Magento 1 vs Magento 2: Is the Upgrade Worth the Effort to Replatform?
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The year was 2008. Sony’s Blu-ray HD format seemed poised to replace the DVD. Apple introduced the ultra-thin MacBook Air laptop. And, in ecommerce circles, an open source platform called Magento Community Edition appeared on the market and started making waves due to high customizability.
Now, one or two things have changed in the technology world in the last 12 years. Magento is no exception.
While Magento developed a loyal following with its original product, it wasn’t without its issues. Magento 2 was released to address some of these complaints, but was itself met with mixed reviews.
Adding to potential confusion, Magento 1 and Magento 2 aren’t singular versions of Magento. Magento also has Enterprise Editions. Unlike Magento Community Edition (now Magento Open Source), the product is not free to download. However, the steep price tag comes with the advantages of installation, configuration, and technical support for larger businesses.
Here’s a quick outline:
Magento 1 (which can mean either Magento 1 Community Edition or Magento 1 Enterprise Edition) and Magento 2 with all of the following:
Magento 2 Open Source: The free-to-download option without support
Magento 2 Enterprise Edition (EE): The on-premise, self-hosted option designed for enterprise businesses and priced by individual quote based on business size and complexity.
Magento 2 Enterprise Cloud Edition (ECE): Similar to EE, but pricing includes cloud hosting through Amazon Web Services. This is also sometimes known as Magento Commerce.
On April 27, 2017, Magento announced during Meet Magento Prague that support for Magento 1 would end on November 1, 2018. The original announcement was so poorly received by the Magento Community that the final End of Life date was later changed to June 30, 2020. After this date, Magento stopped supporting this product with updates.
It’s 2020, and you’re reading about the difference between Magento 1 and Magento 2. Likely this means one of two things:
You’re on the now sunsetted Magento 1; you know you need to move, and you’re trying to decide if Magento 2 makes enough improvement on Magento 1 to be worth the replatform.
You’re on another platform and are considering switching to Magento 2 and want to see how the platform has evolved.
Regardless of the reason, we’re glad you’re here. Hopefully, this deep dive into Magento 1 and Magento 2 will help you get a clear understanding of the differences between the two versions and if either one of them is right for your business.
As mentioned in the Introduction, you’re likely not here because you’re adopting Magento 1 for the first time. Generally, people get off sinking ships, not on them. Now that Magento 1 is no longer supported, it doesn’t have a sustainable future as your ecommerce platform..
Magento officially stopped supporting Magento 1 on June 30, 2020.
Magento is no longer creating updates or security patches for the product. Not having these patches means you are now at risk of hefty fines for lack of PCI compliance, a loss of reputation, and vulnerabilities to your store and customer data.
Beyond these security concerns, many of the extensions to third-party systems that you rely on are quickly becoming obsolete, leading you to pay for expensive developer work to replace the updates that Magento is no longer making.
Suffice it to say, there are plenty of reasons to abandon ship now before things get worse.Now the question becomes, is Magento 2 the right choice for your exit strategy? Do the improvements that Magento 2 makes on Magento 1 justify pouring time and money into that replatform, or are you better off expanding your option pool?
You’ve seen the writing on the wall, and you’re wondering if it’s worth it to replatform to Magento 2. Magento 2 was released with new features to solve many of the bugs and drawbacks of Magento 1. And for what it’s worth, it has definitely made some improvements.
But are those strides enough to undergo the huge investment that it takes to build a brand new store in Magento 2 after already heavily investing in your Magento 1 store? Read on to decide for yourself.
Has the architecture changed?
How’s the performance and load times?
Is it more mobile friendly?
Is the admin easy to use?
What payment gateways are available?
How streamlined is the checkout process?
Is security an issue?
Is there conflict with extensions?
Can I get customer support?
Magento 2 has added technologies to improve on the tech stack of Magento 1. In some ways, it’s a brand new platform, which is one of the reasons it’s not a simple data migration to switch to the new version. The architecture of Magento 2 is based on PHP7, which opens up the platform for better optimization and customization. Additionally, Magento 2 supports HTML5.
Magento 2 supports the Zend Framework 1 and 2 (as opposed to just Zend Framework 1 for Magento 1). Magento 2 also now supports MySQL Percona 5.6 and greater.
Magento 2 has also added new technologies that are not available at all with Magento 1. These include:
NGINX: An open-source web server that serves as a reverse proxy, HTTP cache, and load balancer.
