Magento 2 Tutorial: Building a Complete Module

Magento is currently the largest open-source eCommerce platform in the world. Due to its feature rich and extensible code base, merchants with large and small operations all around the world have been using it for a wide variety of projects.

Magento 1 has been around for eight years, and its successor, Magento 2, was released at the end of 2015, improving weak points of the earlier version such as:

  • Improved performance
  • Official automated test suite
  • Better back-end UI
  • New, more modern front-end codebase
  • A more modular way to develop modules, with files contained inside the Magento code instead of being scattered all over the place
  • Reduced number of conflicts between modules trying to customize the same functionality

A little over one year down the road, and the improvement is visible, even though not all of the problems mentioned have been totally solved. Now it’s completely safe to say that Magento 2 is a much more robust piece of software than its predecessor. Some of the improvements present in Magento 2 are:

  • Unit and integration tests, including an official and documented way to create them for custom modules
  • Modules that are really modularized, having all of their files placed under one single directory
  • A richer templating system, allowing the theme developer to create an n-level template hierarchy
  • A series of useful design patterns adopted throughout the code, improving the code quality and decreasing probability of errors created by modules—These include automatic dependency injection, service contracts, repositories, and factories, to name a few.
  • Native integration to Varnish as a full page caching system, as well as Redis for session and cache handling
  • PHP 7 support

The learning curve for Magento 2, with all of these changes, has become even steeper. In this article, I intend to show you how to develop your first Magento 2 module, and point you in the right direction to continue your studies. Let’s get to it!

Prerequisites

It is important that you have a good understanding of the following technologies/concepts in order to follow the rest of this article:

  • Object-oriented Programming (OOP)
  • PHP
  • Namespaces
  • MySQL
  • Basic bash usage

From all of the above, OOP is probably the most important one. Magento was initially created by a team of experienced Java developers, and their legacy can certainly be seen throughout the codebase. In case you are not very confident about your OOP skills, it might be a good idea to review it before beginning your work with the platform.

Overview of Magento 2’s Architecture

Magento’s architecture was designed with the intent of making the source code as modularized and extensible as possible. The end goal of that approach is to allow it to be easily adapted and customized according to each project’s needs.

Customizing usually means changing the behavior of the platform’s code. In the majority of systems, this means changing the “core” code. In Magento, if you are following best practices, this is something you can avoid most of the time, making it possible for a store to keep up to date with the latest security patches and feature releases in a reliable fashion.

Magento 2 is a Model View ViewModel (MVVM) system. While being closely related to its sibling Model View Controller (MVC), an MVVM architecture provides a more robust separation between the Model and the View layers. Below is an explanation of each of the layers of a MVVM system:

  • The Model holds the business logic of the application, and depends on an associated class—the ResourceModel—for database access. Models rely on service contracts to expose their functionality to the other layers of the application.
  • The View is the structure and layout of what a user sees on a screen - the actual HTML. This is achieved in the PHTML files distributed with modules. PHTML files are associated to each ViewModel in the Layout XML files, which would be referred to as binders in the MVVM dialect. The layout files might also assign JavaScript files to be used in the final page.
  • The ViewModel interacts with the Model layer, exposing only the necessary information to the View layer. In Magento 2, this is handled by the module’s Block classes. Note that this was usually part of the Controller role of an MVC system. On MVVM, the controller is only responsible for handling the user flow, meaning that it receives requests and either tells the system to render a view or to redirect the user to another route.

A Magento 2 module consists of some, if not all, elements of the architecture described above. The overall architecture is described below:

Diagram of full Magento 2 architecture

A Magento 2 module can in turn define external dependencies by using Composer, PHP’s dependency manager. In the diagram above, you see that the Magento 2 core modules depend on the Zend Framework, Symfony as well as other third-party libraries.

Below is the structure of Magento/Cms, a Magento 2 core module responsible for handling the creation of pages and static blocks.

