What are the best usability practices when building an online catalog and checkout system?

A few best practices are to setup the catalog with easy to use categories/navigation, recommend related products, use breadcrumbs (if it fits in the design), provide internal searching facility.  Make sure to disclose all hidden costs; return ability issues, security issues, shipping costs and others.

  • Additionally, let guests purchase without registration (if you are willing to give up the customer service aspects).
  • Show a confirmation page before they submit the order.
  • Break up the checkout process into number of easily understood steps.
  • Show order details with each and every cost associated with it.
  • Show easily visible and understood checkout button and shopping cart.
  • Don’t ask for unnecessary information.

What are the best usability practices when building an online catalog and checkout system?

    1. Setup the catalog with easy to use categories/navigation, recommend related products, use breadcrumbs (if it fits in the design), provide internal searching facility.  Disclose all hidden costs; return ability issues, security issues, shipping costs and others.
    2. Let them purchase without registration, Show a confirmation page before they submit the order, Break up the checkout process into number of easily understood steps, Show order details with each and every cost associated with it, Show easily visible and understood checkout button and shopping cart, Don’t ask for unnecessary information
    3. Always place yourself in the customers’ shoes to design for their optimal experience. Make sure that products and information are easy to find and that the process to checkout is a streamlined experience with the least amount of barriers to conversion in place.

What are best practices for protecting eCommerce user data?

The best method to protecting eCommerce user data is to simply use a 3rd party service for the hosting of customer data.  PayPal has excellent security, so use them (or another service such as Authorize.net).

Use an SSL to securely send sensitive data.

Encrypt passwords (Magento MD5).

Educate your customers to store transactional emails and sensitive information in a safe place.

What are best practices for protecting eCommerce user data?

    1. Use a 3rd party service for hosting of customer data.  PayPal has excellent security, so use them (or another service).  Use an SSL to securely send sensitive data.  Encrypt passwords (Magento MD5).  Educate your customers to store transactional emails and information in a safe place.
    2. Never store sensitive data onsite (CC or payment info) and for the data that is stored, ensure that information is encrypted where available and correct server security measures are in place to prevent access to this information.

What Are Digital Project Managers, What Personality Best Suits Them And Top PM Skills

Quick navigation:

  1. What Are Digital Project Managers And Web Project Development?
  2. What Personality Best Fits The Project Manager Title?
  3. Top 10 Skills For Web Project Management
  4. Suggested Reading List For Web Project Managers – By PDX Digital PM

What Are Digital Project Managers And Web Project Management?

Over the years, the role of project management has shifted from strict waterfall positions in construction and big business to online web and digital projects. Digital project managers lead the creative and technical development of digital advertising products, such as electronic commerce (eCommerce) and promotional websites, e-mail newsletter marketing, rich media/blog content, banner advertisements (Adroll and remarketing), mobile applications (Apple and Android), and social media applications to name a few.   Process and documentation are still key to success (as it was 50 years ago) but it’s really more about efficiency and ‘quick’ delivery for today’s digital project manager.

In addition to the delivery of web projects, digital project managers must had a decent knowledge of core concepts such as online marketing, creative design, layout design, coding/development, and business goals planning such as SMART goals.   By the very nature of the position you must wear many hats and be able to take one off to replace it with another even on a hour GoToMeeting conversation.  Essentially, digital project managers ensure the integrated elements of digital projects come together on time and meet stakeholder expectations for data integrity and product quality.

Digital project managers are required to be technology savvy and always be learning new web and digital standards (SEO/SEM/PCI) to continue to keep up with the times.  Using new technology web project management entails producing deep work plans and coordinating with an internal creative and development team and technical staff to create large implementations ranging from a few thousand dollars all the way up to multi-million dollar projects.

