The sacred product model

As with most System Integrators, we have been in the position to pick up failed Magento projects, some that have never launched and others that are launched but plagued with problems or are extremely difficult (some would say impossible) to maintain, upgrade, or enhance. If you are a seller and you are thinking about Magento this might alarm you and get your mind spinning. Why do these projects fail? How could I have a completed project that I now can't maintain, isn't that the whole point of using a platform? What should I look for to make sure this doesn't happen to me?

While not true in every case, often problems center around products ... how they were configured and what changes have been made to Magento to accommodate a customer's special product needs.

One of the most important decisions that must be made for a Magento system is to determine how to map a customers' products to the Magento product architecture. How the architect decides to represent products impacts all aspects of the project. Layers and layers of additional customizations can become necessary depending on the decision of how to handle products. Unfortunately, the details may seem too overwhelming to most customers and they simply trust that the development team is doing the right thing.

Sellers shouldn't be expected to fully understand the details, but they should be able to ask this basic question ... does the design change the way a product is represented in the Magento database? If the system integrator can't answer that question, they haven't done enough analysis. If the system integrator says yes ... throw up the red flag. Seek a full explanation. Get a second opinion. Press for details.

Why does this matter so much, why the emphatic response? The reason is that Magento product model is the heart and soul of the system. Everything (literally everything) is centered around it. The Magento world revolves around the product model sun. Here is a short sample list of areas impacted by changing the product model:

  • Tax Calculations
  • Shipping Calculations
  • Orders
  • Invoices
  • Shipments
  • Reporting
  • Search
  • Product Editing
  • Promotions
  • Pricing
  • Inventory Management
  • Product Rendering
  • On Category Pages
  • On Product Detail Pages
  • On Mini-Cart
  • On Cart Line Items

I will have some future posts documenting some product model change fails and clever (architecture-friendly) ways to leverage the product model.

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