Tips for Choosing your Magento Provider

Choosing a Magento Software Development Provider: A Buyer’s Guide

This is a post number 2 (of 5), part of How to Build and Run Your Magento Store series. Here we suggest how you can create a list of potential Magento providers and how you can evaluate them. By now you should have already defined and structured the functional requirements and found stores with similar functionality, allowing for precise resource estimation for greater accuracy of the commercial offer. When you have decided that you are ready to build your Magento store it is time to make a list of providers. Of course you can Google the fist Magento Development Company near you or go with one recommended by your friends. We suggest a more systematic approach (spoiler alert: sorry, it involves diligence and work). Starting out, cast your net wide, as not all providers that seem like good matches at first will be willing or able to commit to your project and your budget. After, you will narrow down the list based on experience relevant to you, service quality, fit and price. Prior to the decision and contracting run a clarification session with the finalists and obtain firm commercial offers.

1. Build Your Target Magento Software Development Provider Company List

As a rule of thumb, companies typically work with other companies of their size, competence and competitive position. But don’t let that suggestion narrow your initial choices too much: you will need a reliable and competent partner for the long run, so it’s worthwhile to invest your time into the search. There are almost a quarter million of Magento e-commerce stores in existence, so your choice of potential suppliers is quite extensive; unfortunately, there isn’t a comprehensive list of stores that run on Magento, although some are mentioned on the Magento website’s Customer Showcase. Below are some suggestions, descending in terms of relevance:

Research Your Industry Peers’ Magento Stores

You should definitely review the e-commerce stores in your industry vertical, focusing on those using a business model that is similar to yours: if you are looking to build a store for a single fashion brand, seek examples in other fashion brands in your price category, and ignore multibrand stores, discount, overstock and auction stores. When looking at the providers who created your competitors’ online stores be aware that going this route is a double-edged sword: while you will have more negotiating power when asking to create a similar website that an agency or a software development company has already created, there are potentially legal and moral issues that you should carefully think about.

Survey Your Personal Network for Magento References

Chances are someone in your network – personal and extended via the social and professional media – knows and can recommend a Magento development shop. Seeking recommendations online and offline might seem not very efficient, but you are likely to get higher quality and authority advice compared to strangers’ advice on the Internet. You’d be surprised at the number of conversations started when you post “Looking to Create a Magento Store, any provider recommendations?” or similar.

Build Relevant Magento Companies List

One other way attract potential bidders for you project is by using business service marketplaces like Blur Group and, surprisingly, freelancer portals, especially to get the attention of smaller companies, who often browse listed projects for leads. You could also consider almost 200 “partners” on the Magento website, but be aware they they will be on the pricier side. Try to get a decent list of companies of various sizes and types, with at least several of both digital and creative agencies, software development companies, as some are likely to further source either design or development, while others will have all of the resources you need in-house.

2. Structure Your Candidate Evaluation Criteria

Every business is different, so it is likely that your ideal Magento development partner will be defined by your industry, your technical competence level, your communication style and your budget. We recommend using a spreadsheet in structuring your evaluation with criteria such as “must have”, “nice to have” and “exclude” to minimize decision-making based on first impressions.

Magento Provider Company Size Consideration

There are advantages and disadvantages to companies of all sizes. Bigger companies tend to have more employees with niche skills, but they tend to be more expensive and have many clients to juggle. Small companies tend to be more personal and generally cost less, but also by definition have fewer experts on the payroll. Therefore, company size alone is not an important deciding factor, but rather how closely they can serve your specific need. Every business is different, so we suggest taking a look at some common criteria that can help you winnow down the provider list to 3-5 companies you’d feel comfortable working with.

Magento and Your Industry Expertise

Having Certified Magento software developers on staff isn’t a good enough guarantee that your project will run smoothly. Is the company familiar with your industry’s challenges and innovations? They should have the experience in catering to the needs of companies similar to yours, know about pitfalls and how to avoid them, as well as proactively offer you options which you have not been aware of.

Due Diligence on Magento References

Practically every company lists their clients portfolio on their website. Evaluate their willingness to share with you the contact details of their past and current clients. When you have narrowed down the list of companies to the 3-5 “finalists” you’ll be able to use client references to validate your impressions or as tie-breakers if you are torn which company you should choose.

Your Magento Development Team

As a rule of thumb, the simplest Magento store from scratch with some customization and no design will require a team of 4 and about 1 month’s worth of work: 2 Magento developers working full-time or nearly full-time as well as a Quality Assurance and a Project Manager or Architect working part-time. Therefore, depending on whether you need a content copywriter and a designer, 4-6 people will need to be working and interacting on creating a Magento store. Try to verify that the exact team offered is the one that has the portfolio experience as was advertised to you by the company.

Communication Style

Software development can be stressful, so making sure you are comfortable with the communication style and response time is important. Luckily, it is easy to assess whether your software development partner can clearly and patiently communicate in a timely manner.

Software Developer Location

How comfortable are you with collaborating remotely? Be honest about answering this question as creating a Magento website is a long-term endeavor. Some are comfortable working only with providers whom they can meet in person while others are so used to meetings over Skype they don’t particularly care where in the world their software development team is located.

The Price of Software Development

Generally, company overhead grows with company size, therefore larger companies will charge you more than small ones for an hour of development work of the same grade specialist. Yet the average hourly rate is only one part of the price, as accurate project estimation (in number of hours) is just as important. If the price of your Magento store is given to you by the sales manager without consulting with the development team you are probably not working with a professionally run organization. Also, when budgeting, be aware that once the project features are agreed, changes will require additional development hours and cost extra, so learn about the change request process in advance.

Legal Considerations

Does the company lay any specific copyright claims? If so consider it a warning sign, as you should clearly own of the intellectual property without limitations and in perpetuity. You should be able to cancel the contract without recourse if deliverables do not meet your acceptance criteria. Product warranty period and conditions should also be clearly stated. Also consider the location where the company is incorporated and that the court’s jurisdiction choice is up to you.

Software Continuity and Support

Your company will need technical and administrative support during and after the launch of your Magento store, including training and bug fixes, as well as updates and upgrades down the road. Review support and further development options with the provider so that you know what’s covered and what (and when) will cost extra.

3. Submit a Request for Proposal

When you have compiled a specification and narrowed down your providers you should have about 5 companies with which you are ready to have a more in-depth discussion. Unless you are developing an exquisitely complex online store, submitting a Request for Proposal will be as easy as filling out a contact form on a website of your chosen potential providers or sending them your specification via email. Chances are your project description is still not technical enough for your potential providers to give you a firm price, so set aside some time for follow-up clarification and discovery interviews.

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