Making the Move to Magento: Preparing for a Platform Transition (Webinar)

Making the Move to Magento: Preparing for a Platform Transition (Webinar)
When considering an ecommerce platform transition, you must learn which questions to ask before you can get answers. March’s webinar helps you prepare for a move to Magento by walking you through all the steps necessary for a successful transition. From SEO, to catalog optimization, to defining a realistic timeline and budget, you won’t want to miss this one if a Move to Magento is in your future.


Making the Move to Magento: Preparing for a Platform Transition (Webinar)

View the transcription of this webinar below:

Making the Move to Magento: Preparing for a Platform Transition (Webinar)
Mack: Thank and welcome again to the 2012 Groove Webinar Series, our third one of the year, our March Madness edition, if you will. Today’s topic: Making the Move to Magento and Prepping for a Magento Transition; something we have conversations about with people every day.
So today, we’re going to step you through tips and points on how to make this transition as seamless as possible.
As always, we are joined by our panelist Ethan Giffin, CEO and Founder of Groove Commerce. Ethan will be speaking today about this from his experience working both on the front side with folks as they begin to consider this transition, and then throughout their project as a strategic lead here at Groove Commerce, and showing you were to go along the way and how to keep your project on track, and things to consider upfront in selecting the right partner.
So, Ethan, as always, thank you for joining us.
Again, about Groove Commerce, Groove Commerce is an award winning Magento Gold Solutions partner. We provide end to end service on the Magento platform with a focus on increasing traffic, average order value, and conversion rate. Groove provides implementation and online marketing services that are focused to help customers grow their online business.
So with that, we’re going to launch our first poll today before we turn things over to Ethan. And this poll really hits at something we want to understand from everybody: What is your biggest concern around transitioning to Magento? So, with that I’ll launch the poll. Go ahead, everybody, and take a minute. We’ll wait till we get some results in.
All right. With that, let’s close the poll and we’ll take a look at the results. So, Ethan, with this I’m going turn it over to you, but no surprise, obviously. A common concern you hear: complexity with the projects. So with that, Ethan, I’ll let you take it away. Thanks.
Ethan: All right. Thank you very much, Mack, and thank you everybody for joining us today in our monthly Groove Webinar Series. My name is Ethan Giffin. I’m the CEO and Founder of Groove Commerce. And when I speak at events around the country about Magento, people all the time ask me with their website project: “How can I be successful?”
So we’ve kind of come up with Groove’s Five Steps to Success. First off, you need to ask yourself: Why are you making the move? You are not just changing platforms or shopping carts when you move from one to another, you are changing your entire business process. So, making sure you are there for all the right reasons is very important. You can’t do this on a whim or because it’s the trendy platform, but why are you making that move? We’re going to be addressing these topics as we go into the webinar today.
#2: You’ve got to figure out how to assess your business. How are you going to do a deep dive into your own business or have someone act as a consultant and do a deep dive into your business to really find out what are the nuts and bolts of how things work? How are you going to replace things? What are the unknown factors that you’ve done business for the last 10, 15 years this way and you are not able to necessarily document those without a little bit of outside influence to understand that.
Our third step to success is definitely defining your project. You want to make sure that you are defining exactly what it is that you want to accomplish. You need to kind of break that into different phases and steps, but making sure that you really have realistic expectations.
And that’s #4 on the list of five steps: You don’t want to be that person that comes to us and says, “Can I recreate Ebay on a $5,000 budget?” So what are your expectations of things in terms of what you are looking to accomplish? That doesn’t mean you need to spend $1 million, but you need to have a realistic kind of expectation, versus budget and timeline, versus what the expected result is at the end.
And kind of our fifth step to success is definitely choosing the right Magento partner to help you through that process. We’re going to touch on a couple of topics today around Magento. It’s a complex piece; it’s a complex piece of software. So making sure you have the right partner there in place to kind of help you through that journey is very, very important.
So let’s kind of get into things. So, why make the move? Well, there’s a couple of reasons. First off is current site performance might be lacking. So if your site has slow load times, maybe you’ve gotten poor SEO traffic or poor conversion rate, an unsatisfactory user experience. Many times, people will come to us and ask us to do user testing prior to going down the path of a redesign. So, is there kind of native things in your existing shopping cart that aren’t working, or is it the way that you implemented those things within your user interface? What’s causing that unsatisfactory user experience?
The second is you may need to update some business processes. We talk a lot about kind of driving traffic, driving average order value, driving conversion rate. Kind of that fourth kind of hidden tenant there is updating business process. Do you need a better way to manage your orders? Do you have a clunky or outdated backend? Can you cut costs by increasing the efficiency within your business?
