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.

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