Magento Go is a great e-commerce option for those clients in need of a powerful platform like that of Magento's off-the-shelf offerings but with the flexibility you receive from a hosted solution.

While Magento Go offers a great deal of Magento’s functionality, we discovered a few drawbacks from a design and development perspective when first working with the platform. These drawbacks were cause for some minor headaches and forced us to explore the capabilities of the Magento Go system. I’ve compiled a few tips that we discovered on how to effectively and efficiently integrate your design into Magento Go that will save you and your client time.

1. Use CSS to Disable Magento Go's Default Functionality. 

Magento Go has a capable backend system. In fact, in many ways it operates exactly how a traditional Magento backend would. For some reason though, Magento Go offers little support in turning their default front-end functions on and off.

A snapshot of each systems “Enable/Disable” module settings. Magento Go only offers a single module compared to the multitude of module functions at your control in Magento Community Edition.

You might think that Magneto Go doesn’t offer a ton of functions for you to control because of this, but you would be wrong. “Recently Viewed Products”, “Advanced Search”, “Product Tags” and so forth all come loaded up to your instance of Magento Go, with no way to disable. The most efficient way of disabling these modules unfortunately is to hide them with CSS. Simply find the div container that is wrapping the said function and use {display:none;} to hide. Of course, this is not the ideal way to show/hide modules, but until Magento Go offers more support, this is the best way to disable functionality.

2. Avoid Relying on @font-face Kits, Use a Third Party Provider Instead. 

The @font-face feature is a popular way to use non-web only fonts on your website, and Magento Go claims that they support it. However, this isn’t really the case. They allow you to upload font assets to their server, but the only recognized font type is .tff. That’s great and will get your fonts working on Chrome, Safari and Opera; but what about versions of Firefox and Internet Explorer? Magento Go doesn’t allow you full access to the server that houses your assets, so if you can’t upload it through their editor, you can’t add it to the server. For a site that heavily relies on @font-face, having a fall back font in two major browsers just isn’t an option.

These font providers will deploy fonts to your site even if your user moves to a secure https checkout.

The best solution for @font-face and your Magento Go store is to use a third-party font foundry like Google Web Fonts, Fonts.com, or TypeKit. When designing your site, make sure that your fonts have an option on one of these sites, because you won’t be able to custom build an @font-face kit and deploy it yourself.

 3. Build a Skeleton Site so You Have Access to HTML & CSS Styles.

One of the biggest headaches while working with Magento Go, was writing CSS styles within their custom editor. Like most other hosted e-commerce platforms, Magento Go doesn't allow you to work with a local copy of the production environment. So any style changes must be made within their CSS editor, which essentially is one large input field. To alleviate some of the problems here, code some of the major pages (homepage, category, product) in HTML and CSS on your local machine. This will allow you to grab the code and drop it into the editor in an easier fashion than writing it directly in the input field. Granted, the Magento Go HTML will be different than yours, but it helps to have a grasp on the styles before you start skinning it into Magento Go.

In many instances you may also be dropping in HTML through static blocks on the website. This is another reason why coding a skeleton site will come in handy. With these HTML areas already coded and styled, it will be much easier to copy and paste into Magento Go rather than use their CSS and WYSISYG editors.

 4. Don’t Plan on Finding Extensions to Solve Your Problem.

Magento Go is relatively new to the hosted e-commerce game. Because of this, they offer very little support for extending the functions of your store. Magento Connect, their extension library, only lists nineteen extensions for Magento Go. Nineteen! That is an  extremely limited amount of services to be offering to a client, considering the breadth of extensions offered to a traditional Magento store. While deciding on what platform you want to use, make sure that Magento Go can offer your client the solutions and functionality they need before you start developing the site, because you may be stuck without an option later.

5. Test, Test, Test!

Magento Go is a powerful hosted e-commerce solution with a lot of built in functionality. There isn't exactly a blueprint on all of the features that come enabled, the only way to make sure everything is styled and functions properly is by testing. For example, after users view the site, you may see a 'Recently Viewed Items' module suddenly appear on the homepage. This module may not be styled at all or perhaps break the design you have constructed for your homepage.  Make sure you set aside enough time to test every aspect of your store before launching.

Chris Olberding Chris Olberding

Co-founder and Creative Partner at Station Four

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