round to make sure they are not conflicting with each other or causing issues with the Magento 2 core code functions. Time needs to be allowed for this.
Any custom code written to extend the functionality of Magento 1 will need to fully audited, and in some cases rewritten from the ground up to work in Magento 2. This could be one of the most expensive parts of a Magento 2 upgrade. It does cause agencies and developers concern as the Magento platform has built its success on the ease of extensibility and this is a major hurdle in the Magento 2 upgrade process, and is the main reason why we are now terming it a rebuild.
The last part of the puzzle relates to data integrations or connections to third party data, or systems integration. Typically to platforms such as SQL, MS Dynamics, SAP or NetSuite. In the majority of cases, especially for B2B clients, these integrations are highly customised and will require a rewrite, so make sure you have fully scoped out the technical requirements for this as part of the upgrade plan. Testing will be vital and time consuming.
Pre-launch to your upgrade to Magento 2 make sure that the agencies SEO team are on top of any redirects and changes to meta tags across the new site. Loss of search rankings could be a major issue if not considered as part of the process. Again this is a time consuming process requiring accuracy and diligence.
Advantages of an upgrade to Magento 2
It can’t all be bad news, after all a major platform upgrade such as this is put in place to provide advantages and improvements and Magento 2 does deliver in this regard.
If you use the Magento Enterprise system the new owners have decided to fork development in your favour and introduce a lot of exciting new features for the Enterprise platform users. So if you are on this platform you can expect to see some very interesting features rolling out to help with merchandising, promotions, live testing, B2B functionality and options for a full order management system.
For Magento Community users its not quite as exciting, but still worth the journey in the hope that some of the Enterprise features might make their way into Community at a later date, or that the 3rd party software developers well release plugins with similar functions.
The Magento 2 Community edition upgrade does make major improvements to the user dashboard and back office functions, you get a cleaner, streamlined checkout process that works very well for returning customers.
For the technical minded amongst you, Magento 2 supports PHP 7 which does provide real speed increases for properly optimized stores. Combine this with full page caching and you will see significant page load performance improvements.
Payment gateways such as PayPal and Braintree are embedded and integrations to WorldPay and Cybersource are available.
Manual product creation has been made much easier, approximately 4x faster than M1, but in the real world the majority of our customers manage products in third party systems and import them to Magento.
Some areas of the Magento 2 admin interface now support drag and drop functionality making it easier for non-technical users to manage content. It is alos touch screen friendly for user that want to mange their business using tablets.
Magento 2 has also been built using a LESS framework to make it more mobile responsive. Front end developers are divided on how effective this has been, and at the time of writing it is being improved further by the Magento team.
One advantage of having to rework the front end of your Magento 2 web site is that it gives you the opportunity to focus on the site usability and navigation, as well as performing a user experience audit, taking advantage of conversion rate optimization techniques that have come on stream since you built your Magento 1 store.
The best news is that once you have made the move to Magento 2 it is fair to say that the upgrade process will be much easier moving forwards. Instead of numerous patches as seen in Magento 1, all security updates and feature releases are packaged into easy to run Magento upgrades. This will be a major advantage moving forwards.
When should we begin planning our Upgrade to Magento 2?
This depends on the complexity of your existing Magento 1 build. If you are a straightforward B2C client with no plugins and integrations to 3rd party data, there is no urgency. Your upgrade to Magento 2 should be reasonably straightforward. We would advise looking at a Q1 2018 window.
For customers that have plugins, third party integrations and customised module code we are recommending going into discovery through Q3 of 2017 with a view to beginning work as soon as possible. We cannot stress enough the importance of ensuring that the Magento 2 upgrade/re-platform is properly scoped and specified. It is vital to understand the challenges and risks before beginning work.
It is distinctly possible that if you wait until Q2/3 2018 that there will be a shortage of quality certified Magento developers available.
This could result in a large number of project failures undertaken by novice Magento developers, rushed migrations or very high prices from established Magento agencies that are having to pay developers more for extra working hours.
We would advise caution and proper planning.
If you would like to know more about any of the topics covered in this article, or get further advice from a Magento certified team please contact us by email, via a form on the web site, or by calling +44 1604 696385.