Help with bidding/starting an ecommerce website for someone

  • I've had an opportunity come up to do some independent website development for a local company I'm acquainted with. While I've done a fair amount of web development both professionally and as a hobby, the scope of this is different enough that it's pretty new to me, and I could use a bit of advice from anyone who's done this kind of side job.

    The company is a small mom-and-pop indoor shooting range and gun shop, and they want to update their website. I've set up a meeting with them this weekend to do some requirements gathering and try to narrow down their goals before starting anything. I've got a list of questions/topics to go over with them, and this is where I could use the most advice in case I'm missing anything that would be more obvious to someone who does this for a living.

    • Walkthrough of their current website
      • What do they like about it, and what don't they like about it
      • Who hosts it, how much does it cost, what kind of traffic do they typically get
    • Any integration with other systems? (they had mentioned getting inventory/pricing from Quickbooks)
    • Any need for a calendar? Registration system? SMS/Email notifications and reminders? (They host a variety of classes and events for local groups)
    • Any need for a news page or blog, or forums for local groups and customers?
    • Do they want customers to be able to order and pay for items through the site?

    Any other suggestions for things I should ask them? Besides getting some solid requirements from them, I also need to get enough information to research and see what existing ecommerce software is out there that could be of use, get a feel for how much I should charge for the work, and of course figure out if this is even a job I want to take.

    (I know a ton will hinge on that last question, since I don't yet know if they just want to better serve local customers or set up a web store that can sell nationwide. Shouldn't be too bad for non-firearm items such as parts, ammo, accessories, and the like, but contrary to what the media tells you, you can't just buy a gun online and have it shipped straight to your door, so the site would need to maintain an active FFL database for shipping purposes, and also make an attempt to prevent sales that would be illegal e.g. selling standard-capacity magazines to New York or selling magazine release buttons to California.)

  • Stuff I'd ask based on prior experience:
    Does their host also handle their domain registration?
    Is their domain registration contact information up to date?

    I rarely try this kind of stuff anymore (mostly because my HTML/CSS skills have rusted badly over years of misuse), so I only really toy with dealing with moving hosts and doing stuff like Wordpress-based setups with some customization. Even for that though, I tend to charge something like $20-50/hr with a 40 hour minimum, plus any expenses needed (custom themes, hosting costs, registration, etc.). Good luck.

  • I think most of these eCommerce sites are these days based on one of the specialized frameworks/platforms - Magento, WooCommerce, Drupal, Shopify. Unless the clients have a lot of money to burn or have some really special requirements, they are probably best off with one of those.

    With that in mind,

    1. Will you be able to deliver?
    2. Will you even be interested in working as, basically, a "theme monkey"?

    If no, there's your quick answer right there.

  • @cartman82 said in Help with bidding/starting an ecommerce website for someone:

    Magento, WooCommerce, Drupal, Shopify

    That gives me some stuff to look at before we meet.

    @cartman82 said in Help with bidding/starting an ecommerce website for someone:

    Will you be able to deliver?
    Will you even be interested in working as, basically, a "theme monkey"?

    Hopefully our meeting will help me answer this. I normally don't do this kind of work, but I'm friends with the owners and they're pretty easy-going. I'm also a regular customer of theirs and a member of one of the clubs that meets on their range, so I have a vested interest in helping them out if I can.

    Hopefully they don't want to do online sales. If that's off the list, this ought to be easy money. If it is on the list, I'm probably not the guy for the job.

  • I survived the hour long Uno hand

    What are they looking for from you? A complete overhaul? Do they have a design in mind and just want it implemented? A few tweaks? New functionality?

    Do they want mobile?

    What about ongoing support? Do they want you to be their "tech guy" they can call for updates when they change their phone number in a year?

  • @Yamikuronue said in Help with bidding/starting an ecommerce website for someone:

    What are they looking for from you?

    I'm not sure yet, this first meeting will be about figuring all that out.

  • First, what do they want the website to do. Not HOW it will do it. Get business requirements. Leave the implementation up to you. Customers will reccomend tech they know, rather than what they need.

