Overview

This case study is devoted to the challenge of evaluating a 3000h+ marketplace project. After reading it, you will know what to discuss with your client when initiating a project, how to draft technical documentation, and how to share it with other participants in the project.

Industry

Marketplace platforms allow buyers to compare and purchase products from multiple sellers. It works as an intermediary between consumers and businesses that distribute products or services.

Marketplaces are rarely tailored to a single category of goods. As a rule, a marketplace features a large assortment of brands and products from various industries.

The best-known examples of global marketplaces are Amazon and Alibaba. Hundreds of thousands of transactions per month are made on the Alibaba.com platform. The marketplace business model underpins 52% of Amazon’s assortment, 46% of revenue, and 90% of the company’s entire margin.

Due to the profitability of marketplaces, many entrepreneurs endeavor to develop their own marketplace platforms.

Background

The marketplace boom drives many entrepreneurs to IT companies, for help in developing a unique marketplace platform.

There are many website development templates available, and users have the option of purchasing individual elements to build a marketplace platform. Options include user personal accounts, additional functionality for the platform, integration of payment systems, and many other features.

However, to create a unique design or implement unusual functionality that stands out from the crowd, templates will not meet your needs. To get an original and unique platform, you need a customized design. An original marketplace project can be quite costly, since it requires a lot of time and effort.

The challenge for IT companies is to accurately evaluate an original marketplace concept, and project developers often make some common mistakes.

The Challenge

The Clever team received a project evaluation request for development of a marketplace. The customer described a minimal set of desired features, and our specialist compiled a two-page list, where each feature would entail 50+ hours of development. After a preliminary assessment of the project, we estimated that it would take 700 hours to implement. The customer agreed to work with us.

Typically, drafting a technical assignment and prototyping occur in two separate phases of project development. After our first conversation with the client, it became clear that not all desired features had been listed in the original technical assignment. We held a meeting to clarify the details, and to discuss the integrations and services to be created.

It seemed at first glance that all potential pitfalls had been detected. As a result of the meeting, a followup document was compiled, outlining the key and secondary requirements in an extended format.

We recruited a team lead for the project and planned all the features, based on the followup document. We knew the client wanted to include the following elements:

  • User account with extensive functionality.
  • Front side with catalog, product card, and SEO filters.
  • Administrative panel for the whole site, with the ability to manage users, products, and content.
  • Multi-currency mode with a focus on the site’s own currency.

The functionality was divided into blocks. We set links between features, for example, synced the processes of adding a product to the user account, and moderating the product from the site’s administrative panel. Proper syncing of features was needed at this stage to avoid failures in the future.

We found it convenient to use a mindmap for visualization that showcased all the intersections and bottlenecks of the project. In the process, new questions that needed to be discussed with the customer were brought to the surface.

At the end of this stage, the estimated project time had grown by several times – from 700 hours to 2500 hours.v

Already at this point, it was important to determine the scope of tasks that needed to be performed for the successful release of the MVP project. Modern ecommerce evolves rapidly, so we needed to enter the market, show the product to consumers, collect user feedback, and fix errors as quickly as possible. This was no small task for a project of this scope.

We made a rough estimate of our project’s production requirements. A more accurate estimate was made later.

At the prototyping phase, we discussed which platforms our client liked and disliked, and the advantages and disadvantages of each from the perspective of UI/UX design.

Prototyping of a large-scale website demands a great deal of time. It was necessary for the prototype to be as interactive as possible, to give us a clear idea of what the end project would look like. Many prototyping tools can are available. We chose moqups.com for the front and Google tables for the administrative panel, which saved us valuable time.

Features were also added at this stage. The client began to come up with new ideas to boost functionality, which is why it is important to discuss and get approval of the project’s MVP before moving forward.

We chose a classic type of technical assignment compilation to draw up documentation. This decision was conditioned by the fact that we were working with a fixed price, and the client wanted to include all available functionality. We found it necessary to restrain the client from adding more features. Each line added to a technical assignment increases the complexity of the software, making the document itself difficult to read. Programmers are not fond of reading technical documentation, especially when it balloons to 250 pages.

After prototyping and compiling technical specifications, the project was finally re-evaluated, and the estimated time increased from 2500 hours to 4000 hours.

The Solution

By dividing the document into distinct stages and preparing sequential documentation, we identified all the client’s needs, along with potential pitfalls that could occur during the development process. Using our project as an example, we tackled the challenges of evaluating a large-scale project by drawing up a followup document and tailoring it to the customer’s preferences.

Results/Achievements

We organized our work by compiling a list of the necessary documentation and actions required to accurately evaluate a large and unique project:

  • Followup document
  • Mindmap for visualizing feature links
  • MVP project
  • Prototypes

We hope you learned useful information from our case study that will help simplify your work. If you have additional questions, do not hesitate to contact us.