Directory layout of Magento/Cms module

Each folder holds one part of the architecture, as follows:

  • Api: Service contracts, defining service interfaces and data interfaces
  • Block: The ViewModels of our MVVM architecture
  • Controller: Controllers, responsible for handling the user’s flow while interacting with the system
  • etc: Configuration XML files—The module defines itself and its parts (routes, models, blocks, observers, and cron jobs) within this folder. The etc files can also be used by non-core modules to override the functionality of core modules.
  • Helper: Helper classes that hold code used in more than one application layer. For example, in the Cms module, helper classes are responsible for preparing HTML for presentation to the browser.
  • i18n: Holds internationalization CSV files, used for translation
  • Model: For Models and ResourceModels
  • Observer: Holds Observers, or Models which are “observing” system events. Usually, when such an event is fired, the observer instantiates a Model to handle the necessary business logic for such an event.
  • Setup: Migration classes, responsible for schema and data creation
  • Test: Unit tests
  • Ui: UI elements such as grids and forms used in the admin application
  • view: Layout (XML) files and template (PHTML) files for the front-end and admin application

It is also interesting to notice that, in practice, all of Magento 2’s inner workings live inside a module. In the image above, you can see, for instance, Magento_Checkout, responsible for the checkout process, and Magento_Catalog, responsible for the handling of products and categories. Basically, what this tells us is that learning how to work with modules is the most important part of becoming a Magento 2 developer.

All right, after this relatively brief introduction to the system architecture and module structure, let’s do something more concrete, shall we? Next, we will go through the traditional Weblog tutorial in order to get you comfortable with Magento 2 and on track to become a Magento 2 Developer. Before that, we need to set up a development environment. Let’s get to it!

Setting up the Development Environment

At the time of this writing, we were able to use the official Magento 2 DevBox, which is a Magento 2 Docker container. Docker on macOS is something I still consider to be unusable, at least with a system which heavily depends on fast disk I/O such as Magento 2. So, we will do it the traditional way: Install all packages natively on our own machine.

Setting up the Server

Installing everything surely is a bit more tedious, but the end result will be a lightning-fast development environment. Believe me, you will save hours of work by not depending on Docker for your Magento 2 development.

This tutorial assumes an environment on macOS with Brew installed on it. If that’s not the case for you, the basics will remain the same, changing only the way you install the packages. Let’s start with installing all of the packages:

brew install mysql nginxb php70 php70-imagick php70-intl php70-mcrypt

Then start the services:

brew services start mysql
brew services start php70
sudo brew services start nginx

Ok, now we’ll point a domain to our loopback address. Open the hosts file in any editor, but make sure you have superuser permissions. Doing that with Vim would be:

sudo vim /etc/hosts

Then add the following line:

127.0.0.1       magento2.dev

Now we’ll create a vhost in Nginx:

vim /usr/local/etc/nginx/sites-available/magento2dev.conf

Add the following content:

server {
  listen 80;
 
  server_name magento2.dev;
 
  set $MAGE_ROOT /Users/yourusername/www/magento2dev;
  set $MAGE_MODE developer;
 
 
  # Default magento Nginx config starts below
  root $MAGE_ROOT/pub;
  index index.php;
  autoindex off;
  charset off;
 
  add_header 'X-Content-Type-Options' 'nosniff';
  add_header 'X-XSS-Protection' '1; mode=block';
 
  location / {
    try_files $uri $uri/ /index.php?$args;
  }
 
  location /pub {
    location ~ ^/pub/media/(downloadable|customer|import|theme_customization/.*\.xml) {
      deny all;
    }
    alias $MAGE_ROOT/pub;
    add_header X-Frame-Options "SAMEORIGIN";
  }
 
  location /static/ {
    if ($MAGE_MODE = "production") {
      expires max;
    }
 
    location ~* \.(ico|jpg|jpeg|png|gif|svg|js|css|swf|eot|ttf|otf|woff|woff2)$ {
      add_header Cache-Control "public";
      add_header X-Frame-Options "SAMEORIGIN";
      expires +1y;
 
      if (!-f $request_filename) {
        rewrite ^/static/(version\d*/)?(.*)$ /static.php?resource=$2 last;
      }
    }
 