We still meet with fairly large, medium size e-tailers that are printing out things and kind of entering data into multiple systems. So if you can cut down and, say, maybe replace two or three people with one automated process, that’s definitely a significant cost cutting measure, and it allows you to do more strategic work versus kind of nuts and bolts.
And then last, are you kind of hampering your future growth? Many times people come to us, they’ve taken maybe a $99 or a free shopping cart solution, and they’ve built and $8 or $10 million a year business on it, maybe larger. And the wheels start to come off of that and they know that based upon the future growth, they are not going to be able to get to where they need, either from a feature set that’s lacking, things that you want, things that you need, poor scalability and flexibility—do you need to maybe live in a multi-server environment? And, is your current platform missing third-party integrations?
So, one of the great things that we love about Magento is there’s a lot of great third-party integrations that you don’t have to go out and build all those from scratch. So it allows us a great place to start and put things together.
So with that, I’m going to have the second poll with Mack. Go to it, Mack.
Mack: All right. So, the next question we want to ask everybody is: Which version of Magento are you planning on transitioning to? As we move through the conversation today, folks, this will be a great question that will help us in Ethan crafting the conversation for you all on things to consider and potential based on the version you are looking for. So, we almost have a good majority to go on here.
Ethan: Yeah, that’s great, folks. And please help us out by answering the poll questions. It helps us kind of determine future content and the way that we kind of shape our conversation. I know Mack has said it before, while he is tallying up the results, we are going to have plenty of time for Q&A at the end. So please start to submit your questions as soon as possible.
Mack: All right, Ethan. We’ve got the results. It looks like it’s a 50/50 crowd today between Community and Enterprise. With that, I’ll let you take it back over.
Ethan: Excellent. So, as part of kind of figuring out why to make that move, you may want to start to calculate your potential. And we’ve got a great ecommerce opportunities calculator available on our site that allows you to kind of put some different numbers in and kind of play with some different metrics in terms of what’s going to happen with your site if you increase your conversion rate? What’s going to happen if you increase your average order value? And what’s going to happen if you increase your traffic? And it kind of shows you all three different opportunities there.
So that’s available. You can see the short link there on the screen. We’ll be sending this out later as part of the wrap-up piece for the webinar, so we’ll be sending this out via email.
So next, really getting into that next step is assessing your business. What exactly do you need to do? Here’s a couple things that we want to discuss in terms of how to assess your business the right way, kind of front to back, to make sure that you’re not missing any steps in the process.
So we want to look at the current site. We call that kind of your front office, so to speak. Your site is your front office. What are the current features and functionality that you have in your site?
So what you want to do is you may want to start and create an Excel spreadsheet, because we’re going to need this spreadsheet a little bit later on in the process. But start to lay out, what are the features and functionality? What are the things that you have customized on your current platform? What are the ways that you operate your business?
You want to look at your order processing, what we call your back office. Once the order is placed and the credit card is validated, then comes the back office procedure. How does the order flow through your business when it’s picked, packed, and shipped?
So really kind of thinking about that and making sure that you’re addressing that as part of this overall project is very important.
You want to make sure, especially kind of post-Panda, you do an SEO analysis of your site. Figure out where you are. With all of this analysis it’s very interesting, because people will come across issues and problems that they think is part of a new platform or a new site that they launch, when they actually had all of these issues with their previous site, they’re just more aware of what’s going on. So looking at and doing an SEO analysis is important.
We’re going to dig deeper into all of these things as we go, so there’s six bullets here.
Do a navigation and a sitemap review. How do you kind of lay your navigation out? What’s the sitemap of the site? We’re going to want to look at a competitor review. What are your competitors doing? And then, ultimately, what does your catalogue and customer data look like? If you don’t have any data to put into the framework, you’re just going to have an empty shell. So how you kind of assess that and figure out where you are is very important.
So, these kind of six points will tee you up for success.
So, assessing your kind of front and back office—the website and your order management. What features and customizations have you put in place? We work with many folks that maybe are using a hacked up version of OS Commerce or a hacked up version of Zen Cart or X-cart or another platform. They kind of forget all of the things that they’ve done over the years. So what features and customizations have you kind of put in there that you’ve forgotten about? You really have to go back and put some time into this and document things or else you may miss some steps.
What’s your overall workflow? You know, your order management, what order management system are you using, or do you like to us the admin? How are you printing your shipping labels? What kind of fraud protection? Do you have any kind of fraud protection that’s plugged in as an extra layer of security into your site?
Do you have any kind of shipping partners or sales tax data partners that we need to plug into the site? And then, any other third-party integrations? All of that stuff needs to be documented upfront. Do you need to calculate sales tax, for example, on a city or a county basis or by zip code, or is it by state, or not at all?
So, really kind of understanding that workflow. Do you charge the card…do you authorize the card on the frontend? Do you authorize and capture? Those are things that your partner is going to need to know to make sure that the project is successful.
