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Magento Store Showcase - Part 2

We continue our conversation with Steve Tallent, President at, who was one of the first adopters of Magento.

Be sure to read Part 1 of this interview where Steve describes the first years of using Magento and the positive changes happened in the past few years.

Q: What’s the most powerful extension/s for you and why?

A: Well, Z-Blocks has been a dream. We're exploring new ways to use it all of the time. Right now we're looking at getting the RSS Reader to bring in multiple feeds, from our blogs, our Forums, our Facebook page, put them into Z-Blocks and start displaying them in different places, so we have dynamic content to engage our customers and encourage them to interact with us in those settings.

We also have on tap to try to get polls into Z-Blocks, so that we can schedule the old poll to go offline and a new one to come online weekly without us having to be there at that time to make that change. Z-Blocks is SO powerful.

Although I've had it for a long while and the shine has worn off and I'm not quite as enamored as I once was, the Review Rotator is a powerful tool. Marketers know just how powerful reviews are, and having them out in a sidebar where they might attract some attention to a previously untried product, is invaluable. The extension allows you to apply a filter so that you don't get the really horrible reviews rotating through either. There aren't very many, but you know there are those people that just like to complain.

aheadWorks’ extensions in use

Q: What extension can't you do without?

A: Help Desk Ultimate. My staff loves it. Since we have implemented it, so many fewer things have slipped through the cracks. I do believe there would be real tears if we had to do without it.

Advanced Reports isn't all that glamorous, but personally I don't think that the regular Magento sales reports are entirely accurate. Sometimes, I get vastly different numbers from Magento > Sales and Advanced Reports > Sales. I think part of it has to do with cancelled orders, but I haven't been able to figure out the rest. But Advanced Reports is configurable so that I can filter out cancelled orders and any other status that I want and get a really accurate report of sales.

Q: Extension of your dream. What extension would you like to use in your store that hasn’t been released yet?

A: A truly advanced search. Magento search is pretty awful. We have put a lot of work into creating hard links for certain search terms so that our folks get where we think they want to go very quickly. But now we have articles and videos with descriptions in Wordpress, articles in AW Knowledgebase, CMS pages, info in AW Product Questions, a PHPBB forum, customer reviews, two external blogs, and of course the product descriptions themselves.

I'm excited that aheadWorks has come out with the Advanced Search extension, and that they have plans to extend it to cover their existing content modules. But I'd like to see it go further. I'd like to be able to add content sources, give a URL or database access, and Title and Description, have the Title appear in a dropdown beside the search bar, so that I can select to search forum for example, or do global search or perhaps even search two areas at ones holding down the control key to select. And then have the results appear, like the top 5 results in each content category, organized by category, with a link that says "more from this category".

I've had dreams of other modules, but they aren't coming to mind right now. Well the one that I've had a number of customers requests is a rapid order entry page - something like what we get to use on the admin side. One more that I could have used in the past before we got an external system to do it, is an inventory management page where you could adjust inventory quantities line by line instead of having to browse through so many pages to change one number. Especially useful after taking a physical inventory.

Q: Any recommendations for people evaluating Magento?

A: Magento is great and getting better. I would recommend finding somebody faithful, with high availability to create and manage your website, though there are little quirks that pop up, either an individual, but more likely a trustworthy company. Trying to go super-cheap could result in a lot of heartache in the future.

Q: Any last words you might have?

A: I just want to mention something about AW tech support. The modules are pretty solid. I mean, we've had very few problems and some of them were not problems with the aheadWorks extensions, but were problems on my end that affected the AW extensions.

Tech support has resolved the issues that I have had, quickly fixing problems on the AW end, and helping me track down problems on my end. Also both tech support and sales have been helpful in providing information about how I can use various extensions. I'm pretty sure that they get tired of my inquiries, but it hasn't shown yet.

Plus it's not really advertised that well, but there is a 15 day money back guarantee. Sometimes I read the description, look at the pictures, and just don't know if the extension is going to do what I want it to do. I get it, I test it. So far everything has gone into production and I haven't asked for any money back!

Thank you Steve for such informative answers.

P.S. If you would like to share your store with Magento society, please feel free to contact me at [email protected]