Varnish: A cost-effective alternative for web acceleration that can add significant speed to your Magento 2 site.
Composer: A tool for dependency management in PHP which can allow you to reuse third-party libraries without bundling with source code and reduce extension conflicts.
Symfony: A PHP web application framework that makes it easier to control the content, functionality, and look and feel of your online store.
Redis: An open source, in-memory data structure store uses as a database cache and broker for messages.
Unless you’re on the tech team at your organization, you may not care as much about the underlying architecture and updates to the tech stack. What you do care about? What they mean for your business. One of the questions you likely want answered: What is the performance of Magento 2? This is especially relevant as your business grows and you need to scale with increased traffic demands.
Performance is one of the biggest complaints about Magento 1. Magento 1 has average page load speeds of over two seconds. This is a problem because studies have found that conversion rates drop off steeply per every second of load time. According to Google, two seconds is the absolute threshold for ecommerce website acceptability.
Many of the new technologies mentioned above have helped to optimize Magento pages for faster delivery and reduced server response time. Magento 2 is faster all around in frontend performance with page loading speeds on average around 50% faster on the homepage and product pages. Checkout is 38% faster.
Even though Magento 2 has significant improvements on Magento 1 performance, you will still need to be proactive about optimizing your site speed. This not only improves your conversion rates but also impacts your SEO. Slow load times hurt crawl efficiency, which leads to fewer of your pages being indexed by search engines.
It’s also important to note that the quality of your hosting will have a big impact on your overall performance. The new technologies help a bit, but if you aren’t using quality hosting, your performance will suffer. Magento 2 Enterprise Cloud Commerce includes hosting, while other versions allow the merchant to choose their hosting (for better or worse).
More and more shoppers are feeling comfortable living life on a phone or mobile device—and that includes doing their browsing, product research, and even buying. Mobile ecommerce is rising to the point that it’s imperative to have a mobile-friendly website. Just look at these numbers:
According to this data from Statista, U.S. mobile retail sales are expected to reach $432 billion by 2022.
In addition to appealing to a larger and larger swath of the consumer population, having a mobile-friendly site improves your search rankings. Google considers mobile-friendliness to be a key ranking factor and has since 2015.
So how do Magento 1 and 2 compare in helping you get your mobile up to snuff?
Mobile friendliness was one of the major complaints with Magento 1, right up there with site performance. There have been workarounds created by Magento developers and the Magento community over the years to optimize for mobile, but it is not standard with Magento 1 themes.
Compared to Magento 1, Magento 2 is significantly more mobile-friendly. The themes are responsive, and the checkout is optimized for mobile. Of course, while there are themes for Magento, most everything is going to be custom and merchants will want to make sure their developers are Magento certified.
Magento 2 also supports Progressive Web Apps (PWAs) which can allow them to create a native mobile app like experience for their site.
So far we’ve largely focused on the frontend and how it impacts what your customers see and respond to. However, you also likely care about how things work on the backend, where you may be spending a fair amount of time. Does the latest version of Magento provide a more user friendly admin panel?
The admin panel in Magento 1 was super clunky and difficult to navigate. It was also missing an advanced dashboard which Magento 2 supplies.
The admin panel is an improvement on Magento 1 in terms of ease of navigation, but it still has a steep learning curve. A lot of tasks can be pretty overwhelming to setup and manage, and if you aren’t doing things in the correct order, you can get stuck.
The new dashboard displays last orders, new orders, and average orders; lifetime retail sales, top search keywords, income tax, bestsellers, and more. It also enables customers to configure products and customize data grids to what they most need to see.
Allowing your customers to pay with the payment gateway that is most familiar to them can go a long way to building trust and improving the conversion rates of your ecommerce business.
With this ecommerce solution, store owners could integrate most of the popular payment gateways to use on their Magento site. However, this usually required a third-party integration or sometimes custom development work.
Unlike with Magento 1, Magento 2 now supports the most popular payment gateways automatically, without requiring additional integrations. Supported gateways include PayPal, Braintree, and Authorize.net.
According to surveys, 23% of shoppers will abandon a cart if the checkout process is too complicated. Keeping your checkout process streamlined is a must-have.
The checkout process for this version typically involved six different steps: checkout method, billing info, shipping info, choosing a shipping method, payment information, and reviewing the order. These were difficult to skip and were often presented on separate pages.
Magento 2 makes some improvements on checkout user experience by simplifying the process down to two steps: shipping and reviewing payments. Magento 2 also has accelerated checkout options as well.