And should you change more than one thing at a time? Again, we have folks that kinda come to us with these grandiose plans of changing their order management systems and their shopping cart platform all in a single project. And I can tell you that that’s a recipe for failure. So make sure that you really kinda figure out what are the pieces that you can put in place to show for success? What’s the smallest amount possible that you can do for phase 1? You want to get something live, you want to get it active, you want to start working with it. So don’t go changing like all five things. You know, don’t change your frontend, your backend, and your shipping partner all in the same project. It’s just a recipe for overall failure.
So kind of getting into the next part, one of the most popular parts of what people ask about. And actually, we’ve done an entire webinar on this. So, SEO analysis. What to think about in terms of a re-platforming and a redesign with your site.
So, what you want to do is you want to take some time. You want to review your current keyword list. What’s on the list? What are your most important words? What drives traffic? What doesn’t drive traffic? You want to perform a baseline rank check off of those keywords using some type of tool.
People will engage with us all the time to kind of do these analysis and checks to kinda figure out where they are, so performing that baseline check. You want to know where you are now versus where we want to head with a new platform. You always want to be improving.
You want to do a link analysis. We want to make sure and figure out what links you have, if there are any domain issues where we need to change your domain or go from a www to a non. We’re going to want to know what the link analysis is and how we’re going to address that. Again, link building is still a major part of the SEO process and we’re going to look at that.
These next two things can come right out of Google Analytics. Many people never look at what their top revenue generating keywords and their top revenue generating landing pages are from an organic standpoint. So you want to make sure that you protect those.
Again, people start to change too many things when they re-platform. Our recommendation is try to remove and change as few things as possible. So if you are ranking well for certain keywords and those landing pages are generating significant…
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Ethan: All right, we’re having a little bit of technical difficulty. Next, we want to make sure that your Google Webmaster Central is set up. By doing that, it allows us to see any crawl errors or any issues that are happening with your site. So again, we don’t want to look at those post-launch of a new platform. If you’ve got significant issues going on, if you’ve got duplicate content issues, we want to know those now so that we can fix those.
So, making sure that you validate your Google Webmaster Tools account, get that set up, have that running at least for 30, 60 days prior, have that running while the project is going on. That allows us to really kind of see and make sure that we are able to determine what information you have.
These are just some of the tools that we use. The Google Keyword Analysis tool, we will use that. We like some tools from SEOmoz and from Raven Tools. Those are things that we have built into our internal workflow to help us from an overall kind of search, social analysis/analytics standpoint.
Next we are going to get into our navigation and sitemap review. Do you currently have a left-nav or a top-nav? So, you know, just understanding you don’t want to go make complex changes so that your visitors get lost. So, do you have that top-nav or left-nav?
Documenting the current sitemap. What categories, subcategories, what kind of content pages, buyer’s guides, what kind of blog pages? Is there anything else in the mix there that you want to look at and know about? So, really kind of documenting everything and kind of seeing what’s an inventory of all of the pages that you have and all of the pages that you need to move?
One of the things that we look at kind of post-Panda, post the Google Panda update, is really understanding do those pages have value? So if you have pages with a paragraph or two of content, it may not make sense to move those to the new site. It may make sense for us to kind of merge three or four of those lower quality pages together and make one higher quality page, versus kind of pre-Panda when you wanted to create as many pages online and you could get kind of pale rankings for any kind of combination of words by just creating something that had a title tag and a little bit of content to it. Those days are kind of over. So, making sure that we document that content.
Just be careful what you change. Again, don’t go changing everything. Don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater. If people are used to a left-nav, maybe you shouldn’t necessarily go to a mega menu. These are questions that you just want to think about in the process. I’m not saying you shouldn’t, but really think about it and be careful what you change, and know that in this day and age, any kind of little changes can cause fluctuations in your search traffic.
One of the things that we also like to look at is a competitor review. What are your competitors doing? So, you want to define who your top three competitors are. Take some of your keywords, go out to Google, type those words into Google, see who’s buying pay-per-click, see who’s ranking organically, because your competitors may have changed since you’ve looked at them last.
You know, “Hey, this person used to be our competitor two years ago, but they haven’t kept their site up. They haven’t evolved. So there are new folks in town that are kind of bidding and driving traffic.” So you want to make sure that you are ahead of the game there. So, defining who your top three competitors are.
You want to go to their sites and determine what technology they have running. There’s a great site called Builtwith.com. It allows you to go up, put a website in, try to figure out what technology backend it’s built off of. Then it will tell you, based upon the JavaScript’s and other elements running on the page, what kind of retargeting they are running, what kind of technologies they are running, or what kind of search provider they are using. So you are able to kind of figure out what your competitors are doing that maybe you are not.
Maybe they are running retargeting through a different network than you are and maybe you want to be in that network. So, what are your competitors doing from a technology standpoint that you are not?