Although the post-secondary education and professional experience required for digital project manager jobs may vary by employer, industry and technology type, many managers have a bachelor’s degree in advertising, marketing, communications, computer science or management information systems. Typically web project managers or eCommerce project managers are bred not born and it takes many years of implementations and experience to be efficient in practice.  In general, employers looking to fill digital project manager jobs prefer qualified candidates who are creative, have excellent communication skills and have marketing or advertising agency experience and demonstrate the ability to lead concurrent projects of varying size and complexity.

There is not playbook for Digital or Web Project Management, but rather it is the school of hard knocks.  You can prepare yourself with blog posts and use cases, but the best way to grow in the industry is dive deep into the process of “doing”.

What Personality Best Fits The Project Manager Title?

Project managers seem to be in a lot of different industries.  For example, construction, business, technology, education, and more all use the position of Project Manager to steer the ship, promote efficiency, and view the project as a whole to communicate a realistic view to their teams of where work needs to be prioritized.  But what happens if you are trying to get in to the profession?  A question you might be asking yourself is “What does it take to be a Project Manager?” or “What personality traits do I need to be a Project Manager?”, well, there are a lot of different answers to that.

There are an extensive number of models used to depict individual personalities. A standout amongst the most prevalent models is the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator. One of its components talks about a range between introversion and extroversion. Projects and project management at its core are about people and teams, so good project leaders have a tendency to be at least somewhat extroverted. Introverted project managers may discover their projects moving out of control because they are inadequately engaged with the people ultimately responsible for the tasks.

A second variable for PMs is the difference between a preference for observable data and a preference for instinctive data. Projects are usually “best” managed using measurable facts that can be verified and tested. The actualities are what you can count on; a fake sense of “achievement” doesn’t help anyone.  A third element relates to whether choices within a project are based on coherent objective analysis or on feelings and values (emotions). Projects, especially technical projects (like what eCommerce or web projects are), move ahead most easily when decisions are based on predictable, analytical criteria.

The last, and probably the most important personality trait is your ability to focus on operations.  The trait describes how individuals manage their projects. On one extreme is the project manager who plans and organizes what must be done in a clear communicable manner, which is what project management is mostly about. On the other extreme is the individual who prefers to be spontaneous and flexible.  Now let’s stop here for a second and mention that “agile”, which is a buzzword for most, does not mean flexible or spontaneous but rather “iterative” in progress and tracking.  Just wanted to set that out there for some Twitter followers.  As a baseline, projects that are a “free spirit” tend to be chaotic nightmares, stress out your team and may never complete.

Lastly, if you are running a technical project (like eCommerce websites) you need to at minimum have the ability to learn the 10,000ft view of coding practices, administrative work, etc.  It sounds dumb saying it, and probably a “duh” statement, but you need to have a minimal understanding of the technology you are working on to be successful.

If you match up with the ideals then you are probably suited for a profession in project management.

Top 10 Skills For Web Project Management

If you work in web project management today, you are most likely dealing with digital content. Some project managers come from design or development backgrounds, but more often than not, they have little training in the world of digital. As someone who comes from a design and development background, here are some tips and must-have skills that will make your team love and respect you.

1. Content Management – Let me first start by defining content management as I see it.  I consider content management the ability to direct, write, edit and organize content for stakeholders on the project.  These stakeholders could be your internal team, the client (and their team), marketing/press outlets, and much more.  With the understanding that time is limited you must quickly create content for the project.  This could be a simple project brief, client brief, or a quick change order.  At times we are also pushed to the front-line to provide the end user with quality content.  Lastly, a good project manager should be able to transform the words of a designer or developer (which are usually NOT framed to business or client language) into something compelling and actionable.

2. HTML/CSS – Many times Project managers come from the large business/corporate side of business.  Web project management in my opinion is a complete 180 degree turn from normal (non-technical) projects.  The quickest way to understand what developers and designers go through on a daily basis is to throw yourself into the mix.   Take the time to learn.  Yes, learn! If you can learn about HTML, CSS, PHP, JS, and PS your team will love you.   It will be apparent very quickly that you took the time to learn about their hardships and understand their daily tasks.  More importantly by researching and getting your hands dirty within a project (you can do a quick website on your own) you will be able to “talk the talk” when you have a 1 on 1 with your developer.   In short, by learning technical details you will quickly go from a paper pusher to a knowledgeable member of the team.

