“Bring on the ladies…”

Say you’ve discovered that when you wear your bathrobe backwards, it makes a pretty neat blanket.

You decide to develop the product that you’ve cleverly named “The Snuglet,” … or something sorta like that, and after many days and nights of work, you’re ready to take your product to the first and final frontier: The Internet.

After the research dust has settled, you realize that Magento is the most brilliant, sexy, easy-to-use eCommerce CMS platform out there. (We would agree with you). And your Snuglet is bound for Magento glory.

But who’s going to develop your Magento site? When you do a Google search for “Magento developer,” you get (gasp!) 6 million results! Do you just pick the first technology company on the list? Do you get quotes from all of them and choose the cheapest? Do you call up the one with the most friends on Facebook? Your dad is good with computers. Maybe he could do it….

Choosing a Magento developer can be scarier than a Spanish cucumber, so we’ve put together a few tips for choosing a team to make your eCommerce site really sing and get your Snuglet – or whatever your product may be – on the internet map.

1.) Look for a Magento Partner

A good place to start your search should be the Magento Commerce website. They have a great database of companies that are both Silver and Gold-level partners, meaning they have access to Magento support, services, extensions, forums, and other real smart people who can help make your project go smoothly. Check out the Human<>Element Magento profile to see our official status as one of the cool kids.

We also have that sweet little logo on the bottom of every page of our site just screaming at you that we’re more than competent nerds, and we have some pretty sweet nerd connections. Make sure you’re seeing that somewhere on your developer’s site as well.

Keep in mind the scope of your project when choosing a developer. If you are a small business trying to market a Snuglet using the free Community version of Magento, you may not need a Gold-level partner. No need to kill a rabbit with a bazooka. However, if you have a large catalog, complex business rules or some integration with your back end systems and plan to use Magento Professional or Enterprise, you will most likely want a Silver or Gold-level Magento partner with the big guns necessary to knock out your project.

Whats the difference between Silver and Gold partners?  In general it’s the size of the organization and the service offering provided.  If you have a 5K budget, you probably don’t want to call a Gold partner. However, some companies (*AHEM* Human<>Element *AHEM*) will take on small projects if you’re willing to purchase a bucket of hours for development or maintenance.

2.) Check out Your Developer’s Magento Portfolio

Once you’ve found a handful of Magento developers you’re willing to work with, check out their portfolio. Some companies – like us – call it “Work,” some companies call it “Featured Websites,” some companies may call it “Our Clients.” The point is, a great Magento Developer will be proud of the stuff they’ve done and make it easy for you to find. Like we did: See our WORK here.

Browse through some of the companies you find on Google and peruse their porfolio. Make sure you find examples of work that you would want for your own company.

3.) If at all Possible, Look them in the Face

Working through the internet is great because you can get things done without having to meet in person. Efficient, yes, but not always the best way to do business. So do your darndest to meet one-on-one with your developers and find out about their background and what they recommend for your project. You’ll get a better idea of how comfortable they are with the platform, how long they’ve been working with it, and what they know about Magento’s strengths and weaknesses.

Sitting down with your developers also gives you a better idea of whether or not you actually like your development team – which matters more than you may think. You’re going to be spending some quality time with these people during the development process. If your account manager is a little dodgy, or your designer is neurotic, it can turn that process into a nightmare in a hurry. But when you work with good people that you like, you’ll have a much better development experience, and you’ll probably get a better product in the end.

4.) Ask for References

So now that you’ve narrowed it down to a couple companies, ask for references from the company’s Magento clients. You probably wouldn’t hire an employee based solely on the resume they’ve submitted.

Space_Rocket_SarahPalin copy

“You betcha!”

Even Sarah Palin could apply for a job as a rocket scientist… Or president, for that matter. That doesn’t mean NASA should hire her to run mission control.

Companies understand this, and should have no problem providing references for you. The last thing you want is to be the test project for a company that has no idea how Magento works, or how to handle the intricacies of the program. We’ve helped several clients who have unfortunately had this experience with another developer, and it can get ugly. You want a company that has a wide range of experience developing Magento sites, and they’re not afraid to share those references with you.

5.) Make Sure to Explain Your Product and Current Business Practices

Whether you’re a new company or you’re rebuilding an existing eCommerce site with Magento, make sure your developer knows what you need, and more importantly, they’ve confirmed they can do what you want. Do you need to integrate with an ERP system? Do you need Search Engine Optimization services? Do you need custom extensions outside the scope of regular ol’ Magento?

Chances are, even if you’re just selling a bathrobe that you’ve ingeniously disguised as a blanket, there are probably some unique functions you want on your site. Custom check-out features, changing product images, fancy color swatches… whatever it is, just make sure your developer knows what you’ve got in mind and they can deliver on those items that you can’t do without. Explaining how your business works on a day-to-day basis will help your developer come up with a plan, and give you some reassurance that you’ve chosen the right tech guys.

6.) Evaluate the Developer’s Website

You probably don’t want to choose a company whose website looks like it was built in 1997. Although those were legendary times in eCommerce history, you want a company that has a modern perspective and keeps up with current trends. You want to know that your site won’t look like this. If the developer’s site hasn’t been updated since Limp Bizkit was cool, you should definitely note the red flag.

7.) Price vs. Quality

When you’re choosing your Magento developer, keep in mind: You get what you pay for. We know it’s a cliche, but we’ve seen it a lot. Human<>Element has had several clients come to us with half-finished projects from other developers that just spun out of control because their previous developer didn’t understand what they were undertaking with Magento, underbid the project, and couldn’t complete it. Keep in mind that the cheapest developer is rarely the best, and sometimes you’ll end up spending a lot more to fix something than building it correctly in the first place for a little more.

That doesn’t mean you need to go with the most expensive developer to get a functioning Magento site, but it does mean you should look carefully at what each company is proposing in their quote. Make sure all the features you want are included in that proposal, and that you’ve spelled out functions that are essential to your business.

Whoever you end up choosing, be confident that your developer has the skills to meet the needs of your business, or you could end up with an internet mess bigger than Snooki.

If you have questions about Magento, or would like a quote on your Magento project, we invite you to contact Human<>Element today. We’re located in Ann Arbor, Michigan, and chances are, we’re probably the perfect Magento developer for you.