Archive for March, 2015

How to Choose a Magento Agency or Magento Developer – Part 2

Posted by: Alana Twelmeyer Friday, March 27th, 2015

Gentian is the CEO at Shero (@SheroCommerce). He is dedicated to making their Magento blog an important resource for Magento store owners and retailers researching Magento’s capabilities. He is also a firm believer of inbound marketing. In this blog, Gentian shares his expertise on  finding the right Magento agency and Magento developer.

In our previous post, How to Choose a Magneto Agency or Magento Developer – Part 1, Gentian explains the process of deciding what you want out of your Magento provider.

The next step is to choose a provider that best fits your needs. In order to make the best choice, it is important to know about the different types of providers that are available.

There are three main types of Magento providers:

1) Big Magento Agencies

These agencies have a minimum of 50 employees and are an official Magento partner. Usually they are a Gold Magento Partner. Some of the most popular agencies that fall in this category are Gorilla Group, Blue Acorn, Corra, etc.

The main characteristic of these agencies is that they have huge teams with a wide array of backgrounds and experiences. They usually have a pretty complex structure and systems in place, and work primarily with the Magento Enterprise platform. Their staff is comprised of a large sales teams, Magento certified developers, designers, account managers, project managers, front and back end developers, QA and A/B testing teams, marketing and analytics specialists, etc.

Having such a huge team in place means that your website will be coded with the latest standards, be thoroughly tested before launch, and will most probably be a great success. The downside of working with one of these big Magento agencies is that the price they usually charge per project is pretty high due to their overhead. They will have contractual obligations in place in order to maintain the level of their Solution Partner status with Magento (either Silver or Gold). Their minimum project price starts at around 120K and up. A common characteristic of the big agencies is that part of their team is located off-shore. Because of the size, the hierarchical nature of the organization, and location of the team members (e.g. different time-zone, cultural differences etc) it might take longer to get something done, and your vision might not be communicated exactly as you intended.

2) Medium-Sized Magento Agencies

These are agencies that have roughly between 5-50 people on staff. Most of the time, such agencies are a Magento Silver Partners or Magento Associates, but not always. Their teams are smaller than the teams of bigger agencies. They will have a mix of Magento certified and noncertified developers on staff, smaller sales teams (or individual salesperson), designers, account managers, and project managers. When working with a smaller agency, you should be able to get a quick turn around on support issues, and know specifically who you’re working with at any given time. Generally speaking, the whole team will be located in the same location or time-zone and you’ll receive more personalized service as the team becomes familiar with working with you. Usually their prices will be lower than those of big agencies.

The downside of working with a smaller agency is that their capabilities are more limited. Smaller agencies can become overrun if they take on too many projects, and that can slow down productivity. There is only so much that they can get accomplished in any given time frame, and the length of time it takes them to complete a project may be longer than an agency with more staff that can handle the workload.

3) Individual Magento Developers

Individual developers are people who are usually very skilled and talented programmers. Most of the time they work by themselves who usually work alone. A relationship like this is beneficial in certain ways because they usually have less clients so they focus on the ones they have and help you develop on a more personal level. This can also be less expensive because one person will not have the overhead of a full agency and the multi layers of management. All requests will go through that one individual.

They usually specialize in one aspect of Magento. It is rare to find an individual who has strength in design implementation, shipping configuration, and back end development. They usually have a focus, or major strength but can get by in other areas. Being versatile is critical for this person because they will be wearing many hats.

The downside is that you’ll have one person you will be relying on so if they are sick or go away while something major happens, you’ll get stuck. Note, this sole person will not have the capability and specialized skills of a full team of experts but they are pros in their own right and if you find a good individual who is reliable you should treat them as gold since it is rare.

Once you’ve decided to choose to go with, small/big agency or an individual developer, the discussions start. You’ll want to give your Magento provider as much information as possible from the get-go. Do your homework, and give them time to truly understand what your project is. They’ll be able to give you an accurate estimate based on the information you’ve provided.

