Among merchants contacting us for the first time, there is one recurring question : « Why should I work with an agency for web developments? » Closely followed by : « Since PrestaShop is free, do I need a technical partner at all ? ».
The 1st step of any ecommerce project involves installing and setting up PrestaShop. When PrestaShop technology is open-source indeed (free download and freely editable), these actions actually require specialist expertise, related to shipping and payment configuration for example but not only. Then, as business grows, new features will be necessary. They will come in all shapes and colors :
- Connect PrestaShop to ERP / warehouse / instore checkout
- Develop new features in addition to PrestaShop native features
- Software upgrade
- Design new theme
- Add langage / change for multistore
- Set up a blog and connect it to the online store
- and so forth…
We recommend to get advise from a technology partner starting from day 1. A robust and well designed store will remain stable in 6 months and longer, when first evolutions are required. Therefore, choose your partner very carefully.
1. DIY vs FREELANCE vs WEB AGENCY
Many profiles exist. Selecting one or the other is about going either with a multi-disciplinary agency, a freelancer, or finding self-sufficient solutions for the merchant : hire a developper, learn new technical skills.
– Do it yourself : in the event where the merchant gets training and learn new skills, his time dedicated to web developments will not be spent on what should be his main priorities : webmarketing and product offering. In the best scenario, his skills will be capped on all topics. He will then become knowledgeable about many things but expert in none. DIY can also imply hiring the first developper, should there be enough work to keep him busy. In this case the developer is liable for all risks in terms of project quality and timing, but his cost (his salary) is known beforehand. In the long run, the developper can act as the go-to-contact for the web agency, manage and supervise all work done by 3rd parties.
– Freelancer : by definition this is a stand-alone role. Generally more cost-effective than the agency, the freelance developper is a risky bet in the sense that he is liable for the project outcome alone yet does not provide any guarantee. Better know who you are dealing with, either from previous works or through trustworthy recommendations.
– Web Agency : Despite higher structure costs (offices, transerve team members…), the web agency provides multi-disciplinary skills and internal processes that come to guide the advancement of the project : versionning tools, technical documentation, test servers, test plans and full testing before release. So how far does the agency go ?
2. ROLE OF THE WEB AGENCY
The (web development) agency provides a full service range including technical skills, design, business understanding, ability to put themselves in the merchant’s shoes. It is meant to partner on the long run, and work as an extension of the merchant’s team. The agency is likely to be in charge of new development projects as much as corrective maintenance. Maintenance is generally estimated in a quarterly pack of ready-to-use credits.
The agency’s role is naturally to produce any evolution related to the merchant’s growth but not only. A good agency is proactive and it should care about :
* suggesting an alternative solution if your request for developments require important costs that could be avoided with light-to-moderate modification of scope.
* consider allotments, that is divide developments into smaller tasks in order to meet deadlines and calendar constraints (sales, festive season, annual inventory etc..).
* alert on unnecessary risks related to your requests, from a functionnal perspective, in the long run, or something contradictory with ecommerce best practices. For instance, designing a check-out pictogram on the top left corner of the header, instead of the right, would generate a bad conversion rate in the western world.
* be familiar with your webmarketing KPI (available in GA) and make recommendations.
3. HOW TO SELECT A WEB DEVELOPMENT AGENCY
Like any human-based selection process, trust is key. Either because it was warmly recommended to you or because the agency’s references are in line with your project : are there similar scale references ? When was the last similar-scale project released ? How long was the project ?
If failing to provide lengthy references, has the agency understood my vision and picked my brain about it ?
When it comes to selecting the best technical partner for your business, and keeping in mind this will become a key relationship for the next few years, one should not hesitate to consult several agencies and ask for quotes. The answer lies in the balance between cost and features. At 202 ecommerce, in an attempt for transparency, we like to provide as much budget line detail as possible. WYSIWYG !