Magento 1 to Magento 2 migration guide: when benefits justify the effort

Igor Goltsov

Igor Goltsov

Igor Goltsov

Igor Goltsov

Igor Goltsov is a certified Magento developer. With 8+ years in Magento development and 13+ years in PHP development, Igor now applies his deep insights in ecommerce and expert skills at ScienceSoft. As a senior Magento developer, he contributes to complex projects involving implementation of non-trivial platform’s features.


To go or not to go? Since Magento 2 was released two years ago, the idea of migration to the latest version of the platform has caused much concern among online store owners.

It is not easy to decide if Magento 2 migration is the right choice, as it will inevitably disturb the established workflow. Store owners may be tempted to keep running a Magento 1 online store to be on the safe side. It might make sense as the Magento team has extended support for Magento 1 and promised to announce its end-of-life date at least 18 months in advance. However, the primary focus will be made on Magento 2. So, sticking to the first version, businesses risk falling behind the progress and losing to competitors.

Magento migration

What makes Magento 2 stand out

The Magento team adheres to the idea of ongoing platform development. Bearing in mind customers’ high expectations and merchants’ commitment to an ecommerce success, it has complemented Magento 2 with a set of improvements.

Ecommerce businesses benefit from:

  • Checkout process. Seeing the importance of not overloading the checkout, Magento 2 developers have made this process highly customizable. Now, it requires less customer information and contains fewer steps, which saves customers’ time and reduces the shopping cart abandonment rate. Additionally, there is a one-page-checkout option.
  • Mobile traffic. Even if a website doesn’t have a mobile version, improved search capabilities and a simpler checkout process make it more convenient for mobile users. This will probably convert more mobile traffic into customers.
  • Speed. Focused on the ongoing improvement of customer experience, Magento offers 50% faster loading time in catalog and check out pages.
  • Scalability. Magento 2 caters to the needs of large stores and supports up to 2 million page views and 250,000 orders per hour.

Technical improvements include:

  • Admin experience. The admin panel is optimized for non-technical users. Now, it’s much easier to navigate and manage the store’s back end. The range of improved features includes optimization for different screen sizes, improved usability, modern flat design, new product creation workflow, new data grids and easy column reordering.
  • Extensions. Magento has introduced the coding standards to ensure better quality of Magento 2 extensions.
  • Search. Magento developers can configure and customize ElasticSearch simpler and faster, while merchants benefit from saving funds for relevant extensions.
  • Testing. Customers shouldn’t see any website malfunctions. With this in mind, Magento 2 offers a built-in framework to facilitate testing and identify bugs earlier than customers would do.
  • Database. In Magento 1, developers, admins and customers used the same database. This often resulted in database overload. Magento 2 has three separate databases – product data, checkout and orders and shares the load between them.

What does Magento 2 migration look like?

Online merchants might wonder how complicated the Magento migration process is. To understand it, we should first define elements of a store that will be migrated. There are four of them: data, themes, extensions and customizations.

  • Data migration

Aiming to protect the data from loss, the Magento team facilitates the process via Data Migration Tool. Still, media files, storefront design and access control lists need to be migrated manually. Merchants can use a necessity to transfer the data to an upgraded store to clean up and optimize the database.

  • Themes migration

There is no possibility to transfer a theme directly to a Magento 2 store. Merchants can choose from three options: create a new theme, choose one from the Magento Marketplace or use the default Luma theme. While creating a new theme requires additional efforts of frontend developers and designers, it is a wonderful opportunity to leave an old-fashioned design to competitors and create an attractive and responsive website that corresponds to your current vision.

  • Extensions migration

Magento 1 extensions are mostly incompatible with Magento 2. Merchants must leverage this seeming inconvenience to reconsider the extensions installed in a store and identify the functionality that is truly required to keep up with the desired service level. Note that most of important extensions have already been upgraded for Magento 2.

  • Customizations migration

Magento offers a helper called Code Migration Toolkit to facilitate converting custom code to Magento 2. Though it handles most of the time-consuming conversion tasks, developers conducting a migration will need to manually edit some of the generated files.

Magento 2 migration plan

Now, let’s see how these migration components form the Magento 2 migration plan.

  1. Review a current Magento 1 website for redundant data and unnecessary extensions.
  2. Set up a Magento 2 website.
  3. Create a new theme or install a ready-made one.
  4. Migrate customizations and install upgraded extensions.
  5. Do the testing.
  6. If necessary, fix issues and repeat the testing.
  7. Cease all activities in your Magento 1 admin panel.
  8. Do bulk data migration.
  9. Go live with a Magento 2 website.

The time required for the creation of a customized Magento 2 web store with a new theme and extensions depends on the proficiency of developers and designers involved in the process. Data migration duration will also depend on the database size. The Magento team shared the experience of Magento database migration with 177K products, 355K orders and 214K customers. The process took approximately 10 minutes for settings migration and 9 hours for data migration.

Mistakes to avoid

While the aim of Magento 1 to Magento 2 migration is to enhance a store’s functionality, a reckless approach to this process can do more harm than good. The best solution is to entrust the migration to Magento support team. Still, we find it necessary to warn merchants of potential mistakes to minimize a possibility of negative experience.

  • Wrong time. Magento 2 migration, no matter how expertly it is addressed, always disrupts the store’s operation. Therefore, it shouldn’t be planned for holiday times or seasonal sales.
  • Failure to monitor the highest-revenue pages during migration. While a smooth running of the whole website is important, pages that bring in most of the money need the first priority.
  • Failure to crawl the website. Crawling is required to see the current URL structure of the website. If it changes during the migration, new URLs must be matched with the old ones via 301 redirect.
  • Data loss. Disorderly Magento 2 data migration can cause a mess in product descriptions, title tags and meta descriptions, which will negatively influence website’s position in Google search and decrease the traffic level.
  • Unsafe migration. To ensure no data is lost for good, it is necessary to back up databases via external hard drive, cloud storage or Zip Drive during migration.
  • Lack of testing. Upon the migration, a Magento 2 store must be checked for any issues.
  • Failure to retrain the staff. A store upgraded to the new platform version may experience changes in the workflow. To avoid business problems and technical issues, all employees involved must be briefed on the changes.

Magento migration as an opportunity to reconsider a business

Seeing a Magento migration process as a stage of ecommerce business evolution, one can use this opportunity to rethink the business as a whole. Instead of simply transferring current features to a Magento 2 store, a business owner should analyze the store’s performance, customer experience and feedback. A closer look may reveal that some old custom features don’t help to attract new customers, drive revenue, reduce extra costs, etc. Having identified unprofitable extensions, a store owner will be able to port over only those add-ons that enhance store operation and provide a competitive advantage for the business. Along with refreshing the store, it may save some money for migration.

From strategy development to auditing an online store, we look forward to consulting you on each step of Magento development to bring you to the top.