I have been learning Magento for the past few months, for a client’s website that I have been working on. Its a pretty robust Open Source Ecommerce plaform that is built on the Zend PHP Framework. At first, it was rather daunting trying to find my way around the software – its pretty robust and the documentation for creating a theme feels rather incomplete. It’s nothing like WordPress which I would take in a heartbeat, if they had a solid enough Ecommerce plugin, I have been spoiled by the WordPress Theme engine for quite some time now.

To make my way around Magento, I have been finding bits and pieces of information scattered across many websites. To make it easier for others, Im going to try to assemble the basics here for you.

The hardest piece for me to grasp has been the folder structure, you have to bounce between two places to build a theme, here is a rundown.


  • /skin/// – is where design package css and images are
  • /app/design is location of design packages (layouts, templates, translations)
  • /app/design// – theme customizations
  • /app/design///layout – .xml files that define block structure for different cases in website flow
  • /app/design///template – .phtml (html with php tags) templates
  • /app/design///translate – Zend_Db compatible translation files

Common Template Path Hints


Online Resources

Categories: MagentoOpen SourceWeb

3 thoughts on “An Introduction to Magento: Open Source Ecommerce”

Tomislav Bilic · September 4, 2008 at 5:32 am

Hi Jake,
This is a good PDF to print and read before any actual coding. It helps in understanding the basic logic behing Magento themes.

TechDivision · October 23, 2008 at 4:40 pm

We were also struggling to understand the structure and ideas behind Magento. And it was a very hard fight, I can tell you. But after a while of working with Magento, you´ll see the advantages and the efforts of this eCommerce-Solution. And these advantages are defninitely worth the hard work. The guys of Varien did a fantastic job….

A Rahim Khan · May 1, 2009 at 2:45 am

I am trying to catch magento for almost a month. It seems to be not well document and the most irritating is the XML stuffs. Can you suggest some good materials to start magento. Thanks in advance

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Related Posts


Angular JS Magazine on Flipboard

I have been working with AngularJS for about a year now, trying to learn as much as I can about this growing framework. It’s been a wild ride and I’m going to post a summary Read more…


My First GruntJS Plugin: Bust My Cache

GruntJS is a JavaScript Task runner that has been around for about 2+ year, at least as far as I can remember. I started playing around with GruntJS which uses Node.js about a year ago, Read more…

Top 5

Top 5 Articles : Week of November 25

During the the week of November 25th, I really started to dive into Angular JS. My top 5 articles of the week are mainly about AngularJS, an MVC framework by Google. #1 : AngularJS WebInspector Read more…