Coming back to your features, you’ve put all these features and functions into an Excel spreadsheet, well, now you want to go and look at that feature matrix based on what your competitors have. Do they have features and functionality that you don’t? You want to document that. Do they have the same things that you have? Where are they winning and where are you losing? Where are you winning and they’re losing?
So you want to make sure that you’re kind of staying ahead of the game for what’s happening. So create that overall matrix of all the features that they have.
I would do an SEO rank check with your keywords to see where they show up for your words. Are the above you or below you? I would also do a link analysis to see what type of link volume they have compared to you.
And then lastly, there are some great tools out there that allow you to go in and do a page search analysis and to get some trends and analysis overall on what we think they are spending every day on pay-per-click advertising.
So, just a way, again, you always want to be kind of figuring out what your competitors are doing and staying two steps ahead of them in terms of tools online.
Next we want to kinda think about what the data migration needs are. This can be one of the most complex and challenging parts of any project. So getting your data right is highly important and one of the biggest factors for success.
So, what data must be brought over? Catalogue data, some people ask for order history. With many platforms it’s almost nearly impossible to bring order history data over. So if that’s a requirement for you, that can add a huge amount of time and expense overall to the project if it’s even possible.
Customer accounts—customer data, phone numbers, addresses, email addresses. If you are able to get their password information out of your database in a plain text format, and maybe you’ve got that encrypted but you can unencrypt it, that puts us in a great position to move platforms. You’ve got to be very careful with that and it’s got to be done in a secure fashion and properly, like, to write some code to panel that versus [xx 21:05] hands on that.
You need to move your product reviews over. What kind of promotions and coupons do you need to put in the system? So if you only have a handful of coupons and promotions active, you can probably enter those by hand in the new system. But if you’ve got hundreds, well, then you need to figure out a way to kind of move that data over from one system to another. So what’s the stuff that must be brought over?
What’s missing from this? So, things like custom product descriptions. Are you only using the manufacturer’s product descriptions? If you are, you really need to think about how you are going to customize that going forward.
Are you using certain product attributes? Again, what’s missing in that process? So, making sure that you have all for your product attributes built out is very important as well, too.
And then you need to assess what your internal resources are in terms of data. Is there an Excel whiz in-house? That’s what we like to ask. So, do you have somebody on staff that can help you make heads or tails of your data and work with the partner, work with Groove, to help put that in the right format and then bring that over into the system? If you do have that, it makes it significantly easier in terms of we can go figure out your data for you, but it’s a complex process that we need to put time and effort into. If you have someone on staff that already understands the data and relationships, that can help significantly through that process.
This is a slide here, it came from last month’s webinar on Magento merchandising. But this is really…when you are thinking about your product catalogue, you want to really think about this. Do you have products that require some type of promotion? This is the time to evaluate that. These are the things that have a low traffic volume but a high conversion rate when people get there. So we want to figure out how to get more traffic there.
What are your top selling products? You know, the things with high traffic, high conversion? We want to make sure we protect those in the process of transitioning platforms. What are the products that may not make the cut? You know, things with low traffic, low conversion. Do you really want to take up space in your catalogue if they are not selling? Maybe they have a high profit margin, but maybe they are just ready to be removed.
And then things that just need optimization. What are products that have high traffic but have very low conversion rate? Is it based on price? Is it based upon information and other things that you are not providing the visitor’s part of that process? So, really kind of looking at that is important.
Mack: All right, Ethan, so the next slide there: Defining your Project. And this is something as, you know, kind of leading to this development for Groove Commerce, we face a lot in really helping folks define your project. So the next slide here is going to walk you through that.
With this slide, there are certain things in terms of consistency when defining your project that’s very helpful as you may talk to a variety of partners. The first one is documenting your list of features. People sometimes are concerned: Do I have too much there? We want to have as much information as possible in regards to your wants and needs. Like Ethan talked about before—getting a full view of what’s going on upfront is very desirable in providing an accurate scope. So, again, defining this as what are your must haves? What’s currently performing for you? Is there certain functionality that makes or breaks your revenue?
And then what’s nice to have? With all platform transitions and all evolving ecommerce companies, there’s always the Phase 2, Phase 3 discussion, and Ethan can get into that in a minute. But what is the must have versus nice to have and defining that out?
Any third-party integrations, all relationships you have with folks. A good partner isn’t necessarily going to take you away from good relationships you have. So if you are working with a third-party already and they are going to be a part of the transition process, let your partner know up front this is very helpful as they look at the project in determining what are the right ways in order to scope that particular functionality?
