Magento 2, the highly popular ecommerce platform, has recently released its latest version, Magento 2.2, which brings forth a number of great new features to improve the overall experiences of webstore owners and their customers.

While Magento 2 was initially released back in 2015 as a beta version, there have been a couple of updates released since that have helped to improve functionality and user experience. Following the latest release, Magento users are being urged to migrate their online stores to the updated platform in order to offer a more stable and secure ecommerce environment to run their business. As such, here we take a look at the transition from Magento 1.X to 2.0 to 2.2 to see what all the fuss is about!

Magento

With over 200,000 online stores live on the Internet, Magento accounts for around 29% of the ecommerce market with WordPress’ WooCommerce plugin following closely behind with around 26% of the marker share. Consequently, it should come as no surprise to find that Magento is hugely popular for business owners that sell products online.

In large part, this is due to the advanced out-of-the-box features and capabilities that Magento possesses, as its powerful platform allows for seamless store management and the ability to house thousands of products without compromising on performance. However, given that the Magento platform is almost 10 years old, there are certain aspects that have become outdated over the years which have been resolved in scheduled updates to the core platform. However, updates can only do so much, and after 7 years Magento released the much-awaited 2.0 to revolutionise the online shopping experience.

Magento 2.0

Magento 2.0 is the latest full version of the leading enterprise-level ecommerce platform that’s been overhauled to offer the most user-friendly and scalable solution available. Having taken years to develop and deploy, the Magento team have stripped down and rebuilt the entire system from scratch in order to develop a more dedicated platform for B2C/B2B online sellers. So what are the main features of Magento 2.0?

  • Open & Flexible Architecture – Easier customisation, extensive API integrations and extensions.
  • Engaging Shopping Experiences – All-new checkout that improves conversion rates and customer experiences.
  • Enhanced Business Agility & Productivity – Seamless management and simple user adoption with its intuitive interface and business tools.
  • Scalability & Performance – 50% faster page load times for better experiences and conversion rates, with support for more concurrent updates.
  • Secure Payments – Improved security with out-of-the-box integrations with PayPal, Braintree, Authorize.net, WorldPay and CyberSource.
  • Easier Maintenance & Upgrades – Upgrades and site maintenance is easier than ever for a more future-proof investment.

In the main, Magento 2’s improved performance and host of new features aim to boost conversion rates and business agility, whilst offering unmatched flexibility and customisation options with its open source setup. However, while Magento 2 is a superb advancement on its predecessor, it’s still far from the finished article and newer versions are being rolled out periodically with further improvements and bug fixes.

Magento 2.2

Since the new functionalities and features of Magento 2.2 were presented in a webinar back in June 2017 before being released the following September, many online storeowners have been busy migrating their websites from Magento 1 to Magento 2 as a natural progression to a newer version. Not only that, but running your online store on the most recent updated version of Magento will ensure system security is at its highest and reduce the susceptibility of cyber attacks via known vulnerability exploits. However, once a website has migrated onto Magento 2, it will need to be updated to the new 2.2 version to benefit from the long list of new features available. Far more weighted towards B2B Commerce, Magento 2.2’s new features include the following:

B2B Functionality

  • Company Account Management – B2B merchants can support clients’ accounts in multiple organisational structures and corporate buyers can use self-service tools for account management without a merchant.
  • Quote Engine – Convert a cart to a quote with consummate ease without the need2 to send an order, so the merchant can respond with prices and comments.
  • Credit Purchases for B2B – Credit purchases are now available as a payment option, with adjustable credit control for merchants working with multiple companies.
  • Customisable Catalogues & Prices – Merchants can customise the products, categories and price lists to show different information for different companies.
  • Updated API for simple ERP integrations – Web APIs are available for all new features with a bulk Tier Price API enabling merchants to update large quantities of product prices quickly.

Development Tools

  • Performance Toolkit – Profiles update, faster generation, support for B2B entities and much more.
  • Minimised Core Around Plugins – Makes debugging plugins on the core far easier since less clicks will go through the various flows.
  • Improved Deployment Flow – Configurations can be exported through different environments, with product environments being upgraded in less than 1 minute.

Security Updates

  • Unserialize() Calls Removed – Unserialize() calls have been removed completely except in critical performance code, in order to prevent security vulnerability issues.
  • Upgraded Hashing Algorithm – To increase security for sensitive values.

Other Features

  • Extended Reports – An advanced reporting module provides comprehensive reports with valuable data stored in graphs to illustrate performance.
  • Advanced Fraud Protection – A new integration with Signifyd will provide the opportunity to identify and reject roguish orders with 100% chargeback protection.
  • Improved Indexing – Customers are able to browse and buy in the store while indexing.
  • Technical Stack Updates – Support for PHP 5.6 and Varnish 3 has been dropped, with PHP 7.1, MySQL 5.7, Redis 3.2 and Varnish 5 support will be added with “Grace” and “Saint” by default.

