Working in web development company is really interesting, especially when you work in the company that deals with many different projects across many different industries. Every day is pretty challenging and you have to manage a lot of things to make it work. However, I can only imagine how you as our clients feel when you need to contact us about your new projects, as eCommerce can sometimes be a bit overwhelming even for seasoned players, not to mention the beginners…
A lot of you are rather versed with Magento and eCommerce in general, but also a lot of you need our help with tech details. Be it that you are not really tech savvy or you simply had no need to have this sort knowledge previously. But at one point you all come to us and your journey begins.
The way new clients approach us can be very different. Some of you come to us with very specific requests while some others come simply asking for help. Therefore, things can sometimes be rather straightforward while on the other hand sometimes we need to dig deeper to get to the bottom of it. Regardless of the road we need to take, we will take care of your needs no question about it.
However, since timelines are almost always tight it is not a bad idea to prepare in advance if you are looking to speed things up a bit.
I will do my best here to try and offer a sort of a simple guide for merchants, in hope that this will help some of our clients (and other companies clients) to prepare in advance when reaching out to an eCommerce agency.
Good preparation is essential
At the beginning of the project we usually ask a lot of questions. Sometimes, the details we ask for might be perceived as insignificant, which honestly can not be further away from the truth. We can certainly understand you being in a hurry and rushing your projects to start ASAP, but that is not necessarily the best approach. A bit of preparation can help things move along once the project starts, and can influence the end result in both qualitative and financial manner.
The more experience you have with eCommerce, the more these things are evident to you. However, this kind of guidance is much needed by many as it can help put the project on the right track and not lose any pace at the beginning of it.
Whether you are just starting your eCommerce channel, or planning an upgrade or replatform to Magento, there are certain things that would be good if prepared/researched in advance.
For starters we always like to hear a bit about your company and it’s whereabouts. It helps us put things into a perspective when trying to provide the approach that will make a difference. So we like to hear as many details about your company as possible, such as: industry, type of products/services, type of audience, geographic reach, future plans, main competitors etc. What we also value is hearing the details that might be perceived as subjective, such as: the feelings you wish your business/website to evoke etc. Again, all of this would help us see a bigger picture and finally provide you with a service fit to your business specifically.
Magento is a platform that has an abundance of features in its free edition (Magento Open Source). So if you are starting your eCommerce channel we would usually suggest you to start with native Magento features. However, if you are doing replatform we would need to know if there are any specific features that you have on your current site, that might not be a part of Magento feature set. Same goes for new Magento users that would like to implement specific features right from the beginning. Again, this category is almost without boundaries, as there are no limits to what we can code. If you want it – we can probably make it! Obviously budget needs to be taken into consideration.
If you are doing a replatform from some other system to Magento there is always a question of data migration. Same goes for upgrades from Magento 1 to Magento 2. Depending on the data you would like to migrate we would check the database structure and prepare a tool for migration. For upgrades to Magento 2, there is also an official migration tool that can be used in the process.
It is crucial for us to know what kind of systems you would like to integrate with.
Businesses are using various external systems and it is of paramount importance to integrate as much of them as possible. Covering all the points of your workflow is crucial in setting up automated processes wherever possible.
So what are the most usual systems used, those that almost every client needs to connect/integrate with?
Which payment gateway would you like to use? Deciding which provider to choose is a business decision that would need to take into consideration: pricing (fees), model (classic/modern), etc. Magento offers a lot of options natively, and whatever is not covered we can custom code.
Same as with payment gateways, Magento offers some options natively, and we cover whatever else is needed. Deciding on how to pick a shipping provider is not an easy task. It will depend on many details, such as: pricing, geography you are looking to cover, type of products you have in the store etc.
This is easily one of the most important, as well as most common systems we integrate our client’s sites with. Knowing which version you would like to use, as well as what data you would like to pull and how the workflows should be set up helps quite a bit. Having developer’s documentation for the ERP you are using would be perfect. That way we would be able to initially scan the documentation and check if there are any weak points we would need to focus right at the beginning. Getting that documentation from ERP vendor should not be a problem.
This is one very important factor from both your perspective as well as ours. Obviously it is very important because of the financial aspect but even more important is the approach we are going to use. The key here is to maximise the budget! Meaning we will do our best to provide the best possible model your money (budget) can buy. To be able to do that we would need to balance; needs vs wishes, custom code vs modules, and short term objectives vs long term objectives.
What that means is that we will do our homework and analyse every detail, in an effort to suggest you a final solution that will perfectly fit your needs.
Timelines are obviously very important, sometimes even critical. These often have a lot influence on the project but not always in a good way. Generally speaking, it is better to have some “breathing space” because then people in production tend to have better ideas and more time to rethink possible approaches. Also, with any project that is in development there is always a chance that something might not go as planned, especially with complex projects. And I am not talking solely about problems that may occur, I am talking about situations where clients change their mind about a design or a feature in the midst of the project. Any shift, be it the major one or something not as crucial, is expected to influence the timelines as well as the budget.
After we lined up all these details it is hard not to mention the famous triangle, and it is even harder not to stress it once again. There are always those three that are in the loop: fast, cheap, good. But you only get to chose 2! Chose wisely! 😉
After we gather all the above info we are in a position to more solidly talk about potential project ahead of us. Only then we are able to offer some ballpark numbers/timelines and talk about next steps.
I hope this gives you a better idea of what is needed to approach an eCommerce agency, in a way that will ensure saving some valuable time and starting the project in a best possible manner.