10 crucial questions you should ask before choosing your Magento ecommerce development company
If you want to develop an ecommerce system, you should hire only the best professionals, the best companies. But how do you find them?
Well, we have already written about this, and we tried to make it clear what the most important differences were between freelancers and professional developer companies, and, depending on the circumstances, who to choose.
This time we’re going to focus on the ecommerce development companies’ side: we’re going to take a look at
- what makes a development company truly professional
- what you need to get prepared for as a client
- and at how you can make sure to get the best development solutions in the end.
We are going to go through the following topics in this article, so that you can make the best decision:
- Where can you find ecommerce developer companies?
- Visit the professional sites and forums
- Go to professional events
- Check out Magento’s site
- How to request an offer?
- How can you, being the client, get prepared?
- 10 questions you should ask
- Is meeting in person important?
- How long have they been working with the Magento platform?
- What is it like and how long does the development process take?
- Will you get support as well?
- What kind of quality assurance do they work with? How do they perform tests?
- What can influence the project?
- Who will you be communicating with?
- Have they carried out any significant Magento integration?
- Have they carried out any significant Magento migration?
- Will they teach you how to use the system?
- What kind of ecommerce development company do you need?
- Qualification and skills (about Developer Certification)
- Always ask for references
- Why should you make this choice this carefully?
Where can you find excellent Magento ecommerce development companies?
The first step towards the selection of the perfect partner is drawing up a list of the possible candidates. Of course you can do this the simple way as well, by opening Google and running a few searches.
However, choosing a Magento developer team is a serious decision: we’re talking about a complex system here, with very few people being good at its development on a professional level, so it does indeed matter to what extent the company you choose can be checked.
Visit the professional sites and forums
Ask for recommendations from online shop owners like you, and check out which development companies the developers themselves commend or praise within the professional community.
You should actively ask for recommendations yourself: describe your problem in detail, what you would like to have developed, and by doing that, you will get several suggestions, you’ll have a nice list compiled.
Go to professional events
If you’re looking for a long term partner company, you can do a personal research as well. Visit events on Magento, and talk to the participants, ask for recommendations and offers right there, listen to the lectures so that you can get a picture of who is at what level of knowledge – and so that you can define better who you are looking for.
Check out Magento’s site
Magento Solution Partner Directory is another great place to look for potential partners for yourself. You can review the profiles of the ecommerce development companies on the site, you can get general information on them, many times you can even find the clients the companies worked together with previously – you can also run a background check on them more easily this way, and you can ask about what kind of job they’ve done or even test that live in case you check out the relevant ecommerce stores.
How to request an offer?
Once you have your list of several potential partners, you can then start requesting offers.
You can make many mistakes at his point. Maybe you’re not prepared enough to request offers. Bear in mind that the developer has to know very precisely what you need, because only then will they be able to assess how much work the project would involve.
It does matter
- how many people need to work on the project and what kind of qualifications they need to have,
- how long the realization is expected to take,
- or how complex solutions we are talking about.
It’s also important that you are available. Don’t send out a set of letters with requests for offers if you’re not going to reply them for weeks: you will most certainly work on a project where continuous communication is indispensable, and that’s also the case already in the offer requesting phase.
If you want to get a good offer, you have to pay attention to provide the same information to all addressed companies, so that you don’t communicate different things at the same time.
In case of such a project it’s not the price you have to pay attention to in the first place – hourly rates may of course vary, but paying the fee of the developer is a profitable investment even in the short run. Your goal is to find a professional who will help you with making the operation of your online store as good as possible, because that’s what’s going to bring you the most possible profit.
Make sure to provide all the requested information – there’s a reason for the developer team, as the case may be, being curious about data like the conversion rate of the ecommerce store or even the available budget, because it’s based on such data that they can actually assess in detail what kind of work is ahead of them.
How can you, being the client, get prepared?
It’s easy to say “provide all important information” ‒ but what if you don’t know what that may be? Let’s see what you’ll certainly have to communicate towards the developer:
- Specify clearly what kind of outcome you want.
That sounds simple, still, it’s important that you write down what exactly you would like to achieve by the end of the project: what goals you would like to accomplish, and how the ecommerce development company can help you with that? Try to set these goals out as clearly as possible.
- Tell them how big the budget is.
You probably have some ideas about how large scale the work is that you would like to have done – so you most certainly also have some thoughts about how much you intend to pay for its realization.
