In recent news, Magento announced their latest version, Community Edition (CE) 1.9. Every time a new version of Magento is released ATAK Interactive always gets the question, “what are the changes?” The other common follow up is, “Do I need this?” The answer to finding out code and database structure changes can be complicated and hard to decipher. As eCommerce specialists, our job is to be aware and explain our position so our customers can make the educated decision to jump or not.
In this article, we will mostly dig into Magento’s new version, 1.9. We will list some of the new features that may impact your decision to upgrade, and we will offer our opinion on when is the right time to upgrade your current Magento 1.8 build, or older version, to Magento 1.9.
Today, ATAK Interactive still believes that Magento is the best and most flexible eCommerce platform available. Our stance on why Magento is the best platform can read by clicking here.
Briefly, Magento is an open source eCommerce platform that offers its users the most flexibility managing all elements of their online store. The feature set is hard to beat, out of the box, and the Magento administration area operates with minimal to zero coding knowledge required. Further, and unlike many “hosted” ecommerce solutions, Magento allows for total customizability when it comes to design, performance, and functionality enhancements (or reconfiguration) for developers building online stores and need total control to manipulate how features perform. Magento is also a developer friendly company, offering developers a community where problems can be discussed and modules can be shared/purchased to save time, rather than having to code elements from scratch. Magento is owned and backed up by eBay, which means the company, for now, has solid backing and Magento is clearly the result of years of ecommerce experience and developer collaboration. What most of our customers care about is this; The Magento ecommerce platform has most robust and best features, out of the box, out there, and we can manipulate it any way we need to so we accomplish your specific goals.
Magento 1.9, The Latest Release; What’s New?
Fortunately, we can say that the release did not include lots of changes. There are minor bug fixes for catalog updates, but not much at all when it comes to the database structure, and most website owners would not see enough of a difference to warrant an upgrade.
Responsive design is becoming one of the biggest trends in the website environment. Responsive design makes the website scale automatically according to the size they are viewed on, regardless from the user’s browser device. It’s a single site that works perfectly on every device such as large monitors, laptops, tablets, and smartphones. With four out of every five smartphone users using smartphones to shop it’s more important than ever before to have a mobile friendly website. To get more information on responsive design please read this article on responsive design. With a responsive site, merchants will be better able to participate in the fast growing mobile commerce space, and will have a site that is more easily adapted to new opportunities and less expensive to maintain. A responsive site also offers potential SEO benefits from using Google’s preferred approach to mobile-optimizing sites.
“Smartphone Shoppers Now Represent 4 out of 5 Smartphone Users*”
Magento 1.9 now has a responsive default theme to be more convenient and provide a better experience to its mobile users. Magento is now mobile and tablet friendly if you use the default theme. A new responsive design reference theme makes it easier for developers to create responsive sites, and new payment options help merchants improve conversion rates and sales. ATAK thinks we can get a tablet and smart phone friendly responsive Magento site in about 2/3 the time as before, speeding time to market and freeing up resources for other projects.
PHP Update and Zend Framework Updates
Magento 1.9’s PHP update is quite a big deal for all the developers, now they are supported by PHP 5.4. PHP 5.4 has some new features so it’s good that Magento is compatible with it from now on. Further, the Zend Framework the system is built on has been upgrades to version 1.12.3. Merchants will benefit from greater security and ongoing support updates.
Improved Payment and Checkout Process
One of the new features that comes with Magento 1.9 is the ability to disable the order review page. Before you place the order, even if you change the quantity, it’s no longer needed to update an order. Now we can can skip some unnecessary steps like “Order Review and Update Order”. It has also integrated a Bill Me Later service, which statistically increases sales by 18%. There is also a smoother PayPal Express checkout. Again, we can now can skip pages that are not needed, but on top of that, PayPal Express also tries alternative payment options when a customer’s credit card is rejected.
Magento’s New Bill Me Later Service Can Increase Sales by 18%
To decrease the online buyers (shoppers) confusion when they are purchasing a product, Magento 1.9 uses consistent cross-border pricing. It’s a clearer and more transparent payment process for customers from all over the world. Merchants can show a single price regardless of the country and international taxes.
Improved Security and Other Fixes
With Magento 1.9, you will have improved security which is crucial for every eCommerce website. There are more than 50 updates, just to name a few: closing potential cross-site scripting (XSS) vulnerabilities, improved file system security, removal of unsafe .swf files from the Magento distribution, and improved security action URLs such as billing agreements.
So Is It Necessary to Upgrade Magento 1.9?
It is ATAK Interactive’s opinion that if your site does everything you want it to do right now, and your customers are not complaining about bugs or asking for new features, then you should wait for the next version, or two. ATAK can accomplish many of the same front end fixes accomplished in 1.9 (such as responsive design) without having to move you from your old version. ATAK can address some of the changes, if needed, in your old store rather than having to start over (most of the time).
The most important deciding factor is how much customization your current Magento site has and when it is beneficial to consider having to redo those customizations on a new platform. If an ecommerce site has many custom features and many modules installed, you are basically looking at starting all of that over from scratch when you move to a new version. One can keep the design, but essentially the new version needs to be installed and the customizations need to be recoded to work as you need them to work. Module compatibility will also need to be addressed. The module you purchased for version 1.8 or earlier will most likely not work for the newest version. The updated modules will need to be purchased and then reinstalled to the new system.
