Choosing an agency to develop your ecommerce website
Are you looking to establish your ecommerce store for the first time? Or, perhaps, redeveloping the existing one? Choosing the right e-commerce platform that suits your short and long-term goals is the first step.
The next step, or I would say the defining step, is finding and selecting the right development partner for the task. Faltering on this choice would not only result in wastage of money but also in the loss of precious time and effort. So how do you get to make the right decision? Well raising the right questions is a good start. We have put below 10 areas to evaluate a prospective technology partner before signing the contract.
- Cost and Engagement Model
Agencies would tend to either quote you a fixed project cost or an hourly cost, and in some cases a mix of both to develop the web-store. The approach you take would be based on your appetite for the cost as well as your know-how about the whole process. Never be lazy about working on the requirement document, try to furnish as much information as possible to the agency so that they have enough information to move ahead.
Always request for a quote from at-least 3 agencies, differentiate the ones that ask you a lot of questions and in the process educate you about the solution. A look at the proposal itself would give you a good idea of the quality; a good partner would capture maximum scenarios and be clear about the scope as well as the exclusions. The cheapest quote is not necessarily the best option, don’t hesitate to pay a bit more for quality as it would result in future savings.
- Project Duration and Timeline
To answer this question, you would have to support the agency with all the information they need to prepare a proper effort estimate. Less assumptions would mean fewer uncertainties, resulting in less buffer to cover deviances and an accurate timeline. This would again tie in to the engagement model; fixed cost or hourly. Setting the timeline and project is especially important in the case of hourly projects, as you risk going into endless loops with feature additions and changes. The right development company would help you prioritize your requirements and launch in phases.
- Suite of Services
Most of the agencies nowadays claim themselves to be a full service digital agency i.e. they can help you right from the logo design phase to post launch branding and digital marketing. Working with such an agency would help you get insights into optimization and digital marketing side of things too, helping in setting the right ROI expectations. And most of the cases you might be able to bargain off a good deal for SEO and digital marketing from the same agency if you go for a packaged deal.
- Maintenance and Upkeep
An ecommerce website is not a one-time thing, it requires continuous caring and upkeep. There must be applying of patches, updating plugins, responding to browser updates, compliance related changes etc that would be involved. Hence it is of utmost importance to work out an Annual Maintenance contract (AMC) with the agency. Points to sketch out would be the cost involved, number of hours included and the activities that are covered.
- Escalation and SLA
Ask the agency about support policies, and if you would get 24/7 monitoring and support? What kind of SLA’s would they provide and the assignment of a single point of contact for you. It is very tough to foresee issues, but nevertheless it is important that you have the right kind of contract in place to help you pull out of any business downtime as quickly as possible.
This is a very tricky proposition, sometimes it works and sometimes it is an outright failure. It is always advised to work with an agency where all the work would be done inhouse as you would be able to leverage the collective knowledge of the team and there isn’t a risk of some individual guy working out of the basement trying to do some mischief. But in-case there is no way out, ask for the credentials of the third party and speak with him/her/them to validate their credentials.
- Design Capabilities
Always have a look at their portfolio, have a keen eye for design and the variety they offer as obviously you would want to stand out from your competition. And apart from the just the look, you also need to check if the agency is geared to support most recent design technology guidelines and trends like mobile responsiveness
- Reference Check
There isn’t anything better that helps in confidence building than talking with past clients for a peek into the agency’s work ethics, project management, quality of deliverable and the overall experience. Whenever possible, seek out past clients that are similar to your business and the line of work.
- IP Ownership
This is an area that most people are not careful about, especially ones that are just starting out and end up falling in the trap. Be careful of agencies that quote a super low price and are not clear about who owns the domain, code and the content, because you might get shoe-horned into a code hostage situation and end up not being able to move away from the agency.
Ensure that the domain name, website design and hosting account is registered in your name or set them up yourselves wherever possible. Ensure that the contract has strong verbiage about you owning the source files, hosting, content etc. Always have the access credentials to the work changed before making the final payment and backup at deliverable.
Most clients realize this mistake when they try moving away from the vendor and uncover that they do not own the source code.
- Technology Partner
We have deliberately used the term Technology partner instead of a Vendor as that is exactly what you need. You wouldn’t want an agency who just executes what you want, you need someone who would brainstorm with you, ask the right questions and educate you along the way. Someone who is not afraid to tell you when you are wrong and work along to find a solution. During the proposal stage look at agencies who ask you questions, come up with challenges and multiple approaches to tackle them.
Obviously there several other things that you might want to consider, like content updates, business continuity, experience level of the resources assigned, technology expertise etc
It is not about just deploying one project or an ecommerce website but rather is an investment into a long-term relationship that is pivotal for you to achieve your long-term business goals. Especially in offloading the technology responsibility to the Technology Partner and freeing up your time for critical business responsibilities.
Wanna know why we might be a good fit for you? If yes, shoot them off to firstname.lastname@example.org.