    location ~* \.(zip|gz|gzip|bz2|csv|xml)$ {
      add_header Cache-Control "no-store";
      add_header X-Frame-Options "SAMEORIGIN";
      expires off;
 
      if (!-f $request_filename) {
        rewrite ^/static/(version\d*/)?(.*)$ /static.php?resource=$2 last;
      }
    }
 
    if (!-f $request_filename) {
      rewrite ^/static/(version\d*/)?(.*)$ /static.php?resource=$2 last;
    }
 
    add_header X-Frame-Options "SAMEORIGIN";
  }
 
  location /media/ {
    try_files $uri $uri/ /get.php?$args;
 
    location ~ ^/media/theme_customization/.*\.xml {
      deny all;
    }
 
    location ~* \.(ico|jpg|jpeg|png|gif|svg|js|css|swf|eot|ttf|otf|woff|woff2)$ {
      add_header Cache-Control "public";
      add_header X-Frame-Options "SAMEORIGIN";
      expires +1y;
      try_files $uri $uri/ /get.php?$args;
    }
 
    location ~* \.(zip|gz|gzip|bz2|csv|xml)$ {
      add_header Cache-Control "no-store";
      add_header X-Frame-Options "SAMEORIGIN";
      expires off;
      try_files $uri $uri/ /get.php?$args;
    }
 
    add_header X-Frame-Options "SAMEORIGIN";
  }
 
  location /media/customer/ {
    deny all;
  }
 
  location /media/downloadable/ {
    deny all;
  }
 
  location /media/import/ {
    deny all;
  }
 
  location ~ /media/theme_customization/.*\.xml$ {
    deny all;
  }
 
  location /errors/ {
    try_files $uri =404;
  }
 
  location ~ ^/errors/.*\.(xml|phtml)$ {
    deny all;
  }
 
  location ~ cron\.php {
    deny all;
  }
 
  location ~ (index|get|static|report|404|503)\.php$ {
    try_files $uri =404;
    fastcgi_pass   127.0.0.1:9000;
    fastcgi_param  PHP_FLAG  "session.auto_start=off \n suhosin.session.cryptua=off";
    fastcgi_param  PHP_VALUE "memory_limit=768M \n max_execution_time=60";
    fastcgi_read_timeout 60s;
    fastcgi_connect_timeout 60s;
    fastcgi_param  MAGE_MODE $MAGE_MODE;
    fastcgi_index  index.php;
    fastcgi_param  SCRIPT_FILENAME  $document_root$fastcgi_script_name;
    include    fastcgi_params;
  }
 
  # Default magento Nginx config finishes below
 
  client_max_body_size  20M;
}

If you haven’t dealt with Nginx before, this file might scare you, so let us explain the little bits here, as it will also shed some light on some of Magento’s inner workings. The first lines simply tell Nginx that we are using the default HTTP port, and our domain is magento2.dev

listen 80;
server_name magento2.dev;

Then we set some environment variables. The first one—$MAGE_ROOT—holds the path to our codebase. Notice you will need to change the root path to match your username/folder path, wherever you plan to have the source placed on:

set $MAGE_ROOT /Users/yourusername/www/magento2dev;

The second variable—$MAGE_MODE—sets the runtime mode for our shop. As we are developing a module, we will use the developer mode. This allows us to code faster, as we won’t have to compile or deploy static files while developing. The other modes are production and default. The real use for the latter is not yet clear.

set $MAGE_MODE developer;

After this variables are set, we define the vhost root path. Notice that we suffix the $MAGE_ROOT variable with the /pub folder, making only part of our store available to the web.

root $MAGE_ROOT/pub;

We then define our index file—the file nginx will load when the requested file doesn’t exist—as index.php. This script, $MAGE_ROOT/pub/index.php, is the main entry point for customers visiting both the shopping cart and the admin applications. Regardless of the URL requested, index.php will be loaded and the router dispatching process started.

index index.php;

