Magento Implementation for E-Learning Firm
- E-Commerce Development
- $50,000 to $199,999
- Willing to Refer
"They were very eager to meet our requirements and collaborative in how they wanted to come to a solution."
- Washington, District of Columbia
- 1,001-5,000 Employees
- Phone Interview
Neev Information Technologies handled the visual design and the content migration of the existing e-commerce website using Magento, optimizing the overall user experience.
Despite the inability to process credit cards, the website received positive feedback. It was user-friendly and with an informative interface. Neev Information Technologies was able to deliver on time and within budget. As suggested, the team could improve on communication and transparency in the transactions.
A Clutch analyst personally interviewed this client over the phone. Below is an edited transcript.
Please describe your organization.
We provide online education to pre-kindergarten through to age twelve students, across the United States and internationally, through both public and private schools.
What is your position?
I was the product manager for the consumer line.
OPPORTUNITY / CHALLENGE
What business challenge were you trying to address with Neev Information Technologies?
My department is focused on homeschoolers, and people who need some sort of supplemental education to whatever fulltime program they're currently enrolled in, whether it be public, private, homeschooling, or otherwise.
As a way to reach this audience, we have an e-commerce site that we use to promote and sell individual courses and materials. The one that we had at the time was pretty outdated. It was built roughly eight years ago and we hadn't done a lot of development on it. We hired Neev to help us update the overall e-commerce and shopping experience on it.
Please describe the scope of their involvement.
They designed all the visuals and also migrated the content of the previous site. We worked pretty quickly with them in order to move our entire catalogue over to the new Magento site. They did a fantastic job in helping us move over a lot of content and established a very beautiful shopping experience that has made the customer a lot more educated upfront about what they're actually purchasing; all within a very quick timeline. It certainly has had a positive impact on our company.
I think there were a very low number of developers assigned to our project. I worked with only one or two people on a daily basis. There were a few others involved in the background, either directly with me, or subcontracted. Given the scope of all that we did, I'm guessing that there were three to five developers.
We did some level of quality assurance [QA] with them. Unfortunately, I don't have a big team: there's myself, and a few people in the marketing department that support the consumer business side part-time. The consumer practice generates about 6 million of a 900 million dollar business. We're pretty tiny by comparison. Only about 30% of that comes through e-commerce.
For the migration process, I essentially gave them an Excel document that had all of our courses and product descriptions, durations, metadata, and so on, that they could upload into Magento. The migration was pretty simple, but in the process, some formatting got kind of wonky. We could have done a lot more in terms of external QA and consistency across the course descriptions. For example: some might have had a bold heading, and some not; inconsistent bullets, etc. We had a very short timeframe, so that was good enough for us. If we had more time we would have been able to correct those items before launch.
How did you come to work with Neev Information Technologies?
On our old site, we were using Drupal; our entire solution was proprietary. We made an internal decision to switch to Magento. Prior to engaging with Neev, we had gone through a cost and capabilities process, and worked with the likes of Oracle and about a dozen others. We found that we really liked the flexibility that Magento offered. At the time, we engaged some US-based groups, but couldn't get the funding together, so we ended up stalling for about a year. We picked it up again after coming across a review board for Magento. I think Neev had a gold or silver star rating.
Could you provide a sense of the size of this initiative in financial terms?
We spent about $100,000 for the project.
What is the status of this engagement?
Since completing the project, we've continued the relationship. We essentially built an e-commerce site that didn't have e-commerce functionality, due to limited funding. What we had at the time was a beautiful website that educated the customer upfront, but didn't actually allow them to purchase anything. Lo and behold, people didn't actually buy stuff. We were able to prove our case, in that the site is better, but now we needed more time and money for building the e-commerce portion. That started two weeks ago, and we will be investing a further $90,000 to give it credit card functionality, and throw in some more bells and whistles like reviews and such.
RESULTS & FEEDBACK
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.
Service & Deliverables
On time / deadlines
"I was pretty flexible in meeting their schedule. Because they're in India, with a 13 hour time difference, it was hard to arrange meetings...They were certainly eager and available to meet, but often couldn't quite make it..."
Value / within estimates
Willing to Refer4.5
"They're a great low-cost solution, very agile in approaching the challenges we had, and were able to put together a lot, in a short timeframe. It was a successful project.