Problems whilst developing first website for client, looking for advice

Hey guys, I have been developing a site for the last three months free of charge, there has been lots of trials, re-designs, learning many new things and soon user testing .

I started using Jekyll as my site scaffold system which really sped up my workflow, and I was super happy with my current progress but then my client mentioned working from an e commerce platform (Shopify). So I did the usual, researched and began to learn, but I am realizing how much work it’s going to be in order to make the site I have basically completed and make it Shopify compatible. We managed to talk about deadlines and effort and came to a good conclusion.

I must ask, do you think that learning e commerce is an absolute necessity in today’s job market? In my country Australia I am seeing many companies develop their clients websites using wordpress.

Here I am starting to feel confident in my abilities about to put myself out there to employers. I am willing to put in the effort to learn but I have been working lots of hours for free and would like to start earning in the near future.

It may be broad but what technologies should I focus my efforts on?

Are there better site scaffolding systems out there that you could recommend?

And as a self taught developer after making a few projects such as an audio player and a nearly complete small business website, what would make me stand out to an employer?

I feel like there’s always more to learn and I am drowning in all this knowledge as it seems that there is not enough time to learn it all! :frowning:

I have tried to reach out to developers in my local area but they haven’t seemed very interested in wanting to help me out with some advice so any help would be greatly appreciated!

Thanks in advance,



You could learn e-commerce to make your life easier but you don’t have time right now because you have a project at hand. The problem with building e-commerce from ground up is insuring that all the numbers, tax, and anything else is lined up. You also have to make sure the server is PCI compliant.

3 months is a lot of time to be working for free. I understand where you are coming from though because I am currently doing the same thing for someone but I’m not doing a complex site.

If he wants shipify, give him shopify. How far along in the project are you ?

It’s not that the site is overly complex, just that the guy has changed his mind on layout design a few times. So I have to basically go through again re-writting everything other than the navigation and footer. Just a real pain! Yeh I’m going to give him Shopify in the end, we came to the decision that all purchases will be made through Shopify. He didn’t want to waste time in designing a custom theme so the site with his original design will have to link to the shop.

But yeh the site is getting there, I am just waiting for him to finalize his business, figure out legal things, and the site is in German, English and French so I am waiting for translations.

But yeh I think I will learn e-commerce for sure, Looks super interesting. I’m interested in going the Moltin route.

I have absolutely no experience in making sites that involve purchasing products, it’s very intimidating actually. hahaha

Do you have experience with this?

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It is very interesting and I think it would be a great thing to learn! I do not have experience in rolling my own e-commerce system - no.

I can’t understand why you’ve been working for free the last three months, seriously.


Yeah it’s ridiculous really but it is my first"commercial" project. I want the guy as a reference and testimonial for my portfolio. He’s just very picky and always changing his mind because he.wants the best start for his business.
Not doing it free ever again

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If I were in your position I’d reach out to small companies and see if you can land a job there, time is gold, an extra project in your portfolio isn’t.


I’m not really in a position to comment, since I’ve no experience as a freelancer in this field, but…

I think there is a difference between agreeing to do a little free work for someone for your portfolio and actually being beholden to someone’s every whim for 3+ months.

It may be too late now, but for future projects you could maybe aim to get something agreed to and signed off on as your initial free offering but make it clear that any additional work incurs a cost, which you articulate and agree upon upfront.

They may never ask you to make any changes from that point on, but that’s ok - at least you have made it clear what your free limit is and how much your time is worth beyond that. If they do expect more work, at least they know a little more of what your are capable of and how you are to work with before handing any cash over.

And remember, just because you are free, it doesn’t mean you are not professional. Don’t be afraid to fire your client if he is not professional.

There’ll be plenty more clients who want free labour AND at least treat you better once some expectations are clearly laid out.

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Yeah I’m at the stage where I am leaning towards looking. Just feel like I need to learn a little bit more. Right now I could probably pass as a web designer, which isn’t bad at all.

Wow thanks JacksonBates, that is a fantastic tip, next time I will definitely organize a contract of some sort!
Thanks heaps

@Taylor-S One of the first lessons for any project is getting solid requirements from your client. After everyone agrees and signs off on the requirements, then, you develop a wireframe or prototype. Once everyone agrees and signs off on the wireframe, then you start coding.

Basic stages for a project

  1. Gather project requirements.
  2. Develop a wireframe or prototype.
  3. Develop a testing plan
  4. Start Coding.

Even at work, I have trouble with internal clients who have trouble making up their minds. I have been working on one nightmare project for almost two years; it was supposed to be only a 6-month temporary project. Think of any problem you could encounter with a project it happened. Hopefully, we can close out the project within the next 6-months.