3.  FTP/SSH & Tools – You might be saying “What in the heck is FTP/SSH” and if you are, this is my exact point of why you need to do some research.  In short, get to know some of the tools that you will be required to use on the job as a web project manager.  FTP & SSH are entry ways to a website in which you can manipulate files, upload images, and access code.   Take the time to research some of the top tools on the web to get a holistic view on what is out there.  For coding try Sublime text, for FTP try Filezilla, for Testing try VMWare, for Mindmapping try Xmind.  Get my drift?  Google is your friend in finding great tools to make your job easier.

4. Analytics, Reporting, Auditing – One of the major parts of your job will be reviewing information and making actionable plans moving forward.  To do this you will need a chest of analytics tools to capture data and allow you to digest them easily.   Google Analytics is the holy grail of web analytics, so start there.  If you are looking for more advanced tracking feel free to review Moz, CrazyEgg, Clicktale, and Clicky.  The skills involves distilling down the important information from these tools.   I can guarantee that if/when your clients look at big data or traffic analytics they feel like they are trying to drink water from a firehose so take the time to review the data WITH them and reveal actionables.

5. Client Relations –  I am pretty sure that “Hold My Hand” by Hootie and the Blowfish was written for Project Managers and their relationship with their clients.  Put yourself in the clients shoes at all times.  Do they know what a static block, widget, or footer.php file is? Probably not.  So walk them through it so they can learn through.   Keep in mind that most clients that you will come into contact with have a laundry list of tasks they must complete internally before they can focus on the eCommerce website or web application.  Their main job is not to interact with you, so make each interaction simple and pain free.  Send agenda’s before meetings, recap actionables after meetings, always set expectations (time/scope/budget), and follow up within 24 hours on current projects/tasks.   When you can, ask “Can I help you take something off your plate to make your life easier?”.   I promise, you’ll be their favorite PM soon.

6. Formal Project Management – So let me first preface this and say that typical project management training doesn’t map 1 to 1 with web project management.  by the very nature of digital/web PM it is iterative and fast changing.   You must be able to pivot quickly and move quickly.  With that said, you can bring the knowledge of project management methodologies.  SCRUM, Agile, and Waterfall are the three more common methodologies within our industry.  Your team will depend on you to be the go to for the process so buy a book or read a white paper on these methods and decide AS A TEAM what method works the best for you.

7. Search Engine Optimization – SEO is a buzzword, I know, but PM’s must know the details surrounding this wave to protect your team, clients, and yourself from bad information.  Everyone promises #1 ranking in Google and strong organic search for a fee.  I encourage you to always ask one simple question, “HOW?”  How will you do this for me or my client.  Any large SEO firm will have documentation, use cases, and roadmaps, while the hacks and untrustworthy services will run and hide.  As a PM take some time to review the high level details of SEO/SEM.  Most likely you have someone on your team dedicated to SEO/SEM and you can even learn from them.

8. Marketing & Social Media – Digital marketing and social media is a fundamental part of web and eCommerce websites.  Once you build a website, web application, or mobile app you MUST sell it.  This isn’t field of dreams.  This isn’t “If you build it, they will come”; you must inform your customer base and potential customers of your new product.  Try and focus on your value proposition.  Schedule a meeting with your marketing team and client to review what makes you different than every other service or product on the market.   As a PM you must have the skills to understand all the media outlets and what offers the most ROI for the investment.

9. Presentation Skills – Having presentation skills is a no-brainer but it has to be mentioned.  Being a powerful orator involves many years of getting up in from of people and speaking and I strongly believe that it is something can be taught to people that struggle in this area.  If you struggle with speaking or presenting you must attack that issue head on.  Schedule some internal meetings or trainings, get out in the community to speak or even talk with strangers more often.  Lastly, focus on enhancing your knowledge within the industry of the web, internet, and project management and you will feel confident to speak your mind.

