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April 28, 2017

Key questions to ask of your ecommerce development agency

When tendering for a big ecommerce project, such as replatforming or migrating your ecommerce store, things should be as transparent as possible with your potential developers. You need to be clear about your requirements and expectations to help ecommerce development agencies understand your company’s vision, determine the parameters and the possible roadblocks and risks involved.

As experienced ecommerce developers and Magento experts, Space 48 has taken numerous businesses through large-scale ecommerce projects and website re-platforming processes. Technical Director at Space 48 Tony Brown outlines the key questions to ask your prospective ecommerce development agencies:

➢ Working relationship and support

How agile is your working dynamic?

It’s important to gauge how hands-on agencies are likely to be and their ability to pivot strategies and accommodate necessary changes. This includes communication and collaboration. Get to know their dynamic and how it fits with yours, as this will be essential to forming a comfortable working relationship.

What project management systems do you work on?

Ask development agencies what project management systems they use. You may not be comfortable with the platform, or you might want to test the project management system out to see if it’s the most efficient and suitable way of communicating and collaborating.

What visibility will there be in the relationship?

The project management system may influence this question. A quick discussion on visibility will be key to understanding how closely you’ll be collaborating. This might prompt you to seek a greater or lower level of visibility, depending on the system of communications.

What level of support will be available?

It’s crucial to know how often you will be able to speak to project managers. It’s good to get a clear expectation on likely response times and structure of support for each type of issue. This goes for project work, strategy and technical support, i.e. what turnaround time will there be for communications and fixes? Will additional support incur extra costs?

➢ Hosting, ownership and third-parties

Who will own the code?

Establish who will own different aspects of the code. It is important to have a clear understanding of code ownership and what this means should it be a requirement to move agencies or take development in-house in the future.

Where will third-parties sit in the relationship and how will this impact the project?

Common complications in new ecommerce projects surround existing third-party integrations, providers and other agencies involved. You’ll need to negotiate and decide whether to maintain existing third-party relationships. If third-party integrations and relationships need to be maintained, find out the risks and restrictions that this situation presents. There may need to be compromises and shared responsibilities.

What will the situation be regarding hosting ownership?

It’s key to establish a preferred hosting supplier and find out whether prospective developers have recommendations and rules on working with certain hosts. Do you want to retain control over the hosting? Weigh up the pros and cons of different hosting scenarios before deciding.

What flexibility will there be with contracts/retainers?

Depending on the scope of your ecommerce development project, there might be a range of contractual and payment options on the table. All projects are unique and changeable, so ensure there’s a certain amount of flexibility – you may need the ability to change and extend retainers as the project evolves.

➢ Knowledge and expertise:

What level of expertise and experience does the agency have?

Large-scale ecommerce development projects, such as re-platforming projects, are costly and time-heavy processes. Therefore, you need to know that your bidding developers have the right knowledge and experience. You may prefer to migrate, say, from Magento to Magento 2, rather than undertaking a complete rebuild on a different platform. The expertise of your prospective development agencies will influence your selection process, but you may wish to discuss the best fit for your company with a range of suppliers.

Request an existing website audit, which will demonstrate the expertise of your bidding developers. It will flag up potential issues with your platform, third-party integrations and bring any other risks to your attention.

Which certifications do the developers have (and on what platforms)?

Space 48’s development leads are Magento certified and have numerous ecommerce development qualifications. Be sure to ask your prospective developers about their certifications, to gain clarity on the experience and expertise on certain platforms and provide reassurance for key stakeholders.

Would any of the development be outsourced?

In the spirit of transparency, you need to find out if your prospective development agencies outsource any of their work. This is good practice from a risk point of view and for an honest working relationship. If they do outsource elements of the development, this may not be an issue, but it’s vital to understand the situation, responsibilities and impact of said outsourcing.


These key questions will give you a clear vision of the potential working relationship with your prospective ecommerce development agencies and the level of support and communication you can expect. Transparent communications from the outset will set in motion an agile and collaborative process between your business and the bidding agencies, helping both sides to judge the suitability of a partnership.

Space 48’s ecommerce developers specialise in Magento and Magento 2. To learn more about Magento 2’s key features and functionality, download our free CEO’s Guide to Magento 2 and find out if the platform is right for your ecommerce business.

Download our free CEO’s guide to Magento 2