Magento vs. PrestaShop – tools for professionals and beginners
The most important thing when starting an e-commerce store is choosing the appropriate engine. Magento and PrestaShop are both great systems that serve as bases of many thousands of online stores, so choosing between them may seem difficult at first glance. The differences are significant though, if we take a better look at them – we will go through the most important aspects and will make the choice easier for you.
Before starting the detailed discussion of the two software solutions, it is worth examining an entirely different aspect first: your enterprise. You will see that the two pieces of software are for businesses of different sizes, of different profiles and ambitions and this will be the main factor that may facilitate the decision.
The two open-source code software solutions, which can be freely used and developed or modified by anyone, primarily show similarities at first sight rather than differences. However, you may find after the first steps that there is actually a great deal of differences between them.
We will go through the following aspects in this article so you will definitely find everything here in one place:
- Pricing: how much will you have to spend on the systems and how much do they cost in the long run? How cost-effective are they?
- Support and community: who can you ask for help, what can you expect when you have a problem?
- Manageability and functions: can you cope yourself or you will need professional help?
- Customizability: how freely can you shape the functions, appearance or operation?
- Compatibility: about the basic needs of the systems
- SEO: a good system gives you the chance to rank high in the search hit lists
- What does PrestaShop offer?
- What does Magento offer?
Let’s start with one of the most important aspects.
Pricing of PrestaShop and Magento
PrestaShop is a quite simple application for free and is of open-source code. In order to be able to use it, you only have to download it and install it on the server.
The same is true for Magento Community Edition: we are also talking about an open-source code software that is available free of charge. Enterprise Edition of Magento is also available, but that is really for the biggest players since its yearly subscription fee is quite large (over $20,000).
What you have to take into account in the long run in both cases is mainly the fee of the hosting service. It is necessary to roll an appropriate hardware infrastructure under the system, otherwise it will hardly be able to handle higher traffic.
It will also be shown how the basic software can be extended or modified – this is important from the point of view of the costs, too, as you have to pay for most of the professional themes, designs and extensions.
It also has to be mentioned here that in case of Magento the inexpensive themes are not perfect, they will make front-end development or back-end correction necessary, should you wish to customize them hundred percent. Customization and error correction often involves almost as much work as if you had the design built from scratch.
Generally, purchasing is much cheaper than developing your own system (provided that you find one that perfectly meets your demands), and the overall experience of Magento e-commerce store owners is that these investments will abundantly return in case there is an already existing customer basis and an elaborated sales strategy in place.
It is important that you allocate a constant budget following the activation, since functionality will certainly have to be continuously optimized according to the user feedback and your own measurements. This is necessary because the online store is capable of satisfying customer needs only if it can adapt to changes in market trends. This is the only way it can generate more profit: if it offers the customer what the customer truly needs. Consequently, the real work begins only after going live – this is true for all e-commerce store systems that can be optimized this way. The budget may, of course, vary depending on the industry.
Support and community
The two platforms are significantly different when it comes to having questions to answer or problems to solve. In case of PrestaShop, you can join a smaller online community of quite enthusiastic users and professionals. Possibilities of official support are quite restricted though.
Another disadvantage of PrestaShop is that you may come across a lot of smaller bugs when using it, as experiences show, so the developers have to publish corrections frequently. These on the other hand are not automatic and their installation imply some technical knowledge. However, the corrections generally arrive quickly and the latter statement is also true for Magento: you will really be able to benefit from the installation of the corrections and extensions only if you rely on a specialist.
Regarding Magento, you will receive official support only if you are using the quite expensive Enterprise Edition tailored for the large enterprises. But users of the free Community Edition will not be left alone either, since there is a community of a large number of users behind Magento including a lot of talented and enthusiastic web developers who can be contacted any time on the different online forums.
And of course you can find Magento developer partners if needed, who are capable of solving problems and to shape the system according to the demands. The reason for this, among others, is that Magento is at the moment one of the most popular e-commerce platforms among the medium-sized and multinational commercial enterprises, it covers nearly 30 percent of the market. Although the system itself is more complex, there is still a bigger chance to solve the eventual problems due to that very fact.
Manageability and functions
Installation itself is relatively simple in both cases, it does not demand particularly deeper knowledge from the user and it usually takes only a few minutes. In case of Magento however, a developer is needed for this and you also have to make sure that the development environment is adequate. Regarding Magento, it is advisable to decide at the installation whether you want to operate a single online store or a multi-store system.
You also have to consider that installation of the extensions of Magento – which you will definitely need sooner or later – is a more complex task calling for a specialist. Unless you have relatively significant experience in handling more complex systems, you have a good chance of facing obstacles. In order for the e-commerce store to operate appropriately, professional assistance is usually inevitable.
Differences also appear regarding handling. Handling Magento is a more serious task, it takes more time to get to know where to find the different functions – or what kind of functions whatsoever the system has. Yet Magento is famous for already having a great deal of functions by default, even without extensions.
PrestaShop has great potentials for those who want to operate a simpler online store. Simplicity here does not refer to the number of products, as PrestaShop is theoretically able to handle anything which the physical infrastructure, the server itself can.
At the same time, problems may occur with scalability. Earlier, the system has not even contained the multi-store feature but from version 1.5 up, similar to Magento’s solution, you can manage from a single administrative interface several e-commerce stores that are hosted on different domains and have different designs.
Magento is rather the engine of the more complex online stores, it is the tool of those companies that would like to work with continuous optimization, endless number of options for functions, detailed possibilities of customization and targeting – thus ensuring in the long run to be able to always shape their system according to the actual requirements and market needs. This entails that its handling will be most comfortable for the users with a technical orientation.
PrestaShop also remains at a disadvantage in not being able to collect statistical data and to make reports as effectively as Magento – of course the capabilities of both systems may be increased with extensions.