Ethan: Figuring out kind of after those integrations, what’s available out of the box? So, what are the things that you want to use as part of Magento? What are the things you think you are going to use. So, really, many times people will come to us and say, “We have this whole toolbox of things that we want to go after.” Well, it’s kind of like Christmas morning. You know, when you open up all your presents, you kinda get to play with things a little bit, but it takes some time for you to kind of pick your favorite toys out and play with them over and over and over again.
So we want to make sure that we don’t turn on too many options on day one. So, what are the features that are available out of the box? What are the things that you want to kind of map out in the system and make sure we have placeholders for so that you can turn them on easily as you decide you want to get deeper into that?
What’s going to require an extension? For those of you that aren’t aware, Magento has a huge extension base of plugins, so to speak, of nearly 5,000 of these extensions that we’re going to touch on in a bit. But they are ways to extend the platform without doing significant amounts of development—redefine hooks and prebuilt functionalities, some free, some paid that you can utilize within your projects.
What requires customization? What are the things that need to just be built from scratch that are just so a part of your business model that no one else has and needs to be customized and built from scratch?
You want to kind of document what your SEO transition plan is. What are those most popular landing pages? What are the keywords that need to be protected? What are the product pages that need to be protected?
And then, kind of most importantly is really defining what those internal roles and responsibilities are. We’re going to dig into each of these bullets as we go, but making sure that you’ve got the right people engaged on the project on your side to make it successful.
I can tell you that when people just kinda say, “Hey, go have at it,” it’s challenging. We try to understand your business as much as possible, but ultimately, you are the one that understands it the best. So making sure that you have the right team, the right roles and responsibilities there to be successful is important.
You really want to kind of set the priority of the features that you are thinking about. So, what are the things for a Phase 1? What are things for a launch? What are things for Phase 2? What are things for Phase 3?
We try to tell people that your website should just be an ongoing project. The people that are most successful at this game have an ever evolving website that is constantly changing. So, what are the things that you need to get out there in a 3-4 month project? What are the things that you want to get out within the next 60 days after? What are the things you want to get out within the first quarter of launching?
So, what are those phases? How often do you want to deploy new features and functionality out? Those are things to really think about in that process of putting this together.
Extensions and customizations. This is one of the most misunderstood parts of Magento and one of the most important. So, not all extensions are created equal. Really kind of understanding is it an Enterprise extension or is it an Community extension, and they’re both not kind of cross compatible.
You also kind of get what you pay for. So, some of these extensions are like entire mini applications that live within your website. They are very complex and have background cron [sp] and all these other things that are very difficult to understand. And some of the extensions are just kind of tweaked through the user interface; very simple, maybe 5-10 lines of code to tweak something that’s in place.
But you get what you pay for. So, you know, it’s challenging at times. Even at the highest end, a $500 or $600 extension is not worth $30,000 in programming time. So you have to think about are they going to be able to support the extension? Are you going to get support from the people that built it? Do they build it properly within the Magento ecosystem?
There’s some great extension builders out there, like aheadWorks, and then there are some that we just definitely don’t recommend in terms of ones that have kind of bastardized the Magento system a little bit and kind of take over part of the installation in terms of what they are doing, in terms of the way the code grabs a hold of things.
So not all extensions are created equal. You definitely want to work with your partner to kind of figure out what they are and which ones are going to make sense for you.
Next, I just really want you to understand that Magento is a complex platform. It was built in a way that allows you to upgrade. It’s built in a way to separate the code from the design. It’s built in a way that separates the extensions and customizations from the core. But because of that, you just can’t hack things in.
So if you are coming from a platform, maybe it’s home built, or maybe you’ve got osCommerce or something else, and you could open up a PHP file and edit a line or two of code, save that, and push it back up to the server and have some new features, it’s definitely not that easy with Magento.
So customizations definitely take longer to complete, many times, in the system. So all of that complexness is Magento’s strength, right? Being able to separate the design from the core, being able to separate the extensions from the core allows us to go in and upgrade as new releases are coming out. And for Magento Enterprise, they have two major releases a year and two minor releases a year. But certain things just take longer to do and may take a larger investment than kind of just hacking those things into a less complex platform.
So it’s something to think about in that process. Magento’s blessing is also its curse. So just want to make sure that you are aware and educated on that as you are going through that process.
You want to document the SEO transition plan. So that transition plan should be things like 301 redirects; not 302’s, 301’s. Proper tagging of the pages—page titles, meta descriptions. I’m not a fan of the meta keywords, like there’s no reason to kind of handle that. But things like H1 texts, you need the category headline to be different from the page title, the menu names. Really kind of looking at all those different ways of kind of extending Magento from an SEO standpoint to get the most bang for the buck.
URL optimization. What are the URL keys that you want to go with? Just changing those post-import is definitely challenging and adds some overall drag to the system by creating a lot of redirects.