10 questions you should ask
It’s tempting to compare the offers based on the price only, but in case you are looking for a long-term partner, you have to bear in mind a set of aspects – now let’s see some of those.
1) Is meeting in person important?
If yes, then you should look for an online shop development company that is geographically close to you, or at least the contact person is physically accessible. At the same time, nowadays this is not at all an aspect of vital importance anymore.
Although personal contact may have its advantages, today it’s mostly enough if the client and the contractor can smoothly communicate with each other either on Skype or through another similar channel.
Making a conference call without problems is not a great challenge anymore in 2016, and instead of the geographical location, the expected quality of the ecommerce store development should play a much greater role in making the final decision.
If they are physically inaccessible because they’re doing an offshore development for instance, you should inquire about how they will be in contact with you:
- on Skype,
- in email,
- with the help of various collaboration tools?
How will they ensure that in spite of the distance, the communication is still completely smooth and unambiguous?
2) How long have they been working with the Magento platform?
You’re not looking for a developer who has just started working with the system, and neither for one who has been dealing with it for only a couple of months. It takes long years for a developer to get the necessary routine to be able to actually call himself a professional Magento developer, and a team also needs a lot of time to be able to operate as a well-integrated, efficient unit.
If you are told by the ecommerce development company that they have not been working with Magento for a long time, but they have with other similar systems for years, then it’s not them who you’re looking for. That we can clearly state.
In such cases, the appropriate background, the appropriate experience is simply not there, because Magento is not “like” other systems, but it’s a completely separate and extremely complex ecommerce solution.
3) What is it like and how long does the development process take?
If you request the offers in the right way (see the previous point), you will soon end up with a finished, detailed concept on what the complete process is expected to look like.
For an experienced ecommerce development company, in case they have the appropriate information, this shouldn’t cause any difficulties because the know-how is there, thanks to the previous projects. They have the workflow, the precise work routine, and they can assess who needs to work on the project, and so on.
So you should by all means ask about the details, because this way you will be able to find out how professional the company you’re dealing with is.
4) Will you get support as well?
The more complex the project, the more likely you’ll need support after the project is completed – but this makes things much easier even in case of the simplest developments.
That’s exactly why it’s important that the developer helps you afterwards as well, and if necessary, he identifies and eliminates the errors quickly.
You can tell from a good support service how important long term goals for company are. This is an investment for them in the hope of their customers choosing them the next time as well – and in any field, a prospective returning customer will have a better chance of receiving a real top-quality service.
5) What kind of quality assurance do they work with? How do they perform tests?
It’s very important that the development company takes full responsibility for all of its work: inquire about exactly how the new developments are tested, what kind of methods they are trying it with and how they integrate it into your system.
- What happens if something is not working properly?
- If the integration doesn’t go well, but that’s discovered only later?
- What can you expect from them?
- Inquire about everything in detail already when you request the offer, because this way you’ll again be able to find out how much the given development company is thinking about a long term partner.
6) What can influence the project?
Finally, the uncertainty factor:
What can possibly modify the content of the offer later on?
What can make a project more expensive in the end and what can slow down its implementation?
Basically, regarding the quality of the outcome, there may be ample basis for the modification of the agreement with time (although this happens very rarely in case of professionals), and that’s good to know about before starting the joint work, because this way you can save a lot of unnecessary communication later on.
7) Who will you be communicating with?
It’s very important that you are able to communicate properly with the developers in every stage of the development. For this reason, you need to ask whether there will be a separate responsible project manager, who you can contact any time, who you can discuss eventual changes with, or questions or problems that arise.
The project manager’s task is to co-ordinate the work and to give accurate information on how it’s progressing, whether it will be completed on time, and so on. He’s the one who knows the abilities of the ones working in the team and can organize the work as efficiently as possible based on that.
8) Have they carried out any significant Magento integration?
Knowledge of the integration process is essential, because that’s what ensures that in the end the development company can produce a final result that totally complies with your individual goals. Anyone who has some experience with Magento knows that integration can be extremely complicated – for this very reason, it will be to your advantage to ask for references from your developer on previous successful integration projects.
9) Have they carried out any significant Magento migration?
If your ecommerce store has not run on the Magento system previously, it’s extremely important that you hire developers who have a lot of experience in migration. You’d obviously like everything to go as smoothly as possible: if your data bases were moved to the new system completely and still could be well used, and in the end you could work with the very same data under your new and better system.
