August 30, 2019 by Pablo Prieto

6 Best Practices Before Installing a Magento Extension

One of the reasons that Magento is so popular is because it has a great extension marketplace.

Using extensions can easily add more functionality to your website without creating your own custom code.

From adding payment gateways to supporting customer reviews and more, extensions are highly versatile.

But having too many extensions can cause your site performance to deteriorate, or even cripple your website completely. 

The same is true of low-quality extensions. Even if you only install a few of them, low-quality Magento extensions can seriously impact your website’s user experience.

How can you avoid extension overload and protect your website?

Here are six best practices before installing any Magento extension:

1. Ask Yourself: “Do I Really Need This Extension For My Desired Functionality?

We get it.

When you first open up your Magento store, you’re like a kid in a candy store. There are so many extensions you can use to customize your site. It’s tempting to try them all! 

But take a step back.

The first thing you should ask yourself is whether or not you need an extension to accomplish a certain task or function. Magento 2 comes out-of-the-box with a robust set of features and functionality that make many extensions unnecessary. 

For example, do you need to install a third-party customer review extension? Or could you just make use of the built-in Magento 2 customer review module?

Do you need a dedicated Google Analytics extension? Or could you just track your performance from within your Google Analytics account, without using an extension?

And so on.

You need to take the time not just to think about the extension itself, but why you need it. If you do this and also consider your alternative options, this will help ensure you only install the extensions you really need. 

2. Take a Deeper Look at the Developer

Before you start using a Magento extension, it’s a good idea to take a look at the developer behind it. A Magento extension may become a critical part of your site’s functionality. For that reason, you want to make sure that it’s being developed by a reputable developer.

Most extensions on the Magento Marketplace have links to more information about the developer, such as their website or a support email. You should take a look at the developer’s website. How many extensions have they made? Have they gotten good reviews? Do they offer support?

Sending an email to the developer is also a great idea, even if you just have some basic questions about how an extension works. Based on how quickly you get a response, you can learn a bit more about what level of support to expect once you install the extension. If the developer replies in an hour, that’s a good sign. If it takes them a week to get back to you, that’s a red flag. 

3. Inspect the Extension’s Code (Or Get a Developer To Do It)

Before you install a Magento extension on your website, you should install it in a test environment, and take a look at its code if you have a technical background. If you don’t, you may want to hire a developer to do so.

This is a good way to verify the quality of an extension. An extension that’s made of slapdash, “spaghetti” code could cause performance issues and bugs. On the other hand, a sleek and efficient extension that’s built properly will likely integrate well with your site.

Magento has done some of the work for you since every extension on the Marketplace must pass a rigorous screening process. The result is a vetted marketplace where only reputable developers and high-quality extensions are allowed. But that shouldn’t stop you from making your own investigations.

4. Look For Potential Extension Conflicts After Installation 

Again, this is something that you may need to use a developer for if you do not have a technical background and are not familiar with Magento architecture. If two Magento extensions are attempting to rewrite or change one of your Magento core classes, they may conflict with each other, causing errors.

If you or your developer does find an error, you may be able to contact both of the extension developers for help. They may be able to assist you in making a code change that will let the extensions work together – this happens all the time.

However, if this is not possible, you will need to remove one of the extensions. This is one of the reasons why it’s usually a good idea to minimize your total number of extensions, when possible – it makes conflicts less likely. 

5. Consider Removing “Dead Weight” Extensions Before Installing 

Periodically “pruning” your site for extensions that you don’t use anymore is a great way to enhance the performance of your Magento 2 installation, and minimize potential conflicts and other issues when installing new extensions.

If you have not done so in a while, we recommend taking a look at your Magento 2 store and removing any extensions that you’re not using.

Each extension that you have on your website will add to your workload (or your developer’s workload) when it comes to properly maintain and updating your website. Not only that, but even unused extensions can cause conflicts with newly-installed extensions. 

6. Back Up Your Magento 2 Website Before Installing A New Extension

Once you’re confident that you’re installing a high-quality Magento 2 extension and that there are no major conflicts, it’s time to move on from using it in your testing environment and to install it on your Magento 2 website.

But wait!

The first thing you need to do before you make any major change to your website is back it up. Even if you’ve done your due diligence and the extension is working perfectly in your test environment, something may go wrong.

When it comes to Magento 2, it’s best to expect the unexpected. So that means you need to do a comprehensive backup of your Magento 2 website every time you install a new extension. You’ll be able to revert back to your previous site if something goes wrong, and ensure your site still functions properly while you find a solution.

Don’t Over-Extend Your Site

Extensions can greatly enhance your site’s performance and functionality. But they must be installed with forethought and foresight. Don’t get carried away with the massive Magento Marketplace. Pick and choose your extension wisely. Your site will thank you (and so will your developer). Speaking of developers, if you need help choosing, installing or fixing any Magento extension, please contact us. We’re happy to help.

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