So You Want to Launch an E-Commerce Site: Part 1
If you want to sell products online, this post is for you! Regardless of whether you’re creating a brand new business or introducing your brick-and-mortar store to the online world, you’re about to embark on an exciting journey. After you have decided what you want to sell and done some of your initial business planning and setup, the next step is to look for an e-commerce developer that fits your needs. However, if you’re unfamiliar with e-commerce ownership, this can seem really overwhelming. Ideally, you want someone who will take excellent care of your website (and through it, your online business). You want to hire an e-commerce developer that will nurture your sales and online presence for years to come. How do you find them, and what should you expect along the way? This is the first post in our series about what to expect during the process of e-commerce site development. Check back next week for part two!
How do I hire an e-commerce developer? Where do I even start?
Like most other services these days, a search engine is not a bad place to start. However, sifting through the wealth of options and ads can quickly become daunting. Furthermore, reviews and testimonials can be hard to locate. And without personal familiarity with the business and their brand, it can be difficult to build a relationship with the trust needed to successfully build and launch an e-commerce website.
Fortunately, you have lots of options when it comes to narrowing down your choices. One of the best is to reach out to your personal network and ask who designed the e-commerce websites you already visit and love. Even if the professionals you know don’t run e-commerce sites and instead run law firms, restaurants, or other businesses with websites you think are appealing, there’s an excellent chance that the developers of these sites also have the skills to build your online store.
Another option is to first decide what type of e-commerce store you want to run and then find a developer that specializes in that technology. The three most popular options are Shopify, WooCommerce, and Magento. Most small to medium businesses go for one of the two former options because these platforms tend to be more user-friendly and less costly to develop. Once you’ve made this choice, you can look specifically for someone with an excellent portfolio in your desired platform.
Once you’ve narrowed the field a bit, you will probably still have several options to choose from. How do you distinguish between them? Well, just like a Tinder date or a travel agency, you need to compare the developers’ qualities to a list of red flags and green flags. Fortunately, you don’t have to come up with these yourself – we’ve done the work for you!
Red Flags: Think Twice About Hiring an E-commerce Developer Like This
- Devoid of testimonials or portfolios: Most reputable developers will put pictures of their work and comments from former clients on their website. If these are invisible (and especially if they refuse to provide them upon request), it’s a pretty good indicator that they’ve done shoddy work in the past.
- A website that looks anything less than excellent: Would you hire an accountant who is in the throes of bankruptcy? No? Then don’t hire a website designer/developer whose own site looks bad. A developer worth their salt knows that their website is a chance to show off their skills and style, and they’ll make it attractive and professional.
- Limited communication: If the company is hard to get ahold of or takes a long time to get back to you, that’s a huge red flag for the rest of the project. The beginning of the project is when prompt communication is easiest. If it’s taking more than a few days for your would-be developer to get back to you without following up, back away quickly!
- Unclear legal terms or cost: Your potential development company should be providing you with a proposal and legal contract that is clearly professionally put together and above-ground. If the contract looks thrown-together (or worse, if they don’t send you a document to sign at all), their business is probably not completely legally sound, and you should not count on them to deliver what they’ve promised. Similarly, there should be an explicit final price tag and payment terms that don’t leave you wondering how much you’ll pay at completion.
Green Flags: Hire These Developers
- An easy, well-designed quote process: If there’s a clearly written inquiry form that asks important questions about your goals and your business, a consultation with real people that understand your needs, and a proposal and quote that match your budget and check your boxes, it’s a good indicator that a development company may be a fit. Beyond showing you that the company is professional and organized, it also demonstrates that they know how to manage client intake and conversion and can create similarly effective processes on your website.
- Clear technical expertise in communication: Your developer should be able to tell you during your consultation call or in the text of your proposal how they will build your site and accomplish your goals using their standard toolbelt. Developers who are unclear about what they can achieve or how they will do it should be avoided.
- Up-to-date business profiles and content channels: Accurate profiles on Google businesses and Facebook demonstrate that the development company you’re looking at focuses on distributing current information to potential customers. Recent content on social pages or blogs is also a green flag because it shows that the business is attempting to provide educational resources and engage with their potential clients.
What other questions do you have about finding the perfect developer for your project? What other posts would you like to see in this series? Tell us in the comments!