10. Leadership & Culture Building –  Skill #10 is leadership and culture building within your organization.  Like it or not as a project manager you are a strong figure and leader in your organization and your team will be looking to you for a few details such as decision making, project details, and strategic goals.   While many company cultures are moving to a more free flowing communication stream and a flexible workflow to get things done.  PMs need to be the deciding vote at times when your office is split 50/50 on a decision.  In this case, listen to both sides, review the details and make your decision.   It is important to provide a clear decision and direction to remove any roadblocks for your team.   Lastly, leadership is also about challenging the status quo (by you and your stakeholders).  Don’t be afraid allow people to speak their mind if they think there are better ways to do things.  10 people are ALWAYS smarter than one.  Letting people have a say in their day to day work and their future is important to have a strong culture.

Suggested Reading List For Web Project Managers – By PDX Digital PM

If you work in the digital and web space you know that this is no “playbook” that tells us how to do our jobs.  Rather, we are writing the playbook as we go along and learn best practices.  Through talking with some other professionals in the space they decided to aggregate all the best tools, tips, books, and blogs on the internet to help us learn and grow.  Thanks to Adam Edgerton for compiling these!

Click Here – PDX Digital PM Reading List

How to Create a Great Magento Ecommerce Experience for Customers

As the popularity of eCommerce continues to soar, keeping your customers happy and attracted to your website is a top priority. Imagine the malls of the 1990s. Every business had to have an appealing storefront, comfortable layout and friendly customer service to get people inside, spend money, and come back. Fast forward to the 21st century and the Internet has partially replaced the shopping center, and instead of “cruising the mall” customers are surfing the Internet.

So what will make your customers bookmark your website and look at your products first? All shoppers have 2 to 3 stores they visit first at the mall, and the Internet is no different. The buying behaviors are quite similar, so your approach to satisfying your customers should be similar as well.

Once an online shopper has a great experience, they will come back for more. Here are some tips on how to create a great ecommerce experience for your customers:

Fast Page Loading

When customers are in shopping mode they don’t want to wait—for anything. If your homepage or product pages take too long to load, consider your tab closed and your competitor’s site open. Research has shown most online shoppers leave a site after waiting three seconds.

Always test your site, especially if you add new content. It is imperative to operate at top speed even with high traffic or during a new deployment. When you’re in-store and want to see an item you can simply pick it up right away; the same goes for when an online shopper wants to open a product page.

Clean Product Images

Shopping online is convenient and offers great deals, but one element of in-store shopping is obviously missing: holding or trying on your product. There is no replacement for the sense of touch, but if you provide large, clean pictures of the item, your customer will get a clear view of the product—and ultimately buy with confidence.

Logos and brands should be easily identifiable as if they were on racks in a store. Shoes, for example, should be laid out in all available colors and have images from all angles. You want to replicate an in-person experience as much as possible, and quality ecommerce product pages will do just that.

Proper Customer Service

Upon entering a store in person, a polite “Do you need help finding anything?” reassures you an employee is there to help. However, if the salesperson follows you around and asks you two more times, chances are you are going to walk out. There is a fine line between “I’m here to help if you need me” and being in a customer’s face.

It is always a good idea to have one customer service pop-up, but after that, let the customer decide if they want help. Make sure your live chat and click-to-call icons are visible at all times, but don’t be too pushy. Design your online customer service to feel like the polite employee waiting for your enquiry within comfortable distance.

Allow Guest Checkout

Although “Sign Up” should be the prominent feature of your checkout process, give your customers the option to check out as a guest as well. Best practice is to make the “Sign Up” side of the page more appealing with bigger buttons and larger text. Always place this section on the left side of the page and highlight the discounts and benefits of being a member.

But remember, not everyone wants to spend five minutes typing in their personal information for a pair of jeans. Some people don’t want to give you their information and will question why you need it. Either way, you can lose the sale at the cash register. If paying customers just want to pay, let them do it.

