I have been getting a lot of new contacts from store owners who have been looking for Interspire Developers but have had a difficult time finding one. Either they had one who is no longer able to help them or they hired someone who could complete the job correctly. First and foremost, Interspire Shopping Cart never had many 3rd party developers. The system is large, complicated, undocumented and there are not many resources online to help new developers out. With ISC not being sold as a standalone product anymore, there aren’t exactly developers flocking in to learn how to learn how to develop for Interspire. This creates a problem for companies who rely on the platform for running their businesses. There are some very talented developers out there that have recently moved on and no longer develop for ISC, there are some sites that sell add-ons that are out of date and not updated. Some sites sell broken add-ons and will lead you on for months about a fix until you can’t charge back the money. For those of you reading this and have been through this process you know the sites I am talking about. At the end of the day, the best way to find talented ISC developers is usually through the official development forums which are bare these days. Other ways are to simply google “Interspire Developers” but you get a mix of companies that are both good and some not so good. That doesn’t mean that you should be worried. If you are reading this post, you have already found someone who is happy to help you or at the least point you in the right direction. As an official 3rd party developer registered with Interspire, I spent years working on clients referred to me by ISC or clients who found me from forum posts or word of mouth. Interspire has some high standards for their official 3rd party developers and when they would recommend a developer you could rest easy that they knew their stuff.
Reputation is everything in this business so when you are looking for a new ISC developer, make sure that you check out their credentials, sites they have worked on in the past, reviews posted about their products and check the dates to make sure they are recent. Talk to site owners about their experience working with the developer. Are they the kind of developer who will go the extra mile? Are they good at meeting deadlines? I personally make it a point not to sell mods, add-ons, etc… without talking to every single client that I have done business with personally. I do this because I want to make sure that the expectations of the client will be met. Even for simply projects or mods. If a developer doesn’t ask you about custom modifications you may have already made to your site, your version of ISC and talk to you about your goals and your businesses unique needs these are red flags. Try and make sure you are working with someone who has experience in the field. Remember you get what you pay for as well. Good quality help isn’t cheap. If you sent over a 30+ page scope of work and 10min later get a reply with a quote for the project, something common when working with overseas companies (not all but some) this is a HUGE red flag.
It takes a good amount of time and experience on some developers end to be able to predict the issues that might arise with an original concept, where some features might require other features to make full use of a system. For example, recurring billing has always been one of those rough issues to perfect, as easy business can utilize recurring billing differently based on their products and client base. Some companies will come to me and want to add the feature using their payment processors recurring billing API, for example the ARB (automated recurring billing) API with Authorize.net (a popular payment processor). Setting up products as a recurring product for automatic re-ordering is easy enough (if you have done it before). However, if the feature is a success with your client base, you could find yourself getting in daily orders on top of dozens of recurring orders. So, the original feature of simply accepting recurring payments may work, but now you have a new problem and that is not being able to view reports showing ahead of time how many recurring orders are going to come in the next day, next week and so on. You will need these tools so you can prep ahead of time and order product ahead of time to keep up with demand. An experienced developer would know about this problem if they ever came across is and being able to pass on this information to their perspective clients and help them prepare ahead of time. Now granted this might create extra development costs or extend the development timeline, or it might be simply worked into a phase 2 plan to begin after the original project goals are met. However, I would rather someone tell me what to expect in the long run rather than get caught unaware later when I could potentially have a problem on my hands.
With the above example, while the idea of accepting recurring payments is simple enough, if you don’t have the tools and reports available to help you run a business that uses a recurring business model you will find yourself in a bind. This is just one example.
There is also the kind of developer that can develop modules, add-ons and essentially do a specific job but doesn’t have much experience with e-commerce as a business. Understanding the business of e-commerce is very helpful and transcends simply having a working knowledge of the platform. Having a great platform and a great storefront, good customer service, good products and the ability to ship them at a rate that is good for the customer and good for yourself are just some of the requirements required to make your site a success. Having a developer who has a working knowledge of marketing, SEO, off site SEO, affiliate marketing, shipping and fulfillment, automation, 3rd party API integration services, tools to help you make the most of your store like split testing (a method used to specifically increase conversion rates), landing pages for your marketing campaigns (if your sending CPC traffic for instance to your home page, your wasting money already), sales funnels, utilizing Google Analytics, 3rd party re-marketing services, a working knowledge of hosting companies, common configuration issues and the ability to help you make decisions to set your site up to scale up or down depending on the market. Look for someone who understands the business you’re in as well as the business that the developer is in.
I am writing this article because as I mentioned right away that I have been getting a lot of contacts where the store owners just simply weren’t aware of how to find a vet a good developer. Hopefully this blog posting will be of some help to those store owners who are currently looking for a new developer. If you have any questions, please feel free to contact me. Even if I can only offer advice, I am happy to do so.