Building an Online Store: 10 Questions to Ask Before Hiring an E-commerce Developer

Are you planning to hire a professional to build your online store? If you’re not a developer and have limited technical knowledge, it can be difficult to hire the right person for your project. Don’t worry, you’re not alone. We’re here to help!

To help you make the best decision, we’ve gathered the 10 questions to ask before hiring an e-commerce developer to build your online store. Make sure you have answers to these important questions before you spend any time and money.

1. Which e-commerce software do you build online stores with?

This is something that you should do extensive research on prior to interviewing candidates. You want to find an e-commerce software that is powerful, intuitive and easy to manage. After all, when the developer is done building your site, you’ll be the one working with it on a daily basis.

During your research, make sure you watch out for all the expensive e-commerce software out there. You don’t want to get stuck paying hefty monthly fees or commissions on all your sales. PrestaShop is a completely free solution with all the tools you need to efficiently manage your online store and it’s super flexible, allowing your developer to fully customize your shop to your liking.

2. What is your experience building e-commerce websites?

Don’t let the developer feed you a bunch of techy jargon. Ask for real life examples of e-commerce sites that they have built before. Pay close attention to the user experience, features and design of each site they share. You should also give them a basic idea of what you’re looking for and ask them to show you examples of online stores out there that they would be able to replicate.

You don’t want your site to become outdated quickly, see Econsultancy: design trends for 2014.

3. What are the terms of our contract?

No matter the case, you absolutely want to have a written agreement that outlines the following:

Fees and payment terms – Some developers prefer to be paid hourly for their work and others will give you a price for a project.
Additional fees – You want to understand exactly what’s included in the fees. Some common “surprise” fees that you want to negotiate upfront are: hosting, SSL certificate, additional features, themes, and backup solutions.
Deadlines – Set a date or milestones for when the project or different elements of the project should be complete. Include a clause in your agreement that directly addresses if there’s a delay.
Include all expectations – Write down everything that you expect to be delivered on the final site.
Post development – What are the fees for maintenance after the project is complete? How quickly can I expect your help?

Check out this sample contract to help you get started.

4. How will we communicate?

This question is often forgotten but it’s important to establish the means of communication throughout the development of your site. You want to be involved throughout the process, not just when it’s finished.

Decide if you will use Skype, Google Hangout or MSN to speak regularly. I strongly suggest using a project management tool such as Asana or Basecamp to keep all communication organized and keep you updated on the progress of your site.

5. What special features can you develop for my online store?

This may be a bit of a technical question but you really just want the developer to be very clear about how much work they will be putting in.

- Are you using an existing theme or building a custom theme?
- Will you be building any features from scratch?
- Make sure to address these items in your written agreement

For those using PrestaShop, you can find innovative features on PrestaShop’s Official Marketplace.

6. Will my e-commerce site be mobile friendly?

Now days, this is a must. You want to be able to offer your customers a seamless shopping experience from a mobile and tablet device. Ask your developer what they will do to make sure that your site is mobile friendly and responsive.

This article will help you understand the different elements you need to make your e-commerce site optimized for mobile visitors.

7. How will you make it easy for me to edit and manage my site?

Once your online store is up and running, you’ll have to update content, photos, banners, etc. You may even want to be able to add or modify features to your site. Find out what your developer will be doing to make sure that editing your site won’t be a headache every time.

You should have access to absolutely everything! One day this person may no longer be your developer and you’ll need to share passwords and code with a new hire. Ensure that all files, logins and passwords are shared with you. You should be the owner of all the accounts associated with your site. Also, I strongly recommend that your developer explains how they are keeping backups of your site.

8. What SEO fundamentals will you integrate?

Your developer should be implementing SEO best practices and make it easy for you to update should your SEO strategy change. All the money you spend on your online store will go to waste if customers can’t find you!

Here’s a quick tutorial on basic elements that will improve SEO for your online store.

9. How will you help me track key performance indicators?

This is something you want to address upfront. Understand how you will be able to measure the performance of your site. Great news, tons of KPIs are automatically displayed in your PrestaShop back-office. However, you want your developer to show you how to measure specific elements of your site using Google Analytics.

Learn more about the top key performance indicators for e-commerce sites.

10. How will you run tests?

Your online store might look nice but if it’s not working properly, what’s the use? Your developer should have specific best practices for testing your site. Make sure that the developer is using a testing environment and not making changes directly on your live store without testing it first. Have them explain their process for testing your entire site, documenting bugs and quick fixes.

This type of information will help you from having to pay for additional support once the project is complete. You want to ensure that testing is done from different mobile devices, browsers, computers and countries.

This article from Practical Ecommerce gives you a long check list of what to test on an Ecommerce Site.

Now you’re ready to get out there and find the perfect developer to build your online store!

We know there are a lot of e-commerce software options out there but if you’re looking for a powerful, user friendly and fully customizable solution, PrestaShop is the answer. Take a look at a short video of our upcoming release, PrestaShop v1.6, and see everything you could benefit from as an online merchant.

Need some help looking for an e-commerce developer? Check out our renowned roster of partnered web agencies, the cream of the crop!

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