    👴 Can you program a newsletter?
    👦🏻 What do you want to do?
    👴 Want people to know of events and the history of them
    👦🏻 Why not a newsblog on the homepage?
    👴 You can do that? neat!

    Second, talk priorities. What features are important, and launch-critical. Which are ones they just "would like to have" but it isn't worth the effort it will take.

    👴 I'd love if visitors got a personal greeting each time they visited the site based on the town they live in.
    👦🏻 {would need to store that info in shopper table, maintain a table of greetings to regions, handle shoppers outside of regions omg}
    👦🏻 How important is that, compared to the dropped cart tracking?
    👴 Oh, not important at all.
    👦🏻 Cause we're talking dozens of hours. Did you want me to scope that out?
    👴 Nah, never mind.

    Third, talk about the users of their site. Who are they? Business users, API consumers, old people on tablets looking for pictures of Grumpy Cat? This will help define the featureset that's realistic, and the UI. There's that whole talk people posted about design by crisis-- an ER's website needs on the home page, without interference, directions and how to get patient information.

    Fourth, talk budget. At this point you have a huge wishlist of what they want the site to do, and what they need to do, and what the priorities are, and what the workflow will be. You can at least give them a ballpark of efforts. "This is a bog standard Wordpress with some themes" vs. "You want Facebook, it'll be a billion hours".

    That's a good start, and you can move onto requirements gathering-- exact workflow, how to handle exceptions, what technology will need to be in place, etc. But that's for a future meeting.

  • OH and also talk about long term support right at the start. Are you on call 24/7 for an hourly rate? Do they pay a yearly support fee? When does the warranty end?

  • Okay, I'm finally getting some technical aspects figured out and want some more advice on how this should be priced. I still need to meet with them once I have more figured out, but here's the likely scope of things:

    • Migrate existing Wordpress site from wherever it is (sounds like some guy's basement) to a new Digital Ocean droplet.
    • Set up the WooCommerce plugin with integration to QuickBooks Online Plus via Cloud Cart Connector.
    • Assist with migration from QuickBooks POS Desktop to QuickBooks Online Plus. The two may have to sync somehow so the existing POS card reader continues to work. More research done in this area.
    • Style/theme the new shop pages. Will probably be fairly basic.
    • Set up restrictions on some products. For example,
      • Firearms can be sold/reserved through the site, but the shop owner must contact the customer to arrange either local pickup + background check or shipping/transfer to an FFL near the customer.
      • Firearms and certain accessories cannot be sold to customers in certain states.
    • Set up a calendar page that syncs to the shop owner's Google Calendar, to display shop hours, classes, matches, special events, etc.
    • Figure out a payment processor. Paypal is a no-no, they refuse to do business with the firearms industry, but maybe the existing Quickbooks POS system has a solution. More research needed.
    • A few other miscellaneous pages, but these are no big deal and not really worth mentioning.

    That covers the major portions. Any advice on how to price it? Just looking online, it seems that people charge anywhere from $1000 up for initial deployment of an ecommerce site, but I don't know if that's high enough given the scope and some of the peculiarities of the industry. Beyond that, I figured $50/hr for future maintenance and updates. I definitely plan to set up the hosting, plugin accounts, etc. in the client's name so they're billed directly instead of through me.

  • @mott555 ...Ouch. Personally, I'd stay hands-off on that one simply because it's dealing with firearms and I don't want any fingers pointing my way if something gets screwed up down the line, but that's just me.

    Pricing, to me, should stay consistent. If you're going to bill $50/hr for support, bill $50/hr for the development, and just set a minimum number of hours as your baseline price (So for example...$50/hr, minimum 40 hours of work to implement, equals a minimum price of $2k baseline. 40 hours probably isn't going to be enough for this kinda job though.) Figuring out how many hours you expect this to implement is crucial, but always make sure you list it as "This is the estimated amount and a minimum. If we exceed this amount, I will invoice as such."

    Then stipulate in the contract that incidentals (stuff like purchasing custom themes, purchasing any plugins or software, hosting etc) are either on them or will be billed back to them, whichever you and they can agree with and feel comfortable with.

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