As with many other open source software and enterprise solutions (i.e. WordPress, Drupal, Joomla, etc.) extensions, plugins and modules (respectively) give the said core platform more functionality and extendibility for the front end user. This blog post will highlight and explore a few of the more popular and useful Magento extensions on the market today.
Granted, there are a wide variety of high quality, premium extensions which cost upwards of hundreds of dollars as well as others completely free of charge. A word of warning though – not all extension are created equally and one should take caution that the code in some of these extensions could be copied and contain the possibility of malware. Also, take note of the misconception that the more extensions you install on your site the better it will be. Too many unnecessary or unused extension may cause poor site performance and page load times.
Any extension you wish to install onto your Magento site should first always be thoroughly investigated for its security and whether or not it is entirely necessary. The last thing you want to do is purchase a costly extension only to discover it is not compatible with your version of Magento and will require development hours to implement in order to function on your site.
Typically the first place a site admin or developer would look to find the majority of the Magento extensions is on Magento Connect – the Extensions Marketplace.
However, below are a variety of (eight) extensions which are not only popular but very useful for bringing more customization and usability features to just a standard default installation of Magento:
1. One Step Checkout by aheadWorks
Studies have repeatedly shown that the checkout page is one of the most important steps for users who shop on eCommerce websites. The ease of use, design and usability of checkout page is of upmost and crucial importance for the conversion of placing an order and completing a purchase online. The overall checkout process needs to be speedy and subconsciously effortless for the user in order to capture the sale.
As anyone who is reading this is most probably aware, the default Magento checkout process is tedious and strenuous at best. Personally, I have always thought there is great room for improvement.
Enter One Step Checkout to save the day – and what a joy it is in the online shopping experience! By grouping all data fields on one page (billing address, shipping method/address, payment method and Order Review) all in a seamless flow a user has to think less and subconsciously process more before finally clicking the all so important Purchase Item button.
The reason I like the One Step Checkout is the usability and flow. Also, as strange as it sounds, I really enjoy the look of the giant orange Place Order button.
2. WordPress integration by FishPig
Magento and WordPress go together like best friends. By installing a fully integrated blog built on the highly popular and flexible WordPress platform is a win-win for your Magento store. You will then have the ability to harness all the power and flexibility of WordPress attached to the most powerful and customizable eCommerce platform on the web, Magento. If configured with some customization the front end user will notice a seamless flow from your sites blog and back in the shopping experience.
It’s worth noting that this is not only the number one extension for to allow for blogging on your site but also the added benefit of SEO results.
3. Layered Navigation by aheadWorks
This is a terrific extension that provides enhanced usability and design to the front end user. By enhancing layered navigation on with Magento users will be better search for products on the website.
Technically layered navigation is preinstalled in out the box Magento. As described in the summary this extension:
“Optimizes the navigation and lets visitors search by categories, price ranges, color, and other product attributes.”
4. Reward Points by aheadWorks.
The design and the usability extension is excellent. This extension provides a customer loyalty incentive program. The more a user spends on the site the more points they receive towards applying to things such as discounts, coupons, or perhaps a free gift with a purchase.
5. Login as Customer by Potato Commerce
This is a nifty little extension which allows admin users to login to the front end of their Magento store as if they were a certain customer. Installation and configuration of it is simple and straightforward.
6. Social sharing extension by Virtual Brick
The power of social media has now been fully integrated into the fabric of our daily lives. It’s common knowledge and now a given that the best site should want to extend this behavior into your eCommerce site in order fully harness all the capabilities of sharing products socially.
Among other things this extension allows for a user to tweet, Facebook share and email certain products to their network of connections.
7. Gift Wrapping extension by kamtechnology
Naturally this installation of this extension depends on the type of online commerce store you operate. If you happen to be selling power tools or running a B2B store this think wouldn’t apply to your store.
However, if your store is selling consumer items such as jewelry this would be a perfect extension to consider installing.
After all, because who doesn’t like to the option to have your purchase automatically gift wrapped if it is being bought as a gift. This is a nifty extension.
8. Address Validation by WebShopApps
As the title suggests this extension provides automatic UPS shipping address validation to your customers.
Please feel free to add your comments, suggestions, thoughts and feedback below. We would enjoy learning and hearing what you have to add or remove to the list of extensions mentioned above..
Remember, for assistance with your Magento store, and all your eCommerce business needs call Alpine at (512) 277-3177 or simply Contact us here.