When looking for web tools and software vendors it is easy to become overwhelmed by the sheer number of options; you may be lost as to where and how to start your search for the solutions that best fit your needs. But what are the right questions to answer to find the right path through this jungle of vendors and technologies on your way to state-of-the-art digital customer experiences based on a modern technology stack?

As a start, you can qualify web tools and vendors by collecting answers on a few key questions – thus finding the solutions that best match you and your project.

Questions to Ask When Evaluating Web Tools and Technology

Does it solve a real existing problem of many customers?

It shows that the solution is grounded in reality, and the software vendor focuses resources on solving common issues experienced by many customers and not unique and constantly evolving requirements of a few or even single customers. 

Is it popular enough (locally and globally)?

Sufficiently high popularity means that the software or tool is relevant enough and more likely to stay. The vendor has an interest in updating and developing the solution further. Popularity on a local level shows that the solution is well-adapted to local circumstances. 

Is it based on commonly accepted technology standards?

If the solution uses a proprietary script language then you make yourself dependent on the solution vendor as no competitor uses the same script language in their products. An example of such a proprietary script language is Typoscript which is only used in Typo3. With commonly accepted tech standards you have access to a big community of experts regardless of their current employer.

Is it easy to use for technical and non-technical users?

Business users are usually not trained to understand the software code. And it is also not part of their job. They are like car drivers who don’t need to understand or fix what is under the hood. However, technical users - your IT folks - need to be able to understand the code so that they can adapt the solution to your individual needs. They are like car mechanics.   

Is the solution agnostic to cultural or country-specific preferences?

Many variations of the Latin alphabet contain special characters that do not exist in the English alphabet. Other languages have their own character sets and writing systems. Ideally, the user interface of your solution can be adapted to the users’ expectations, such as, for example, reading from right to left. When the software or technology is agnostic in this regard then chances are higher that users with diverse cultural backgrounds will accept it.  

Are training and certifications available?

Standardized training offered by the software vendor or its partners helps your users become proficient and productive fast. Certifications (especially those for developers) help them to validate their know-how and differentiate themselves and your company from the competition.   

Is the solution compliant with the laws and regulations of the targeted countries?

When the solution is compliant with the laws and regulations of your target countries you simply avoid the possibility of getting fined. However, don’t automatically take the vendor’s word for granted. Many software vendors claim to be GDPR compliant when they are not - and most surprisingly this issue applies to both small and large vendors. It is worth checking out the terms and conditions in detail and you may still find contractual clauses that have already been overruled by European courts in direction of data privacy and protection. Otherwise setting up a solution to be compliant may prove a cumbersome task (that is also one of the reasons why at Bright IT we switched from Google Analytics to Piwik Pro). Overall you have to make your own choice based on consulting with a lawyer specializing in local regulations.   

Is there long-term support for the technical framework?

Think of coding libraries or frameworks such as REACT or vue.js, or even of entire programming languages such as Java. A language, library, or framework that has been around for a while and has a positive outlook or a roadmap for the next few years reduces the risk that you have to replace the solution soon due to the end of support and lack of updates. At the same time, the frameworks and libraries should be backward compatible so that your old code still runs in the updated versions of the frameworks and libraries. 

Is there an active developer community specialized in the technology of choice?

An active developer community takes care that the software or technology stays future-proof. Bugs can be detected and removed much quicker thanks to feedback from the community. It is even better when the community is active in your country or language. Likewise, if you need to hire software engineers specialized in specific web technology, the community is the talent pool you can recruit from.

Questions to Ask When Evaluating Software Vendors

Do they have specific experience in your industry?

Different industries have different lingo, challenges, generally accepted practices, and regulations. For example, banks and insurances are highly regulated industries with challenges and limitations that you will not find in other industries. A B2C business often has to comply with stricter privacy laws than a B2B business. A retailer running a large online shop selling fast fashion has other technical requirements than a small digital “mom-and-pop-store”. 

Do they have experience in your targeted countries?

What works in the home market of a vendor may not work in other countries due to cultural and legal differences. For example, an online shop supporting credit cards as the only available payment option might be sufficient for the US market where everyone owns at least one credit card. In contrast to that, there are many Germans that prefer other payment methods and may not even own a credit card.

Do they have experience working with companies similarly sized as yours?

Companies of different sizes face different challenges and have different needs. If a software vendor has no track record of working with companies of your size, their solutions might be over- or under-dimensioned for your needs. Besides that, you should also consider if you will be a relevant client for the service provider and can expect to receive the level of service you desire. Therefore the vendor’s partner will often be the most important choice to make. In our experience, one of the worst possible combinations however is a small local software vendor in combination with a small local partner. A well-chosen (at least) medium-sized vendor in combination with a good small agency can be a much better choice. You get the level of attention you want but are neither dependent on proprietary technology nor a particular agency.

Do they have a long-term product vision and roadmap?

When you roll out new software in your organization you want to be able to use it at least for a few years so that you can focus on your daily business. A software vendor without a vision and roadmap might be in the game for a quick exit only, leaving the acquired customers to the whims of whoever will buy the company. 

Do they deliver on their promises?

The software vendor of your choice needs to be reliable and be able to offer you support. This is especially important when their solution is an integral part of your business processes.

Ask For Help!

The above questions sound seemingly straightforward. While they give you a guideline on what questions to ask, getting and evaluating the information can be a daunting task. An independent consultant will be able to help you navigate through the vendor jungle. If you are looking for help in your web or e-commerce project, contact us.

Our success depends very much on keeping a close eye on the market and constantly staying up-to-date. Before that, however, you may also check out the questions you should ask an implementation partner like us. These questions will enable us to help you faster.