Grow2Serve.com was a rewarding project for many reasons: worthwhile cause, challenging project requirements, awesome project team.
Grow2Serve Project Requirements
I knew from the moment Christina contacted me for an initial estimate in April of this year that this was going to be a challenging project. Although she was asked to acquire initial estimates, she didn’t have a firm grasp on the requirements. She knew they wanted it to sell virtual/digital products from different vendors. They had a course portal website running on Moodle at grow2serve.net. Now they wanted a site built using WordPress that would sell those courses to a broader audience.
I provided an initial estimate with a strong emphasis on “estimate.” Until I could get the detailed requirements I was just shooting into the dark. Some of their initial questions/comments almost sent me running in the opposite direction! For example, “two of the other proposals we received indicated that they could have the website built in a much shorter timeframe….Is it possible to build everything into the website and have it ready to launch in two weeks…?” A few emails went back and forth and then I heard nothing but crickets. I figured they went with someone else or scrapped the idea because what they wanted was outside of their budget.
I June they sent me a more detailed list of requirements organized into “non-negotiable”, “desirable” and “dream.” Now this I could work with and give a much firmer quote. On June 8 the contract was signed and we began work on the project.
Apples vs. Oranges
There are quite a few things that make this project different from my “normal” projects. Each website I build for a client is unique, of course, but this one had some features that I probably will never see again.
I am not new to building eCommerce sites but Grow2Serve needed to support multiple vendors. There are a number of solutions out there for WordPress. At first we tried Easy Digital Downloads with Frontend Submissions. It seemed like the perfect solution. We initially used the Marketify theme (first deviation from “normal” as I like to use/recommend Genesis) with EDD. Two weeks into the project I realized that EDD and Marketify were not the best solutions for the client. I recommended switching over the WooCommerce and the Product Vendors plugin and going with the Media Center theme (which Mark had liked over all others from the very beginning).
Commonly called “marketplace” in the website developers’ world, Mark and his team required a solution that supported multiple vendors able to create and manage their own products. Initially they only needed to be able to associate products in the store with a particular vendor and pay them the correct commission when their items were purchased. They wanted to have the ability for the vendor to be able at some later date to login to the site and manage their own products in the store. WooCommerce Products Vendors gives them that capability. We also added Mass Payments which will allow the vendors to be paid automatically at time of purchase, manually by the store manager or automatically on a schedule, i.e., daily, weekly, monthly.
As previously mentioned the client decided to go with a non-Genesis theme. I did present him with quite a few eCommerce-enabled Genesis child themes but he really like the added features built into Media Center (found on ThemeForest.net). Because this was a non-Genesis theme, I had to learn the theme author’s way of doing things. I also had quite a few customizations that couldn’t be made to a child theme so maintenance will always be a challenge for the customer. I provided detailed written instructions as well as several videos for the maintenance procedures for his site.
- No matter how detailed the requirements are, there will always be something that was missed that could make the estimate fall short.
- Provide more reasons to the customer why Genesis is the best solution.
- Even when you underestimate the amount of hours you think a project will take, there were probably things I learned that will be useful in future projects.