E-commerce implementation from a Project Manager's perspective. Checklist before go-live

Author:
Paula Wasiluk
Published:
6.9.2023
I

mplementing e-commerce is a complex process in which many things can go wrong. How to prepare for it, what mistakes to avoid and what should the checked before go-live? Paula Wasiluk – Project Manager at Strix – answered these questions.

The pre-go-live checklist is a topic very rarely discussed on technology company blogs. Which is a shame because it is the absolute foundation for a safe, smooth launch of an e-commerce platform! I recently had the opportunity to host a webinar on this topic, and in this article, I will share a summary of the key points. 

The role of the Project Manager in building an e-commerce platform

E-commerce is currently one of the fastest-growing industries and it would be a shame not to make the most of its potential. The Project Manager is largely responsible for this aspect. 

The PM is the person who acts as the mediator, so to speak, between the team, management, and the client. He or she is responsible for guiding the project through all its stages, including the course and implementation of the shop. Many people wonder if the PM has to be a technical person. In theory, it is not essential, but technical knowledge, especially about the implementation process, is the key to good management and communication with the development team. 

The role of the Project Manager is to optimise the project delivery process, i.e. to achieve the best possible results, in the shortest possible time, taking into account the business needs and competencies of the team.

What can go wrong with go-live?

It might seem that once we have a shop ready, the worst is over. Meanwhile, the biggest challenge is yet to come! Denis Waitley said "Expect the best, prepare for the worst", and it is this approach that should guide us before launching a shop. Being ready for the most pessimistic scenarios and planning emergency procedures is the basis for responding effectively if something goes wrong. During go-live, we need to oversee or delegate many areas to avoid situations such as:

  • Loss of conversions and SEO positions after the surge.
  • Inferior site performance.
  • Underestimation of server parameters.
  • The need to revert to the old version of the system.
  • Incorrect or incomplete product information.

Checklist before go-live

I have based the checklist below primarily on my experience with Magento 2 implementations, but most of the points will also apply to other systems (such as Prestashop or Shopify).

1. SEO 

When migrating your shop to a new platform, our goal is to improve your website's search engine visibility, so make sure that the website is aligned with Google's guidelines and algorithms responsible for page ranking. Search engine optimisation can be done in-house or outsourced to an experienced e-commerce or SEO agency. Before go-live, it is a good idea to commission an SEO audit, which is worth doing in two parts: a pre-implementation audit and a post-implementation audit. 

The following areas should be considered when analysing positioning:

  • Responsive website + mobile-first approach

Whether your website is RWD (Responsive Web Design), PWA (Progressive Web App), or a native app, make sure it is aligned with mobile standards, primarily in terms of optimising the purchasing process. Many clients I have worked with have pointed out that mobile channels are their main source of revenue and account for an average of 68% of total sales. The dominance of mobile e-commerce is also confirmed by recent market research. Tools such as Hotjar, Yandex Metrica, and the indispensable Google Analytics.

  • Page loading speed

Both customers and search engines do not like to wait. Loading speed is therefore one of the most important factors influencing a website's position in the page rankings, as officially confirmed by Google reports. In order to achieve satisfactory page efficiency, we should take care not only of performance but also of aspects that affect the user experience. We are talking here about Core Web Vitals, where we focus on aspects affecting the end-user experience, i.e. visual stability and accessibility (broadly defined as website accessibility). It is worth checking selected parameters using tools such as PageSpeed Insights, Google Lighthouse, GTmetrix, or WebPageTest. If the results of the page are not satisfactory, it may be necessary to conduct a performance audit of the page and identify problem areas for improvement.

  • Metadata and structured data

This area includes optimisation of structured data such as headings, category descriptions, product information, keywords, meta tags and alt descriptions, and image tags.

  • Friendly URL + redirects

The correctness and 'friendliness' of URLs should be verified, both in terms of the user and indexing robots. The Magento platform natively has a mechanism for changing addresses with automatic generation of a rewrite to the old URL. However, if you are moving a shop from one platform to another, it is a mandatory point to verify that all redirects from the previous URLs are working correctly (in other words, the number of links pointing to 404 from the old page addresses should be checked and monitored).

  • Index, follow

Before launch, check that 'index, follow' is set on all main pages (home page, catalogue, product page, CMS pages etc).

  • Sitemap.xml

The site map contains basic information about the sub-pages of the site and the media elements to be indexed, so it must be checked before the shop is launched.

  • File robots.txt

It is mandatory to check the visibility of the robots.txt file before launch. It contains a set of detailed instructions for search engines and defines the indexing rules for individual pages, categories, services, etc.