Reassure Transaction is Complete

Simplicity is your #1 goal for a fast online checkout, and once the transaction is complete you must provide a transaction number, receipt number and shipping information. Unlike the satisfaction of leaving the store with bag in hand, online shoppers need some reassurance their item is paid for and on the way. These details will allow them to take mental ownership of the product.

Your return policy should be straightforward, too. Certainly you don’t want customers returning purchased merchandise, but if you have a complicated return policy, they may never come back again. Don’t lose a lifetime of business for one bad return experience. If you make the return easy, the customer will return—it’s as simple as that.

 

Guest Post – Ivan Komskyy

E-mail: i.komskyy@sam-solutions.com

Skype ID: ivanne1988

What is PA-DSS? When should PA-DSS be applied?

What is PA-DSS? When should PA-DSS be applied?

The Payment Application Data Security Standard (PA-DSS) is the global security standard created by the Payment Card Industry Security Standards Council (PCI SSC).  PA-DSS was implemented in an effort to provide the definitive data standard for software vendors that develop payment applications. The standard aims to prevent developed payment applications for third parties from storing prohibited secure data including magnetic stripe, CVV2, or PIN.  PA-DSS aim is to secure cardholders data, and make online shopping more secure in general.  It could be a surprise for you, but PA-DSS is not needed for 85% of online stores, only 15% (or even less) merchants need it.  Many big names are not PA-DSS compliant: Yahoo Stores, 3dcart, Volusion, Big Commerce are non-compliant for PA-DSS

In short, if customer enter credit data information on your site, you need PCI-DSS compliance (SSL or a payment gateway/ PayPal or Authorize.net).  You need PA-DSS if you are storing credit card data (for subscriptions or payment outside the system).  If you are using SaaS you don’t need it.

If you are interested in more reading material you can find some great ebooks and print books at Amazon.com: PCI Compliance, Fourth Edition: Understand and Implement Effective PCI Data Security Standard Compliance

When is SSL required when transacting data online?

While an SSL certificate isn’t full required (because within Magento you can submit orders without an SSL, or transact orders offline) all the time, SSL is ideally used when sending sensitive information over the network.

This could be customer data, shipping/payment information and credit card numbers, expiration and CVV number.  Images, scripts and the normal shopping process (catalog, products, homepage) do not need to be secure.

To read more about how to configure an SSL certificate with Magento you can read here.

The private SSL certificate is an important upgrade to your website. The basic function of an SSL is to encrypt all communication between the browser and the server, ensuring that all data goes through a secure (HTTPS) connection. An SSL certificate is a necessity when you want to operate an online shop and process the sensitive customers data through your software. It helps you gain your clients’ trust and increase your web site’s search engines rank. You can purchase a private SSL from the SiteGround SSL Certificate page.

To configure Magento to work with your SSL certificate, first you need to login to your admin area and go to System -> Configuration.

WHEN IS SSL REQUIRED WHEN TRANSACTING DATA ONLINE - Configuration

Next, click on the Web link under the General tab in your left menu.

WHEN IS SSL REQUIRED WHEN TRANSACTING DATA ONLINE - General

On this page, you will see many options that you can configure. However, focus only on the Secure tab. In it, make sure that you’ve set the Use Secure URLs in Frontend and Use Secure URLs in Admin to yes. Doing this will make your Magento application work with SSL for those parts of your site.

WHEN IS SSL REQUIRED WHEN TRANSACTING DATA ONLINE - Secure

That’s it, your Magento store is now configured to work over SSL!

Magento Solutions Specialist – Setup Product Catalog

How can you setup a product catalog for best search results, taking into account issues of duplicate content, meta content, meta title, keyword search terms in product description, attribute weight, and so on?

