Joomla! E-commerceThe e-commerce platform Magento has only been around a few years but it can offer e-commerce business owners a very competent alternative to a Joomla! Virtuemart setup. Although I'm not entirely unbiased, I'm happy to admit that Magento offers the user lot of great functionalities. What should you consider when making your choice?

The state of Joomla! e-commerce blogs are a series I am writing about Joomla! e-commerce extensions. Click the "e-commerce" label/tag to read more articles about this subject. A previous blog post was "The state of Joomla! e-commerce in December 2010".

Update 2012: Off course things have changed now Virtuermart 2.0 is finally released! View our review and screenshots, a Virtuermart 2.0 tutorial, and find iDEAL for Virtuemart 2.0

This is a translated version of a blog post "Joomla! Virtuemart vs Magento" I wrote in Dutch in January 2010. I have also updated it to reflect the current situation. I would also like to mention that there are now more Joomla! e-commerce extensions. So you should also read this blog post to get a good overview: The state of Joomla! e-commerce December 2010.

First of all it should be said that this is not intended as a conclusive argument about which of the two systems one should choose. I merely would like to reflect on feedback I've picked up within the market, so you can make a well-informed choice. When setting up a new web shop you should obviously conduct a thorough research to establish which platform contributes best towards the success of your new project.

Magento: advantages and disadvantages

The Magento platform is reasonably new, has a smart parent company (Varien) behind it and offers, for example, landing pages, analytics integration, advanced marketing promotions, extensive ACL management and many other default functionality. The development has been set up properly and is advancing fast, there are regularly updates available packed with new functionalities.

However, Magento does have a few drawbacks. First of all the web shop package is extremely heavy and not every hoster can therefore accept it  (more hosters can support Joomla! and Virtuemart on their servers). Another common complaint is that the system is slow. I've also heard from Magento enthusiasts that Magento can become very expensive in management when used for smaller web shops (approximately 50 products), as the package contains many complicated functionalities.

magento logo

In addition, if you want to use Magento you'd have to have some knowledge of for example programming language such as PHP. Expanding or customizing Magento can be tough, also because Magento uses advanced programming techniques that not all programmers are familiar with. One also has to take his time to learn Magento and then can get to work.

By the way, you can "connect" Magento to Joomla! with the Joomla! Magebridge extension!

Joomla! and Virtuemart: advantages and disadvantages

Joomla! and Virtuemart require less technical knowledge. Granted, the PHP code and layout is sloppy, but Virtuemart allows you nevertheless to quickly put your shop online and maintain it easily as there are many extensions readily available so you don't have to program these yourself. And if you already know your way around Joomla!, Virtuemart will prove to be a breeze to work with. Functioning of both Joomla! and Virtuemart are based on the same principles.

virtuemart_logo

Virtuemart is fully integrated in Joomla! and offers several payment methods amongst which iDEAL (popular Dutch payment method). Joomla! has more than 3500 extensions and Virtuemart will usually function seamlessly with these. The big advantage of this is that you can easily transform your website into a community including a forum, blog, guestbook, photo album and so on. Your web shop will rank higher in Google because of this and you'll also retain more customers. 

Another benefit of Virtuemart is the large number of professional Virtuemart extensions! For example ccVAOM adds powerful order and invoice management to Virtuemart that's even better then the default options in Magento. 

A major (and with major I mean HUGE) drawback of Virtuemart is the slow development and a lack of (default) advanced functionalities. There are luckily often (commercial) providers that have developed these functionalities and offer them as a paid extensions, like PDF invoices in Virtuemart. But you would naturally rather see these extensions standard in the Virtuemart package, as some of them are standard in Magento.

Virtuemart or Magento?

Admittedly, Virtuemart is usable but there is definitely nothing wrong with Magento. It's developed by professional and goal-orientated developers. The Magento community is substantial, the backend looks good and clean and the package offers -for the time being- more functionalities than Virtuemart. However, if you plan to expand Magento professionally with, for example, multi-shops or links with logistic systems, be ready to fork out quite some money and time.

At the moment, Virtuemart is slowly being developed, but it does offer a lot of extensions and it piggybacks on the success of Joomla!. There are a few good looking templates and extensions that offer Virtuemart the professional functionalities that the standard package currently is lacking. If you're setting up a small web shop, Virtuemart is most likely the faster and cheaper option.

Both packages are open source and free, but Magento also has an enterprise version.