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6 Steps to taking over development on a Magento site

If you’re taking over development on a Magento site that was built by a previous developer it can be hard to get up to speed on exactly what has been done.

Following are 6 steps we take to make sure we didn’t miss any customizations that have been done.

Step 1) Admin URL and SSH access

Firstly, you need to ensure that you have full access to the site. Ensure the site admin credentials you’re given allow you full admin access. Make sure you can login via SSH and have the proper permissions to access all of the site files.

Step 2) Check Magento version

Once logged in, check the Magento version. Magento will show you the version number in the footer of the admin site once you are logged in.

Step 3) Check site security

We like – it is a free service that will quickly give you a lot of information about the security of the Magento site you’re taking over and which patches need to be applied. (Remember SUPEE-6788 can take a lot of work to apply!)

Step 4) Check installed plugins

Now that we have the baseline figured out, we need to take stock of the installed plugins.

1.x: System -> Magento Connect -> Magento Connect Manager

Step 5) Analyze app/code/local

If the previous developers were “doing it right”, then their customizations should be in app/code/local. So, I like to go in here and see what they’ve done. Typically I start by looking at the Observers, then get into the nitty gritty after that.

Step 6) Was the core modified?

Developing on Magento can be complex, and inexperienced Magento developers will typically take the short cut of modifying the core Magento code. This of course can cause issues with patches or upgrading later on.

To determine if the previous developers did this, download a clean install of the Magento version the site is using and apply the same patches. I like to then run a recursive diff in summary mode to see which files had been changed:

$ diff -rbq app/code/core ~/Development/CleanMagentoVersion/app/code/core

Hopefully the changes are few to none! Typically after this, I do a diff on the whole directory. You do have to sort through a bunch of noise, but with some tenacity, you’ll find all the customizations!


Magento sites can be quite complex, but going through this list will give you a good place to start when taking over a pre-existing Magento site.

If you get in over your head or need some extra help, contact us and our Magento certified developers will get you on track!

Joe Oppegaard

Joe is a Magento Certified developer

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