5 Reasons to Develop eCommerce Projects Using the Agile Methodology
With the rapid growth of the digital market, we look for easier and faster ways to develop new solutions. For example, many businesses can’t imagine their site and application development or optimization without the Agile methodology.
Suppose you have an online retailer as a customer in your development agency. How can you design an ideal storefront and adapt it to the changing consumer needs? The thing is that you can’t prepare for them completely. You need to be ready for unpredictability to respond quickly. At the same time, the need to reorganize the current solution may take a toll on your budget. That’s where you can benefit from the Agile methodology.
This strategy can improve internal company procedures, team communication, staff speed, and adaptability. Regarding eCommerce projects, the Agile approach works effectively for various purposes:
- constructing a website from the ground up;
- building solutions on Magento 2 with React.js;
- guaranteeing overall high performance, and others.
Let’s look at the advantages of Agile in the eCommerce context.
Agile Development: An Overview and Difference from Other Methodologies
There are numerous approaches to building solutions. They vary in their goals, priorities, the required experience of developers, and structure. Why do you need these models at all? They help teams collaborate, deliver the best product for customers, and use time and money efficiently.
Agile is one of the software development methodologies in line with Waterfall, Lean, Prototype, Rapid Application Development (RAD), and others. You can stick to one of them or combine several ones simultaneously. We can highlight three significant categories of techniques: Waterfall, iterative, and continuous.
A Waterfall methodology follows a predetermined order. It’s rigid and presents the development process step by step. Unlike Agile, the Waterfall model leverages an incremental approach to create a product piece by piece. For example, you need to collect customer needs, analyze them, specify system requirements, and transfer this information to the next team. Nothing will work until the previous stage is finished.
This approach used to have much traction in the early days of programming and continues to be a tried-and-true solution today. Its main advantage is predictability. Waterfall suits inexperienced developers and requires all team members to negotiate the terms before proceeding to development.
However, it comes with a higher risk of project failure compared to more flexible approaches:
- The rigid Waterfall structure doesn’t allow you to update the product according to customer feedback within the ongoing development phase.
- You can’t change the product when it enters the testing phase. And you don’t know about possible issues before testing the finished solution.
- It’s impossible to check whether the product satisfies the end user before launching it on the market.
- Waterfall prioritizes documentation, which may slow down development.
2. An Iterative Model
An iterative model arose as a viable alternative to traditional development methods like Waterfall. It doesn’t involve thorough documentation and rigid sequence. Instead, it provides flexibility and freedom to modify solutions at any stage. The most widespread iterative models are Agile and Scrum. They are about smaller tasks (sprints) that you need to finish with strict deadlines.
An iterative approach involves constant product improvement to achieve the desired result. It means creating a workable solution that may not satisfy users entirely but is ready to serve the business.
Let’s go back to the example with an eCommerce website. In Agile, users can browse the store, add products to the cart, and purchase even if the work is in progress. This approach lets you analyze the user experience, discover weaknesses, and find ways to improve the solution. Even if you find bugs, you can correct the situation.
One of the notable benefits of iterative approaches is faster troubleshooting. A customer and a development team collaborate with each other and work towards a common goal. Let’s discuss some development methodologies stemming from an iterative model.
Scrum is one of the most flexible approaches in project management. It’s based on Agile principles and aims at delivering the product as fast as possible. Scrum also divides the process into iterations lasting for up to 4 weeks.
Even though Agile and Scrum entail incremental and iterative approaches, they differ in some ways. While Agile delivers everything at the end of the project, Scrum divides the work into smaller deliverables and shorter sprints.
Agile incorporates participants from diverse cross-functional teams. A Scrum project team consists of individuals who play particular roles, such as the Scrum Master and Product Owner. So while Scrum is Agile, Agile doesn’t equal Scrum.
The prototype approach involves creating a prototype version rather than fully functional software. Developers and web designers present this model to customers to gather feedback, test, and discuss further steps. The project undergoes multiple iterations to reach customer satisfaction.
The benefit of the prototype technique is its thorough analysis. The team doesn’t spend time on actual development until it identifies potential problems and needs. This model also requires you to establish rapport with customers to understand their anticipations and reduce the risk of product failure. However, discussions may take too long to go back and forth and ensure everyone is satisfied. As a result, the team postpones actual product creation.
How are Agile and prototyping similar? Both emphasize incremental advancements across several iterations, but they aren’t the same. Prototyping relies on the design and planning phase. As soon as everyone has come to an agreement, developers start coding from scratch, as the final product is independent of the prototype.
Agile focuses on iterations during the development stage. The team creates a Minimum Viable Product (MVP) and enhances it after each sprint. The MVP is similar to a prototype. But the developers enhance this product rather than creating a new solution from the ground up. The MVP then becomes the final product.
3. Continuous Model
The continuous model emerged thanks to the Toyota Production System, with Lean as one of the most popular methodologies. It revolves around minimizing waste, constant improvement, and increasing productivity. Just like Agile, Lean focuses on product value. It promotes the idea of enhancing the product and optimizing the processes if ineffective.
The Toyota-inspired philosophy also encourages team members to learn and find process bottlenecks. The objective is to build a reliable, effective system. The model also strongly emphasizes respecting others, making effective communication a crucial part of product development.
This approach gives much freedom to developers and denies micro-management. It may be a plus, but it entrusts much responsibility to workers who may soon lose focus.
