We’re thrilled to have Robert Rand, VP of Operations from Rand Marketing on the blog today. To support the release of our 41 Questions for your SI eBook Robert is here today to share his advice for the 12 things merchants should look our for when choosing a development partner.
- Experience, or Lack Thereof – When you hire someone to help you launch an E-commerce website, you want them to be familiar and experienced with the platform that you’ll be utilizing. In most cases, you’ll want a team that can help with Design, Frontend Development (ex. HTML, CSS), Backend Development (ex. PHP, MySQL), and technical setup and training. They’ll be your advisors on everything from setting up Google Analytics to integrating credit card processing. Having knowledgeable industry veterans working on your project should be a primary concern for you.
- Not Providing a Software Demo – Unless you already know the software you’re going to be using very well, always take a test drive with the developers. If you don’t know what it does out of the box, you won’t know if it meets all of your needs, or requires further customization
- Not Defining Scope – You wouldn’t break ground on building a brick and mortar store without blueprints and a plan of action. An E-commerce Storefront should be no different. You can fill in some pieces as you go, but you need to define what features and functionalities you’re going to need if you want the site to meet your expectations. Make sure to go through a proper discovery or assessment of your needs.
- Buying Add-ons On Your Behalf – When you buy a plugin / extension / module / addon / app for an e-commerce website, you own the license for that additional piece of software. You also get notified of updates and patches, and have the information needed to place a support ticket with the plugin developers. You can share this information with your web developers, but you may at some point decide to work with another team. Owning these licenses is always recommended.
- Outsourcing – There are some great, highly skilled web developers all over the world, but there are ups and downs with outsourcing. There are obvious benefits to having clear, first-hand communications with developers in a nearby time zone who understand your products, and your target audience.
- Effective Communication – Always know what type of communications to expect. Will you have a dedicated account manager and project manager? How and when you can reach them? Can you meet at their offices or through screen sharing? A team can have great developers, but you won’t be happy if you can’t work together to get the job done.
- Consistency – It’s a good to understand how many different people will be working on your project. Consistency is a big deal. Ideally, you’ll want the same lead people working on the site – such as one designer, one frontend developer, and one backend developer. Sure, they can ask co-workers to take care of specific tasks, but an E-commerce site has a lot of moving parts, and you don’t want things lost in translation.
- Backup Plans – Developers are people too! While you should want consistency, sometimes things come up – scheduled or unscheduled. Developers can take vacations, come down with the flu, or have a family emergency. We recommend working with a team that can, in a pinch, re-assign tasks and help keep your project moving along.
- Payment Terms – It may sound obvious, but don’t expect to pay for all of the work up front. It’s customary to have a payment plan built on milestones, to buy blocks of hours, or have some other payment plan, but it’s unusual to pay for an entire website up front unless you’re do so to negotiate price.
- The Long Term – You want to know that you’ll own the website and any work produced on your behalf, and that you can bring in other developers if needed. If there are long-term costs, you should know what to expect before you choose your developers.
- Homework – What will you as the website owner be responsible for? If your developers aren’t making you aware of what they’re responsible for providing, and what you’re responsible for providing, like content… ASK! This should be clearly documented.
- Hosting – If you’re on a platform like Magento, and need website hosting services, be careful about paying your developer for this. This is kind of like plugins (see # 4 on this list). You want to have direct access to the hosting company who’s managing your website 24/7, and if you want to switch web developers, you don’t want to be stuck. We always recommend going direct to procure hosting from an experienced team of experts like Tenzing, as opposed to going through middle men. That way, you get the best price, and you get to talk to the experts directly.
Educated at NYU Poly, Robert has managed the development and marketing of hundreds of websites. He helps our clients take their businesses to the next level by employing best practices, while staying at the forefront of our industry. From technical issues to traditional marketing efforts, Robert takes pride in providing our clients with services that will make a difference in their bottom lines.
Rand Internet Marketing is a professional design and marketing firm, specializing in website design, development, search engine marketing, and social media marketing. Our talented, experienced in-house team of designers, developers, marketers and support staff, are led by Seth Rand, his wife Lauren and his brother Robert.