One of the major challenges faced by B2B businesses is converting visitors into customers online, and this is what Magento 2.2 aims to eliminate. By offering a user-friendly method of transforming traditional (offline) businesses into online businesses, Magento 2.2 is now the perfect platform to house and grow both B2B and B2C websites. With a host of new features and improved all-round performance, there’s never been a better time to make the switch to Magento 2.2.

Here at Digital Next, when it comes to web design and development our process is clear. It’s crucial that we understand our client’s businesses and their internal operations, before deploying a bespoke solution to heighten their online performance and presence.

Background about Gorvins

Recently crowned Law Firm of the Year at the City of Manchester Business Awards, Gorvins Solicitors is a regional, full service law firm based in Stockport with roots that can be traced back over 150 years. With 16 partners and over 100 staff, Gorvins specialist legal teams offer an array of legal disciplines to a diverse portfolio of clients from blue chip organisations and SME’s to private individuals and regulatory bodies.

What were Gorvins looking for?

Upon evaluation of Gorvins website requirements, we understood that Gorvins were looking to primarily improve user flow and experience to increase the number of qualified enquiries. Additionally, the new site will be used as a reference point to showcase their services when liaising with potential clients, so by simplifying the website structure Gorvins team are offered full control of day-to-day management. Before progressing, we identified the overall objectives that Gorvins are looking to achieve from their new website:

  • Gorvins brand promotion and lead generation
  • A fresh, clean and fully-responsive design, consistent with current branding
  • Usability improvements for mobile devices
  • Provide a visual representation of all Gorvins social media channels
  • New website platform for multimedia integration and user-friendly management

How did Digital Next help?

As mentioned above, when Gorvins came to us they were looking for an improved look and feel to their current site, with an emphasis on user experience and ability to integrate with all marketing channels. In addition to this, Gorvins were also looking for a user-friendly system that enables their team to manage their website with simplicity and ease. As such, Gorvins new website included the following features and functionality:

  • Advanced Contact Forms – Providing the ability to create forms that store enquiries into a database system allowing more control of the companies inbound data.
  • Newsletter Integration – Enabling customers to sign up to Gorvins regular newsletter which is controlled via a 3rd party supplier with no manual work needed.
  • Live Chat – Offering customers the opportunity to chat to a Gorvins representative through the new website.
  • World Pay Integration – Enabling customers to make payments owed to Gorvins for their legal services.
  • Fully Responsive Website – Offering customers a seamless experience no matter the device.
  • Improved Website Structure and Navigation – To improve the user flow for customers throughout the site and offer ease-of-use to the Gorvins team.
  • SSL Certificate integration – To maximise security and encrypt all data transfers between the website, server and user.

Head of Marketing at Gorvins, Paul Longmire:

“Our website and social media platforms are one of the most important sources of work for Gorvins. We wanted to make our online platforms more accessible to existing and potential clients whilst keeping ahead of the ever-changing digital market.”

Adam Ramsden, Head of Digital at Digital Next, went on to say:

“Working with the Gorvins’ team was a great experience for all involved, and their new website is a far better representation of their brand and expertise. For us, this was by far the best legal project we’ve worked on to date and are really happy with the completed project.”

Support and Maintenance

Gorvins decision making was also looking at a long term digital partner to support their growing digital presence, offering the right support package was key for Gorvins team to know they can lean on us when they need. The support and maintenance package provided to Gorvins will also help to ensure that, should the site ever go down for any reason, we can restore it with minimal downtime.

In addition to this, this support package extends to implementing improvements to key marketing landing pages or features that are geared towards heightening user experience.

Summary

When Gorvins came to us, their old site didn’t truly represent the strides that the company has made since last consulting an agency regarding web design. However, with our help, we’ve been able to deliver a stunning, responsive website with branding that epitomises what Gorvins Solicitors are all about and will help take them to the next level online. Not only that, but with us as their digital partner, they know that we’re by their side throughout their journey and always on hand to guide them on the path to online success!

Year on year, mobile usage increases, and more importantly, so does the use of mobile browsers and applications. This means that developers are constantly trying to make the user experience on the mobile web as streamlined and efficient as they can. That’s where Progressive Web Apps come in.

As you may recall, Google Developers first created Progressive Web Apps last year, as a way to combine both a website and a mobile app. The aim was to develop an app like user experience on a mobile browser, giving the user the benefits of an app; push notifications, offline accessibility etc. while eliminating the process of visiting the app store and downloading it. A study showed that an app loses 20% of its users with every step from their first contact with the app in the app store, to downloading it, then installing it and finally using it.

How they work and why they are beneficial

Progressive Web Apps are really intelligent in the way that they work. They have built-in intelligence that is able to record user’s habits and actions when using the app and can therefore deliver a more personalised experience for those returning and using the app often. This also helps them create another benefit, push notifications. By building a relationship with the user, the app can then deliver notifications based on their previous activity. This makes it easy for users to then re-engage.