What’s the navigational hierarchy of your site? What’s the way that you internally link pages together? That’s all wrapped up with just an updated keyword analysis. Have visitors gotten more sophisticated? And when they used to just use on word to describe your business, now maybe they use two or three. So really kind of updating that keyword analysis is part of this SEO transition plan that you make sure you want to get right.
Next we want to define the roles and responsibilities. There’s a lot of different roles and responsibilities that come into a project of this size. Most of the Magento projects that we do are anywhere between three and five months long for an initial phase. So you’re going to need to figure out who that internal champion or contact is.
As you the business owner, do you have the time and the ability to put that much thought into every aspect of the project, or would you need to delegate that to someone within your staff who is going to be focused on that for the next three, four, five months? Who is going to be responsible internally for your design review? Is that a side of the business? Then it’s going to be looking at things from the development or QA side.
Who internally is going to be responsible for the data import aspect of your project? So those, many times, will come from three different people. And ultimately, who within your team has final signoff capability? So making sure that we know whose roles and responsibilities are there, who has the ability to kind of sign off on things and say that they are completed, who has the ability to sign off on things such as change orders for new functionality that springs up across the course of the project. So really kind of thinking about that and laying that out and having clear communication throughout the entire project is important.
Next is being realistic. Our goal as a partner is to be realistic with you. We want to educate you on the Magento platform. I get really offended personally if someone goes with an agency, or like we sometimes call “two guys and a dog”. They set unrealistic expectations with you as an end user, you become frustrated with Magento. Well, you shouldn’t really be frustrated with the software, you should be frustrated with the process that someone took you through to implement that software. So how can you make sure that you have a realistic vision of things in terms of timeline?
So really kind of thinking about the important milestones that you map out with a partner and making sure that you begin the process with some time to spare.
There’s no doubt that we’ve all been on the short end of an emergency project where you need to get off a platform and somewhere else, so making sure that you do it the right way. You know, you always see the traditional project management things—time versus quality. So the more time that we have to put into things, typically the higher quality and the more QA that can be done with that within reason.
So you can’t rush a project and put it out within 30 days and expect to have all the quality that you want in a project that would typically take three months to complete. So, really kind of understanding that time versus quality spectrum in terms of the overall project.
So I think it’s time for our third question for the day, so I’m going to let Mack take it over for a second.
Mack: All right, Ethan, so our next question comes in. We want to get a sense today of: what is your timeline? What’s your expectation? How long does this project take for you to transition as you look at moving to Magento?
All right, Ethan. It looks like we’ve got a good enough majority here, so we are going to close that poll and share the results.
Ethan: Excellent. And again, as Mack is sharing these results, let’s make sure that if you have questions about the process, please feel free to kind of go ahead and ask them in the questions box within the webinar tool there.
All right, so let’s get back into this. Defining what a realistic budget is. What is your budget? Where can you leverage internal resources?
Again, thinking about in the process of if you need someone to do every single thing about your project, that’s going to add significant numbers to your budget versus if you have some internal resources that can help from a data and QA standpoint.
So, again, it’s that kind of quality and investment. Like I said before, you can’t build Ebay on a $5,000 budget. They probably have 2,000 developers building Ebay. So you can’t build Amazon overnight. So really kind of thinking about that and making sure that you have some realistic expectations there of what you want to accomplish.
Next is kind of the classic project triangle. It’s cheap, fast, and good; pick any two. The goal would be to get a fairly priced project with an acceptable timeframe and a great quality work. And that’s kind of project gold there in the middle where all the circles cross each other.
But really kind of making sure that you can’t have it cheap, fast, and good. You can kind of have it good and fast, but sometimes you can’t have it cheap at the same time. So really kind of figuring out how to hit that project gold in terms of overall quality with the project is important.
It goes back to, again, another kind of old project management adage of nine pregnant ladies can’t have a baby in one month if you put them together. Things take to do and get them right. So making sure that you have enough time, and you have enough budget, and you have the right quality there.
Next up is how to select the right partner. We want to really think about how do we do that? You want to keep the proposal process consistent. You want to be comparing apples to apples, not apples to oranges. Someone fixed price versus time and materials. You want to understand, many times, for our projects we like to go fixed price and then have kind of time-based areas within the project where maybe there’s unknowns or maybe there’s a lot of room for things to kind of build. Things like data conversion can really suck time up quickly, so making sure that you have some kind of areas in there that can kind of ebb and flow with the process.
Domestic versus offshore. Are you going with a completely domestic based, North American based team, or are you going with a team that’s maybe partially domestic based with an offshore component. There’s definitely pluses and minuses to each. Groove is a domestic based team, and we feel that from a communication and quality standpoint, it allows to operate optimal. So, really thinking about that domestic versus offshore.
Being open to discussions, conversations, recommendations, whatever you want to call it—that’s a whole mouthful there—during the process. We know Magento. We’ve spent years working within it. We’ve won some battles and we definitely have lost some battles in the process. So our goal as a partner is to educate you on the things that we’ve won, the battles we’ve lost and make sure that we don’t make those same mistakes again.