We only recommend doing the upgrade when a complete redesign is called for. There are too few gains for the expense, but if there is a clear reason then the option is of course there. Below you can see a clearer list of enhancements to help you make your decision.
Here is a clear list of the Magento 1.9 security enhancements:
- Addressed a potential cross-site scripting (XSS) vulnerability while creating configurable product variants.
- Addressed a potential security issue that could result in displaying information about a different order to a customer.
- Users can no longer change the currency if the payment method PayPal Website Payments Standard is used.
- Removed a .swf file from the Magento distribution because of security issues.
- Improved file system security.
- Enhanced the security of action URLs, such as billing agreements.
- Addressed a potential session fixation vulnerability during checkout.
- Improved the security of the Magento randomness function.
Web Store and Shopping Cart Fixes
- A customer can update quantities of items in their mini shopping cart from their My Account page.
- The Minimum Advertised Price pop-up works properly in the web store. When the customer clicks Click for price, the price displays as expected.
- The “customer since” date is correct.
- Switching stores when viewing a product with store-scoped URL keys works as expected.
- Setting System > Configuration > CATALOG > Inventory, option Display Out of Stock Products to Yes no longer causes all products to appear as out of stock.
- Entering accented characters in the zip code field during checkout results in a validation error instead of an exception message.
- Gift card codes are sent only after an item is purchased.
- A customer who attempts to log in as another customer with incorrect credentials is denied.
- Resolved issues with applying a 100% discount to an order.
- Customers are no longer redirected to the home page when they have permission to view a category.
- Discount amount displays correctly for products with custom options.
- Issues with placing PayPal Payments Advanced or PayPal Payflow Link orders using Internet Explorer 9 have been resolved.
Promotional Price Rule Fixes
The following relate to administering and using cart price rules and catalog price rules
- Shopping cart price rules apply properly to grouped products.
- Two catalog price rules applied to the same product work properly.
- The setting Stop Further Rules Processing is honored.
- A user with read-only privileges in the Admin Panel cannot save changes to a price rule.
- Applying a shopping cart price rule does not display an exception.
- Coupon codes apply only to products eligible for the price rule.
Administrative Ordering, Invoicing, and Credit Memo Fixes
- An administrative user with access to only one website from which a product was deleted no longer sees a stack trace when attempting to create an RMA for that product. In other words, after a customer placed an order for a product on Website1, an administrator with privileges to all websites removes the product. Later, when an administrator with access to only Website1 attempts to create an RMA for the deleted product, that administrator no longer sees an error message; instead, they see an expected Access Denied message.
- Resolved an issue with incorrectly calculating the amount of an invoice when some items were discounted by a shopping cart price rule.
- Credit memo amount is calculated correctly when processing a partial invoice with a discount.
- Making comments in a credit memo no longer returns items to stock. (Prerequisite: an administrator set System > Configuration > CATALOG > Inventory > Product Stock Options, option Automatic
- A product with a custom attribute set imports successfully.
Payment Method Fixes
- If guest checkout is disabled, a customer must log in to check out with PayPal Express.
- Eliminated errors in the logs when an administrator clicks System > Configuration > SALES > Payment Methods.
- You can now use New Zealand dollars as the base currency with the eWAY Direct payment bridge.
- Store credit is applied correctly when using Website Payments Pro Hosted Solution.
- If the merchant country is Germany (DE), disabled guest checkout for the express checkout method and PayPal Website Payments Standard.
- Categories on the web store now display with spaces between category names for cached and non-cached pages.
- A customer can now initiate a return from the web store.
- An administrative user can subscribe to low stock RSS feeds without errors.
- Category URLs work as expected, regardless of the setting of Create Custom Redirect for old URL for the category’s URL key.
- Setting allow_url_fopen = Off in php.ini has no effect on the CMS WYSIWYG editor.
- No fatal error displays when a role-restricted user previews a newsletter in the Admin Panel.
- Google Sitemap files now include the .html suffix for category and product URLs.
- Customers can use advanced search on your web store if Magento EE is configured to use the default MySQL Fulltext search engine and the server uses MySQL 5.6.
- A role-restricted user can preview a newsletter in the Admin Panel to which the user has privileges.
- After synchronizing media files with the database, media/customer/.htaccess is present with the correct data. (Prerequisite: an administrator set System > Configuration > ADVANCED > System > Storage Configuration for Media set to Database).
- cron now restarts indexers if they previously failed to run.
- You can save changes to a category that has more than 1,000 products.
- Deactivating one of several banners no longer causes exceptions in system.log.
- Resolved issues with the WSDL cache.
- Improved the efficiency of product searches.
- Resolved issues with the DHL International shipping method.
- Resolved 404 (Not Found) errors in layered navigation.
- Resolved a SQL error when attempting to assign a bundled product to another website.
- Rules-based product relations perform as expected after being saved.
- Resolved an issue with sending duplicate Content-Type headers when using mod_fastcgi with the Apache web server.