Personally, I have been burned doing Freelance work, because I didn’t follow the basic project stages. Also, never do any designing or wireframing for free. Once the project requirements is agreed upon, ask for a percentage of the project cost upfront before doing any wireframing or coding.


All I could say is, Knowledge is enormous. There’s no limit for it.

You should be aware of your needs. Google around, you’ll find a plenty of good systems for you or dig deeper, make your own system that perfectly suits your website.

Don’t just learn every new framework that comes on the market. I know it feels amazing to learn a lot but trust me, there’s a big difference between knowing several frameworks and having mastered select frameworks.

Coming to the e-commerce, I think you should give it a try, It’s always awesome. :smiley:

Hope I helped by lending the :balloon:

Thanks for the tips, it’s good to know that even professionals deal with similar problems.

If possible, could you give me an example of a testing plan you have used in the past?

For example we want to do user testing to see which designs are most user friendly and appealing. I had the idea of designing layouts on Adobe Illustrator and showing people. Is this what you mean?

Haha you’re right, it is an amazing feeling to learn something new. Almost addictive at times.

Yeh I think I will learn e-commerce, still have things I want to learn before I step into e-commerce.

And yes you did help, I came to the conclusion I need to focus my learning habits.

Thanks heaps!

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:fireworks: :sparkles: :grin:


Testing plans are created based on the project. The tests can be performed manually, or automated (Selenium Browser Automation, List of web testing tools). Automated tests are better, because you can ensure the tests are executed to the exact order necessary.

Example Free Code Camp Project Portfolio Website.

You would create tests to ensure each of these User Stories were actually fulfilled.

  1. User Story: I can access all of the portfolio webpage’s content just by scrolling.
    Test, Manual:

  2. Visit webpage

  3. After webpage loads, attempt to scroll from top to bottom of webpage.
    Expected Results: User is able to view all webpage content.

  4. After reaching bottom of webpage, attempt to scroll from bottom to top of webpage.
    Expected Results: User is able to view all webpage content.

  5. User Story: I can click different buttons that will take me to the portfolio creator’s different social media pages.

  6. User Story: I can see thumbnail images of different projects the portfolio creator has built (if you haven’t built any websites before, use placeholders.)

  7. User Story: I navigate to different sections of the webpage by clicking buttons in the navigation.


Here are some of my previous links regarding wireframing.


Hi Taylor,

As many of the developers above told you, 3 months is a lot of your time for(on the end) a Shopify web-site, I assume you are aware that Shopify will not raise your developer skills at all, it’s practically data filling CMS system for newcomers grannies and wifes and 1st web project to start with is just like a 13 years old kid who is trying to understand how e-Commerce works in general.

I suggest you to listen to a “Oxyrus’s” short but concise advice and would like to add again “Shoppify project is something you will never wanna show to your future clients or use as a portfolio starting ground because in 3 months from now, you will probably be ashame you ever thought to advertise yourself that way(grandma’s & kids toys CMS’s that generally never give you full development control of your shop)”. Sometimes it’s a price range, sometimes client asks for a custom parameters to add to their shop products like color, material, basic dimensions(width, height and this has no end… solutions like that will be a pain in the ass and not a developer friendly solutions alike). Small stuff like clients wishes to move some CSS or stylize it some (only they know why that should look as they want) way that is just not going to work by any chance, things that are fundamental for your developer’s freedom and code or style customization, some aka. lot’s of basic stuff will just be impossible and you will come down to a 4 months spent on some guy’s demands and crazy ideas, most of the time it’s their 1st website/e-Commerce shop ever but they will try to convince you they heard from some guy that things are better that(nonsense CSS, colors like it’s 1995, some old and god forbid jQuery anim. effects etc.) way which often isn’t user friendly or guy just heard menu should be bottom only, top slider all over the place big as a Big Mac but that’s just a clueless client who is using your talent and much more important to me “your expensive time, hours, days and months” for free, changing their opinion every week and by the time you think you are done, he just heard he needs to change a complete CMS or framework, technology used for project or a server type.

I do develop websites, web-apps and e-Commerce solutions and already have experience in that field, when my client asks for a solution, I speak with them open minded, try to give best advice for a shop/app/site that will fit their needs best at the given moment,
Sory for a long text I just realised it’s too big for this kind of advice and probably a lot for you to digest but I would go from star, like:

  • checking basic parameters as(for e-Commerce shop website)

  • getting the approximate amount of the products that will be sold in the solution(for me one of the most important thing when it comes to solution/framework or CMS choosing to start and build with it).