The preparation preceding the migration is huge work already, since it obviously needs to be ensured somehow that no damages are done, that no data is lost –precise and co-ordinated work of several people within the developer team is necessary for that.
10) Will they teach you how to use the system?
If the developers don’t simply prepare and give you the product but they also teach you how to use it, that will save you a lot of time, effort and costs in the long term.
We’ve probably mentioned this a couple of times: Magento is not at all a simple system. What makes it attractive in the first place is that it’s capable of serving even giant online shops, while still being completely customizable and offering almost unlimited options.
And it’s exactly this freedom that makes it extremely complex, and due to which a user who has worked with simpler ecommerce store and content management systems previously, will have a smaller chance of being able to understand it and handle it properly.
What kind of ecommerce development company do you need?
You may find already in the offer request phase that you’ve been looking at the wrong place right at the start.
There may be huge differences between ecommerce development companies by default – there are some that are specifically specialized in certain types of developments and work with such professionals, while others might work particularly with either small or large corporate customers.
It may also happen that you don’t even have to hire a development company at all, because the work you need to be done can also be carried out without difficulties even by a freelancer – if you want to read more about this, you can find our article in which we reviewed in detail the differences between ecommerce developer companies and freelancers.
It’s a question, exactly what kind of team you need to work with. Whether all the speciality fields are represented in it, or there will be parts of the project that will definitely have to be implemented with the involvement of one or more additional parties.
Qualification and skills (about Developer Certification)
We have already wrote about Magento Developer certifications, and we need to say a few words about them again here.
Magento trainings are truly excellent: they superbly transfer and organize the knowledge, they provide flawless lexical knowledge, and what’s even more important: they provide the routine and first-hand experience that’s indispensable during the work with a system that’s similarly robust and complex like Magento.
The certification may provide certainty and reliability for the customers, since they will know for sure that the developer passed the strict screening, and he doesn’t only claim that he’s an expert in the development of Magento.
At the same time, however, Developer certifications are not at all conditions for someone to be a top-notch Magento developer.
That’s why it’s common practice in case of developer companies that the lead developer or developers have the certification – it’s of little significance for the clients that in total how many Magento certified developers work at a company, 2 or 20.
Always ask for references
Don’t take their word for it, if the developers say they are experts in something: ask for the contact details of their previous customers (unless they provide that to you on their own initiative), inquire about where you can see in operation what they’ve developed.
It’s important that you see how they implemented previously the projects similar to yours.
You should also ask
- how they communicate exactly,
- how reliable they are,
- how much they respect the points that were agreed on previously,
- and whether they provide all essential information before, during and after the project.
There may be two reasons for which a company is not willing to provide the data of previous customers and projects:
- they either don’t have good references,
- or they are under the obligation of confidentiality.
In this latter case however, they most certainly have own projects that they are able to show you.
Without having checked the references, you should never start working with a development company that you’re unfamiliar with. If you can’t do anything else, you should visit the previously mentioned professional forums (sites and communities, or even Facebook groups on Magento development, etc.), and inquire from the professionals there about how the company is doing its work.
Even if you don’t have any other information, you can get some ideas about whether you would be able to cooperate as real partners in the long run.
In case you would like to have a Magento based online shop, that already tells some things about you. You obviously made a reasonable decision, you learned about the advantages and disadvantages of the different systems, perhaps you’ve already used some kind of an ecommerce store engine and you’re an experienced operator.
If you want Magento, you need reliability and performance. A system that’s capable of serving your online store in the long term, a store with heavy traffic, large supply and high income.
In order to survive, you will need to continuously develop and extend your ecommerce store. Since the best is if the same person or company does all the developments (this way they don’t have to start with finding out how the previous developer solved certain problems), you need a long-term developer partner.
And the only way you can find someone like that, who you can work with effectively (and cost-efficiently) for years, is if you put the necessary time and effort in this selection process. If you ask all the questions, if you have several discussions with the contact person, and in the end you make the decision taking everything into consideration.
In this case, you have a very good chance of making sure that you’ve found the Magento developer partner together with whom you can be in control of your market.
Digital Marketing Manager
Gábor started working for AionHill as a Magento eCommerce project manager. After 6 years, he joined the restructured Marketing Team. His main responsibilities are content strategy and communications partnership management. Gábor has two kids, likes cooking traditional Hungarian meals and playing strategy and online role playing games.