Next, we turn off some Nginx features. First, we turn off autoindex, which would display a file list when you request a folder, but don’t specify a file, and no index is present. Second, we turn off charset, which would allow Nginx to automatically add Charset headers to the response.

autoindex off;
charset off;

Next, we define a few security headers:

  add_header 'X-Content-Type-Options' 'nosniff';
  add_header 'X-XSS-Protection' '1; mode=block';

This location, /, is pointed at our root folder $MAGE_ROOT/pub, and basically redirects any request received to our front controller index.php, together with the request arguments:

  location / {
    try_files $uri $uri/ /index.php?$args;
  }

The next portion might be a bit confusing, but it is quite simple. A few lines ago, we defined our root as $MAGE_ROOT/pub. That is the recommended and more secure setup, as most of the code is not visible from the web. But it is not the only way to set up the web server. Actually, most shared web servers have one default setup, which is to have your web server pointing at your web folder. For those users, the Magento team has made this file ready for those cases, when the root is defined as $MAGE_ROOT with the following snippet:

location /pub {
    location ~ ^/pub/media/(downloadable|customer|import|theme_customization/.*\.xml) {
      deny all;
    }
    alias $MAGE_ROOT/pub;
    add_header X-Frame-Options "SAMEORIGIN";
  }

Keep in mind that, whenever possible, it is best if you have your web server pointing at the $MAGE_ROOT/pub folder. Your store will be more secure this way.

Next up, we have the static location $MAGE_ROOT/pub/static. This folder is initially empty and filled up automatically with the modules’ and themes’ static files, such as image files, CSS, JS, etc. Here, we basically define some cache values for the static files and, when the requested file does not exist, redirect it to $MAGE_ROOT/pub/static.php. That script will, among other things, analyze the request and copy or symlink the specified file from the correspondent module or theme, depending on the runtime mode defined. This way, your module’s static files will reside inside our modules’ folder, but will be served directly from the vhost public folder:

  location /static/ {
    if ($MAGE_MODE = "production") {
      expires max;
    }
location ~* \.(ico|jpg|jpeg|png|gif|svg|js|css|swf|eot|ttf|otf|woff|woff2)$ {
      add_header Cache-Control "public";
      add_header X-Frame-Options "SAMEORIGIN";
      expires +1y;
 
      if (!-f $request_filename) {
        rewrite ^/static/(version\d*/)?(.*)$ /static.php?resource=$2 last;
      }
    }
 
    location ~* \.(zip|gz|gzip|bz2|csv|xml)$ {
      add_header Cache-Control "no-store";
      add_header X-Frame-Options "SAMEORIGIN";
      expires off;
 
      if (!-f $request_filename) {
        rewrite ^/static/(version\d*/)?(.*)$ /static.php?resource=$2 last;
      }
    }
 
    if (!-f $request_filename) {
      rewrite ^/static/(version\d*/)?(.*)$ /static.php?resource=$2 last;
    }
 
    add_header X-Frame-Options "SAMEORIGIN";
  }

Next we deny web access to some restricted folders and files:

  location /media/customer/ {
    deny all;
  }
 
  location /media/downloadable/ {
    deny all;
  }
 
  location /media/import/ {
    deny all;
  }
 
  location ~ /media/theme_customization/.*\.xml$ {
    deny all;
  }
 
  location /errors/ {
    try_files $uri =404;
  }
 
  location ~ ^/errors/.*\.(xml|phtml)$ {
    deny all;
  }
 
  location ~ cron\.php {
    deny all;
  }

And the last bit is where we load up php-fpm and tell it to execute index.php whenever the user hits it:

location ~ (index|get|static|report|404|503)\.php$ {
    try_files $uri =404;
    fastcgi_pass   127.0.0.1:9000;
    fastcgi_param  PHP_FLAG  "session.auto_start=off \n suhosin.session.cryptua=off";
    fastcgi_param  PHP_VALUE "memory_limit=768M \n max_execution_time=60";
    fastcgi_read_timeout 60s;
    fastcgi_connect_timeout 60s;
    fastcgi_param  MAGE_MODE $MAGE_MODE;
    fastcgi_index  index.php;
    fastcgi_param  SCRIPT_FILENAME  $document_root$fastcgi_script_name;
    include    fastcgi_params;
  }

