This case study will be especially relevant for those interested in the following topics:
In May 2018, Adobe acquired Magento and began integrating it into the Adobe Experience Cloud. In the following years, it’s evolved into an omnichannel cloud-based, headless commerce solution. Capable of enabling B2B and B2C on a single platform, it also utilizes native integrations and data-driven AI to create personalized shopping experiences and simplify internal workflows. As of 2021, Magento has been rebranded as Adobe Commerce.
City Chic offers the latest fashions in plus-size clothing. Hearst is a leading global, diversified information, services, and media company. Popcultcha is an Australian company selling toys and collectibles to all corners of the globe. SCUF is an innovator and creator of high-performance gaming controllers. Snake River Farms pioneered the development of American Waygu beef.
Clearly, these five companies offer very different products and services, and have very different audiences. But they all have something in common – they use Adobe Commerce as their ecommerce platform and have customized their storefronts in a variety of ways. These include the use of Adobe’s own extensions; third-party modules; custom-developed solutions; and integrations with providers of payment gateways, wish list management, gift card services, recommendation engines, and much more. As a result, upgrading Adobe Commerce isn’t as simple as moving to 2.4.4 or higher. It requires making sure that every part of the solution, every customization and integration and workflow, will work flawlessly on the upgraded release.
By leveraging the newest version of Adobe Commerce, City Chic is able to create dynamic product pages with eye-catching videos.
As an Adobe Commerce Partner, Guidance’s experience with the platform runs deep. In fact, Guidance was the first agency to launch a Magento 2.0 commerce website for a business in North America, back in 2015. Since then, Guidance has implemented and upgraded hundreds of instances of Adobe Commerce, powered by Magento . Recent upgrades to 2.4.4 and 2.4.5 involved careful evaluations of each business’ current installation, including all themes, modules, customizations, integrations, and software dependencies. Guidance implemented project plans that also allowed for extensive user acceptance testing (UAT), to ensure that client sites would work seamlessly and minimize downtime, regardless of whether they were upgraded in place or required migration. This is one way it’s used on Adobe’s website. Because of that, I thought it would be good to have at least one similar use in here.
One of the primary concerns that businesses have about major upgrades is time. This comes into play in two ways. The first concern is one that they’re actively thinking about – how long it will take to perform an upgrade. Using the five clients mentioned earlier as examples, most of which upgraded to version 2.4.5, the process took an average of 4-6 weeks. This was a shorter timeframe than they expected, but also dependent on a few variables. One client, which had more than 100 modules installed (some of which hadn’t been updated in quite a while), took a bit longer.
The other time factor is one that businesses aren’t often thinking about. Upgrading to a new release isn’t a requirement, per se, but every additional release makes it a bit more complicated to perform an upgrade. In other words, the further away a business is from the current release, the longer it takes to bring them up to the current release. Adobe refers to this as “accumulated technical debt.” The amount of time and money it takes to keep up with regular updates is less than it would be to skip a few update cycles and then make one bigger leap.
Another consideration businesses have about upgrading is not about time, but timing. In the past, Adobe Commerce upgrades weren’t released on a set schedule. This occasionally caused frustration with their clients, who would partner with an agency like Guidance to perform an upgrade to the current release, only to have it become outdated due to an unexpected update.
Adobe Commerce has taken steps to address this concern. Starting with release 2.4.6, Adobe is moving to an annual release schedule for its major releases. Not only will this give businesses the confidence of knowing they can rely on the current release, it also allows them to better plan for the time, resources, and budget necessary for future upgrades.
Adobe Commerce has a handful of third-party software dependencies, and one of the most significant is PHP. Support for Adobe’s 2.4.0-2.4.3 release line ended on November 28, 2022 – the same day as the end-of-life date for PHP version 7.4. So when Adobe released version 2.4.4 of its commerce platform, they also updated their system requirements for PHP from version 7.4 to 8.1.
Guidance clients upgrading to Adobe Commerce releases 2.4.4 and higher needed to update their PHP as well, so their installations would be fully supported. In addition to meeting Adobe’s system requirements, there were other benefits to upgrading. One of these was security. As Adobe notes, 83% of security incidents occur on outdated software. Keeping software current is also a factor for PCI compliance, another vital aspect of maintaining an ecommerce business.
Another benefit was performance. Multiple Guidance clients saw improvements in the overall speed and stability of their sites by adopting PHP 8.1. This included reductions in server processing time by 10% or more, with faster page loads and a smoother user experience. In some instances, Guidance was able to handle these upgrades “in place”; however, other instances were affected by additional outdated infrastructure elements. In those cases, Guidance scoped out a complete migration strategy, moving clients from an old tech stack to a new one.
Upgrades to Adobe Commerce and the underlying PHP version also meant that many third-party modules in client installations needed to be updated as well. This presented a couple of challenges for Guidance clients. Some of the third-party modules that clients used to extend the capabilities of their shops did not offer versions that were PHP 8.1 compliant. Other modules were intricately customized, such that simply upgrading to the latest out-of-the-box version of the module would sacrifice all the previous customization efforts. Still others had changed their architecture substantially over time, altering their core behavior in undesirable ways.
Guidance carefully evaluated all of these third-party modules: individually, jointly in terms of workflows, and globally in terms of how the clients’ needs had evolved since those modules were last upgraded. Some of the modules could be upgraded in place easily enough. For dozens of modules that didn’t offer a PHP 8.1 compliant version, Guidance directly performed the custom programming necessary to bring them up to PHP 8.1.
None of the five clients discussed in this case study were considering any branding or design updates within the scope of their upgrade projects. That said, a couple of tweaks were still necessary. Customizing an Adobe Commerce installation isn’t just about expanding functionality – it’s about presentation as well. In a few instances, custom themes and designs created for use with earlier versions of Adobe Commerce also needed to be upgraded for compatibility with the new release. Guidance made modifications where needed to maintain brand continuity and make the presentation of these businesses’ storefronts as clean and compelling as ever.
Guidance implemented upgrades to Adobe Commerce 2.4.4 or 2.4.5 as appropriate for five clients, for better site performance, security, and compliance.
By making the investment in upgrades to the platform as well as underlying software dependencies and third-party modules, these clients are positioned to be proactive about future upgrades, at a lower cost overall.
PHP 7.4 reached end-of-life on the same date. Businesses running these or earlier versions needed to upgrade for security and compliance purposes, to reap the benefits of better site performance, and to plan ahead for a new upgrade cadence.
Guidance partnered with each of these five firms to determine the most efficient way to upgrade their installations, including any software dependencies, third-party modules, extensions, integrations, and customizations. These projects included careful workflow mapping, directly programmed PHP upgrades, and extensive user acceptance testing to ensure seamless implementations.
With fully supported versions of Adobe Commerce in place, plus updated extensions and workflows, and a new annual upgrade schedule that allows for proactive planning and budgeting, these five clients can spend more time and resources doing what they each do best for their diverse audiences around the globe.