Having worked with Magento for more than a decade, I have seen a ton of botched store implementations.
These come in all shapes and sizes.
I’ve seen larger brands work with “Magento agencies” that actually had little-to-no experience with Magento.
I’ve seen smaller stores try to save some money with freelance Magento developers who could afford to charge less because they cut so many corners.
Unfortunately, there are just so many things that can go wrong when hiring a Magento developer or agency. Making the wrong choice leads to poor implementations and developments, which lead to even more problems in the future.
Fortunately, during my years and years of working with Magento, I’ve learned that there are 10 ways you can make your hiring process a successful one.
10 Tips for Finding the Best Possible Magento Developer or Agency
Below lets cover 10 things you absolutely must consider when choosing your Magento development team.
1. Require Magento Certifications for Every Developer
Please don’t skip this one!
This must be an absolute deal-breaker for your business. If the developer isn’t Magento-certified, they shouldn’t be working on your Magento store.
For people in the Magento community, this is an obvious one, but many people who are new to this powerful platform have to learn the hard way that certification shouldn’t be up for debate.
Magento certifications will show that the team or individual you pick understands the core concepts of Magento and will, therefore, build your store with the correct structure.
The main three certifications you should look for are:
- Magento Commerce Developer
- Magento Commerce Front-End Developer
- Magento Commerce Business Practitioner
If they are a project manager, solutions architect, or business analyst, they should also have an Expert Magento Commerce Business Practitioner certification.
This is important because a lot of people don’t know what features and functionality are actually built into Magento natively. If your Magento developer creates “new” functionality that it already has, the result will be more than just a waste of time and money: your system will have to shoulder the extra burden and it will be more difficult to upgrade.
If your developers are not using the platform according to Magento’s standards, you’ll have performance issues and problems adding upgrades and different functionality to your store.
Your Magento store should be built in a way that allows you to upgrade it without having to rebuild its custom features every time.
So, make it easy on yourself: before you hire a developer, ask to see their Magento certification.
2. Agree on the Terms via Contract Before Any Work Starts
Be sure to set up a contract with your Magento developer prior to starting any work.
As with many relationships, the early stages of working with your new developer will probably be a lot of rainbows and butterflies.
No one ever goes into a commitment thinking they’ll need to be backed up by a contract, but it’s always prudent to have one signed anyway.
Believe it or not, I’ve personally witnessed development agencies hold their clients hostage by saying that they own code the created for that client. If they decide to move on, the agency can then require they start from scratch without said code.
Yes, that really happens and, yes, it’s a complete nightmare for those companies.
That’s why you need a contract that outlines these kinds of terms and defines what happens if the agency, client, or both decides it’s time to explore new opportunities.
Don’t risk it.
Write everything down and get signatures.
3. Define Timelines, Due Dates, and Deliverables
Speaking of essential steps you shouldn’t leave to chance, you and your Magento developer must agree on timelines and functionality before starting on a project.
Otherwise, it is extremely easy for timelines to get missed and for teams to get sidetracked with other projects and even other clients.
Agree on a timeline to make sure that everyone involved is on the same page with work.
Also, it’s just as important to have milestones set throughout the project. This way, everyone knows what they’re responsible for from the beginning of the project to the very end. It’s another vital way to keep everyone on the same page.
The alternative is receiving a deliverable six months down the line that doesn’t remotely resemble the thing you paid for.
Again, yes, that sort of thing absolutely does happen.
Don’t wait until the end of the project to see if everything was done correctly. Set clear due dates and deliverables upfront, so there’s less room for error. Then, check in frequently to confirm continuous progress is being made over time.
4. Know What Your Magento Developer’s Work Hours & Time Zones Are
Before committing, find out when your Magento agency or developer will be available during the week for meetings and other communications. This is especially important if you’ll be working with remote developers whose time zones could be all over the world.
No matter how qualified a Magento developer is, it’s inevitable that you’ll have questions.
As the client, you’re entitled to them.
You're also entitled to timely responses.
It will quickly become extremely frustrating if you’re constantly waiting days to hear back from the developer working on your Magento store. This kind of delayed communication will add days or even weeks to the timeline of your project (one more reason to insist on that contract).
Now, to be fair, this works both ways. I’m not suggesting you insist that your Magento developer be at your beck and call day or night. We still need to sleep.
Instead, before you begin the project, agree on protocols for communication.
When will recurring meetings occur?
How much time will be set aside for them?
Outside of those meetings, when will they be available for urgent calls?
How soon will they respond to an email?
Regular 30-60 minute meetings should be sufficient for the vast majority of your communications, but don’t take for granted that your developer feels the same way. Get clear about this before beginning.
Otherwise, expecta lot of back-and-forth and a very frustrating development process.
5. Agree on Every Detail Before the Work Begins
Another necessary step before work begins is going through all of the details with your Magento developer. Make sure they understand them the same way you do or both of you may think things are going swimmingly...right up until it’s too late.
