Heavily Customised Magento

This is more of a general post relating to Magento and e-commerce development than a Magento technical post.

In the past week I’ve been involved on one capacity or another with two big Magento sites that have been heavily customised to suit the particular needs of the two clients. I’m not going to name either of them because both sites have been a bit of a disaster. In both cases I was involved reasonably early on – in one case I took over from the initial developer who didn’t have a clue and handed on to a bigger Magento agency to handle the custom work, in the other case I just did the WordPress work for it. Now I’m involved again at the end when they have gone live.

Totally different parties involved in both sites, different industries, different agencies, different customisations. Big similarities between the two projects though;

  • Both massively over budget in terms of £ and time
  • Both resulted in a detorioration in the relationship between client and agency
  • Both sites work…but barely. They are so fragile that doing anything in the backend risks bringing the site down
  • Both clients wish they’d never started it
  • Both agencies wish they’d never touched it

So why did they both go so wrong? Both agencies are really talented at what they do, there is no question of them being technically incompetent, they are both extremely strong. The clients have been quite reasonable and understanding from what I can see, although one similarity is that they are not the types to compromise at all (client beware – this will cost you). Here’s another list of similarities;

  • The client’s budgets were nowhere near big enough to accommodate the scope of the work involved
  • The agencies made a mess of quoting it / were overconfident about their abilities and timescales
  • The clients wouldn’t/couldn’t compromise on what they were receiving
  • Even though the work was quoted pro rata the clients expected it to be at a fixed price
  • The saddest thing about these sites in my opinion is that in both cases the custom work wasn’t required at all. The standard Magento installation with limited customisation could have done the job just as well, these big expensive and difficult changes add very little to the sites’ user experience and will add very little extra to the top line whilst taking a hefty swedge out of the bottom. Maybe I’m wrong and they will pay off. We’ll see!

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