Large store Magento eCommerce Case Study part #1

Yahoo Mega Parts Store Transplant to Magento Platform

Creating a Mega eCommerce store

I decided to write this because for most Website developers building a huge store is a store they will never have the opportunity to build and we have been doing it on a regular basis for the last 7 years now. Things have changed a little bit. With Magento being available open source or enterprise it means you don't have to build the store from scratch. The availablity of dedicated and VPS cloud servers means it's not neccessary to build a datacenter in your office anymore.

Things to consider when developing a large eCommerce website

Building a store to handle 190,000+ items is a specialist area. Large e Commerce stores have special requirements in regards to Storage, processing speed, configuration, Peak Traffic bandwidth, product and customer management. Consequently it is no place for amateurs or Website designer who have never done this type of work. To do this type of work you need; A very experienced systems administrator, Very Experienced Backend Magento Developer, Frontend Magento developer, Store Data entry Specialist, html UI developers for any mass grunt work.

The tricks of Large Magento Store developers

The interesting part about larger stores is you need breakdown the store in to smaller parts to maintantain performance, such as; Picture/s store and serving, Database/s, main files, .JS files.

Then you have considerations such as where is all the traffic coming from, how much and what is the peak for each of these parts. Also in this case we are using Magentos Multi-store function, with 3-5 stores being setup. Which allows you to run different store fronts on different Domain names, while using the same admin for all. Setting things right take teamwork and cordination between the backend developer and systems administrator in charge of creating the hosing account.

Priorities change when you scale up an Magento Store

The look of the store almost becomes a trival maker at this end of the Website development business. Not that I'm saying the look of a big store does not matter, but there are greater consideration at play. Just the Navigation is an epic under taking. How do you get 1000+ categories, styles, types, brands, models to look nice and be intuitive. So instead of the theme being center stage like most builds and the componets being some what secondary. With a large eCommerce store Navigation and search tends to take the center stage and you have to design around them first.

Administering large product and customer databases

The other major consideration is Product management. How do you administer nearly 200,000 items on a daily and weekly basis. What happens when you need to reduce the price on just 10% of your stock (10,0000 items) It would take days or more to do this by manually. Secondly in our case how do we migrate 190,000 items in a different format (Yahoo store) into a Magento store and make changes and streamline the categories and attributes. Again manually is one by one is an option, playing with the fields until the match Magentos is another. The option we took he was to do it programmatically and this is were we will begin.

Though it requires more setup to start programmatically reorganising and importing the yahoo product spreadsheets was the quickest method. It to took a few trys and reconfigurations to get it all then, but soon it the data was all in there. Now is the fun part trying to keep within the three click rule of navigation.

The Category shuffle, tricks of large stores

What we noticed straight away is there are literally 10-100 pages of product choices for everything. Also the current navigation was flawed and difficult. First option is to group/sort products either by model, brand, type. This wasn't enough so we had to add a further alphabete groups a-c, d-f, g-j etc. This was really not enough. Consequently having good product search becomes a must with a website of mega size. First we went with two options; an upgrade on Magentos native search with auto fill, which requires the very fast server setup, which I'll go into later. The second is a purpose built industry specific search (like automotive searches) which we will modify to suit the products. We will also install a mega menu system to display a different varient of the search categories. Its not an easy task, but the success of the site rides on the search.

Part #2 Will be about the multi-location Server cluster we are building using VPS.

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Senior Developer at Mebsites on the Gold Coast, Queensland, Australia. Mebsites is an acclaimed Magento and Custom Framework Web Software coding house.
Gold Coast, Queensland, Australia Website