How do you decide which agency to use for your Magento website?
Over the last decade or so, Magento has made quite an impact on the e-commerce scene. When it first surfaced, it was pretty much the only decent off-the-shelf e-commerce platform available and was certainly a night and day improvement over competitors at the time such as OSCommerce and Zen Cart.
Many more e-commerce frameworks have surfaced since then including Shopify, BigCommerce, Prestashop & WooCommerce to name a few. These platforms all have their place in the market, except perhaps for WooCommerce (we're believers that Wordpress is good for one thing only, a blogging tool!). However, Magento has never lost momentum and always taken pride of place as one of the most well-respected e-commerce platforms for those who are serious about selling.
So, you've decided to use Magento... who's going to build it for you?!
If you thought there were a lot of choices when it comes to choosing the platform, now you're faced with the task of picking from hundreds of agencies and decide who you're going to trust to build your new website. Here are some things to look for:
I'll start with location. This may or may not be important to you. It's easy to work remotely these days and the concept of communicating over distance is familiar to most of us now. For some people though, it's important to deal with a team who's local to them, and who they can meet face to face, in which case you might prefer a local Magento agency. Depending on your area, it may be harder to find reputable Magento developers locally, on the flip side though, it will immediately narrow your search down and perhaps feel less overwhelming.
You need to consider the size of the agency and how that will fit in with your business.
The cheapest option is probably a freelancer or one-man-band. The nice thing about this is that you will have a direct relationship with your developer. However, as their client base grows, and when they're busy response times may be impacted and it will take longer for them to complete work for you. They are also on their own so, when up against difficult tasks, progress may slow down whilst they do the research and figure it out.
A large agency with a small army of developers might get work done quicker but will lack the personal touch and ability to truly know your business from the inside out. Costs may vary depending on whether their development team is local or offshore, or where they choose to place themselves in the market. Large agencies who churn out sites based on pre-built templates can also be cost effective, but an agency who offers bespoke design and custom functionality may not be able to offer such competitive rates.
A mid-sized agency (like us!) may offer the best of both worlds, often retaining the personal touch and "partner" style relationship. Their more modest sized teams allow developers to put their heads together and overcome issues quicker and to handle fluctuations in workload.
I've partially covered this in the last section, but I think the key point here is to decide on a budget and to be upfront about it. It's important to remember that your Magento site will likely generate the bulk of your revenue and you should plan a budget for the build and ongoing support to account for that.
The development world moves fast and many agencies get stuck using old fashioned development infrastructures. When you speak to agencies, ask them what technologies they use. Here are a couple of things you should look out for (hint: we use all of these):
- Docker & disposable development environments
- Testing process including feature branches and staging sites for every branch
- Zero downtime deployments (and rollbacks)
- Transparent project management software
Probably one of the most important things to consider is experience. With Magento having become such an iconic platform, many agencies have jumped on the bandwagon and claim to offer Magento development services. When you speak to developers, ask them how long they've been working with the platform and make sure that you go for a company who has experienced Magento developers.
Check out their portfolio too. Do they work with brands of a similar size or aspiration to yours? Do they work with retail only, or are they B2B specialists?
Quite often, a good way to spot an established Magento agency will be to check out their GitHub account where you can find any open source projects and custom Magento modules that they have made publically available.
Magento has a strong community, and a reputable agency will have built relationships with other providers over the years. See if they have partnered with any of the key Magento suppliers.
Having been working with Magento since its inception, dealt with many other agencies and providers, and seen many agencies come and go over the years, we've built a pretty good understanding of what can make or break a Magento agency. Don't rush into making your decision. Think about all of the points raised above and narrow down your choice. Speak to a few agencies, freelancers or both depending on which route you decide to take and be honest about your budget and requirements.
If you're not sure, get in touch and we will be happy to offer you some advice. Perhaps we're even the agency for you!