I talk to people like yourself every day about their Magento websites. I bet you’re jealous, right? But in reality, I really enjoy my job because of the awesome clients I get to work with and the cool projects I get to hand off to our talented team here at Customer Paradigm. Whether you are a new business just building your first Magento Community site, or a large corporation trying to increase your conversion rate on Magento Enterprise, I’ve heard it all.
One of the hardest parts of my job is to put together a detailed contract for the development work requested. The reason this is so important to me is because web development is not a tangible product, so the deliverables need to be very clear to avoid any misunderstandings. Some clients already have every single detail scoped out, but others have no idea where to begin. So here is a short guide for you to ensure that your project is understood correctly from the get go:
1. Have a scope put together: requirements, timeline, and budget.
What is a scope? A scope can be very detailed, or it can also be very brief, it all depends on what type of goals you are trying to accomplish. But to keep things simple, a scope is basically the work that needs to be done to deliver you the results you are looking for.
This will require a little (or a lot) of research on your end, and don’t worry, you don’t need to be a developer to do any of this! But the more detailed is always better. When a client comes to me with a scope prepared, I can get an idea right away of what they are looking for and ask the right questions to move things along quickly. Without a scope, there is a lot of back and forth clarifying what is necessary.
If you are putting together a scope for an entire site build out, I see two major road blocks all too often: shipping configurations and product types. Magento offers great options for both of these out of the box, but many of our clients need customizations. Having those two requirements laid out very clearly will prevent any surprises down the road.
- Product Types: Magento offers six types of products: simple, configurable, grouped, bundled, virtual, and downloadable. It is likely that your products will fit nicely into one of these Magento product types, but it’s worth it to make sure.
- For example, a homeschooling company recently wanted to migrate to the Magento platform. Their products would require customization, which is not a simple task. So my client wanted to sell supplies in bundles, let’s say a 4th Grade package, but parents needed the ability to add/remove products from that package because they may already have a book from their older child or another homeschooling parent. The parents also needed to be able to adjust the reading and math portions of the 4th Grade packages, because maybe their child is super smart and is at the 5th grade ability in those subjects. So basically they are combining a configurable product and a bundled product into one. If you made it through this confusing paragraph, you probably understand why it is important to have your product types squared away before starting development.
- Shipping Options:It never ceases to amaze me the crazy shipping configurations people come up with. But each business has their needs, and we are here to help meet those needs.
- Natively, Magento has API integrations with USPS, UPS, FedEx, and DHL. These APIs allow Magento to use live rates from the shipping carriers and they generally work great! You also have the option to offer flat rate and free shipping. Another option is table rates, allowing you to base shipping price off of Weight and Destination, Price and Destination or the Number of Items and Destination.
- You would think that this would cover all of your bases, but too often it does not. Like what if you want to offer a courier service to certain zip codes near your warehouse? Or do you need freight shipping for certain items? It’s smart to think about these things in advance as they can certainly have an impact on a build out.
A scope for Magento work also allows me to stop you in your tracks if something is not going to work. For example, a client recently requested a redesign of her Magento Community site. She already had the responsive theme picked out and everything. But there was one huge problem…she was using Magento Community version 1.4 and the theme was only compatible with Magento Community versions 1.6 and up. Obviously this changed things and we started discussing the need for an upgrade before the redesign.
While a scope does require some upfront work on your end, you will be very glad you put in the effort. You will have a better understanding of what goes into your request. For a large project, have you considered things outside of the design portion? Such as a hosting partner and payment gateway? Do you need to integrate with a third party software? And for a small project, consider how this new feature is going to affect the way your site currently operates. Every step from when a visitor first hits the homepage, completes a checkout, and through the order fulfillment process. All too often clients forget to mention a huge piece that is very important to them. I wish I was a mind reader, but unfortunately I was not blessed with that gift, so I cannot predict your future business goals.
A timeline and budget are as important as you want them to be. Some clients have an extremely tight budget and timeline, and that is helpful to know up front. Other clients just know something needs to be done, and don’t care how long or how much it takes, as long as it is done right.
2. How will you be using your request day in and day out? How are you envisioning it will work?
When you understand what you are asking for, you are going to be able to articulate it that much better. This clarity reduces any chance of error in the actual development phase.
I also recommend reaching out to any colleagues for their input. Chances are you are not the only one using your website in the company. It’s always smart to consult all departments: IT, sales, marketing, order fulfillment, etc. to assess their needs. Maybe a coworker is spending too much time printing packing sheets and invoices and more time in their day could be spent on other job requirements. This is a great problem to have, and probably time to use a shipping solution like ShipStation or Shipworx. An integration like this could greatly affect the productivity and efficiency of how your business is run.
3. Put your long term goals out there.
The Magento platform has many moving parts, and they all need to work together nicely. That is why it is helpful for us to know if you have future plans in the making. This not only helps our Magento certified developers, but also your pocketbook. When we know in advance you are planning to do a redesign, customization, etc. in the next quarter, we will keep that in mind on your current project.
With that said, all of our Magento customizations are built in the modular format so there are no changes to the core code. But with 150,000+ lines of code, knowing your goals will reduce any risk of having to redo a previous project so it works with the newest customization.
Another reason to have your future goals in order is because of budgetary restraints. Some requests seem simple on the surface, but in reality they require a lot of development work. If I know that a request isn’t a necessity, I can suggest holding off until the next phase so higher priority items can be addressed within your budget.
4. If you’re using someone else’s work, be prepared to have it ready.
This typically is in reference to a redesign. Many branding agencies can put together the designs for a new site, but do not know how to implement it on the Magento platform. And that’s where Customer Paradigm comes in!
I love seeing new designs for websites because no one likes shopping on an outdated, untrustworthy looking website. A redesign can do wonders for your Magento site’s conversion rates. However, it’s impossible for me to give a quote until I see the design. There are too many creative liberties that a designer can take that will affect the development requirements. I can do my best to give you a ballpark, but we cannot confirm a quote until the designs have been reviewed.
5.What are your expectations from us?
At Customer Paradigm, every client is assigned a project manager that is experienced in the Magento platform. Each client has different expectations, so it is good to know what you are anticipating.
Are you a client who wants a daily update, or just to be contacted when something is needed and when the project is completed? Do you prefer email or phone contact? How quickly do you expect the project manager to get back to you? Knowing your expectations up front will allow the project manager to cater to your needs.
While it is nice to have these five things above, it doesn’t always happen! And don’t worry, we are still here to help. I enjoy working with my clients to narrow the scope down and expect clarifications to be made no matter how detailed a scope may be. Please do not hesitate to contact Customer Paradigm at 303.499.9318 if you have any questions about your current Magento needs.