How to choose Magento 2 extensions

Currently, the Magento platform holds a collective 20% market share of all e-commerce websites, and this is a pretty decent number to boast about. With the introduction of Magento 2 platform in November 2015, industry experts have speculated that this percentage will rise further. As Magento 1.0 gets slowly phased out, it’s certain that we will see the 2.0 platform embraced by e-commerce websites all across the globe.

Why You Should Embrace Magento 2

Although Magento 1.0 is often praised for its versatility, users have also pointed out some of its shortcomings which include slow loading speed and a lack of key administrative tools. To answer the titular question, we will touch upon the features and capabilities of Magento 2.

Magento 2 has features that make it a better platform overall than its previous version. These new features also allow it to compete with other well-known platforms such as Woocommerce and Shopify. For starters, it is expected that the new platform will run faster by 20% on the average, because full-page caching is now built into the platform, and pages are expected to load a lot faster (within 1-2 seconds). Magento 2 also has the capability to handle many catalog pages pretty well without slowing down. Now this is a good thing. If your site can run faster, it leads to better search engine optimization and more sales.

The benefits do not end there. However, the focus of this article is not about why you should switch to the new platform so let us just summarize the other merits of Magento 2 – More intuitive checkout process, more powerful admin interface, more mobile-friendly, and more out-of-the-box functionality.

What you should realize is that you have nothing to lose when you make the transition to the 2.0 platform. Vendors are actively developing more and more Magento 2 extensions as we speak, and very soon this total number of extensions will reach and exceed the number of Magento 1.0 extensions.

Now, once you are convinced that you should operate a Magento 2 store, the next step you have to figure out is how you should choose ideal Magento 2 extensions to boost the capability of your site. For example, it’s important to know how to choose from the current 27 SEO extensions on the Magento Marketplace. It’s not effective if you only rely on price as your guiding factor. Let’s find out how to choose the most ideal extension for your needs:

Step 1: Think about Purpose

Start by thinking about the purpose of installing a certain Magento 2 extension. Why do you need it? If you can answer yourself well on why there is a purpose for installing that extension, then you would have effectively identified a certain advanced functionality you need for your Magento store. Also, sometimes when you have figured out a particular need, it’s common that you will discover that more than one extension provides the capability that you need. Then, compare these extensions side by side to zoom in on which product can fulfill your needs better without packaging in other capabilities that you truly do not need (and otherwise will be paying for).

For example, some of our clients request for a powerful search bar to be implemented on their website. This often applies to clients that have a long list of products to be sold on their store, for example, car parts dealers. When we get this kind of criteria for our web development work, we will certainly look for extensions that can boost searches as well as extensions that can help pages load faster (important for a multi-product store so that users do not navigate away due to a lapse in page loading).

Step 2: Source for the Magento 2 Extension You Need from a Trusted Provider

There are many extensions that provide the same set of functionalities, so how do you know which provider to get the extension from? Here are some factors you can think about to help you find a trusted Magento extension provider:

  • Read Online Reviews: Reviews do not always have to be lengthy, try searching for them on popular social networks such as Youtube, LinkedIn, and Facebook. Critical elements to look out for include customer policy, privacy policy, the company’s core values and more. The reviews you come across should make you feel more confident about using that particular extension. It’s also possible that you cannot find enough useful reviews to help you make a decision, since Magento 2 extensions have been released very recently. In such cases, always reach out to the vendor and hear from the horse’s mouth while you objectively listen to their pitch and pick up salient points.
Magento Marketplace now has a small amount of reviews, but soon the number will rise.

Magento Marketplace now has a small amount of reviews, but soon the number will rise.

  • Discuss with Fellow Users Online: The best places to do so include forums or discussion threads in social media. For example, Reddit and Magento Twitter community. These places are often free from vendor spam and you will be able to get useful opinions from existing users or other Magento experts.
  • Check Update Frequency: It is pertinent to ensure that the extension is continually improved on. So find out if the developers are on a proactive stance at releasing necessary bug fixes, better versions or newly added features. You might be shocked to learn that some extensions, once released, are no longer cared for. Although many Magento 2.0 extensions are relatively new, you can compare the update frequency for a provider’s earlier products to spot a trend.
It's nice when the extension has an open changelog with all the fixes and additions included.

It’s nice when the extension has an open changelog with all the fixes and additions included.

  • Look for Money Back Guarantee: Especially for Magento 2.0 extensions which are still considered relatively new, you need to make sure that the paid extension fully suits your needs. Just think about it, if the vendor is confident about their product, they will be ready to stand behind it with a money back guarantee. You should make sure that this money back guarantee should not be less than two weeks so that you actually have enough time to try the extension and get familiar with it.

Money back guarantee

  • Converse with the Provider: You can submit a help-request ticket to their support team to see how they respond to your queries. Are they trying to make a quick sale? Are they sincere at trying to understand your concerns and effectively address them? Before you purchase a paid extension, make sure that after-sales support is included in the package. You may never know if you will run into compatibility issues, especially if your site is running on a custom template.

Step 3: Test and Try the Magento 2 Extension

If a demo version of the extension is available, make sure you download it and test it. If you can test both the frontend and backend aspect of the demo, that’s even better. You will want to ensure the extension is easy to set up, runs smoothly and live up to your expectations.

In addition, no extension on earth will be ideal for each and every store, so you have to go one step further and think about making small tweaks and trims to convert it into an extension that truly ticks all the boxes. This is especially applicable with extensions that use the frontend. What this means is that you might need to communicate with the vendor about certain extra functionalities that you need and discuss about the price of your “modified” product while keeping in mind that the cost of paid updates will need to be factored in too.

Step 4: You Are Ready to Decide if You Should Go with that Particular Extension!

By now, you are in a good position to decide if that particular Magento 2.0 extension is worthy to be installed for your Magento store. There’s no question that most of the best Magento 2 extensions come with a price tag but these top notch products are worth the money because you can get priceless functionality out of them.

Quick tips for the final decision
  • Show the extension to your Magento developer so he or she could have a glance over a couple of code pages. Does it look like quality work?
  • Extremely cheap or extremely pricey extensions are not always the best choices. Cheap extensions can be buggy, which will cost you and your customers not only money, but also time and nerves.
  • Always test the extension on your demo store within the money back period. Make sure that your test store is a copy of your live store with all the data, extensions and settings. This way you’ll catch any issues, for example, conflicts between extensions, frontend display problems, extension errors connected with real store settings, or the number of products, and so on.

Using our own experience to provide some learning points, the very first Magento 2 extension we chose for our work had some glitches and even though it did not cost a lot, the key factor for us to stop using it is because the vendor’s customer support was honestly terrible. We had difficulties in communication as the vendor didn’t have quality English support. When we switched to another Magento 2 extension that was priced higher, our user experience was great and the customer support we received was stellar. These are things that are precious to us, despite the higher price tag we have to cope with.

At SmartSites, our Magento developers always go through the aforementioned steps before we purchase extensions to be installed for our customers’ sites. And that’s why we were convinced that Amasty’s Improved Layered Navigation extension is a remarkable tool for us to procure. In fact, we found many other extensions from Amasty that we love, and our love affair with Amasty isn’t going to end anytime soon. We hope you can give our tips a try and soon, you will become a pro at selecting the most ideal Magento 2.0 extensions for your e-commerce site!