Let’s be honest, Magento 2 doesn’t do everything we need it to do straight out-the-box. Hence the reason why we rely on 3rd party extensions to help extend its functionality. But with so many solutions available, how do we choose which ones to buy?
8 Tips for picking a reliable extension
Well, here’s my 8 Tips for picking a good extension for Magento 2.
1. Magento Marketplace
The Magento Marketplace is a great starting point for finding Magento 2 Extensions, especially as your purchases are linked directly to your store. However, I’ve discovered the information on the Marketplace isn’t always kept up-to-date with new products or recent extension updates. If you have a favourite Provider, you should consider visiting their website to get the latest information on updates and products.
Price is always a factor when deciding between different extensions. However, it’s important to consider the reason why something maybe more expensive than the other. Is that company being greedy or does the price reflect the number of staff they have to create, update and support the extension you’re purchasing. Before going for the cheapest (or even free) option, consider how they may afford to update and support the extension you’re buying 12 months from now.
If you ever get the opportunity to look at the Changelog of an extension, you really should. It will tell you how often the extension is being updated and for what reasons. Are they constantly adding new features? Or are they just addressing bugs - and how important are those bugs? Admittedly, there might not be any recent updates because the extension works great. But usually, I’ll tend to dismiss most extensions that haven’t had an update in at least a few months.
It’s always important to look at what support is being offered (if any). Most of the time, I’ll see Chat Widgets on websites but the agents are always offline and only take messages. Also, consider where the company is based. For example, if I purchase something from someone in a timezone with more than 6 hours difference then we’ll never get to have fluid conversation because the messages we both send won’t be read or dealt with until the day after.
5. Money back guarantee
With so many bespoke setups, it’s hard to guarantee that an extension you purchase won’t be fully compatible with any changes you’ve already made to Magento. So, something that you should always look out for is the option to get a refund if the product is inferior or doesn’t work how you hoped.
An obvious thing to take into consideration are reviews. However, you have to be careful where to look for them. The problem with reviews on a companies own website is that you can’t guarantee that the good ones have been cherry-picked and the bad ones deleted. Consider doing a Google Search for the extension and looking for independent reviews. The reviews on the Magento Marketplace appear to reflect an honest variety of good and bad ones.
7. Stick with what you know
Sometimes a company doesn’t sell all of the extensions that you need. But I’ve found that a huge benefit when it is possible, is compatibility. I don’t recall ever having an issue when installing multiple extensions from the same company. I imagine that’s because of the way that company has a certain development process. It’s probably really easy to solve those issues when they wrote the extensions to begin with. It’s always really hard to get 2 different companies to solve a compatibility issue because at times they just point fingers at each other or use the classic excuse “We only guarantee our product with Magento core code”.
8. Want vs Need
Before you splash out on a new extension, ask yourself:
“Do I really need to purchase this extension to solve my problem or can I achieve what I need without it.” - You
The reason why I say this is because for every extension you install, it’s another variable that can go wrong in the future. If you have 10, 15, 20 extensions installed, it makes it really difficult to guarantee that you won’t get any compatibility issues after an update. Obviously, this is an unavoidable issue, but one where you can minimise the risk.
The Risk of Free Modules/Themes
I often get ask questions that start with “Can you recommend a FREE…”
- …Web Host
And as much as I appreciate the thrifty attitude, I am a firm believe in the phrase “You get what you pay for”. Let me attempt to explain my reasoning without making it sound like a rant…
1. Software Evolution
It’s incredibly natural for software to evolve through upgrades or updates. Typically, these changes address one of the following:
- Adds compatibility
- Add features
- Adds security patches
- Adds optimisation
- Removes bugs
As the Magento source code regularly shifts and changes due to patches and updates, you’ll find that 3rd party Modules/Themes will also have to adopt changes so they remain compatible.
When something is created for free, you have to ask yourself what the developers motivation or incentive is to keep updating their product to remain compatible and secure with Magento.
This issue becomes obvious when you look through product changelogs. If you’re lucky, the developer still deploys an update here and there.
Take for example the changelog on this paid module. I’d be more than happy to purchase this module as it’s clear that regular updates are being made to improve, fix and secure it. I always look out for things like this.
3. Feature Rich
Let’s assume that the developers of the free module remain motivated to keep their product compatible with the latest versions of Magento - You also have to hope that they continue to add features that make them more useful and comparable with other options available on the market.
I briefly touched on the risk of security from the perspective of plugging security vulnerabilities… But now I want to focus on products that are purposely shipped with malicious intent. This goes back to motivation and incentive for those one off projects that you find - Where the developer can’t be held accountable.
4. The Exceptions
Now, there are plenty of exceptions to the rule. Often very reputable developers will release “free” products as a hook to buy something else. In this case, their motivation derives from their marketing strategy.
5. Learning Opportunities
I do believe that there is a great use-case for free modules or extensions - And that’s for reverse engineering the code and learning from it. For example, the Digital Startup GitHub has small pre-built modules available for learning purposes - But I always disclaim that I don’t actively update the repositories and to always test them in a Development environment.
Hopefully, this gives you a little food for thought. For a list of endorsed modules/themes, try the following: