Well you've finally decided you're going to switch to Magento for building ecommerce website. While new versions of Magento coming up regularly make the learning curve easier to climb, be prepared for at least a few days before you can use magento's features to its best. This article explains the few tricks and tips that will start you off with variations on the basic design of magento's default installation.
The first thing to do after you've installed Magento is to check out the files in skin/frontend/default : you won't find much here except the stylesheet and a few images. This is the directory of your frontend but you should read carefully the concepts behind Magento's implementation of design and layout. Much more complex than the usual single folder theme system one can find in wordpress for instance, Magento's design process works with four types of instances :
- Layout (
These are basic XML files that define block structure for different pages as well as control META information and page encoding.For in-depth look into layouts, read Intro to Layouts)
- Templates (located in
These are PHTML files that contain (X)HTML markups and any necessary PHP tags to create logic for visual presentation.
- Locale (located in
Theses are simple text documents organized on a per language basis that contain translations for store copy.
- Skins (located in
This article covers only the installation of a free theme, that can be found under the community section of the Magento Connect pages. Get the extension key (an url) of the thme you'like to try and type that in your own extension manager that Magento provides in the backend ( admin / system / Magento Connect / Magento Connect Manager). The first installation of any extension might look frightening because the manager will perform all sorts of necessary upgrades and dependencies to your installation or extension (in that case, a theme). Version 1.1.8 on xampp did the job right but I remember being put off on previous versions after a failed extension download. Once you've see the green screen messages rolling down like a Unix console you'll be delighted to be greeted by a nice success message "Procedure completed. Please check the output frame for useful information and refresh the page to see changes."
Once you've passed the 2 minutes that the procedure above requires, go back to the admin and follow the simple instructions to change your theme, as described in Magento's design guide. Go to System/ Configuration / Design and type the name of your theme under the theme section : save, job done.
Be naughty : try another extension ! This nice and quick experience took me to other extensions such as the french language pack : I was happily suprised to find out that the installation of this extension automatically turns the whole shop to french. Reversing to english was then as easy as going back to the admin / system / configuration / general / local options / locale setting. Of course that only impacts magento 's front end setting : the back end language can be switched any time from the language select in the admin footer.