Both platforms are open-source code systems, so certainly lots of different plugins and extensions are available for them – amounting to several hundreds in both cases.
The real difference is that PrestaShop is simpler in this regard, too: installation and handling of the modules is not too difficult even for beginners, while for the appropriate installation of a Magento extension, you will need an expert with specific competence in the use of the system who also has development experience.
The enthusiastic communities, including a great deal of talented developers, are continuously making newer and newer extensions. For this reason, it is given in case of both pieces of software that you find the exact solutions tailored for your needs.
Should you have unique needs, it is worth persistently looking for extensions with favourable user opinions and choosing based on those opinions. As for Magento, however, it is worth searching for a competent developer team for the installation of such extensions (or even for the development of individual extensions).
PrestaShop offers less possibilities in the first place to customize your store. Even if the system of Magento is more complex, that is because it includes much more features. So one makes a fair deal if they are willing to sacrifice more of their time to get to know the system in exchange for the great deal of options that they can thus freely use.
It is also worth becoming familiar with the setting options since individual development is not necessary in case of a lot of things that you would assume would need that – and this way you can save money, time and trouble if you properly know your own system.
It is important to touch upon this issue as, according to the experiences, it may cause problems in certain cases. In case of both systems it may happen that they cannot work together with another piece of software – for this very reason, it is by all means worth checking the possible consequences before installation or when preparing for a more significant modification. It is best to consult professional developers in such cases.
In order to be able to use PrestaShop, your system will have to meet the following requirements: Apache web server 1.3 or newer version, Nginx or Microsoft IIS, PHP 5.2 or newer version, MySQL 5.0 or newer version, and Linux, Unix or Windows operating system.
The following requirements will have to be met in order to be able to use Magento: Ubuntu 10 or higher version, and CentOS 6, Apache 2.x, nginx 1.7.x, PHP 5.4 and the necessary extensions, MySQL database.
If you want the e-commerce store to attract sufficiently high traffic, you also have to pay attention to search engine optimization. The unanimous opinion of the professionals is that even though PrestaShop includes some basic optimization possibilities, Magento is much stronger in the field of SEO, it offers so many opportunities that search engines “favour” as no other e-commerce platform does.
The issue of responsiveness also belongs here since Google’s algorithm nowadays also monitors whether your website is mobile-friendly or not. If it is not, you might as well give up on the good results on the hit lists regarding searches, launched from a mobile device.
Magento has been responsive since 2014, it may be optimized superbly to any kind of platform, it offers an easily manageable interface for the users – and thus even the algorithm does not rank it lower in the searches.
PrestaShop, on the other hand, is not a mobile-friendly system – it does not have responsive themes from scratch at the time of writing the article (February 2016), you have to buy those separately if a high proportion of your target audience are people browsing (and purchasing) from mobiles, the chances of which are quite likely nowadays.
What does PrestaShop offer?
PrestaShop offers an open-source code software solution with several useful functions, lots of features, for free – at the same time, to be able to exploit its possibilities appropriately, you will need extensions, templates and so on.
PrestaShop is also a mobile friendly system. Although with versions 1.4 and 1.5, a separately developed theme was needed to be installed for making it responsive, from version 1.6 it is a responsive system by default. (In the case of Magento CE, 1.9 and later versions handle responsiveness “automatically”.)
PrestaShop was established in 2007 by Igor Schlumberger and Bruno Lévêque, with the explicit aim of making e-commerce more available for the average users. It is not by chance that the target audience of this simpler system mainly consists of small and medium-sized enterprises.
Because of the complex features that lie in Magento, it is worth considering using it for the medium-sized and large enterprises, while for the smaller ones, the fresh starters, the simpler and more easily predictable PrestaShop may be a better choice.
What does Magento offer?
It is an open-source code, free of charge software solution with a lot of features. Its real strength is customizability – of course you will need extensions in this case, too, however, several thousands of these are available, among which you will most likely find the ideal one for you.
It is worth choosing a hosting provider that has specific experience in this field with Magento and also has provided service for Magento stores with heavier traffic. Previous work references show well how strong the hosting is, even if there is not yet such a big traffic of thousands of visitors per day.
It is also important that the provider undertakes the individual configuration as well, so you do not need to adapt to global settings as in case of big-name hosting companies. It can be nicely optimized for search engines, its biggest strength, narrow-down search, is holding it back though a little in this respect – however, this, too can be easily corrected with the help of a developer company.
It is a more complex system, but for a reason, as it provides the user with much more possibilities. It is ideal mainly for the mid- or large size companies that build their business model particularly on e-commerce selling several thousands or even several tens of thousands of products.
Purchasing process of PrestaShop is more easily adjustable, Magento, on the other hand, offers much more features. It is the perfect tool for those who like to control as many factors as possible and who are planning deep integration with external ERP systems (SAP, Microsoft Navision, Dynamics). More significant expertise is necessary for the installation of Magento, while even beginners can use PrestaShop without trouble.
Similarly to WooCommerce, PrestaShop is for those who would like to test the online market as e-commerce storekeepers who have just started or have recently started. And once the business picks up according to the feedback from the market, introduction of an ERP system and deep integration with the online store is inevitable for growth, and that is when it becomes definitely worth seriously considering switching to Magento.
The two systems target two completely different audiences so the decision is not particularly difficult. It may cause a dilemma only for some of the medium-sized enterprises that are not completely aware of how serious they are about ecommerce: should they build their future upon that or not? Therefore, you need to be clear on that before making the choice.
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Digital Marketing Manager
Gábor is an ecommerce consultant. His field of expertise is centred around conversion rate enhancement with the help of online marketing and custom-developed functions. He tirelessly investigates the latest ecommerce methods and solutions to keep his knowledge up to date.