You wouldn’t start building a house until all the plans are fully nailed down, right?
For the same reasons, take your time and make certain you fully understand and are happy with the plans for your Magento store before building begins.
Will doing so ensure that nothing changes once you get started?
Of course not.
As with all projects, things will likely change, but the less that needs changing, the more successful your project will be.
Furthermore, make sure you have all your plans and designs done before you start development. Again, just like with a house, you wouldn’t want to start the second floor by deciding your plans need changing.
Sure, changes to plans and scope are likely to come up.
Those kinds of things almost always happen.
But the more you have planned upfront, the smoother the project will go.
Your Magento developer will know what is expected from them, which will make it easier for them to build a strong website from the ground up.
The more changes that come up during development, the more complexity there is and the better the chance of due dates not being hit.
So, work with your solutions architect to fine-tune all the requirements of the project and with your design team to ensure you have all the details for the project in place.
Ask the proverbial, “Any questions?” and, once those are answered - and only then - you can get started.
6. Who’s Handling Quality Assurance & Testing?
You can’t build a great Magento store without plenty of QA and testing.
There are so many different browsers and screen sizes with pages in Magento that you’ll need to test andregression test.
You’ll also want someone on the team to test all the pages and functionality and report back.
The list goes on and on.
Then, before you go live, you need to do a full test of the entire store. Magento hasa lot of functionality, so you want to make sure you are testing all that custom functionality prior to showing it to shoppers.
Therefore, before you even start your project, it is important to know whether this kind of work is built-in with your current team or if you’ll need to hire a second QA tester to carry it out.
7. Stay Away from the Infamous “Jacks of all Trades”
Don’t expect one Magento developer who can do it all. There are very few - if any - Jack of all trades in this field.
Anyway, while there are many developers who are super skilled and well-rounded in Magento, I can’t stress enough how complex this platform is.
For someone to claim that they can handle frontend design, database architecting, setting up your server, custom logic, and API integrations - and that they can do it well - that person is either incredibly talented and almost without peer or...a little overconfident (to put it nicely).
It would be immensely difficult for a Magento developer to be good at everything the platform entails.
Instead, it is ideal to have a frontend developer, backend developer, and server-side developers.
Also, the knowledge of a team of developers is always quicker and stronger than that of a solo developer. Among other things, a designer who’s part of a team can lean on their teammates if they get stuck on a problem they can’t solve. This is one of the major advantages of working with a Magento agency. That kind of teamwork is built into the structure.
With a single developer, it will take them longer to resolve bugs and issues that arise that they may not be as familiar with solving.
8. Will You Receive Ongoing Support and Assistance?
Keep in mind that you will probably need ongoing support and assistance with your Magento store.
Make sure you pick a team that can handle this.
Do they have a support team that’s well-trained?
Does that support team use a ticketing system to address your questions in a timely manner?
eCommerce is always changing, from the way the Internet works to the browsers people use to access it to the devices they use to access those browsers.
My point is don’t expect to have your store built and be done with it. You’ll need help with ongoing maintenance, too.
The team you choose must be able to take care of all of thisandbe available during the hours that you need them.
9. Does the Magento Agency Help with Marketing?
Will you need eCommerce marketing services to get the word out about your Magento store?
Most Magento development teams are focused solely on the technical aspects of building a store and maintaining it.
That’s fine if you have your own marketing team.
Otherwise, a single developer or even a team of developers may not be sufficient for your needs.
In that case, you’ll need a Magento development agency that can also offer you essential marketing services.
Though you could still opt to hire a different team for marketing, it’s usually much more efficient to have all your services under one roof.
This avoids the delays of going back and forth between two different teams or trying to get them both into meetings at the same time.
You also avoid the kind of finger-pointing that can easily start between the two different companies if goals are missed.
If you keep everything with one agency, it’ll be much easier for both teams to work hand-in-hand with each other, focused on the same goal: the success of your Magento store.
10. Do You Get Along with the Team?
This last piece of advice is important even though I know it might not look that way.
In fact, I know it goes overlooked all the time.
Before you finally move forward with hiring a Magento developer, ask yourself, “Do I actually get along with this person?” If you’re thinking about working with an agency, ask yourself the same question about the key players you’ll be working with most.
Remember: you’ll most likely speak with them regularly for years to come.
You want to make sure you’ll be working with a team you get along with, that you’ll enjoy working with, and with which you’ll be able to communicate well.
The goal is to build something amazing together.
The more you get along with them, the better the results you’ll see. The work of creating, running, and maintaining a successful Magento store is so much easier when you actually enjoy the people you are working with.
The Most Important Piece of Advice Before Hiring a Magento Agency or Developer
Whether you decide to hire a single Magento developer or work with an entire agency, my last piece of advice is this: take your time.
You now have 10 tips for making the right choice. These are 10 tips I’ve collected over my 12 years of working with Magento, so I know they’ll help you make the right choice.
Just take the time to implement each of them effectively. Even if it takes months, you’ll be happy with the results for years to come.