In spinning up a new store for keepandcastle.com I decided to go with Magento (the free community edition) because it seems to be an extremely flexible base to build on from a design perspective. I have worked with Zen Cart for about 6 years and enjoyed the speed at which you could spin up a store (you could have a fully running and functional store within 6 hours, if you had a payment processor ready to go) but have been frustrated by difficulties in setting up custom templates or adding functionality because either of these activities seemed to require (sometimes extensive) modifications of core files. Version 2.0 of Zen Cart has been promised for a few years and seems like it would address those issues. However, I wanted to try out a new platform so I chose Magento.
Installing Magento was easy enough, I need a database, a user for that database, and needed to allow write access to a few folders during the installation. It took about 15 minutes all told. This is where I diverged from the simple path, however, since I didn’t want our site to look like very other site out there. This meant creating a new design package and theme. In Zen Cart this was easy (if my theme doesn’t have a needed file, the default is used). In Magento the process took over half an hour and I ended up with absolutely no styling. Since my goal was to be able to style the site myself from the ground up, I celebrated!
I used this guide to walk through the basics, and I’ll post later on how easy it was to add my own styles and functionality. However, at the moment, I have an non-functioning but entirely unstyled site to work with. We’ll see how it goes from here!