    1. When setting up a product catalog focus on
      1. a search engine friendly URL slug
      2. populate a proper Page title, meta description with 155 characters
      3. Attribute weight in SOLR search, To improve the relevancy score of search results based on product attributes, assign a larger weight to those attributes.
      4. Duplicate content, if you simply copy and paste product descriptions you will rank poorly for onpage content and be flagged for duplicate content in your search rankings.
    2. Duplicate content – ensure that each product will have a unique description and there is only a single path to the same product
    3. Meta content – ensure that this is populated and crawlable
    4. Meta title – again, make sure that this is populated
    5. Keyword search terms – make sure that this information is populated and relevant
    6. Attribute weight – when SOLR is used, make sure that the weights are accurately assigned and that the most relevant fields across the catalog have the greatest weight

Magento Solutions Specialist: Omni-Channel vs Multi-Channel

Section One – eCommerce

What is the difference between omni-channel and multi-channel retailing.

There is some ambiguity with the difference between omni-channel and multi-channel retailing.   If you step back and look at the root word, “multi” means many while “omni” means all.   In my mind, that is the best way to explain the differences.

Multi-channel retailing is the practice of selling products to customers through more than one distribution channel (e.g, in-store and online). The customer experience can be and is often different between the two channels.  An example would be if a company features an eCommerce store and a brick and mortar store.  At times the only similarity in selling in both places is that the name on the door is the same and the logo is similar.

Omni-channel retailers seek to provide a consistent (as possible) customer experience while retailing through any number of distribution channels simultaneously. Retailers achieve the “omni-channel” designation by having a single view of the customer and product.  An example is using a single database from which data is aggregated from multiple selling segments.  This usually means avoids having multiple customer, product, promotion, pricing, content, etc  databases for consistency and reporting of that single view. Customers are tracked simultaneously across all channels. Lastly, omni-channel retailers work to execute seamless marketing and branding campaigns for a constant experience.  An example of that is if you buy an eCommerce gift card you can use it digitally, but that unique code could potentially be used in-store.

This should fulfill the response for the first sample question for the Magento Solutions Specialist study guide.

How to Plan a Large eCommerce Project – Part 2: Project On-Boarding

Project Client On-Boarding

As a continuation to first post in the “How to Plan a large eCommerce project – Goals and Defining the Project” I will now get into the project on-boarding process that I typically go through when a contract has been signed and the scope/goals have been defined.  This on-boarding process is designed to set the stage for a great working relationship through the next many months.  I will cover a few topics, which are not exhaustive, but if are reviewed and discussed will lead to a smooth implementation.

How We Bill?

Typically you or your agency will submit a billing document to your client upon the signed agreement.  However, I find it a great reminder to the client if you
discuss how you handle billing.  If you run projects hourly, you can discuss your hourly rate, how you are tracking time (I’ve used Harvest App) and how you invoice (every two weeks, every month, etc.).  It is clear to assume that if you are running an hourly project that any hours you or your development team track is what they will be billing.  The client needs to understand that fact.   While the estimate serves as a benchmark to the average hours you think it will take to complete the scope, all the extra hours that you track will also be billed.  The conversation to have with the client is an acceptable fudge ratio.  Within the teams that I have worked with, it is typically a maximum of 15% overage that can be billed, after that, you have to eat the cost.

If you are completing a fixed price job, you will still want to track time for efficiency purposes, but you don’t have to submit those hours to the client.  The client will submit payment on a specified schedule.  The important aspects to key in on within a fixed priced billing are how you will handle overages.  You will want to discuss change orders and what initiates a change order.  Talk about an hours overage that will need a signed change order; this could be 10 hours, 15 hours, or 20 hours. If a task or request will be 10 hours over your agreed scope, then you need more hours.  In my experience the best way to go about this process is to allow changes through the project, log those change orders in a centralized system, and bill a large invoice at the end of the project.   You can submit the change order invoice (which includes, C.O. #1-#12) and the client can get that approved at one time instead of nickel and diming each request as they come.  Remember you are in a working relationship, that will last for years to come, some things you just just have to let slide for the benefit of all.

In my opinion a fixed price job is the better option for billing.  You can then focus on quality and effectiveness, and the client gets visibility in accounting and what they will be paying and when.