2. Marketing

In the context of the Project Manager's remit and pre-launch activities, we will consider marketing primarily in the context of its automation, increasing website traffic and branding. 

Things to take care of regarding marketing:
  • Google Analytics

We need to make sure that all analytics scripts and events are properly embedded and configured under Google Universal or the latest version of Google Analytics 4, and verify the Google Tag Manager setting.

  • Feeds

From a marketing perspective, the bottom line is to optimize product feeds for price comparison sites, marketplace platforms, social media, and marketing tools. It is important to check that the stakeholder feeds correctly communicate product information to the various channels, is correctly configured, have the correct data structure, and that the feed generation schedule is set appropriately. 

  • Marketing integrations (marketing automation)

More and more online shops are making use of marketing automation tools to significantly speed up and streamline daily operational work and personalise communication, e.g. via newsletters or push notifications. Before launching the shop, the PM should collect a list of all tools, plug-ins, and keys from the client and ensure that the data is properly configured before the launch.

3. Data migration (shop setup and data migration)

Regardless of whether the project is carrying out a platform redeployment, a system change to a different platform or a transition from Magento 1 to Magento 2, a pre-launch data migration will be necessary. 

Here are some must-have points to get through the process without slip-ups:

  • Obtaining all data from the customer

It is important that the project team obtains all the data at least two weeks before the launch. Admittedly, the import procedure itself seems straightforward, but often through dependencies on the databases or the amount of information being migrated, it can take considerably longer, so it is worth preparing in advance. 

  • Development of a migration plan and procedure for transferring user accounts

At this stage, it is useful to develop a migration plan together with the client and the project team It should cover all steps, from export, to import of data, and provide a reference point when verifying that all procedures have been completed. The import method should also be chosen at this stage, taking into account the specifics of the data. 

If you decide to transfer the shop from an existing instance then it will be necessary to develop a procedure for transferring user accounts and resetting passwords.

  • Data validation

After migration, verify that all imported data is correct.

4. System configuration in Magento and server requirements

In this section, we will look at the administration panel. I will discuss the topic using Magento as an example, as I work in this system on a daily basis, but I am sure that many of these points will also apply to other platforms.

  • Basic shop settings

Content > Design > Configuration + Transactional e-mail tab, which deals with outgoing information from the shop.

  • Other configurations

Stores > Configuration > General > General / Currency set-up / Store email addresses / Contacts.

  • Deliveries, payments

Stores > Configuration > Sales > Shipping Settings

Stores > Configuration > Sales > Payment Methods

  • Prices, promotions + individual mechanism under the Omnibus Directive

Marketing > Cart Price Rules/Catalog Price Rules

  • Products

Simple / Configurable / Bundle / Virtual / Downloadable products

  • Captcha

Stores > Configuration > Advanced > Admin > CAPTCHA

  • E-mail templates

Stores > Configuration > Sales > Sales emails 

Marketing > Communications > Email templates

  • Taxes

Stores > Tax rules

  • MSI (and storage and maintenance of reservations), backorders
  • System requirements adapted to the application engine

When implementing a shop, it is essential to provide minimum versions of the system requirements to ensure system stability. The best practice is to use official documentation from the system provider. It is also good practice to keep a margin of operating memory for increased traffic and purchases and to choose a fast storage medium.

5. Cache and index management

To avoid the problems associated with multiple administrators updating objects causing re-indexing, it is recommended that you set the indexers to run on a schedule. This way you will eliminate a potential re-indexing loop. You will find the index management panel in Magento 2 under System > Tools > Index Management.

6 Magento integrations

If the shop is data-driven, it will be necessary to check the platform's connection to external systems such as ERP, PIM or Baselinker before launch. Key points to verify include checking that:

  • The order flow works well at all stages.
  • Event queuing has been properly implemented (in other words, splitting a large number of events into smaller parts and putting them in a queue work as intended).
  • Errors were resolved or adequately handled and monitoring of critical processes was adequately prepared.
  • Product stock updates are provided and data exchange is efficient.
  • The simulation of product updates was tested using a mapped production process on a test instance.

There are no shortcuts with Go-live

When launching a shop, many areas of the online shop need to be checked and there can be a temptation to 'get it over with as quickly as possible'. With go-live, however, there are no shortcuts, and taking the extra time to thoroughly check that all the key elements are working correctly can save you from a rollback to your previous system and customer disappointment after a failed go-live approach. It's worth focusing on thoroughly checking the entire purchase path, server settings, integrations, marketing, and SEO tools to ensure that the shop launch goes smoothly and without any additional stress.

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