Consumers are very concerned with the security of their data and are unlikely to buy from a brand they don’t trust with that data. A survey of online shopping behavior found that data security and privacy ranked highest among factors consumers consider when deciding whether to buy from a store. If that isn’t enough reason to maintain your security, you can also face big fines and a loss of reputation if you are found to not be PCI compliant.
We’ve covered this already, but Magento 1 no longer has any security patches or updates. This means you won’t be able to maintain a secure site without some very expensive development costs to create and update those patches for you.
With Magento 2, your site can be as secure as you want to make it. You will have patches and updates, but you will still need to manage PCI compliance on your own. Magento 2 is technically PCI compliant if you don’t make any changes, but essentially no one uses an unmodified version of Magento, hence why you are taking on the responsibility of PCI compliance management on your own. Much like Magento 1, the more you customize your Magento store, the harder installing future updates and patches becomes, so managing your PCI compliance can quickly become burdensome.
This differs from SaaS platforms like BigCommerce that manage the PCI compliance of the underlying platform for you.
It’s unlikely that any ecommerce platform will be able to serve all of the business needs of your ecommerce store, which is where extensions come in. How extensible is your platform, and how easy is it to integrate necessary extensions?
Another ongoing complaint with Magento 1 has historically been that there were a lot of problems with conflicting third-party extensions. It wasn’t always easy to get multiple extensions to work together.
Magento 2 improves this issue by allowing extensions to overlap. New technologies like HTML5, CSS3, and REquire.js also make it easier to install extensions. That said, extensions can still be hard to manage as you customize your Magento store.
Sometimes you just need help to get your store working the way you want it to. Which version, if either, is able to offer you that support?
Since the product was sunset, you can’t get any patches or updates from Magento to support your store. You are on your own, a lifeboat adrift at sea.
With Magento 2, the level of customer support depends on which version you are working with. As we mentioned in the introduction, Magento 2 covers both Magento Open Source, Magento Enterprise Edition, and Enterprise Cloud Edition. Only the latter two options provide support, and they also come with a steep price tag. Magento Open Source is free to download, but does not come with customer support.
Realistically, this isn’t even a question. Magento 1 and Magento 2 aren’t really at battle because one is a viable ecommerce platform and the other is a dying star that simply isn’t a secure place to build a site.
If you are currently on Magento 1, your only question (which I assure you we will get to shortly) is whether you should invest in moving to Magento 2 or cast a wider net for other options.
If you do choose to migrate to Magento 2, your investment is likely to be steep. (One more reason it’s good to think long and hard before making a decision.)
Trusted Magento 2 development agency Exinent estimates that a medium-sized ecommerce site might cost $50,000 on the low end and take five months to complete, and that’s if you have a minimum of customizations. (A quick look at your calendar will tell you: you don’t have five months.) They also recommend that you look at the cost to build your Magento 1 site and add another 10% to that.
The best time to migrate from Magento 1? Several months ago. The second best time to migrate from Magento 1? As soon as possible.
You’re doing due diligence by starting to compare Magento 2, but in reality, there are a number of other options you should vet that may better serve you in the long run.
After you make your final decision, you will still have a full replatform ahead of you. As mentioned above, even if you move to Magento 2, it will not be a simple data migration, but closer to a full replatform. You will need to not only move all your data, but also set up necessary integrations and develop your site’s UI and UX. And of course, you will want to make sure to leave time to test everything before going live.
Now we come to the real question: does it make sense to look beyond Magento 2 and consider your alternatives? This all depends on your business and its specific needs.
You may have gone to an open-source option originally because you didn’t think a SaaS solution could handle the level of customization you needed. However, since you’ve been on Magento 1, things in the SaaS world have changed.
An open SaaS solution like BigCommerce with flexible APIs can allow you to build what you want, seamlessly connect to extensions, innovate with creative digital experiences, and scale as you grow. BigCommerce also supports options like headless, including Progressive Web Apps, that have previously required an open source platform. You will also then have all the benefits of SaaS including hosting, reliable performance, and security. (Note: Magento Enterprise Cloud Edition also includes hosting, but not PCI compliance.) Essentially, unless you have extreme customization needs, BigCommerce may be able to provide you the site you need at a lower total cost of ownership.
Has Magento 2 made the type of progress you need in order to make it your next ecommerce platform? Or is it time to move on to one of the innovative alternatives out there? Only you can answer that question.