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Choosing an agency or freelancer is always difficult, because they usually say the same things and make the same promises, making it very difficult for potential clients (especially those who haven’t done their research or worked with an RFP partner) to understand what makes an agency a good fit for their project. From experience, I know that finding an agency / freelancer / contractor to work on Magento projects is even more difficult, because there are so many poor providers around.

I’m lucky enough to have worked with some great Magento developers and agencies, but that’s because I know where to find them and what to judge them on – which most people don’t.

The problem stems from the unquestionable growth of the Magento platform (mostly the community platform) in recent years. Because Magento is now the largest ecommerce platform in the world, there are lots of retailers wanting to use it / migrate over to it – which has lead to lots of generic developers and agencies jumping on the bandwagon to generate sales.

The problem is that Magento is a completely different ball game to a lot of the PHP-based ecommerce platforms out there, and it’s even more different to non-ecommerce platforms such as WordPress, Joomla and Drupal.

I get a lot of retailers come to me asking which development agency / developer they should use (from all over the world) and I have a shortlist of agencies that I recommend – however, there are lots of people that don’t ask people that understand Magento, so I thought I’d write this post to help people understand what they need to look at and do when selecting / sourcing an agency.

Obviously requirements are going to differ massively depending on the size of the retailer, however the majority of these principles will apply for businesses of all sizes.

Here are the main things that you should be looking at when making a decision on who to go with.

How much experience do they have of working with Magento?

Whether it’s a Magento agency or a freelancer – experience is key with Magento. I’ve had so many people come to me having had a bad experience with someone who was willing to ‘give Magento a go’ and have failed because it’s not easy.

Experience is really, really important and I’d make sure they’ve got at least two years experience of working on a diverse range of Magento projects.

If it’s an agency you’re looking for, you should also ensure that their developers are experienced and they have front-end and back-end development resource.

Where are they located?

This isn’t always an issue, however it can be if you opt to go with an agency based in another country. I would recommend looking to use an agency that are relatively local as you’re going to need to speak to them on a regular basis and meeting in person will only improve the relationship.

How good are their development processes / do they have experienced Project Managers?

This is key – as, if their time management is bad, their hourly / daily rate is irrelevant. The project management methodologies used may vary and you may or may not have a preference on this, however make sure you get them to explain their processes to you.

Also, when you get a quote for the project – I’d recommend asking for an broken-down quote with time quotes for each section of the project.

Do they provide support?

Generally, Magento websites need a lot of development support, because it’s a robust ecommerce platform that has a lot of functionality. Really you need an agency that provide support, even if you take web development in-house after the project – just to cover your back.

How much do they charge for support?

This is really important as chances are you are going to require support at various stages after you launch the website.

Are they a Magento partner?

I’d say this isn’t really a big thing, as Magento’s partner program doesn’t necessarily indicate whether an agency is good. In fact, I’ve seen plenty of bad Magento agencies that are silver partners.

Do they have experience of working on migrations (do they understand SEO)?

If you’re migrating onto Magento from another platform, this could be a key consideration, as getting this wrong could have a big impact on your traffic and revenue. There are a lot of considerations that need to go into a migration project and it’s always easier if you can use one agency / service provider for the whole project – so I’d recommend asking for case studies on this.

Have they worked on any complex integrations?

If you’re asking the agency to do anything that isn’t standard, you should be asking about their experience with integration projects. If you’re integrating with a CRM platform, an ERP or are planning on making changes at a later stage – you should ask for details of previous projects they’ve worked on.

What user training do they provide at the end of the project?

The user training provided is key, because if your team doesn’t have sufficient knowledge to manage the website, you’re going to be paying through the nose for additional support.

Do they have Magento certified developers?

The Magento certifications aren’t easy and are a really good indication of how good their developers are. If they have at least one good, certified Magento developer working on the project, then there’s a good chance they know what they’re talking about.

Also, once you’ve made your shortlist of agencies that you’re going to talk to or include within your RFP – you should look to do the following:

Ask to speak to their previous clients

This should be a given, however lots of people don’t do it. Speaking to their clients (ideally not their chosen ones) will allow you to ask questions on how the project went, was it delivered on time, were there any issues etc.

Ask to speak to the Project / Account Manager you’ll be dealing with

This, again, is key because if you don’t like this person, it’s going to make it a very long project. Also, this way you can question them on other projects and their experience to ensure that delivery goes smooth.

If you would have any questions or would like help finding a Magento agency or developer – please feel free to email me on me@paulnrogers.com and I’m happy to provide on details of people I’ve worked with.