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July 22, 2014

Magento and third-party modules

What do you need to consider with third party Magento modules?

Magento Enterprise out of the box includes around 90% of the features a storeowner needs to sell online. To make up the 10% difference there are third party extensions available which are free of charge or come with a relatively small purchase fee.

Be Warned!

Tempting as it may be to add in additional modules to Magento. You need to be aware that by adding additional features you are adding more variables. By adding more variables there are going to be more reasons for the site to begin performing poorly.

In our experience, purchasable third party modules are on most occasions the reason behind the majority of website problems. This is due to them conflicting with other modules or being poorly tested.


For us at Space 48, there needs to be a solid business case behind adding a module to the site which overcomes the risk and cost involved. At the end of the day, adding a module to the site will cost you time and money in the first instance and potentially more cost for support later down the line.

The business case needs to be ‚Äúwill it save me time?‚Äù or ‚Äúwill it give me a good ROI?‚Äù. If the answer to both of those is ‘no’ then we would strongly suggest reviewing why you need a module in the first place.

It is also worth baring in mind that some modules could restrict your ability to upgrade Magento in the future, so please be careful when you are considering your options.

Beware of ‘free’

You also need to be extremely wary when it comes to modules that are FREE, unless the module is free because you have signed up to use a third party service. There is the potential that the module might have been poorly coded, therefore adding it to your high performance site could cause complications.

It is also worth noting that many free modules are not supported meaning that you will have to pay developers to fix any bugs or updates. This is something that we generally advise against.

Incompatibility issues

Even with modules which are a few hundred pounds to buy, they are sometimes poorly tested and built. So again, check if they offer support or at least a free trial. Baring in mind modules may work well for a few months with no issues but they could be causing a build up of problems overtime. You are unlikely to see this until it manifests into a big issue.

Most third party modules have been built for ‚ÄòVanilla’ versions of Magento. This means that they have been built for the most basic setup of Magento. They are therefore not built to be compatible with a module which you have already added or will look to add in the future.

If, for example, I were to add a module from Creator A and then add in another module from a different Creator B; when these two modules are installed on the same Magento Installation, the likelihood for these modules to be compatible is very slim because the two parties have not considered each other’s code.

I do have a business case

When there is a solid business case behind the installation of a third party module take your time and do your research! Also ask yourself the following:

  • Does it support your version of Magento?
  • Does the module come with support?
  • Is there a free trial or money back guarantee?
  • Is the module created by a recognised developer?
  • Are there reviews of the module from credible sources?

Finally, third party modules out there are often overkill in the sense they do what you want but they also do a hundred other things that you won’t use it for. So, for the purpose of the one thing you need that module for, is it worth supporting the other variables you won’t use which come with it?

For our clients, we often recommend we build the module for them from scratch. This is because we are able to build the module purposely for the use required. We are able to limit the variables and risk for anything to go wrong. The module will be custom for the site and how the site is used and we can support the module going forward.

Final Words

There are some fantastic module creators out there who we have worked with over the years and who we continue to work with. We do not believe in reinventing the wheel but there are many module creators out there who will not test their module to its limits and will not anticipate how it might perform with other non-standard functionality.

After all, they cannot anticipate exactly what the specifications of each site they might be installed on will be so it is often best to get one built to your exact needs.