What Is Agile and How Do You Develop a Product?
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If someone uses the Agile approach in project management, they need to break the process into smaller tasks. These parts are known as “sprints”. Such activities generally take two to four weeks. A sprint incorporates design, development, testing, deployment, and review. Then, you present the result to the customer and discuss what to do next. The end of the sprint means that the developers:
- analyze their accomplishments and failures;
- consider how the product owner/online merchant evaluates the solution;
- plan further actions to improve a website or mobile app launch during the next sprint.
It’s faster and safer to proceed with the model depending on what a client wants to change or add. The final product results from your and your customer’s collaborative work. You give a valuable product and the opportunity to provide comments, enhancing future work based on the discussed details. Let’s illustrate the Agile principle with the following example.
Assume you need to build a house for a client. There are two possible ways:
1. You can ask customers what they want, create a digital model, then build it without negotiations. You don’t ask anything during this process until the house is ready. Then you present the finished product to the client and receive their feedback. Isn’t it a bit too dangerous considering the time you may waste?
2. The second option is to outline what you intend to make, breaking the process into small tasks and organizing meetings after achieving a particular stage. For example, you build a hut. A customer asks you to construct a bigger house, so you add more rooms. Then, they want a second floor, and you make it too. After that, they ask you to include a swimming pool and a tennis court in the house, so you update the product to meet these requirements. That’s how Agile works.
The Agile method allows for quicker outcomes, which is essential while developing an eCommerce project, such as:
- launching a native app;
- designing a new storefront;
- implementing new features.
Developers will consider the client’s feedback and provide a layout to move forward with the design and development of the solution.
Agile for eCommerce Development Projects: 5 Key Benefits
1. Having a Better Understanding of What the Market Expects
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Considering changing customer preferences, you won’t maintain the platform in the form it was designed five or more years ago. So how can you match the demands of new generations? Online merchants should regularly tweak and improve their eCommerce solution, adding new features or converting the website into a progressive web application.
For instance, mobile traffic and conversions increase yearly, leading to the growth of m-commerce. As people can access online stores on the go, the website should be mobile-friendly and cater to this audience more than before.
An Agile method lets you detect market shifts and adjust the product to consumer preferences. As the work on the project doesn’t stop after release, continuous reiteration allows you to find, upgrade, and remove unneeded functionality.
Research shows that 71% of businesses prefer Agile as their development approach. One of them is Amazon which evolves in response to what customers expect from it.
2. Creating a High-Quality Product and Enhancing It All the Time
An Agile eCommerce development process goes beyond the implementation phase. After each sprint, the team determines whether the solution meets the negotiated requirements and starts another sprint.
Here is where developers can benefit from automated testing software and sprint retrospectives. Every sprint is like a step towards applying new features to the application core components or project deliverables.
Each increment allows developers to evaluate the state of storefront optimization. This move ensures that the end user receives a higher-quality experience.
3. Less Time for the Website or App to Reach the Market
The Agile methodology ensures higher speed and flexibility from the beginning to the final deployment stages. And these are the primary reasons you should consider it.
Nevertheless, you should note one Agile disadvantage. You can’t specify the total cost of the work because you don’t know which features a completed solution will have.
But on the bright side, you get the development works with fundamental elements within a shorter period. And the process continues after the website or app is launched. Developers change the eCommerce solution based on the received feedback. This method allows you to observe the following:
- how users interact with the online store;
- what encourages them to convert;
- what they dislike;
- how the app or website behaves in real life.
An Agile team can edit or modify the released storefront at earlier stages and avoid various issues, such as:
- missing pages or photos;
- complicated navigation;
- broken links;
- inconveniently placed buttons;
- lengthy checkout, etc.
4. Making Users Happier by Meeting Their Needs
You can ensure customer satisfaction if you deliver a high-quality solution, quickly improve it, and solve the arising problems. Agile can offer these capabilities by combining progressive approaches for building an eCommerce project. It doesn’t focus on the development works itself. Instead, it prioritizes the shopping experience, whether the solution is intuitive and users are comfortable with the new features.
Agile is better than other project development methods because it gradually makes the product more valuable and reduces the risks of project failure. That’s what ensures customer satisfaction with an eCommerce website.
5. More Certainty and Transparency
The Agile development and implementation processes are more transparent. You can see at which stage the development teams are and what changes they introduce to the project.
If something doesn’t satisfy a store owner, developers respond to their needs and enhance the eCommerce solution. Due to speedier delivery and client feedback, the chance of eventual failure is reduced.
The Agile method has gained a lot of support recently. It’s a standard project management technique in software development companies but proves its effectiveness in projects beyond creating software.
Such a flexible model can also benefit eCommerce businesses in project management and improving marketing processes. What innovations has Agile brought to development and project management? It denies inflexible and linear methods. Agile focuses on the following:
- adaptive evolution (what better performs on the market);
- iterations (ensuring better product quality);
- early delivery (to create an app or website with working pages and links).
As a result, developers can respond to changing needs faster, adapt the product at any time, and sustain clarity between team members. Are you still in two minds about whether to adopt Agile or its variations like Scrum? Use Agile methodology in the following cases:
- You need to solve a complex problem.
- Product requirements may change or are unknown at the first stages of development.
- You constantly interact with end users and can gain their feedback.
- It’s possible to break the work into smaller tasks or modules.
- You want to ensure product competitiveness in the long run