Book Review – Magento Beginners Guide

First impressions

Upon receiving my copy of the Magento Beginners Guide I took a moment after dinner whilst my girlfriend watched some ‘Celebrity Increase My Profile’ program to absorb the first chapter.  I was presented with a nice introduction explaining the scope of the book and the conventions that are used throughout.  A nice and easy ‘in’ perfectly suited to reading on the couch.

Magento Beginners Guide - William Rice - Packt Publishing

Magento Beginners Guide - William Rice - Packt Publishing

I then began to flick through the ‘Installation’ chapter.  As I’ve installed Magento several times, the information in this section is familiar to me.  My eye is drawn to the titles ‘What Just Happened?’ this explains briefly the previous steps and if there’s something that I was not familiar with I’d flick back and take a closer look.

It’s nice to see there are a few instances of “I saw the following error message:”.  I’m glad the author has included the experience of miss-configuration and common errors.  It can be frustrating when a documented installation procedure does not go according to plan and there’s no help along the way.  This book is aimed at beginners, and it assists them from the get-go.

The book then takes you on to the planning phase of your site with explanations about the naming conventions used in Magento, although they are rather obvious it’s useful to know how Categories, Products and Attributes are related.  Take a look at this chapter extracted from the book: “Chapter 3: Categories and Attributes“.

Reading through this book it is apparent that the focus in mainly on the visitor, this is by far and away the best perspective to take.  If you were a shop owner you’d most certainly put yourself in the purchasers shoes and from the moment the shop door is opened it’s the experience that the customer has that is the most important.

Work in progress

The 'E' section in the index

The 'E' section in the index

Currently I’m in the process of launching our Surveillance, Display Converters and Gadgets website www.bytemart.co.uk.  The majority of the store is already configured but one job that’s on the to-do list is to change the default emails that are sent out from Magento, the order confirmation email etc.  To my dismay there is a rather sparse ‘E’ section in the index.  I was looking for ‘Email’ but here’s what you are presented with in the ‘E’ section ->

I was hoping for some information on how to modify the emails Magento sends out.  I strongly believe the emails sent to the customer from your store are very important, they must be branded with your logo and colours and the wording must be in the right context to help reflect your store.  Here’s a snippet from the default New Account template:-

If you have any questions about your account or any other matter, please feel free to contact us at dummyemail@magentocommerce.com or by phone at (555) 555-0123.

Thanks again!

This MUST be changed and it appears not to be as straight forward as one would like, so some explanation here would be really useful.  There is a section available in the Magento wiki on this topic.  I did find the following statement within the Customer Relationships section of the book “Modifying email templates is beyond the scope of this quick-start guide.” This is a shame as it does state in the Preface “This book provides guidance in the form of step-by-step approach to building a simple, effective online store.” It appears to fall short on this I’m afraid.

Conclusion

This book is great, I would advise anyone who wants to set up a Magento store with little technical knowledge/confidence to pick up a copy.  If you’re after a helping hand along the way whilst you setup your store then this is a good companion to have.

I would advise everyone to turn to http://www.magentocommerce.com/ and search the wiki and forum for further documentation and solved problems alongside this book.

It’s step-by-step approach is really helpful for the uninitiated and also a good ‘memory jogger’ to help a more competent/confident administrator not to forget key steps of a Magento configuration.

Thanks to Jude at Packt Publishing for inviting me to write this review.

2 Responses to Book Review – Magento Beginners Guide

  1. Rob King says:

    As a Magento newbie, I was looking for a book that would help me get through the first couple of installations and customisations, and this looks like it could fit the bill.

    With most applications I find having a book to hand that you can flick through is a good accompaniment to web-based resources, as sometimes the wikis can throw you all over the place and you quickly lose track.

    Thanks!

  2. Paul Jarman says:

    Another Magento newbie here, early this year my Father-in-law asked if I could create a website where he could sell products on-line and I said yes, I’m happy to help. Throwing advice Drew’s way, he recommend I try Magento and pointed me in this direction. I downloaded the Open Source files from their website, uploaded to the site’s hosting server and got the site up and running (eventually). Now, here I have in front of me, a working Magento store website, where do I start?!
    I managed to work out the codes, where they live, what changes what etc, then Drew told me that a book is available and he was asked to review it, so I read the review and am now considering purchasing this book to help me move things quickly as I’m sure my Father-in-law is keen to get this store up and running very soon!

    Thanks Drew for the recommendation and Magento for a fantastic Open Source tool!

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