Interview: Magento Post development
So you’ve created and launched an online store, now what?
Hands down, setting up a full-fledged shiny Magento store is big undertaking. However, keeping your website running smoothly after it has been taken live is not least important to never get lost in the shuffle. Sadly enough, many online retailers do not bother to think big and look beyond the moment when their online store goes live. The important truth is that a website is never finished and there is a lot more that happens to an online store after it has been launched. With that in mind, we decided to talk to our Magento pundits who’ve cut their teeth on doing and maintaining Magento projects big and small, and now are eager to give us a sneak peek behind the scenes.
Let’s get the show on the road!
Roman, Associate Project Manager
– Why doesn’t Magento project come to an end after a Magento store has been deployed?
– The point is that when you carry out a whole lot of activities within the website (and you’re supposed to if you want to gain a competitive edge), your online store naturally requires post-development support for routine maintenance and emergencies alike. To be clear: every single activity you undertake implies interference in the admin area, be it product editing, order processing, content management, switching over to a new payment gateway solution, or any other modifications you make as you grow your business. You know, fast change is part of the e-commerce world, so as time goes on, you may want to unleash more of your potential as well. Specifically, you will most likely want to add new SKUs, create custom themed pages for holidays or special sales periods, set up promotion campaigns, integrate with social media or other platforms like eBay, or you may feel a strong need for customization or adding new functionality to address your customer’s unique needs. Whatever that is, every, literally every single time you are dealing with the functionality sitting outside of the box, you run the risk of doing something wrong, I mean, the actions you perform can provoke bugs or even cause the system to crash.
– Can we say that the same holds true for a backend user who is well-versed in Magento and can seamlessly handle all necessary configurations?
– Right, exactly! No matter how seasoned and tech savvy a backend user may be, there is always the chance that they will accidentally mess something up, break something, or disable a random module, which, in the worst-case scenario, might cause system failure afterwards (aha!). Here is one more scenario: while creating a new CMS page, a backend user can upload a terribly oversized image without optimizing it for the web, which will dramatically decrease page loading speed.
What’s more, sometimes you may need to update your product data for one reason or another, like, new arrivals or UTC updates coming in. You may need to import products from another platform, or sync with the supplier’s online database. Sounds like it’s quite simple, but in reality those are far more complicated tasks than they may seem. All in all, before jumping into ecommerce, you must be fully aware that developing a Magento store is not a one-time process, and anyways you’ll have to handle post-deployment administration as well as implement all sorts of fixes and enhancements – after all, ecommerce world is constantly changing and you should adapt!
– Roman, would you tell us in very broad strokes about why post-launch support is something you definitely can’t do without? Just sum it up.
– Broadly speaking, post-launch support is critical for several reasons, the key one being that it helps you daily monitor the performance of your Magento store and figure out whether the website is functioning appropriately. With that said, we would be normally looking at anything that will have direct impact on the main ecommerce KPIs, in other words everything letting your store sell and your customers buy. Secondly, it enables you to make sure your website does not experience any malfunctions and technical issues related to daily activities I’ve mentioned above and, in case it does, to timely iron out all the kinks and bugs. What’s more, it empowers you to be flexible and respond to the changing external environment by upgrading your store to a new version or adding functionality. And last but not least, regular post-launch support is crucial for addressing vulnerabilities and preventing security breaches in a timely manner through installing new security patches as soon as they are released by Magento.
Aleksey, Senior Magento Full-Stack Developer, MCD, MCDP, MFD
– Many online merchants who are just starting their ecommerce journey wholeheartedly believe that after going live, it’s their online store that should work for them, not the other way around, and there is no need in further infusion of money. From a technical standpoint, why is it not enough just to roll out an online store and rest easy?
– While building an online store, a developer may have trouble anticipating the ways in which the system may not perform properly. For example, throughout the process of building a website, a developer may test the website functionality using small data sets and identify no defects or failures as a result. Whereas after uploading and saving large data sets during the post-launch phase, the system may finally crash.
System errors tend to emerge as the project goes live and there is an influx of users coming to the website. This is particularly true of the peak season when website traffic skyrockets.
All in all, your website will unfailingly change in a big way during its life-cycle based on customers’ feedback and other data indicating what usability issues your customers face. The changes usually revolve around revamping the existing code or building new functionality.
Above all, I can’t but mention a strong need for timely system updates. It’s imperative that you keep your Magento store up to date for security and performance reasons alike. To that end, Magento releases regular updates that include multiple security and bug patches, from minor ones through to major like alterations in the platform’s architecture. On the downside, after upgrading to the latest version it’s not uncommon to face post-upgrade issues pertaining to functionality customization.
– As far as bugs and issues go, what are the most common bugs and performance bottlenecks online retailers encounter after launch?
– Some of the most common hard-to-reproduce bugs result from simultaneous user requests, for example when a large number of users are trying to place an order at the same time. That is to say, a website can’t handle heavy load on specific pages.
Beyond that, product page performance may suck when these pages are overburdened with extra functionality, like installing a customer price rules extension that allows retailers to set individual product prices based on customer groups or apply a custom price on a per client basis.
