There are many Design Patterns that Magento uses and it definitely helps to have some in-depth knowledge into these. There is a good list of these here on StackOverflow.
You will also need a deep understanding of EAV (Entity Attribute Value) Data Model.
It also helps to have an understanding of how the end users work with Magento as well, familiarizing yourself with how the it operates both on the front end and back end will help you in the long run as well. Magento does offer a “Users Guide” for general purpose use.
Books (for me at least) tend to be on the “healing edge” and by that I mean they are usually about 3 months behind latest releases and may not always be on the “bleeding edge” of current releases and changes. Lots of books for 1.4, for example, and 1.5 is already out in the fray.
In a nutshell there is a lot of inside, that is Magento and don’t expect to pick it up over night unless; being already familiar with a lot of design patterns and data models would be the ideal candidates to get up to speed with using Magento. At times though it can still throw you for a loop. I have a massive amount of Bookmarks and still keep finding new things, with that in mind…
While I agree with most of the article, having used both systems extensively I wanted to share a few of my own personal opinions on X-Cart and Magento.
Varian is now Magento, Inc. which is now owned by Ebay.
X-Cart is NOT OOP and is VERY difficult to follow an upgrade path when new releases come out, this was my biggest reason for switching to Magento after having many Clients with X-Cart and spending countless hours just to upgrade a client to the latest X-Cart release.
Magento is a very complex system (almost overly engineered) but after spending enough time with it, it starts to make sense why this is the case, and how its easy to rapid prototype client requested features without FUBAR’ing the upgrade path.
You are also correct on Magento being slow, it uses a huge amount of abstraction layers, ORM, EAV data models to make it easy to extend both on the Client side and Programmers side. This is where I would say X-Cart wins because of its procedural code if speed is your only consideration. However, for example, adding a new multi-option drop down on a product is far more cumbersome in X-Cart than in Magento.
I would disagree on the documentation for Magento, there forums aren’t very helpful however StackOverflow and people like Alan Storm, Inchoo, etc. really help in understanding Magento easier.
Smarty templates are just overhead IMO, simply doing PHP wrapped in HTML like Magento does makes sense from a performance stand point, most designers/FEDs are going to have to learn one or the other either way and it doesn’t separate business logic from presentation very well either.
Conclusion: I am by no means saying X-Cart is a horrible E-Commerce package, it works very well and has/had served many of my clients well. However if a client doesn’t have many new features, doesn’t care about upgrade paths and wants a cheap reliable hosting that is responsive. X-Cart is the way to go. If you are wanting a robust E-Commerce system that can grow with your business easily, and you have lots of time, money and programming resource at your disposal Magento is the best choice. I know that statement sounds like Magento is just a money/time waster. It is not as your investing in your companies future more so with Magento than, X-Cart. That being said, for small shops that want a similar route to X-Cart now have the Magento Go! option as an affordable SaaS solution to get an E-Commerce store up and running without having hardly any programming, design and/or e-commerce experience.
[warning]…when deep-space exploitation ramps up, it will probably be the megatonic corporations that discover all the new planets and map them. The IBM Stellar Sphere. The Philip Morris Galaxy. Planet Denny’s. Every planet will take on the corporate identity of whoever rapes it first. Budweiser World. ~Chuck Palahniuk, Fight Club, Chapter 23[/warning]
the good news.
The most interesting news was information about a 2.0 version of Magento, I’m going to assume this will be under the new name X.Commerce with eBay ownership. It will NOT be backward compatible with 1.0 and is NOT a rewrite but a refactoring. It is due to release around the middle/end of this year.
The list of new shinny exciting things:
eregi_replace(“^(.*).js$”,”prototype.js”,”jQuery.js”); // No more Prototype!
Simpler file structure, no more app/etc/modules I believe.
GUI Design Editor (WYSIWYG?)
Class Mapping: No more searching 3 directories of code pools.
EAV can be optional (for performance I presume).
A deeper theme fallback support.
Unit Testing, Selenium, TDD Support.
Staging before applying any core updates/modules.
Better server side validation.
More database options: Oracle, MSSQL, PostgreSQL, etc.
No more Magic getter/setters.
More API options: RPC/REST
Name space collisions detection with advice on how to resolve dependencies.