So, how do you have an open mind during those discussions, conversations, recommendations? I like to say there’s many ways to peel an onion. So it’s really kind of understanding that and making sure that we get to the right end result for you, which is a quality site that drives more traffic and has a higher conversion rate.
You want to make sure that you analyze Magento experience and expertise. Again, Magento is a complex piece of software. We’ve been very lucky to have some great Magento training come around recently, but kind of the initial training on Magento was the school of hard knocks. So you had to get in there and learn through experience.
So, does the partner that you are working with have the right expertise, have the right experience in house, get things done for you? So, really understanding that and making sure you’re having an apples to apples comparison in the process.
And you are going to see a lot more of that shake out in the coming months, especially with the Magento developer’s certification that’s available.
Next, you want to ask lots of questions. Educate yourself on the platform. Ask about the process, who’s going to be involved. What’s the communication part? How are you going to communicate? What types of tools do they use as an agency? Those are things that we have focused on here in our Magento project process.
We are always trying to kind of evolve what we’re doing as Magento gets older and push things to the next level there, understanding what’s changing in the Magento Connect marketplace in terms of new extension builders, what extension builders are not supporting their products. So making sure that you are asking lots of questions and getting educated in the process. The more educated you are, the better our ability it is to kind of serve you and meet your expectations.
And then be open with the budget. So, again, make sure that you have a realistic an open mind in terms of budget. Again, not saying that you need to open the purse strings, but be open with a partner in terms of what your overall budget is, and then we can be very honest back with you in terms of what we think we can deliver.
And then kind of lastly, hint, hint, always pick Groove! I call that APG, like Always Pick Groove. We’re always open to new projects and new opportunities.
With that, I think we’re going to open things up to some Q&A.
Mack: All right, Ethan. So we have a lot of questions that came in and I want to hit on them. Real quick, I want to tell you guys, coming up in April, our next webinar series we are partnering with the great company Dydacomp, and we have a lot of experience integrating Magento with their product MOM, or Mail Order Manager, as you might be more familiar. So we’re going to be working with those guys and talking specifically about some of our successes with that and the keys to using two great technologies in Magento and MOM to have a very successful project.
With that, Ethan, we’ve got several questions to hit on here. As always, want to thank folks if you do have to jump off. We’re going to make our way through the questions now, and I look forward to having you on our next Groove Webinar.
Ethan, the first question that came in was: Any free tools your recommend for a baseline rank check?
Ethan: I guess free is always challenging. I would say in terms of that, there are some free tools out there. One of the things that you can get in trouble with, with those free tools are spamming Google. They pay attention to repeated queries with that. So, over time, if you are doing that from your office, they’ll kind of may ban your IP or to start to kind of not allow those tools to come in and give you results back.
We definitely recommend paid tools from certain vendors, and there’s some great ones out there in terms of Raven Tools, or SEOmoz. But I definitely would not recommend the free tools in terms of those rank checks.
Mack: The next question is: Ethan, when you are managing a re-launch, people often struggle with the idea of not being able to transition over their customer passwords. What are your thoughts on this and how much is this inhibiting folks from transitioning?
Ethan: I think it’s definitely a challenge. The goal would be to kinda make that as seamless as possible. If you have that data in a way that it’s able to be transferred and you make sure you have the right security precautions in place, that can work great in terms of that process.
At the same time, if you have to transition, figure out what’s the value of not transitioning that data? What’s the investment to transition the data if it’s in a complex fashion versus not bringing it over at all? I think even Target recently had a transition probably about a year ago on their website platform when they moved off of Amazon where they did not bring customer data and profiles with them. So they just had a clear message with that and let people know.
I definitely wouldn’t recommend doing that on a yearly basis, but if you get into a situation where you can’t transition it, I think there are ways of kind of getting past that without making your customers angry.
Mack: Next question comes in regard Magento’s vetting process of these third-party extensions for quality. What are they doing to make sure these are approved extensions?
Ethan: That’s a great question. The Magento Connect marketplace where all the extensions live, at least they are listed in terms of a catalogue. It used to be a little bit like the wild, wild West; there was all kinds of stuff going on in there. People would just literally create a fake extension that maybe was just JavaScript that you can use to install on your site but wasn’t really set up in extension format.
They’ve gotten a lot better with that recently and we’ve seen a lot of changes there. We’ve seen the trusted extension flag come up and be rolled out for certain people. So, again, we’ve got a handful of folks that we really like to work with in terms of folks like aheadWorks, OneStepCheckout, a few others. There’s definitely some ones that we don’t recommend in terms of…you could probably ask me on Twitter or ask me privately some of the ones that we don’t recommend. But we’ve definitely come across some extensions that kind of overtake the system and are hard to pull out. Almost like the movie Alien, it’s like hard to pull out without breaking some other things in the process. So you definitely want to make sure that you’re doing the right things there with that.
