About the Author
Allen Burt is the Founder and Managing Director at Blue Stout. Blue Stout is a digital production agency that builds custom commerce applications, like ecommerce shops and interactive mobile apps, for clients ranging from startups to billion-dollar public companies.
Prior to Blue Stout, Allen led two ecommerce startups and consulted corporate tech companies like Sprint and Bayer AG. He loves connecting business strategy with tech and frequently writes on both subjects on the Blue Stout Blog.
As technology advances, we continue to see things we are accustomed to take shape in a new technology which is smaller, faster, more compact.
We saw it with desktop computers to laptops, telephones to iPhones, satellite dish to HDMI streamers, the examples are all around us. Which means, this change is inevitably occurring in the ecommerce space, too. Ecommerce platforms are evolving, and following the trend in technology, getting more concise and efficient.
There are lots of options out there, and statistics show that Magento is the clear winner when it comes to the ecommerce platform market share. They hold about 26% of the total market.
Spree Commerce, on the other hand, is a relatively new choice. It’s one of the most promising and fastest-growing open source projects in the world with with over 630 contributors who regularly contribute to the code base and update software documentations.
In this post, we’ll compare the two platforms so you can see why we prefer to develop with Spree Commerce here at Blue Stout.
Open source and hosted versions
Both Magento and Spree offer open source versions that are totally free to download, which can be installed on a self-hosted server.
Magento Community Edition (CE) is the open source version released by Magento. Though, it has almost the same basic features and source code of their Enterprise Edition (EE), it still misses a lot of enhanced functionalities offered by Enterprise Edition like full page caching, and better scalability, among others.
Spree Commerce is also an open source platform, but it is much more reliable than Magento’s Community Edition, and has almost the same features provided by Magento’s Enterprise Edition.
In fact, the cost of Enterprise Edition starts at $15,000 and can go up to $200,000 per year, whereas Spree as an open source software costs $0, which makes Spree Commerce more appealing from the get-go. The caveat here, of course, is paying for a developer to help you build on top of the platform, so your costs will depend on that individual or ecommerce development firm.
Backend User Experience
As your development team or contracted design firm works on building your store, depending on the platform you choose, they will have two completely different backend experiences. Magento offers many options to developers as core functions. This makes the backend cluttered and overwhelming. And because there are lots of options by default, it can even confuse some users and complicate the user experience unnecessarily. If your development team is having a hard time keeping products updated and current because of a unorganized backend, chances are it’s going to reflect on your frontend and, ultimately, your customer’s experience on your website.
In contrast, the backend of Spree is built around simplicity. The admin panel is lean and efficient. Comparing with Magento, Spree has fewer tabs and sub-menus. So, by default, it is less overwhelming and minimizes the options offered. This doesn’t mean that Spree has fewer options and functionalities. It means that Spree has a more minimal way of organizing its backend options and are arranged is to keep the developers streamlined and focused.
Which one sounds like a better user experience for developers?
The Framework Used
This is where it gets interesting. The language and framework used to build each platform is the most obvious example of technological evolution. Magento is written in PHP with some elements of Zend framework. Spree is built using Ruby on Rails, a web application framework created specifically for online businesses.
If you’ve been in business awhile or if you are fairly tech-savvy, you may know that PHP is a very popular language. Compared to Ruby on Rails, PHP is a much easier language to learn right off the bat. Because of this, PHP still dominates the ecommerce industry. But, just because it’s popular, doesn’t mean it’s right. PHP is actually not the most efficient language for ecommerce programming.
Let’s look at some comparisons between the two platforms in terms of efficiency:
Lines of Code
The main difference in efficiency between Magento and Spree lies within the difference in code. Magento has over 8.2 million lines of code whereas Spree Commerce uses only 45k. Why such a huge difference? Remember, Magento provides more functions as the core functions and Spree, by default, comes as a lightweight storefront. The extensions for Spree have to be installed and can increase functionality. These big difference in the initial sizes of the each code base makes an impact on operational and developmental processes. Here’s how:
Ease of Development
Unless you’re running a very simple shop with absolutely no customized elements or functionalities, you will need to customize the source code of your storefront. As PHP is a very popular language, finding PHP programmers is easy. However, just because a programmer knows PHP doesn’t mean that person can necessarily work well on Magento. Navigating through its complex setup can be tough. That means it is very likely, unless your developer has specific Magento experience, that there will be a learning curve for any developer you hire.
In contrast, Rails developers understand Spree much faster than PHP developers can understand Magento because the framework is more efficient and minimal. You’ll have much better chances of forgoing a large learning curve with your developer and saving yourself time and money.
Whenever a server receives a request, it processes each request individually and generates a response. Servers can handle many requests simultaneously. When a server is oversubscribed with the requests, the server could suffer loss in performance, which may result in slowing down your ecommerce store.
Spree can handle more than double the number of requests per second than Magento can. In addition, Spree takes care of those requests almost three times faster than the Magento (413ms compared to 1203).
Ruby on Rails is optimized for sustainable programming and productivity. And the code reflects that. It is structured in such a way that it cannot duplicate itself. That means your programmers don’t have to write code to combat duplicate errors. PHP is the opposite.
So, compared to Magento, Spree requires almost 10 times fewer lines of code to be written to achieve the same functionality. A larger amount of server-side scripting code can degrade the performance of your server and slow down your store. Since Spree requires fewer lines of codes to be written, it can speed up your website loading time, giving your customers a better experience on your site.
Payment Process Integration
Another important element to compare in ecommerce platforms are the available payment processor integrations. The limitations or lack of integrations should not determine which platform you use.
Why choose a sub-par platform just because they integrate with your preferred processor? Good news: you don’t have to. Compared to Magento, Spree supports more payment gateways out of the box. Magento supports integration with about 75 different solutions whereas Spree comes bundled with over 125.
In addition, Spree has recently upgraded VendPOS Integration for Wombat, its automated integration platform so that it takes only a few minutes to connect with leading VendPOS Integration. Read more about that integration here.
Make a Smart Decision
Obviously, both Magento and Spree are capable of offering every feature an online store needs. But in terms of speed, stability, scalability and third-party integrations, Spree stands out from its competitors. In addition, the pace of the open source contribution puts it in the Top 50 open source projects in the world. Don’t make a decision based on the state of your ecommerce business now. Think 5 years down the road. Which platform will scale with your business?
Our bet is on the platform that evolves with the efficiency trend.
To view this piece in its original format, visit the blog of Blue Stout.