How We Communicate?

Communication will make or break your eCommerce (or digital) project, take that to the bank.   If you are waiting for correspondence or decision making for 48 hours simply to get a design approved you may have larger issues.  The issue is that you didn’t explain how important it was to communicate and the best channels.  While on-boarding the client, create a quick reference process for how to communicate and when to communicate.

  • Step 1: Submit a request or communication via Basecamp (my PM software of choice).  You will receive a response in less than 24 hours.
  • Step 2: Submit a request via email if it is more logical to forward information to the project manager, OR, if the original sender is not a major part of the project.  This could be an extension or plugin maker sending you credentials or a license for the added functionality.
  • Step 3: Skype or GoToMeeting.  There should be a weekly checkin but to communicate quicker you can have improtu Skype calls to answer questions quickly and swiftly.
  • Step 4: Pick up the phone.  Yes, phones still exist, and yes, you can still use them.  If you haven’t heard back from your client and you are losing project time, call them.

Within the project you need to have ways to escalate communication and following those 4 steps is a great start.

Who is your agency, who is Client X, and Project Goals?

During the kick-off time, You will want to reiterate your company, your the client, and the ultimate project goals.  Review this post to find some questions to ask to get to this step.  You need clear line of sight through each team to be successful.

Setup Kickoff Call & Weekly Meeting Day and Time

Your kickoff call will serve as the official start of your project.  If you are using an agile SCRUM approach this will be the week before your first sprint and sprint planning.  Schedule the kickoff a head of time and try to get all stakeholders ON CAMERA and in front of each other.  Developers, designers, PMs, overhead, and the client should all attend.  In my opinion, this call is not designed to talk about the project, rather this is a time to get people in one place and talk about the “STORY” of the each team.  Talk about previous experience, talk about the predefined goals, talk about the 5 year plan, and talk about actual business growth goals from 10,000 feet.

HOW TO PLAN A LARGE ECOMMERCE PROJECT – PART 2 - Attendance Sheet

As for the weekly call, it can be hard to nail down a call time that works for everyone.  I’ve found the best way to do this is to create a Google Drive spreadsheet for the Project Plan and make a tab for “Client Communication”.   Add the stakeholders first and last name and your hours of operation (for me it is the red shaded area, EST) and allow people to put a ‘X’ where they are NOT available.  Then once everyone has placed in their schedule you can make an informed decision for the weekly meeting.  Simple right?

Collect Passwords/Credentials

The last piece of the on-boarding process is to collect sensitive passwords and credentials to your clients operations and technologies.  This can be tricky, but currently their aren’t a lot of great options for sharing passwords without sending them over the air.   If they have a PassPack account (what I use for secure storage of passwords) they can share the proper entries with you, but if they don’t you have to get creative.  My experience shows me that most clients aren’t as secure with their passwords as one may like.  I’ve seen spreadsheets, notepads, and even a chalkboard for password storage and it makes me shake my head.  None the less I typically try to separate the username from the password by asking for a spreadsheet of the Service (Gmail, social media, etc) numbered, 1, 2, 3, etc. via Basecamp.  Next I ask for a pdf or another spreadsheet file to be emailed directly to me, using the same 1,2,3 counting system but that only has the password field.  This tends to work very well and it is simple enough for every client to be able to do it.

 Summary Project On-boarding

In summation, this post “How to Plan a Large eCommerce Project – Part 2 – Project On Boarding” is designed to cover the steps of how to on-board a client to your agency or individual LLC successfully.  If there are things that you do within in this process to make it a little more fun or to hit the “hot spots” feel free to comment below.  I would love to hear from you.

Shopify – eCommerce Platform

Shopify, founded in 2006, is a commerce platform that allows anyone to easily sell online, at their retail location, and everywhere in between. Shopify offers a professional online storefront, a payment solution to accept credit cards (such as Authorize.net and PayPal), and the Shopify POS application to power retail sales. Shopify currently powers over 60,000 retailers in 100 different countries, including: Tesla Motors, Gatorade, Forbes, Amnesty International, Encyclopedia Britannica, CrossFit, and many more.