While you are online and using the Progressive Web App, it is able to cache the data available. This then means that it can then be used when you are offline. This is hugely beneficial for users with slow or limited internet access, as it means lower data usage. Not only does cached data allow for offline availability, but it also helps the apps work extremely fast. Also, by removing various steps that websites take to gather data and features, it increases the load time of Progressive Web Apps significantly.

With a highly responsive layout, it means the apps are also a lot easier to navigate than a desktop website that has been condensed down for mobile purposes. They offer a wide range of hardware access as well e.g. screen orientation, geolocation, micro phone and camera access etc. Finally, as there is no download involved, they are available to everyone.

Google and Progressive Web Apps

Although these apps are designed and built to help aid the mobile users online experience, the one question that all SEO’s will be asking is ‘how do Progressive Web Apps effect SEO?’. Firstly, it’s important to state that the Googlebot, in most cases, will crawl them just like any other page on the web, as they use JavaScript and will be seen by Google as a JavaScript site. However, there can be potential problems that can impede crawlability. Google’s John Mueller, wrote a detailed article in March of this year on how they deal with Progressive Web Apps and JavaScript sites in general. Below are the main points to take from it and remember when building a PWA:

  • Don’t cloak to Googlebot. Use “feature detection” and “progressive enhancement” techniques to make your content available to all users. You also shouldn’t re-direct to an unsupported browser.
  • Use rel=canonical when serving content from multiple URLs is required.
  • Avoid the AJAX-Crawling scheme on new sites
  • Don’t use the # symbol in the URLs as Googlebot tends not to index them.
  • Use Google’s Search Console’s Fetch and Render tool to test how Google sees your pages.
  • Ensure that all required resources aren’t blocked in robots.txt.
  • Limit the number of embedded resources, in particular the number of JavaScript files and server responses required to render your page.
  • Google supports the use of JavaScript to provide titles, description & robots meta tags, structured data, and other meta-data.
  • Finally, remember that other search engines and web servers may not support JavaScript at all, or may support a different subset.

When developing these apps, people need to be aware of the potential problems that could come when being indexed by Google. Although there may be some limitations when it comes to SEO, and they will possibly be seen as more of an extension to an existing website, Progressive Web Apps will still provide huge benefits to the user experience and are set to be the next step for mobile web as it continues to grow.

A strong digital marketing strategy can make or break the overall success of your business, so when thinking forwards into the next financial year, one element of your business plan which may cause some confusion is whether to outsource your marketing to an expert agency, or whether to alternatively invest into this area of your business with ‘in-house’ marketing.

Whilst there are benefits of each direction, it’s important to look at both sides of this argument before making such a huge decision. A successful digital marketing campaign takes not only the financial investment, but also the investment of resources and ability to use time efficiently.

Quality, Not Quantity

So there is that small voice in the back of your head thinking, ‘wait, I can pay someone the same amount as an agency and get 38 hours a week spent on my marketing strategy, why shouldn’t I do this?’ Ultimately, this is true. But let’s face it, there are many, many elements of a digital marketing plan… PR, social media channel management, SEO, content management, web development, PPC… And these are just the obvious ones!

Within an agency, there isn’t just one person taking care of all of the above, but a team who work together with vast amounts of varying talents and ideas to reach an outcome that will benefit your campaign. With more people, solutions are often found much faster than just one or two people working on your campaign and spreading themselves thinly across an array of digital marketing areas.

Stick to What You’re Good At

Hiring the perfect candidate to take on the challenge of heading your new and shiny digital marketing department is not an easy task. Not only do they have to have the passion to drive the campaign creatively, they have to have the experience to analyse the data collated, the writing skills to piece together every aspect of your copy (blog content, outreach content, SEO content, social content, web content… You get the gist?) and ultimately, the experience needed to manage every single digital marketing question which will pop up on a day-to-day basis.

Do they know how to set up a merchant centre data feed? How to implement a UA code on the backend of your website so that Google Analytics tracking works fully? How to source the correct audience for daily engagement on social media? How to reach out to webmasters and negotiate the price and terms for outreach content placement? You have to establish whether you have the resources to accomplish all of the above and do so successfully to justify your investment.

Evaluate The Risks

Ultimately, when trusting an agency with your digital marketing strategy, if things do not go as planned, you can assess the service you are receiving before deciding whether to continue with this strategy further when your terms of agreement have ended. With in-house staff, you have a responsibility to them as an employer which means that changes cannot be made overnight, and further training, means further investment… Often this training or support is sourced from an agency anyway, so unless this is your plan from the beginning, it could be a long time before you see strong results which properly reflect your investment.

Summary

There are thousands of small elements of digital marketing, that without the experience or training, are hard to comprehend and foresee. Investing into your in-house marketing is not a bad idea. If your company is doing well, an intern or assistant in this area could take some responsibility and work with an agency, acting almost as the ‘middle-man’. However, for SMEs this option is often money and time consuming with the results lacking the creative expertise and knowledge needed to strategise and implement ideas from start to finish. Ultimately, this is almost always reflected in the end result of campaigns and ongoing ROI.