Mack: Next question: At a high level, can you just talk about the transition that someone may experience going from Community to Enterprise?
Ethan: Community and Enterprise are really different kind of animals in terms of the projects. You’ve got probably like a 50% difference in classes in terms of the way the system is coded. Enterprise has a lot of extra features in terms of roles and administration, full page caching, some different merchandising elements as well. So it literally can be a complex upgrade and almost a complete re-skin and a redo in terms of transitioning data and other things.
People think that that’s kind of like a plug ‘n play, like maybe installing an updated Microsoft Word on your computer. There’s a lot more that goes into it than that. You’ve got to look at the data model, the way things are going to come over. You’ve got to look at the extensions and customizations that you have, and are they Enterprise compatible? And then, what are the Enterprise features that you are paying for that you want to take advantage of? So making sure that you’ve got all those put together.
I wouldn’t say it’s completely like rebooting, but there’s a lot more that goes into it than meets the eye.
Mack: Next question is: Ethan, what’s your experience been on the SEO impact when people transition to Magento? I mean you’ve talked to people that have obviously had great success and you’ve heard some nightmare stories. How high risk is this?
Ethan: I would say that having the right partner to help you through this process, like if you are not an SEO expert, Magento has a lot of opportunity to do some really neat stuff in the process. You can kind of flood the index with lots of duplicate content, lots of pagination, lots of filtered URLs.
Really looking at that kind of post-Panda is important. We’re looking at things like the pagination tags. We’re looking at things like duplicate content. You want to make sure you are using canonical tags in terms of your products and category pages.
There’s a lot going on there. Again, it’s a complex thing to look at. You want to make sure that you map that transition process out. You want to make sure that you have category pages that have good rankings. You want to move that content from the old site to new as is. You want to look at what your title tags are, like you have the ability to maintain the same URL or a similar URL structure in terms of slugs, URL slugs. Very important.
So, whatever you can do there to maintain that consistency. At the same time, if you do need to change, we have seen kind of…Google is very fast these days. Gone are the days when Google would come to your site once a month, do the Google dance, and 30 days later you would start to see the results in the index. It’s nearly a real-time index with everything. So figuring out what you are doing and make sure that you document it, and that there can be a bump of a few weeks in terms of a new project in terms of your ranking results as things are moving around on the index. But if you’ve done everything right, you’ve done your homework, you’ve laid it out, you should get in good shape at the end of that.
Mack: OK, Ethan, our final question is long, so I’m going to paraphrase this. But basically, someone challenging the idea of the time and quality graph that you showed. I guess their question is: what’s your recommendation on maybe balancing that sense of urgency throughout a project without rushing? Where do you see people kind of fall of by maybe not having that sense of urgency?
Ethan: Yeah, I mean you definitely need to have a sense of urgency throughout a project. You need to have a solid project plan, well laid out milestones. You need to get this done in a 3-5 month timeframe. When things string out longer than that, the wheels come off a little bit and people’s attention spans kind of wane.
We think the optimal project time for a Phase 1 is probably 3-4 months, unless they have really complex integrations and things kind of outside of what’s happening. How can you get through the design process, get through the development process, get to QA?
And then, it’s always challenging to make that final leap and launch the site. So how do you get through the QA process and kind of push yourself to say, “This is done. We need to move forward.”? And from an entrepreneurial standpoint, from a business owner standpoint, or an ecommerce director’s standpoint, that’s one of the most challenging parts of kind of saying it’s done for a Phase 1 and pushing forward. It’s kind of like bungee jumping; you just gotta make yourself jump off the ledge and start going. But you want to do it in a controlled fashion.
I would agree that anything that kinda strings out past five, six months, it’s very difficult to maintain a level of focus there and concentration on what’s happening. So how do you get through some of this as quickly as possible?
But again, doing a complete redesign, data transfer, and migration in 30 days isn’t possible either. So there’s definitely a balance between that time and quality.
Mack: OK. With that, Ethan, thank you again as always for your participation in today’s webinar. And we want to thank you, the audience, for your participation. Some great feedback today, great questions, and we appreciate that. We hope that you found today’s content valuable.
Should you have more questions, feel free to reach out to us on Facebook, Twitter, or through our website at GrooveCommerce.com. Again, our next webinar comes to you on April 18th, right before Magento Imagine out in Las Vegas. Hope you can join us for that one as well, along with our great partner at Dydacomp, and we look forward to seeing you then.
So, Ethan, thank you again.
Ethan: Thank you, Mack.
Mack: And thank you again, everybody. We hope you have a great afternoon. Thanks.

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