One Magento agency may charge more because they have more experience, more qualified staff, and do a better job. Another agency may come lower because they have more experience with the theme you’ve chosen or have built a website similar to your industry in the past. Price shouldn’t always be the final determining factor. Instead, look at their past work and ask for references. Talk to their existing customers at length. This my seem blunt, but make sure they are in the same time zone as you. Do they ship all of their work overseas? What is their workload? How do they handle post-launch support? Learn more about their team.

When it comes down to that final decision, it should be one you’re comfortable with. If their vision for your brand doesn’t match what you want, if their experience isn’t what you’re looking for, and if they’re not professional enough for you – don’t choose the smaller price tag.

You’re going to spend more in the long run trying to make up for past mistakes. Choose the agency or developer that expresses themselves clearly, concisely, and reasonably. Most importantly, choose the one that can see your vision and help you achieve it.

Read more from Gentian and the Shero team on their Magento Blog.

How to Choose a Magento Agency or Magento Developer – Part 1

Posted by: Alana Twelmeyer Tuesday, March 24th, 2015

Gentian Shero, CEO of Shero Designs

Gentian is the CEO of Shero (@SheroCommerce). He is dedicated to making their Magento blog an important resource for Magento store owners and retailers researching Magento’s capabilities and is a firm believer in inbound marketing. In this guest post, Gentian shares his advice for merchants on finding the right Magento agency and Magento developer.

As Magento gains popularity more and more web design companies and individual developers are focusing on Magento as their area of specialty. Magento’s open source nature and active community members have encouraged this gradual transition. With such a wide variety of providers, the question that comes to mind is: How does one go about finding the right Magento provider that will meet and hopefully exceed expectations?

In order to choose the best developer to suit your needs, make sure you spend some time working out exactly what you want out of your website to begin with.

1) Have a project scope

Before contacting somebody, and asking them for a quote, you need to know what you’re asking for. Not all websites are created equal. Some are very simplified, and others are far more complex. It’s not always inherent which side your website may fall on when you look at it. A website that you think shouldn’t take long, may have a great deal of specific custom work that makes it quite massive. Spend the time to write out exactly what you want. You don’t need to have a design already made, and you don’t need to have the website already created in your head. But, by identifying known constraints, explaining assumptions, addressing key success factors, and knowing exactly how much time and resources you have to devote to your project, you’ll be in a better position to negotiate. Setting this groundwork will help you to understand your project, and help your partner identify your desired functionality.

2) Have the right team in place

During the development of your project, whoever you chose to create your website will need to discuss the particulars of your website with either you or one of your staff members. While it may seem obvious, it’s imperative that you choose a project manager who understands how eCommerce works, as well as the systems and procedures that are in place to implement it. If your project manager doesn’t understand how to navigate, operate, or make routine adjustments on your website, a great deal of time will be spent on both sides trying to fix the problem. Unexpected training time can increase your overall project costs, and it can heavily stall or delay your timeline for launch.

Your project manager must be involved in the process early on and have a really good understanding of your goals and aspirations with the eCommerce side of the business. Furthermore, they should be the only one handling communication between your company and the Magento provider. Too many cooks in the kitchen can make end with massive confusion and chaos on both sides. Delegating one person to handle all communication ensures that nothing is lost in translation or overlooked.

The project manager should always be involved with the project early on when crafting the project scope and that time is allocated for them to provide approvals, artwork, content, product information. They should attend any daily/weekly meetings that are set up, and they should have a thorough understanding of your goals for your website. One of the worst things you could do, is to assign the wrong person to this task and realize that in the middle of the project. Choose carefully.

3) Have a rough budget in mind

A Magento website is a large financial commitment. While you’re creating your project scope, keep in mind how the desired functionality will affect your budget. Like buying a car, the more extravagant you make it, the more expensive it will be. Decide which features are imperative, which would be nice, and which can be pushed off to a later date. Early on, you need to choose which type of website you’d like. Do you want the Ferrari, or are you happy with a Lincoln? How much money are you willing, and able, to spend? Can you afford a monthly payment for maintenance, hosting, and licensing fees? Once you’ve done your research, have an idea of how much money you are able to spend in order to bring your idea to life, you’ll be in a good place to contact a Magento agency.

