Exploring all strengths and weaknesses of Magento CMS

Undoubtedly, ecommerce players enjoy tons of marketing information – tips, guidelines and ready-made strategies – to attract and retain customers. Headlines all over the Internet assure them to use these or those tactics to skyrocket sales or offer killer ways to stand out from the competition. Indeed, armed with the heavy artillery of discounts and special offers, merchants can see an instant surge of activity on their ecommerce websites. But choosing a seemingly short way to success, they risk seeing sales going up on promotions and falling down in between. To engage soft sell marketing, they need to pay attention to a powerful, though time-consuming, tool – quality content. With this in mind, merchants might start with exploring the Content Management System (CMS) component of their ecommerce platform.

Knowing that Magento is one of the leaders among ecommerce platforms and leveraging our Magento development experience, we’d like to help sellers with an important question: is Magento CMS powerful enough to create a winning web store? We will focus on the default functionality to see if it alone allows for effective content management.

Default Magento CMS

The CMS component of Magento Open Source (former Community edition) rests on four pillars: pages, content blocks, widgets and design. The paid and, therefore, more feature-rich Magento Commerce (former Enterprise edition) adds two more elements – banners and staging. Seeing the importance of visual presentation of an ecommerce website, we have earlier discussed Magento theme development. This time, let’s tackle the aspect of creating and managing the content, leaving design aside.

Magento CMS

1. Pages

Category and product detailed pages are generated automatically once a new category or product is added. These pages are displayed according to theme design. There are predefined slots where admins can add CMS blocks and edit content.

Shopping cart and checkout pages go by default (the settings are in Stores – Configuration – Sales). Usually, available slots are Before content and After content but some themes offer more options. While admins can add CMS blocks to these pages, Magento development efforts are required to customize them and manage non-text content.

The Content section contains templates for core informational pages such as Home, About Us, Customer Service, Privacy Policy, 404 Not Found, Enable Cookies and Service Unavailable. Merchants draw together text, images, blocks of content and widgets to create a page. Flexible as always, Magento encourages them to modify page templates in accordance with their business specifics. Store admins owe to several handy features that minimize the time spent on mechanical tasks:

  • Advanced search for pages.  Along with searching by a keyword, admins can filter the search by such parameters as creation or modification date, page status, title, etc.
  • Individual / mass action page control. One might need to disable or enable several pages. The task that would normally take time to select each individual page and change its status comes down to one minute with mass action page control.
  • Flexible page grid layout. With Magento backend being a workplace for store admins, they need it to be convenient for them personally. Working with pages, they can change the grid layout according to their preferences.

2. Widgets

Widgets are code snippets that allow displaying dynamic data. Their mission in ecommerce covers creating promotional content and streamlining customer interaction. The default Magento CMS offers the following widget types:

  • CMS page link
  • CMS static block (or a block of content)
  • Catalog category link
  • Catalog products list
  • Catalog product link
  • Recently compared products
  • Recently viewed products
  • Orders and returns

3. Content, or CMS, blocks

These are separate information units with fixed (text or image) and dynamic (widget) content. CMS blocks can be used to modify any page on a website (CMS pages, product detailed pages, checkout). Admins can work with a single page (e.g. content blocks on the home page) or a group of pages (return policy, social media buttons or size charts on product pages). The possibility to set a CMS block scheduler (that we will cover in Staging part) is available only in Magento Commerce.

4. Banners

Merchants use banners to display time-sensitive promotional information to customers. Magento functionality allows them to create banners for different customer segments or associate them with catalog and cart price rules. What if sellers have several promotions at a time but don’t want buyers to scroll down endlessly to see them all? Understanding the value of digital space, Magento has a good answer – a rotating banner. Also known as image carousel or slider, this option allows showing several banner messages one at a time. 

5. Staging

The content on an ecommerce website needs to be updated timely as a typical promotional campaign includes multiple activities different in launch time and duration. Rather than keeping the timing of content creating and updating in mind, admins can use the staging option to schedule content changes.    

Where Magento CMS does not excel

We have outlined the out-of-the-box Magento CMS capabilities. Do they cover fundamental ecommerce needs to create and manage the content? Yes, they do. What do we need to create a holistic picture? Right, real-life experience to see how it all plays out in ecommerce projects. We are ready to share ours.

In our ecommerce practice, we focus on Magento commending its infinite customization opportunities. Using the default capabilities as a springboard, we always extend the functionality to meet business requirements. Having worked with the out-of-the-box Magento CMS, we have stumbled upon the following inconveniences.   

  • Limited content types

With ever-growing competition in ecommerce, merchants strive to stand out in the crowd with unique website design, attractive offers for customers and, of course, diverse content. The two positive outcomes of the latter are enhanced customer experience and an SEO-friendly website that ensures a stable flow of organic traffic. Unfortunately, Magento limits page types to those mentioned above. If merchants look to add a blog, publish news articles or press releases, create a lookbook or image gallery, they should consider custom solutions.

  • Trapped-in-the-past page editor

With the interface similar to Microsoft Word, the default WYSIWYG editor is suitable for creating simple information pages. Whenever you want to stand out with an eye-catching design, the proficiency of HTML and CSS comes to the fore. This obvious inconvenience explains multiple complaints of Magento admins who struggle to develop engaging content.

  • What you see is not what you get

The name of WYSIWYG editor might be misleading as store admins expect the content they enter to look the same in a web store. In practice, it doesn’t work this way. For example, when adding a widget with a product list, you will see only product links in the editor. Having published the page, you will get a clear vision of what it looks like on the website. Here, Magento CMS would definitely benefit from the preview possibility. 

Time to draw conclusions

An excellent soft sell tactic, quality and diverse content can compete with other marketing strategies to promote customer trust and loyalty. This is even more important now that ecommerce businesses focus on the overall buying experience rather than on the selling aspect alone. Understanding this, merchants look for the most convenient ways to create content-rich websites. The CMS capabilities of an ecommerce platform set the tone here.

Advocating Magento as a powerful ecommerce platform, we still find its CMS component lagging behind. An unhandy page editor and limited content opportunities call for substantial programming skills, not to mention the time required to create and edit the content. We would offer to look closely at the possibility of extending the Magento functionality by means of ready-made extensions or integration with a more robust CMS system. 

Wondering how to harness the power of Magento? Our domain expertise and keen interest in non-trivial projects are at your disposal.

About the Author: Tanya Yablonskaya

Tanya is Ecommerce Industry Analyst at ScienceSoft, an IT consulting and software development company headquartered in McKinney, Texas. After 2+ years of exploring the cryptocurrency and blockchain sphere, she has shifted the focus of interest to ecommerce industry. Delving into this enormous world, Tanya covers key challenges online retailers face and unveils a wealth of tools they can use to outpace competitors.