SHOPIFY – ECOMMERCE PLATFORM - Dashboard

Features (compared vs Magento)

The Shopify platform includes a content management system that allows users to manage inventory, edit HTML and CSS code, create coupon and discount codes, and accept online payments online with Paypal and major credit cards.

Shopify Magento
Proprietary Free and Open Source
Relatively easy to set up with excellent customer support Requires skilled and experienced developer
Minimal Customization Extremely customizable
App Store with about 400 apps Huge community of developers and extension companies
Better for smaller businesses with limited sales Ideal for larger online sellers with lots of room to grow
Pricing starting at $14/month Free
Hosted Managed Solution Requires dedicated server specializing in Magento hosting
One storefront on one platform Multiple storefronts / languages / currencies on one platform
Configure apps within third party admin Integrate extensions into Magento Admin
Products organized by tags Heirarchal organizational structure for products (categories and subcategories)

My Review

One of my favorite Shopify features is the manage products page.   The ability to create a simple product on one page is an ease of use.  You can add your pricing structure, SKU and UPC (if you are selling on a 3rd party or you are doing Google PLAs, you must have this in product feed).  There is a decent search engine module that features the page title & meta description (both seen in Google organic results) and you can update the URL handle and slug to be more SEO friendly.

SHOPIFY – ECOMMERCE PLATFORM - Products

The ease of use of the Shopify platform is great for the first time eCommerce store owner.  It makes it easy for your management and associates as well.  To merchandise products you simply have to select “Collections” and great your category listings.   Be careful to hit the finer details, and Shopify makes that easy.  Add a powerful description, image and Search engine information.  It may take time to do this manually, but over time you will want to have this as you grow your small shop to a hopefully strong brand.

The other sizable perk of going with the Shopify platform is their plethora of preinstalled applications.  There are some solid providers in the marketing place, from Mailchimp (email marketing), Beetailer (Social media ecommerce – 3rd party sales), Shipstation (Fulfillment service), StoreLocator, and eCommHub (inventory management).   The applications can be as little as a two click installations and provide an easy API connection to the service.

Negatives

Some of the negatives that I have come into contact are the lack of styles and look and feel that you have access to.  While you have small modifications you can make to preexisting themes such as logos, colors, and fonts you can not brand the website for hi-fidelity designs.

Another negative is the users are a bit upset with how expensive the add-ons can become. Since Shopify is focused on minimalism right out the box, most store owners have to buy add-ons to increase the functionality of their store.  While I said the access to the applications is great, almost all the “good” applications need a monthly subscription to run.

Lastly, and this is from the developer within me (yes, I do development as well) is that the checkout of any store is NOT on your domain.  Rather it forwards to the checkout.shopify.com URL. It’s possible that seeing the domain change may scare off some customers, but I haven’t seen any studies to verify the claim.

Pricing

If budget is a concern, you’re just getting started, and don’t have a relationship with a developing company (like me), then Shopify is your best bet. If you want to get started right and are willing to invest some money, as one would invest to open an appealing physical store to sell products, then go with Magento, it is a better long-term investment overall.

Shopify has four levels of monthly payment plans: Basic, Professional, Business, and Unlimited. Depending on each plan, the company charges fees ranging from 0-2% on each transaction. All of Shopify’s plans include unlimited bandwidth and free setup. The company also offers a free 14 day trial.  I have personally seen a website do $199,100+ dollars in a day so the bandwidth is not an issue.

Overview

Shopify is a good platform to get started selling online, without assistance from a web design or development company. The downside is that websites running on Shopify look too generic and don’t allow for much customization. To verify this go on Shopify’s website and see that even some of the best websites that Shopify showcases and prides it self on are too general and non-comprehensive.  For a startup, $14 is worth the chance to see if you can get your idea off the ground.  I have completed Project Management contracts using Shopify and the speed to market is hard to beat in the industry.