With that out of our way, save the file, and then enable it by typing the following commands:

ln -s /usr/local/etc/nginx/sites-available/magento2dev.conf \
 /usr/local/etc/nginx/sites-enabled/magento2dev.conf
sudo brew services restart nginx

Installing Magento 2

Okay, at this point your machine has what it needs to run Magento 2, missing only the beast itself. Head over to the Magento website and create an account if you still don’t have one. After that, go to the download page and download the latest version (2.1.5, at the time of writing):

Magento 2 download page

Select the .tar.bz2 format and download it. Then proceed to extracting it and setting the correct file and folder permissions:

mkdir ~/www/magento2dev
cd ~/www/magento2dev
tar -xjf ~/Downloads/Magento-CE-2.1.5-2017-02-20-05-39-14.tar.bz2
find var vendor pub/static pub/media app/etc -type f -exec chmod u+w {} \;
find var vendor pub/static pub/media app/etc -type d -exec chmod u+w {} \;
chmod u+x bin/magento

Now, to install the database tables and create the needed configuration files, we will run this command from the terminal:

./bin/magento setup:install --base-url=http://magento2.dev/ \
--db-host=127.0.0.1 --db-name=magento2 --db-user=root \
--db-password=123 --admin-firstname=Magento --admin-lastname=User \
--admin-email=user@example.com --admin-user=admin \
--admin-password=admin123 --language=en_US --currency=USD \
--timezone=America/Chicago --use-rewrites=1 --backend-frontname=admin

Remember to change the database name (db-name), user (db-user) and password (db-password) to match the one you used during MySQL’s installation, and that’s it! This command will install all of Magento 2’s modules, creating the required tables and configuration files. After it is finished, open up your browser and head to http://magento2.dev/. You should see a Magento 2 clean install with the default Luma theme:

Home page in the default Luma theme

If you head to http://magento2.dev/admin, you should see the Admin application login page:

Admin application login page

Then use the credentials below to login:

User: admin
Password: admin123

We’re finally ready to start writing our code!

Creating Our First Magento 2 Module

To complete our module, we will have to create the following files, and I will guide you through the whole process. We will need:

  • A few boilerplate registration files, to make Magento aware of our Blog module
  • One interface file, to define our data contract for the Post
  • A Post Model, to represent a Post throughout our code, implementing the Post data interface
  • A Post Resource Model, to link the Post Model to the database
  • A Post Collection, to retrieve several posts at once from the database with the help of the Resource Model
  • Two migration classes, to set up our table schema and content
  • Two Actions: one to list all posts and another to show each post individually
  • Two each of Blocks, Views, and Layout files: One of each for the list action, and one of each for the view

First, let’s take a quick look at the core source code folder structure, so we can define where to place our code. The way we installed has all of Magento 2 core code, together with all of its dependencies, living inside the composer’s vendor folder.

Directory layout of Magento 2 core code

Registering Our Module

We will keep our code in a separate folder, app/code. Every module’s name is in the form Namespace_ModuleName, and its location on the filesystem must reflect that name, app/code/Namespace/ModuleName for this example. Following that pattern, we will name our module Toptal_Blog and place our files under app/code/Toptal/Blog. Go ahead and create that folder structure.

Directory layout of our Toptal_Blog module

Now, we need to create a few boilerplate files in order to have our module registered with Magento. First, create app/code/Toptal/Blog/composer.json:

{}

This file will be loaded by Composer everytime you run it. Even though we are not actually using Composer with our module, we must create it to keep Composer happy.

Now we will register our module with Magento. Go ahead and create app/code/Toptal/Blog/registration.php:

\Magento\Framework\Component\ComponentRegistrar::register(
    \Magento\Framework\Component\ComponentRegistrar::MODULE,
    'Toptal_Blog',
    __DIR__
);

 

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