Many new customers don’t disclose their budget right away because they are concerned that they will be locked into that amount. While that concern is reasonable, it can also cause a lot of trouble with creating your estimate. If you have a budget of $10,000.00 and you’d like a Magento Enterprise website built for you, by not explaining that to your developer early on, they can’t tell you Enterprise has a minimum licensing fee of $17,900.00/year. Extensions can easily cost between $100.00-$2,000.00 depending on what you’re choosing. If you have a plan for your website, you may not know how feasible it is to build that website for a specific cost.

As a general rule of thumb: You should spend around 5% of your annual revenue to build the website initially and then spend 2-4% of your annual revenue in ongoing support and maintenance.

Once you’ve determined your project scope, arranged for a project manager to take control of the project on your end, and have a budget in mind, you are ready to start looking for your Magento provider.

In the part two of this post, Gentian will explain the different types of Magento providers and what to expect once you start working with your provider. Read more from Gentian and the Shero team on their Magento blog.

Under the Hood of Alexander Galtsow

Posted by: Alana Twelmeyer Wednesday, March 4th, 2015

WebShopApps values each and every person involved in making Magento what it is today. The Magento community is made up of many significant people; we interviewed these individuals to show off who they really are. These interviews helped us get a feel for what their place is within the community and who they are outside of work.

Alexander is the VP Communications and Partnerships at aheadWorks (@aheadWorks), a web development company that supplies software solutions for the eCommerce sector. aheadWorks is a leading provider of Magento extensions, Magento themes and templates, and custom Magento development services. aheadWorks strives to provide innovative technologies to web store owners, so their customers can enhance their online stores and heighten sales.

Alexander enjoys his line of work and cherishes the time he spends with his new daughter. To provide more insight on his personal and professional life, Alexander answered a few questions for us.

Can you describe what you really do at work?

The main areas of my responsibilities are to Nurture existing aheadWorks partnerships and search for new ways of cooperation within the ecosystem and beyond. This mostly involves email correspondence, phone talks, personal meetings and a good amount of strategic planning.

If money was no object, what would you spend your days doing?

Sounds dull, but I’d be happy to do the same set of things I do now.

In your spare time what do you get upto, and how do you balance this with your workload?

For the last 8 months my baby daughter took over almost every aspect of my life, and I’m happy to spend my leisure time with her. I also love cycling. I’m trying to start running on a regular basis, and I do my best to reserve some time for reading (non-fiction mostly).

How do you see the future evolving for Magento and the eCommerce space in general?

Although eCommerce progressed greatly in the last couple of decades, it’s still somewhat inefficient and clumsy in many aspects. However, things are moving forward incredibly fast, and in next 20 years we might as well find ourselves in a world with no physical stores at all (at least not as we know them now). As for Magento, with all the recent big news, 2015 promises to be quite interesting and I’m really looking forward to the upcoming release of version 2.0’s Developer RC. Magento is the one and only truly open-source eCommerce platform; the community around it is stronger than one can imagine, and I believe it’s got what it takes to overcome any challenge and keep progressing.

What is usually your last thought before falling asleep?

Should’ve gone to bed two hours ago.”

Who is your role model, and why?

Not quite a role model, but Sir Isaac Newton is a man I truly admire. He significantly improved our understanding of the Universe, providing foundation for the bigger part of today’s science. If I were to choose from my contemporaries, it would probably be Elon Musk, who is also pretty good at thinking big, as well as at bringing elements of the future from sci-fi books and movies to reality.

Whats the worst thing you have to do as part of your job role?

Can’t think of anything that could be considered as a downside of what I do.

What motivates you?

Getting things done. It always inspires to take on new, bigger challenges.

What is the most played song on your MP3 player or phone?

Didn’t really do any extensive studies here, but according to iTunes it’s “Tell Them” by Seconds (aka Markus Enochson and Luciano Leiva).

Would you like to plug anything?

Imagine 2015 is just around the corner and I can’t wait to get there and meet with all the friends. See you soon, guys!