Chances are if you’re running your eCommerce store on Magento, you’ve heard the word LUMA thrown around quite a bit. Since the rise of new frontend frameworks for Magento such as Hyvä Themes and PWA Studio it gets mentioned a lot as this bad, horrible thing that merchants should steer clear of. But what exactly is LUMA? And why is it so bad for your business?
Well, we’re about to give you a complete rundown of what LUMA is – and you can guarantee there’s no holding back.
- What is LUMA
- Background of LUMA
- LUMA Features
- LUMA Limitations
- LUMA Alternatives
- The Future of LUMA
What is LUMA?
Luma is one of two out of the box themes available to you when you decide to build your eCommerce store using Magento – and the most widely used.
You’ll likely have heard of LUMA in reference to your website’s front-end (frontend being the part of your website that your customers see when they visit your website). It sounds technical, but it’s not. In layman’s terms, it’s really just a collection of ready-made page layouts, templates and features you can use as a starting point to build your store.
Official Theme Definition – a theme is a pre-designed template or set of files that determine the look and feel of a store built with Magento. A theme contains various elements such as layout, typography, colour scheme, graphics, and widgets that define the visual appearance of the storefront. Themes can be customised to fit your company’s branding and design requirements, allowing you to create a unique and personalised shopping experience for your customers.
When we refer to ‘out of the box’, we simply mean that it’s a theme ready to use immediately as is, when you develop your website. 99% of merchants will want to customise it to meet their requirements but you could simply install Magento and use LUMA to sell your products right away.
In theory, it gives you the framework you need to be able to add content and go live quickly – but as any experienced Magento developer will tell you, that’s not the best idea. Using a predesigned set of templates, without any customisation, limits your success as an eCommerce merchant – but more on this later.
Background of LUMA
When Magento 2 was released back in 2015 it included 2 themes out of the box that merchants could use to start developing the frontend of their website with. The framework was released with the best intentions and was designed to provide developers with the ability to extend its components. It also included some of the latest and greatest frontend tools at that time even though some of these were yet to be proven.
As with most things that came as part of the original release, the LUMA frontend framework turned out to be overly complex, difficult to work with and took developers and extremely long time to carry out basic customisations. This led to merchants having to pay higher development costs than expected in order to customise the frontend of their Magento websites. So much so that it became known that you would need to spend an absolute fortune if you wanted to customise your checkout page and the ROI was not worth the investment in most cases.
Since it’s release back in November, the LUMA frontend framework has seen very little in terms of any feature updates. It has been left to stagnate whilst frontend technologies have improved and matured at a rapid rate. This has meant that the LUMA frontend framework that comes out of the box with Magento is extremely outdated.
Rather than modernise LUMA, Adobe is focusing on another frontend initiative for it’s merchants. This project is known as PWA Studio. Our advice to all Magento and Adobe Commerce merchants is to stay well away from PWA Studio as at the time of writing this article, we believe it has been released far too early and is not in a fit state to be deployed to a production environment without considerable investment from the merchant.
Whilst LUMA was introduced to the Magento community as the go-to Magento frontend framework back in 2015, we can’t say that now we entirely agree.
Sure, at the time of it’s launch, it used all of the modern and up to date libraries and tools. But that was eight years ago.
Just as customer’s needs and expectations have evolved, so have the frontend solutions available to merchants. Before we look into the better alternatives to LUMA, let’s look at the limitations of LUMA that make it an unfavourable choice for merchants.
Overly Complex Codebase
The Luma theme is extremely challenging to customise for developers. Due to the way the framework was designed, simple changes can take hours or even days in some cases to make leaving merchants thinking, what the hell?!
For example, if you want to improve your checkout page using LUMA, forget it! Unless of course you’re happy investing thousands into a project that will bear little results. Believe us, we’ve tried it ourselves in the hope we could find a solution for merchants! These internal projects failed.
Poor Page Speed Performance
The LUMA framework is designed to deliver hundreds of CSS and JS files to the customers browser or device. These files equate to a lot in terms of file size and a large percentage are never used by the customer when browsing your website. Google’s guidance around page speed performance has changed dramatically since 2015 and this now seen as a bad practise which is clear when analysing LUMA sites using Google’s Core Web Vital Assessment.
Can you optimise LUMA to pass core web vitals?
Yes, but with significant investment and the results that you get wouldn’t meet your customers expectations in our experience. You’d be much better off investing that money in switching to a more modern frontend framework (More on this shortly).
Outdated Frontend Technology
The LUMA frontend framework is built using LESS for styling and uses 2 JS libraries, Require JS and Knockout JS. Knockout JS is no longer receiving updates. At the time of writing this article we checked the GitHub repo and the last updates it received was back in 2021. That’s 2 years ago!
Require JS is another dated library and not built for modern web applications due to it’s nature of delivering hundreds of individual JS files to the customers browser regardless of whether or not they are used. For passing Core Web Vitals, this is a developers nightmare! Optimising this is very challenging!
At this point of the article you may be thinking to yourself “Why on earth are we still running LUMA?” and that’s the right question. Your next thought will likely be “What are the alternatives?” and don’t worry we’ve got your covered.
