An Introduction to Magento

Please view our Magento Showcase to see some examples of online Web stores that we have completed for our clients.

Magento Ecommerce Those involved in eCommerce need an affordable, flexible design option when putting up their online stores. Magento was designed to meet this need. This open-source eCommerce solution is offered for free download and allows users to design, set up, and run their own eCommerce stores with great flexibility. However, using the program requires some basic knowledge of how it works and to run it properly need a designer/developer.

Terms Used with Magento Sites

The first step towards learning how to use Magento is learning the terms that the program uses when referring to itself. These terms are fundamental to using the Magento system. You need to have a basic understanding of them before you will be able to set up the system on your store.

With Magento, you can use one backend to manage all of your websites and stores. This makes it easier to target different markets, create stores in different languages, or expand your store in a number of other ways. You may or may not need this functionality when you set up your first website or store, but understanding it will help you as you grow. There are a few terms associated with this ability that you need to understand.

  • Website – In Magento, the term website refers all of the stores that share information, such as a mutual shopping cart, shared customer information, and shared order information.
  • Store – The store is the page where customers can purchase items. A website can have several stores on it, but those stores will share information with one another.
  • Store View – Magento allows you to create different store views to cater to people of different languages. If, for instance, you want your store to be displayed in English, French, or Spanish, you can have three store views. This will give one for each language.

At the outset, you will likely have one website, one store, and one store view, but you should be aware of the expandability of the product, as you may want to make changes in the future.

How Magento Is Structured

The main benefit of using Magento is its flexibility, and this flexibility is built into the main architecture of the program. The goal of this structure is to keep the base codes secure, yet scalable to meet different needs. In order to do this, Magento's designers built the program's code on the Zend Framework.

While you do not have to understand coding to be able to use Magento, you should know some basics to help you understand why the program is so flexible. These terms will give you a basic understanding of the architecture of Magento's code.


When you download Magento, you are downloading the core code, and this includes everything you need for all of the expansions possible with the program. The core contains all modules you would need to expand the program in the future, and you should not edit the core code. Any time the program is updated, the core code allows the update to happen.

In addition to the core code, your initial download will create two folders. One is for local extensions, and the other is for community contributions:

  • Local Extensions – If you make changes to Magento for your own use, these extensions will be put into the local extensions folder. This allows you to make the changes without affecting the core code.
  • Community Contributions – The community folder is the place where any community contributions that you download are stored. Again, this protects the core code from being changed.

Why is it so important to protect the core code? Any changes to the core code make it impossible to receive upgrades to Magento. Local and community folders allow the program to be flexible without damaging its ability to be upgraded.


Extensions are programs or files that expand the functions of Magento without damaging the core code. Users can install extensions from their administration panels, or they can download them directly from Magento Connect. Extensions fall into four main categories: modules, interface, blocks, and themes.


If you need to add a function to Magento, you will do so through a module. Again, you do not necessarily need to understand how this works, but rather what it is. For instance, if you wanted your store to be able to promote a featured item, you would add the module for this option.


When users visit your store, what they see is based on the interface. You choose the interface through the administration panel, and this will dictate the look and user features of your store.


When you log on to a Magento store, you will notice a logical layout with several sections, or blocks, on the page. This makes the stores visually appealing and functional at the same time. Structural blocks set different pieces of the page apart, making it easier to navigate. For instance, a page may be made out of four blocks, a header, footer, main portion, and left sidebar. Content blocks can also be used to create the content within the structural blocks.


You can use themes to give your store a unique visual appearance. Themes use layout, templates, and skins to make the store more visibly appealing.

  • Layouts – The layout of the page is created by a XML file. This file sets the block design, controls META tags, and encodes the page.
  • Templates – These are PHTML files that carry the PHP tags that help the page look visually appealing and logical.
  • Skins – Skins are CSS and JavaScript files that work with the HTML and images to add color and visual appeal to a store and each specific block.

Themes work with blocks to create a unique storefront for each user, in spite of the fact that all Magento stores run on the same basic core code.

Understanding the details about how these extensions work together to create your store is not necessary. After all, you chose Magento so that you would not have to bother with HTML and META tags. However, understanding what they are and a little about what they do will help you as you work to set up your first Magento eCommerce site.

If you would like to ask us any questions about Magento please don't hesitate to contact us.

Next Chapter: Magento Reports and Analytics