Whether you’re looking to build a new Magento 2 website or migrate a Magento 1 site to M2, you’ll need to identify the talented professionals that will be assisting with the technical work involved in bringing your project to fruition. This journey looks different for each merchant but follows the same basic principles. Here’s a roadmap to help you navigate through the process:
Step 1: Identify the version of Magento 2 that you’d like to leverage.
If you don’t know which peak you’re going to scale, it’s near impossible to find the right guides and sherpas to get you to the top of the mountain. Sure, they may all be able to pitch a tent, but you’re going to want pros that know where the campsites are, and which paths are the safest to get you to the summit as quickly and safely as possible.
How do you whether you should be using Magento 2 Open Source or Magento 2 Commerce? Research. Identify the features and functionalities that you’re going to need, and identify a team that’s experienced with the version of the Magento software that you want your website built on. If you don’t have the time or resources to conduct your own research, consider hiring an experienced consultant, or even an agency whose portfolio includes several examples of websites from each version of the Magento platform. In other words, seek advice from a professional climber that’s scaled many mountains, and avoid going to someone that only has one specialty. If you ask a Sherpa if the Mountain next to his village is the best, he’s going to reply with an emphatic “Yes!”.
You’re going to be using this software for years. You owe it to yourself and your business to know if it’s a good match for your current and future needs, and what the anticipated total cost of ownership (TCO) will be. While lots of people may provide you with raw opinions, keep in mind that the platform that your golf buddy was successful with isn’t necessarily going to be your best option.
Step 2: Identify the Skills Needed to Launch Your Site
Building an eCommerce website is different from constructing other websites, much as building a brick and mortar retail store is different from building houses or other types of structures… and it will take a variety of skills to complete successfully. Here are some of the common components of a Magento website project plan that you may need assistance with:
– Branding: If you don’t have a logo and style guide, or if it’s time for you to touch up your business identity with a refresh, it can be ideal to have these creative assets created before you invest in designing your site.
– Website Design: Creating the aesthetic look of the website. You’ll want a designer that understands the components of the Magento website that they’ll be providing designs for.
– Frontend Coding: Creating graphics in a software like Photoshop is one skill set, but integrating those designs with your Magento website may require the use of HTML, CSS, and various other coding languages.
– Admin Setup: Magento websites generally require setup for Credit Card Processing, Shipping, Sales Taxes, and various other features and functionalities. You may want advice and guidance on general store setup.
– Backend Coding: If you need custom extensions and functionality written, you’ll need experts in particular coding languages like PHP. Such expertise is different from frontend coding skills and languages.
– Content Creation: Your website will need a variety of copy created and approved. This will range from content about your company, to shipping and return policies. Whether you suffer from perpetual writers block or get interrupted every time you open Word to create a new document, you may need some outside help to get this collateral created.
– Vendor Vetting, Selection & Management: A Magento eCommerce website can take a village to properly support. That may include vendors and solutions for payment processing and fraud prevention, shipping, sales tax management, web hosting, rewards and loyalty, conversion rate optimization, site search, live chat, managing reviews, marketing integrations, and more. Multichannel organizations will also need help to connect data with ERP, POS, or other software endpoints.
– Quality Assurance: Quality control is very important with a website. Whether your testing to make sure that your site loads well on different devices, like mobile phones, or you’re testing the checkout process, you’ll want to know that shoppers won’t be getting stuck or frustrated, leading to lost sales.
– Digital Marketing: Even if your marketing department or marketing agency will oversee ongoing marketing campaigns, your site build very well need to include work to keep your SEO rankings strong, connect E-mail addresses with your E-mail marketing software provider, and track traffic to your website, including with tracking pixels for specific platforms like Google Ads and Facebook. Such tasks need to be planned and executed.
– Project Management: With such a variety of tasks and talent to manage, you’ll need a point person who will keep it all flowing toward a successful launch.
Step 3: Determine what type of relationship you want with the people you hire
How you handle this step is going to relate very directly to your needs and resources. Options include:
– Hiring employees if you perceive your long-term needs to warrant it. For instance, you may not need a lot of frontend web development after your website launches, but you may need an eCommerce manager who will oversee your eCommerce vendor relationships and backend admin settings for your website.
– Hiring freelancers and independent contractors if you want to manage these team members for this project, and are confident that you’ll be able to manage quality control. Keep in mind that these are temporary resources that may or may not be available to you in the future should you need them.
– Hiring an agency or solution integrator affords you the most flexibility. While it may not be the cheapest short-term solution, someone else has gone through the trouble of assembling the resources that you’ll need and will be managing them for you. Additionally, if they lose a team member, they’re more likely to have redundancy that can help keep your project moving forward, and they’re more likely to be there if you need them in the future. After all, like a house, an eCommerce website is never truly done. Technology and your customers will keep evolving, and you’ll want flexibility in keeping up.