Below we highlight the modern frontend frameworks that you have available for use with your Magento website. Let’s dive in!
The Ultimate Choice: Hyvä Themes
In our opinion, Hyvä Themes represents the future of front-end development for Magento. As an eCommerce merchant, you will be impressed by this particular theme above all others. It boasts a futuristic design, rapid speed, and exceptional performance. The other benefit of Hyvä Themes is that it doesn’t cost anywhere near as much as other PWA alternatives due to its simplicity.
As a merchant utilising the Magento eCommerce platform, you require flexibility, speed, and optimal performance, correct? Look no further than Hyvä Themes, which delivers all of these essential features.
Unlike typical Magento Themes, Hyvä Themes goes above and beyond to provide the ultimate front-end development solution that will withstand the test of time, driving long-term eCommerce outcomes without the need for difficult and expensive maintenance. It is the ideal solution for your Magento 2 frontend. And here’s why:
Supercharged Page Speed Performance
Hyvä Themes is built from the ground up for page speed performance! It passes Google core web vital assessments out of the box meaning you start from the top of the page speed scale rather than being at the bottom with LUMA.
Lower Ongoing Development Costs
Simplification is key with Hyvä. Merchants can retain their desired site functionalities while maintaining an easy-to-use interface, making online store building a breeze.
Faster Time To Market
Requiring less time to build your eCommerce site results in lower costs. What may have taken 9 months with Luma can be done in approximately 3 months with Hyvä Themes.
Modern Frontend Technologies
Hyvä Themes simplifies the development process for developers. Familiarity with Alpine.js and Tailwind CSS is all that is needed to utilise this platform, making it easier to learn and utilise. Users invested in Hyvä Themes have reported a positive experience.
Increased Developer Happiness
Because Hyvä Themes is an absolute dream for developers to work with (take our word for it! Your dev team will love it!) your developers will be much happier. Developers will always produce their best work when they are happy.
Interested in finding out more about why Hyva Themes is the ultimate front-end solution for Magento? Check out our article Hyvä Themes Explained For Merchants.
PWA Studio is a set of tools and libraries created by Magento to help developers create Progressive Web Apps (PWAs) for Magento stores. We’re definitely not fans here at Foundation Commerce, and here’s just a few reasons why:
PWA Studio is a complex set of tools that requires a high level of technical expertise to use effectively. It requires a specific team that most Magento agencies will not have in-house.
PWA Studio provides a lot of customisation options, but this also means that it requires a lot of development time to meet your requirements. This results in higher development costs. Word on the street is that to get a PWA project deployed requires at least a 6 figure investment.
PWA Studio is still not feature complete, despite it being developed for the past 5 years. Adobe are improving this but it is highly likely that you will have to foot the bill to complete fundamental features that you would expect to have already been developed for you. Adobe Commerce merchants beware! At the time of writing this article, PWA Studio is not yet fully compatible with all Adobe Commerce features.
While PWA Studio provides some level of flexibility, it rarely provides the functionality that most stores require. For example, it does not currently support all of the features of Magento’s checkout process – a major downfall.
There is definitely a use case for PWA. For 95% of merchants it is not required. PWA Studio is being marketed as a golden bullet for merchants to resolve all of your performance problems and set you up for the future. After having spent a large amount of time reviewing and understanding the solution, we don’t believe this narative. Better results can be achieved using Hyvä Themes for a fraction of the development cost increasing the merchants ROI. We’ve got a portfolio to backup that claim. See here.
Will this change in the future? Quite possibly! But we are years away from a point in time where PWA Studio is seen as the go-to solution for eCommerce merchants in our view. We will be monitoring the technology closely but it’s not production ready for merchants at this moment in time in our view.
The Future of LUMA
Does the future look bright for LUMA? We don’t believe so. One of the biggest indicators is that Adobe hasn’t made any updates to the theme since launching it. Word on the street says that once PWA Studio is feature complete (we may be waiting a while) Adobe will look to deprecate the LUMA theme. Though Adobe hasn’t officially confirmed this, or released a date yet, the Magento community fully believes the narrative.
As advocates for Hyvä Themes, we can’t see a future with LUMA or PWA Studio in it.
The LUMA frontend theme stack should be viewed by merchants as a legacy framework. The benefits if switching to a more modern frontend framework massively outweigh any negatives and with page speed performance becoming such an important factor for ecommerce businesses, there really isn’t a reason to stick with LUMA for the long term. It simply does not and cannot perform to the level required to meet your customers expectations.
In the past 12 months Foundation Commerce have launched 10 new Hyvä Themes frontends for our clients and we’ve seen an average of a 30% increase in conversions off the back of launching Hyvä with them.
In some of these projects we didn’t even change the design, we simply recreated what was there already. If you’re looking to increase revenue through your Magento website then you need to have a frontend rebuild on your product roadmap at some point in the near future. Yes it will mean investing a bit of money in the short term but you will get this back and some in the future. The longer you leave it, the more revenue you are losing out on.
If you’d like to speak to a dedicated Magento agency about unlocking the full potential of your eCommerce website then get in touch with us today. It’s completely free to talk and we simply love helping merchants like you succeed.