5 Questions When Hiring An ECommerce Web Developer

Ecommerce: Ready to sell online?

5 Questions When Hiring An ECommerce Web Developer

For any business looking to sell their products online it is essential that you hire the right person or company to build your website.

After all, you’ll likely be investing thousands (or even tens of thousands) of dollars into your site and you must be sure your site will have the look, the functionality, and the user experience you want.

The following is a starting point for your conversations with potential web developers. Be sure anyone you’re considering can answer each of these questions thoughtfully and in a way that makes sense to you, even if you’re not technically savvy.

1. Can I see your portfolio?

Any web developer worth his salt should have a resume’ of qualifications and a portfolio of finished projects at the ready. If considering an independent/freelance developer, be sure to ask what specific aspects of the project the developer handled (design, coding, shopping cart integration, etc.) and make sure he/she has experience building the exact functionality you’re looking for.

Anyone can talk a big game, but unless you’re sure their development skills match their sales skills, you might wind up disappointed with the final product. The only way to know they can handle your project is to see similar projects they’ve completed.

2. What do you need from me?

Websites require content. And eCommerce websites require a lot of content—marketing copy, company information, privacy policies, and potentially thousands of product photos & descriptions.

In most cases, this is the client’s responsibility. Sometimes that just means forwarding a supplier’s catalog and writing a few paragraphs of “About Us” copy. Often, however, content development is the most time-consuming aspect of a web project.

Having a clear understanding of exactly what you, the client, are required to provide makes the entire process much more straightforward for everyone involved. You can’t blame the developer for content delays—and the developer can’t blame you for any other delays.

3. What technologies do you plan to use for this project?

For a tech savvy business owner, you can go into depth exploring why the suggested platform may or may not be a good fit for the project. But for anyone without technical expertise, here’s what you really need to know:

Is the technology open source?

“Open source” basically means the technology is free and readily available to the public—and no licensing is required. If not open source, make sure the software is proprietary to a third party—NOT your web developer—so you’re not locked into staying with your developer forever.

Is the technology extensible?

This means that you’ll be able to add features and functionality easily, without any major changes required to the existing website. Some great examples of extensibility are the thousands of pre-built plugins available for the WordPress platform.

How easy is it to update the website?

Website maintenance can become a huge operating cost if your site isn’t built in a way where you, the client, can easily manage updates. You want to be sure your web developer provides you with a Content Management System (CMS) that allows you to handle the most common updates (such as adding new products) without any technical knowledge required.

4. Who owns my website?

The issue of website ownership is hugely important—and I strongly recommend having your lawyer review any web development contract before you sign it. If your relationship with your developer ever sours, you want to be sure you can move your site without any major hurdles.

When registering a domain, make sure to either register it yourself (using a registrar like GoDaddy or MyDomain) or have your developer register the domain in your name, not theirs. As an eCommerce business your domain is arguably the single most important aspect of your branding—and you need to be 100% sure you are the domain’s legal owner.

You also need to be 100% sure you own your entire website, including all aspects of design, photography, copy, and any technologies used in the site implementation (or have these items licensed in your name). In a legal sense, this means the project must be designated “a work made for hire.”

5. What are the total costs for the project—and what does that include?

We’re finishing with the question that most business owners start with—what’s the bottom line? Unfortunately, it’s rarely that simple. There are several aspects to consider when discussing costs:

Scope of Work

The Scope of Work defines exactly what is or isn’t included in the project cost.

Some items to consider when defining scope of work include logo/graphic design, copywriting, stock photography licensing, and software licensing, plus all development costs. You and your developer should have an in-depth discussion of exactly what work you need done and make sure your contract specifies every item you agree upon.

The last thing you want is to receive your final invoice with a bunch of line items (and a hefty dollar total) for things you thought were included.

Website Maintenance

Website maintenance costs are anything required to keep your website up and running. Common ones include domain registration/renewal, web hosting, and software licensing, plus any developer updates (usually charged at either a monthly retainer or a per-hour fee).

I’ve seen many companies offer a cheap (or even free) website to a client, but lock them into a long-term contract with high monthly maintenance costs. I’m not advocating for or against this type of situation—just be aware of what you are getting yourself into.

Payment Terms

Once you agree on a scope of work and know the total cost of your project, you’ll have to agree on payment terms. Most web developers require a deposit—usually 20-50% of the total cost—upfront, and the balance of payment within 30, 60, or 90 days of website publication.

Be wary of anyone that asks for more than 50% upfront, unless you have a rock-solid contract and the will to chase them down if they take your money and disappear.

Remember, these questions are just a starting point. Other factors you may want to discuss include marketing, Search Engine Optimization, payment gateways, website security, and a whole lot more.


Category: Internet Business Blog |

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