Step 4: Hire wisely
Here are some of the most important things to look for when hiring eCommerce professionals:
– Core Competencies: Does the agency have in-house skilled staff for some or all of the tasks that you need to be completed? Will you need to hire a separate branding or marketing team?
– Portfolio: Yes, the proof is all too often in the pudding. You’ll want to know about their Magento experience. There can be a learning curve, which isn’t to say that you can’t hire rookies, but be prepared for delays and mulligans if their experience is limited.
– Reviews: In the service industry, it’s near impossible to keep 100% of the people happy 100% of the time, however, don’t be afraid to ask about a poor review that you found on the web. Maybe they learned a hard lesson and improved, or perhaps they’re not who you’re hoping for.
– Project Management Style:
> Waterfall: This approach involves agreeing to a flat scope of work that you’ll follow to launch.
> Agile: As the name suggests, this method assumes that there may be some bumps in the road as you go. Agile projects focus on what will bring you the most value and are considered by many to be a better fit for successful Magento website launches.
– Billing Model: You may run into different options, such as:
> Flat Project Fee: This typically requires a waterfall project that will be unwavering. In some cases, scope changes may be possible but will require various sign-offs and billing and changes.
> Hourly: Employees and Freelancers may be available hourly. With this model, be sure to understand what will count against the clock. For instance, meeting time may be billable. For some agencies, so is account and project management time. You’ll probably need to pay for quality assurance testing time too, which is especially important with eCommerce sites where so many features and functionalities need to work together to ensure a smooth checkout. All in all, you may find that a team with a larger hourly rate comes in with a lower total estimate.
> Sprints: Some Agile teams subscribe to a model called Scrum, where they break their staff into self-managed teams that can be dedicated to your project. In this case, you may be hiring a team for a certain number of these sprints, which are broken out into a number of weeks.
You may also run into unique billing requirements. For instance, if a vendor won’t accept credit cards, you’ll lose some buyer protections, so their reputation will be even more important for you to research in detail.
– Maintenance: Will this be your go-to vendor for updates and changes in the future? Or do they not offer such services in a way that makes sense for you?
– Agreements: Who will own the work? Will it be warrantied? Websites involve custom coding, and you may assume some responsibility for this custom work that you’ve commissioned, however, it’s best to understand what that process will look like. Similarly, if there’s a long-term maintenance agreement involved. It’s equally important to know what your rights are if things don’t work out. What kind of cancellation and refund policies will you be subject to? Agencies can’t exactly put custom work back “on the shelf” to sell to someone else, but you don’t want to be stuck in a relationship that you’re unhappy in, or paying for work that isn’t being completed.
– Size: While a small team may be just fine, it’s good to know what will happen if an employee quits or gets sick. Is there someone else that can pick up the slack? Or will your project stall out?
– Availability: How many projects is the agency currently working on? How will that impact your current project, and long-term support?
– Location(s): You may be talking to an onshore salesperson, but will the work be done domestically? Might there be time delays or scheduling issues if they’ll be leveraging resources on the other side of the globe? Or things lost in translation?
– Outsourcing: Will part of your project be outsourced or subcontracted by your main vendor? If so, are you comfortable with the relationship? For instance, do you feel confident that people getting access to your project have been reasonably vetted, and that the security of your data and collateral will be managed properly? Will the quality of work of the subcontractors match the quality of work in the main vendors portfolio?
– Timelines: Can they get the initial job done in a timeline fashion? What will you need to supply in order to meet those deadlines? Are they suggesting that they can get the site launched “too” fast… possibly skipping some vital steps?
– Communications: In many cases, the agency around the corner from your office won’t be the best fit for your project. Luckily, modern communications make it easier than ever to communicate remotely. Will your vendors take advantage of this to share screens and webcams? Will you have a dedicated point of contact? Or will you correspond through a helpdesk ticket system?
– Certifications: While many industry certifications are formalities, they do at least suggest that professionals are focused on an area of expertise. Don’t be afraid to ask how many staff members are certified in different aspects of Magento 2, as well as the analytics and marketing platforms that you’ll be using.
– Awards, Accolades, and Press: Do others think that these folks are on the top of their game? Are they involved in their community or in industry events? Are they a best place to work? Are they thought leaders among their peers? Do they participate in charity events? Knowing something about their culture and standing in the community may speak volumes about them.
– Partnerships & Alliances: Professionals that are well connected can help you to stay aware of the latest and greatest technology. A robust partner program is a sign that the agency is good at working with other practitioners, including in ways that may save you time and money, and lead to better results. Well allied teams are less likely to try reinventing the wheel on your dime. While there are great agencies that decide not to invest in the large expense of an official Magento partnership, they’re likely to have lots of other relationships with technology providers and other organizations that may bring your value.
Need an agency referral? Just ask the nChannel or JetRails team. We both have great Magento agency partners that we’d be happy to connect you with.