Free Magento Stores – Myth or Truth?
Magento is one of most popular open source ecommerce platforms and offers many benefits to its users, including a free version and developed community of store owners, extension and theme providers, and Magento experts.
It is truly powerful, sophisticated and efficient without any doubts, but some perfectionists (or dreamers) certainly wonder about the possibility to launch a Magento store without any expenses. Let’s see how can we fulfill this task or at least come close to the solution.
Starting from the very beginning of Magento, such queries as “free Magento themes” and “free Magento extensions” are very popular. So, people definitely like free stuff.
Free Magento Extension vs. Free Magento Theme
Most of freebie fans come from India, but free stuff is also popular in such comfortable countries like Netherlands, United Kingdom, and Australia. So, it seems to be inherent in any person to get something for free, and that’s OK.
Free Magento – Regional Interst
Nevertheless, we were not able to find any glorious stories chanting successful stores on Magento built without any expenses. What is the reason of that frustration? Perhaps, there are no really good things among free products. Well, let’s see.
Free Magento Themes
A Magento theme is the face of your store and actually influences the way visitors perceive it. Magento Community Edition already includes a responsive theme by default, but if you have some specific requirements to your design and layout, you can try to find an appropriate theme outside.
Frankly speaking, free Magento themes are numerous and the first place to start looking for them is Magento Connect, of course – the marketplace, which brings together almost all more or less interesting providers of Magento themes and extensions.
For this very moment Magento Connect contains 119 free Magento themes for different fields of ecommerce, which seem to be just enough for any picky choice.
If you need some other options, you can try to find free themes on other dedicated sites, including templatemonster.com or siteground.com. But, you have to clearly understand that today you need only a high-quality responsive theme and should carefully choose the most suitable one.
Now, when you have an appropriate theme on your store, we can proceed to free Magento extensions.
Free Magento Extensions
Despite the native Magento functionality is great sometimes we need some specific features corresponding to the peculiarities of our business. In this case, you need to refer to free Magento extensions on Magento Connect.
Today MC contains 4 315 free Magento extensions.
- Customer Experience – 1266;
- Site Management – 1216;
- Integrations – 932;
- Marketing – 635;
- Utilities – 266.
This number is not entirely accurate as often extensions are included into several sections above simultaneously, but it is still a huge selection.
However, free stuff is not usually perfect and in order to choose best extensions we should take into account popularity scores of free modules.
Top Rated Magento Connect Free Extensions
- Blog – Community Edition by aheadWorks;
- Enhanced Admin Product Grid by Sweet Tooth;
- Easy Lightbox 2.0 by Templates Master;
- Vertical Navigation with CSS Classes;
- WebShopApps MatrixRate;
- Speedster by Fooman;
- Google Analytics+ by Fooman;
- ebizmarts – MageMonkey – Official MailChimp and Mandrill Extension;
- Facebook Connect and Like Free by BelVG;
- Free Banners Slideshow, Flash Banners & Image Slider by FME;
- Email Attachments by Fooman;
- Multiple Select In Layered Navigation (Filters) by Manadev;
- One Page Checkout by iwd.
Except of these popular extensions we are able to find other must-have still free Magento functionality on Magento Connect: referral programs, import/export products (orders, customers) modules, AJAX carts, professional layered navigation, up-sells and cross-sells, advanced searches, additional shipping methods, color swatches, follow up emails, new customer attributes, full page cash, etc.
So, theoretically we are able to add any functionality to our Magento store for free. Why is then Magento considered to be an expensive platform not suitable for small businesses? Apparently, there are some negative obstacles associated with free solutions.
What are the pros and cons of free Magento stuff?
The main and possibly the only advantage of free stuff is that it’s free. And, this simple driving force is surprisingly powerful.
No or poor support. According to multiple reviews, often users are not able to evaluate the provided functionality as they fail to install the modules. Accordingly, extensions get 50% of excellent reviews from those, who were able to install it successfully, and 50% of completely negative comments from other users.
No Updates. Some free extensions are really useful and have a great idea behind them, but usually developers pay less attention to their updates for the sake of paid products.
Incompatibility. This issue appears at the junction of the two previous problems. The absence of updates and support leads to compatibility issues with latest Magento versions or conflicts with other extensions or customizations.
As a result, using free extensions and themes you can’t hope for an easy walk. In most cases, free stuff does not guarantee any results while often leads to more troubles, which is its biggest disadvantage.
Most experts do not even consider the possibility to create a Magento store free of charge. According to their opinion, despite Magento is an open source platform it is still not a free option.
Their estimations vary greatly, from $500 for basic functionality to $15K and more for exclusive design and features. This wide range of prices is explained by numerous factors:
“The best answer I can give is this … ‘how much does a cost to build a house?’. The answer is highly subjective (how many rooms are you building, what is the square footage, how many stories, where is it located, what is the finish type, what are the guarantees, who’s building it, what is their experience, etc., etc., etc.) As one can see, there is no easy number to derive, it varies greatly and depends on what is you need it and what you expect to be the ‘final’ result. – Roy Rubin, former CEO of Magento.
So, free Magento store seems to be just a dream.
Free Magento stuff is really plentiful and often of high quality. Thanks to Magento Community, the number of free themes and extensions encounters thousands of products, which cover almost all functionality areas.
In theory, merchants are able to create an efficient and good-looking Magento stores without expenses, but usually they have no enough expertise. Magento is so difficult that those merchants, who are able to overcome all technical hurdles, are actually more developers than sellers, or it may take unreasonably too much time from merchants to understand everything independently.
This way, we should definitely use free Magento stuff in our stores, but are not likely able to launch and run them totally without any outside help.
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