The #1 Nodejs ecommerce backend: Medusa

Ashutosh Krishna
7 min readJan 11, 2023

Medusa offers bespoke commerce infrastructure and is the most popular open source commerce platform on GitHub. The solution allows developers to build scalable and custom ecommerce applications through a composable stack that allows you to easily integrate with your favorite tools for payments to search, CMS, and more.

You can easily manage your products, add discounts and gift cards as offers, support multiple currencies and regions, and much more. These are possible due to Medusa’s headless architecture that decouples its backend server, storefront, and admin dashboard.

In this article, you will learn what headless commerce architecture is and the benefits of headless commerce solutions. Additionally, you will learn about Medusa and its underlying architecture in detail.

Medusa, the Most Popular Node.js Ecommerce Backend

Medusa is a composable commerce platform that utilizes Node.js’s superpowers on the server to provide a great developer experience and advanced ecommerce features. It is highly customizable and easy to maintain.

Medusa offers standard ecommerce features including payments, cart functionality, user management, discounts, gifts, and more, much like other ecommerce platforms. An ecommerce business can use Medusa to build an ecommerce store of different types and purposes.

Released in 2021, Medusa has gained about 15K stars in a little more than a year, making it the most popular ecommerce engine on GitHub. Currently, Medusa has +16K stars, passing other popular open source platforms like Magento and PrestaShop.

Here are some reasons why Medusa has become the most popular Node.js ecommerce backend:

  1. Medusa has an abstraction-based architecture built for easy customization and maintainability. It enables you to set up your store according to your specific business needs.
  2. Medusa is entirely open source, in contrast to other ecommerce platforms that use proprietary backends. Thus, you can extend its functionalities with custom features and third-party services.
  3. Since the frontend and backend are decoupled, developers can choose any frontend framework to build the storefront.
  4. Medusa supports a wide variety of third-party integrations out of the box. You can easily integrate search engine services like Algolia and Meilisearch, payment services such as Stripe and PayPal, notification solutions such as SendGrid and Twilio, and more. You can find the list of integrations supported by Medusa here.
  5. Medusa has great community support with over 4000+ developers on its Discord channel always ready to help and support others. Developers can also help Medusa grow by taking part in GitHub discussions with other ecommerce builders, open source developers, and the Medusa core team.
  6. With the lack of available Node.js ecommerce backends and the need for them, and with the popularity of Node.js, made many businesses and developers interested in Medusa, as it is built on top of Node.js.

Why is Node.js Popular?

There are a few reasons behind the high popularity of Node.js frameworks among web developers:

  1. JavaScript is Everywhere: One of the main factors of its popularity is that Node.js is a backend JavaScript runtime environment. JavaScript is widely used today for building web apps and can be used on both the client and server sides when building a Node.js application.
  2. Lightweight: Node.js has a basic event-driven architecture. In other words, every action and call made on it is made up of a sequence of asynchronous callbacks. As a result, Node.js operates on a single thread, while other web technologies create a new thread for each client request.
  3. Lightning Fast: Node.js is powered by Chrome’s V8 engine. Since V8 compiles JavaScript into native machine code, it can compile and execute JavaScript at lightning-fast speed.
  4. Real-time functionality: Node.js is an ideal choice for building real-time applications, such as chat applications and real-time notifications. For ecommerce, this can be very beneficial, as real-time functionality can improve the user experience, such as getting notifications about order status updates.
  5. Mobile-Friendly, Cross-Platform: Cross-platform ecommerce app development has increased over the past few years. Node.js allows you to build flexible apps that can run on any platform.

Other reasons for Node.js popularity include its high performance and scalability. The support for microservices architecture makes Node.js ecommerce backends one of the best choices for ecommerce development.

Medusa’s Architecture

As discussed, Medusa has a composable architecture, meaning the frontend and backend are loosely coupled. Medusa is composed of three components: the headless backend, the admin dashboard, and the storefront.

You can choose to use the complete Medusa platform or just the parts that you require for your store. Also, the decoupling of the backend from the frontend allows a backend developer to focus on the Medusa server, and the frontend developer to focus on the storefront or admin.

Medusa Architecture

The following sections explain how Medusa provides most of the ecommerce store functionalities out of the box. You just need to configure these functionalities as per your use case.

Medusa Server

The Medusa server is a core component of Medusa. It is a Node.js ecommerce backend. It contains all the store’s logic and data. The other two components use the REST APIs exposed by the backend server to retrieve, create, and modify data.

The Medusa server comes with most of the functionalities related to an ecommerce workflow. These functionalities include product, cart, and order management, shipping and payment providers, user management, and more.

In addition to that, you can configure your store including your store’s region, tax rules, discounts, gift cards, and more.

Setting up a Medusa headless backend server is just a matter of a single command. You have the freedom to select any storefront because Medusa comes with a full commerce engine and APIs to manage your entire store.

Since Medusa is highly extensible, it allows developers to build custom features or integrate third-party services into Medusa using Plugins. You can find both official and community plugins to assist you with your common needs. Learn more about these plugins here.

You can easily extend and customize the functionalities of your Medusa server. You can add endpoints, business logic, and database entities to handle customizations. In addition, you can create subscribers in your Medusa server that listens to events to perform an action.

Medusa Admin

Medusa Admin is quite an essential component of an ecommerce store. Merchants use this dashboard to view, create, and modify data such as orders and products.

Medusa includes an admin dashboard to provide functionalities to manage your store including order management, product management, user management, and more. You can manage your orders across regions and channels using one single dashboard.

If you’re migrating your store from other platforms, the admin dashboard provides you with functionalities to easily import and export large datasets on products, orders, and customers. The dashboard also provides you with customer-group functionality that allows you to create tailored pricing lists, discounts, and gift cards.

The Medusa Admin Dashboard looks like this:

However, if you are not satisfied with the existing admin dashboard, you can utilize the Admin REST APIs to extend it beyond.

Storefront

Storefront is the frontend or the main presentation layer of your ecommerce store. It is the storefront where your customers can view and purchase your products. These storefronts may be progressive web applications or mobile apps.

Medusa provides two storefront starters: one using Next.js and the other using Gatsby.

The Next.js storefront includes the following features:

  • Product listing and detail pages with a clear design.
  • Customer authentication and profile functionalities, allowing customers to view their orders, edit their information, and more.
  • Full checkout flow supporting shipping details and methods, and ready integration with payment gateways such as Stripe and PayPal.
  • Search capabilities that are ready to integrate with best-in-breed solutions like Algolia and MeiliSearch.

You are also free to create your own storefront using the Storefront REST APIs.

How to Get Started with Medusa

You can get started with Medusa by following Medusa’s Quickstart guide.

After that, you can follow these guides to kick-start your development with Medusa:

Conclusion

Using a Node.js ecommerce backend provides both businesses and developers many benefits. Those include high scalability, good performance, and utilizing full-stack JavaScript development.

When considering a Node.js ecommerce backend, Medusa is the ideal choice. Built on top of Node.js, Medusa provides many essential ecommerce and development features. Businesses that use Medusa can benefit from both advantages that Node.js and Medusa provide.

Should you have any issues or questions related to Medusa, then feel free to reach out to the Medusa team via Discord.

Originally published on Medusa.

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