Could you share any statistics or metrics from this engagement?
We didn't do a lot of user testing. Again, it was funding related. We tested internally, using my team, the team from the private tuition department, operations, systems, marketing, school services, etc. We had a few people try it out and the feedback was very positive. The user experience is a lot more intuitive, the branding was more aligned with our main website, there's a lot more information upfront, and it was easier to navigate. Aside from not being able to process credit cards, it certainly matched what most people think of when they envision an e-commerce site. What we had before was woefully outdated. This is more in-line with industry standards.
How did Neev Information Technologies perform from a project management standpoint?
They provided us with direct access to Redmine. We used their tool for project management issues, task delegation, progress tracking and resolution. They always managed to deliver on time, usually before the due date, and certainly within budget.
What distinguishes Neev Information Technologies from other providers?
I haven't worked with many other e-commerce vendors. They were very eager to meet our requirements and collaborative in how they wanted to come to a solution.
Is there anything Neev Information Technologies could have improved or done differently?
We mostly communicated through Skype. On occasion it would not work; overall I found connectivity wasn't always what it needed to be. I found that the way we held meetings, on occasion, was not the best: it was me on one side of the phone, and a bunch of people on their end, using Skype (which is already questionable connectivity-wise). We would lose calls sometimes, or there would be static. Many people in a room with an echo and a single person on the other end was not ideal communication, but it was the best we had.
In some ways, I would have wanted them to be more prescriptive. It's a tricky line, as a client dealing with vendors. You need a website, or e-commerce site, and have certain expectations, but you don't understand the technology being used to build it. I have no scope of the cost of building a recommendation engine, or a product detail gallery. If I don't know the capabilities of Magento, it's hard to know what to ask for. I found that, on occasion, they went too far in saying they can offer whatever we want. We can't afford everything we want, so it was frustrating to have them propose solutions that weren’t within our price range.
Other times, they let the functionality hold them back: they tried to remain too true to the Magento way of doing things, avoiding the effort needed sometimes to comply with our specific requirements. For example: pricing, in our business, is different from most companies. Instead of charging for a single course, we could sell it with a payment plan. This is done in the back-end, because we're not optimized for consumers yet. This pricing approach would get us some push-back from Neev, and some other vendors, because of its complexity. We wanted to keep it as it is, rather than simplifying it.
I do think that there was some miscommunication on the threshold of quality. For example, one of our requirements for this site was the search capability. I should be able to search for 'math', and have math courses pop up. The approach that they had proposed, and the only one that we could afford, was to retrieve every course which included the word 'math’, 'The History of Math', for example. Because of the broadness of the search terms, it turned into an unusable feature. I found that that was one area where we had no more time to improve, due to our constraints. It was a combination of me not knowing well enough how to establish requirements, and them not being more upfront with what they planned to deliver. There were a few instances of that occurring, but, overall, it was a good experience.
I wanted to be a bit more flexible with what we were trying to accomplish, and they were somewhat resistant. Overall, they were very accessible and knowledgeable. They gave us more or less good guidance on how to accomplish our goals.