What’s more, after going live with your website, you may uncover cache-related bugs that leak sensitive user data and expose them to other customers.
Max Krukovsky, CEO at Mavitech
– Does further work always need to be undertaken after an ecommerce website goes live? Are there times when we can do without it?
– Sounds great, but it’s utopia! It’s mission-critical for every merchant to understand that an online store is a living organism that requires regular improvements and maintenance updates regardless of the quality of its design. What’s more, it’s hardly ever possible to think ahead about all ins and outs, and that is particularly true of newly made online stores. You know, there are generally two scenarios.
In the worst-case scenario, the client wants “to have it all”. And, for the record, it’s not uncommon for them to “just want a high-end online store and that’s it”. To best fulfil the customer’s pressing needs, development team creates a fully-functional online store jam-packed with all the bells and whistles imaginable and a sleek, eye-catching web design. Most newbie online merchants falsely believe this will unfailingly translate into increased revenue further down the line. So, the main emphasis is laid upon rich functionality and aesthetic appeal rather than strong selling points. What happens next is quite predictable. The store goes live, and after a while it turns out that many features are basically unnecessary, whereas the key ones are missing. And voila! The website needs either tweaks or a full revamp.
Best-case scenario – the website is first equipped with a core set of features to fulfil users’ basic needs, fine-tuned to perfection and brought up with SEO best practices in mind – and it goes live. And only after the niche has been tested do we incrementally extend framework functionality with Magento plugins based on the market expectations, business goals and current trends in online business.
The idea here is that the customer may choose either of these scenarios, but whichever way they decide to go, the result will anyways be the same: ecommerce project doesn’t come to an end on the go-live day. Let’s put it that way, going live is not the finish line, it’s just the beginning of the next phase of your project.
One more thing, we shouldn’t forget about post-launch support throughout the whole project life-cycle which you can never do without, even if everything was done right the first time.
– When it comes to extending functionality, what are the most typical post launch requirements? Which integrations, perks and modules are generally required after launch?
– I wanna start with a fundamental truth: even the most technically and visually perfect online store will be falling short of its potential until you spread the word about it far and wide. When we just started out as a company, we had a great many bright-eyed customers coming to us who strongly believed that a truly upscale online store is destined for success and prosperity, and thereby were eager to throw all their life savings into the project. However, the reality is that your online business is pretty unlikely to make it big in this highly competitive commerce industry without proper marketing and comprehensive promotional activities within a short time frame. Partly for this reason, we took a landmark decision to give up “selling hands to do tasks” and morph into a full-service agency. In view of the progress our clients made, we put together a portfolio of profitable activities and best ecommerce practices, and gradually began offering them to our new clients. Finally, we managed to work out a comprehensive strategy that can be easily adapted to any specific niche. That’s why, in response to your question regarding the most typical post launch requirements, I must first of all say it’s a set of activities intended to boost brand awareness and online visibility. With that in mind, we implement advanced SEO practices as early as the development stage through fine-tuning on-site SEO at the level of products, categories, CMS pages, interlinking, H1 and meta tags, image alts, keywords etc.
Hands down, attracting new customers is all-important, however keeping them coming back for more is something that really can go a long way. Given that we’ve optimized UX/UI and added compelling content to the website so far, it’s high time we brought into play tools designed to increase customer retention, such as proper, non content-blocking popups (hi, Google!), tools geared to collecting emails, surveys, deals and other store-wide notifications. At this very stage we want to make certain every customer touch point will evolve into a seamless shopping experience as well as we want to be sure none of the actions our customers take is going to be lost (think heatmaps and advanced on-site analytics). As soon as massive amount of data is in the bag, it’s time to turn it to good account by means of advanced email marketing techniques like MailChimp with its ecommerce automated emails or more advanced systems able to create automated email chains.
On top of that, I must add that social media shopping as well as selling across multiple channels is no less important and online retailers shouldn’t underestimate that. There is a host of extensions that provide functionality related thereto (e.g. extensions for creating a Facebook store from Magento admin, Magento Affiliate Extension by iDevAffiliate, M2E Pro eBay Magento Integration extension). I’d rather not disclose all our secrets – let me keep some for our clients
– As regards technical post-launch support, what is it driven by? What makes it crucial for a website’s success and why can we never do without it?
– Deploying a website is just the beginning of a website’s life-cycle. The point is that a good online store is not a motionless stone. Rather, it’s somewhat of a living organism that is overly sensitive to any external changes, and whether it will make a big splash depends on how fast it can adapt to a changing landscape. New design trends and Google algorithms, new plugins and core updates, ever evolving client preferences and changing technology – whatever it is, your website has to stay flexible and dynamic. Ecommerce world is booming, and we have a hard time predicting when yet another phenomenon is going to loom large on the horizon and drastically transform the ecommerce industry. I admit that probably we shouldn’t be guided by possible changes in the market environment, but then you’ve gotta ask yourself several key questions. Do I know the full spectrum of opportunities the platform offers? Is my marketing team well-versed in potential that Magento can provide? Does my webmaster feel secure on the eve of Black Friday? Having doubts on any of these points inevitably translates into the need to seek help from the industry leaders.
Whatever it is, together, we got this.