For example: **CMS/Framework Battle aka. what solution will work best for specific shop scenario that my client needs(**happens after you hear out your client needs/demands and workaround shop workflow with daily routines(500-1000 purchases, 1000-1500 products, 300 categories 3000-5000 optimized images for products) and before you start the development). Would not suggest to go with Wordpress or Joomla or CMS that are not genuinely made for e-Commerce because of the naiveness, and I usually compare it as a child vs. experienced marathon runner grandpa who does all the job for you much safer already, has a enormous payment gateways/solutions integrated already or are able to integrate within 1min. of your time and start to generate cash for your satisfied client instantly because I always want a good documented framework so I will be comfortable to adopt addons and upgrade it in future, whenever my client asks for any kind of a customization/addon/plugin or whatever the fuzz is. It just runs better and client is more than satisfied and willing to recommend you for more e-Commerce development work in this field.

  1. Shop with 5 products or shop with 1 product in 100 variants, colors, dimensions and price ranges is a completely differently behavior against your Database’s(sry for my Eng. but it’s important for me thast you understand the logic of it from start - solution choosing and why would you go with that one particularly and ot with some other similar open-source CMS or paid CMS or whatever, decision in start makes your life and project easier for your future development of it and that’s why I try to pick the best for that type of shop).

  2. You have 5 products shop that will never go up, expand, grow or be able to add more because your client has 5 things he wanna sell end of the story. That scenario is more than typical for small business companies nowadays and you don’t need Magento to be able to create and finish project in 3 days, you probably wanna use some lighter framework or CMS like PrestaShop or some of your choice because it’s just too small to spin on something that you never going to use 5% of the CMS possibilities so just keep it simple and clean from here. Another solution of course is a 5000-10000 or more products shop like a big time seller-reseller wher you can buy from needle to lokomotive practically and that is much more serious because your Database will act completely different, in many cases slower and server dependant than a 5, 10 or a 100 products shop. this big scale stuff is best managable and made by above mentioned Magento CMS that uses PHP Zend Framework to steam with and has some kind of it’s own template language as any other CMS but also a lots of options for a big-scale shops with a large amount of stuff inside/ Also covers a solid design, theming, CMS is developer friendly, you can edit absolutely anything you want because of it’s open-source’s nature etc. so classic case is: small projects with good security, lots of plugins, good community and documentation - PRESTASHOP. And for big scale shops with all the rest same as above = Magento CE(CE stands for Community Edition which is free, customizable, just the way we want it to be when our client asks for customization - we accomplish it in hours not months even for a mid-range projects where I have my own assessment but usually go with PrestaShop when I count product-wise functionality up to 3-5k of products, for anything above it goes fine but stutters on lot’s of servers, don’t load fast like it loads with 100-500 products shop etc. there is infinite number of parameters to go with this but my answer is too long and I want you to be able to digest it very easy, so I will end this solution battle here).

I can also get you started if you go for any of this solutions and help over Skype whenever I have time for it ofc. just let me know if you need it because my personal opinion is that you already lost 3 or more months of your life and trust me with Shopify you don’t improve your programming/development skills, thinking skills or a solution bringing conclusions. It just is what it is, a paid service with pre-configured 95% of things with few options and themes that go crazy on iPhone 5 or some tablet which is the best selling in the country of your client(Shopify don’t know the model and display size so media width is not even there and guy stays out of business before even starting a shop advertizement and so on and so bad for you to begin with), small room of freedom for a developer, which is a killing bottleneck for e-Commerce stuff.

Conclusion: You as a freelancer who does free e-Commerce solution for some non-serious guy who changes opinion on every aspect of his shop whenever Novak Djokovic wins a match… bro he would not even have opinion on anything if he wants my “free” time, when i’m able to help him as a human being so practically speak with a guy and explain him the situation, rework the future plans of the shop and tell him your hands will be almost cuffed for a large number of his demands if goes with solutions like “boys with plastic toys” Shopify.

So listen to above comment made by fellow colleagues @Oxyrus & @jamesperrin start building new concept, choose serious stuff that goes like a breeze = less of a headache for you, much satisfied than Shopify idea he will be very soon. Accomplish and respect yourself and your time, specially free-ride type of projects, show him your thinking ahead Yoda advised jedy knowledge and same time invest in yourself by not wasting another 3 months and not learn a thing if you plan to do this for your breadcrumbs soon.

Any comment from a community is welcome of course, add, agree or disagree with me - I will reply in a timely manner and help you or anyone with similar problems/choices you make in a situations like this.
Before you go, respect yourself and your time above all, try to learn some/any new skill from a project you are on, improve and it will payoff even if you live in Zimbabve, don’t pay attention to local not helping you or playing deff for any questions you might have, community here is much bigger, better and important for your carrier than some guy from your neighborhood who is shaking because he heard some new guy is taking over all his Shopify clients and redesigning from scratch in a standalone independent e-Commerce environments and why I still did not move from Shopify or similar all-in-one, one-click-install bag and tag headache solutions out there on the web.

Useful links, documentation is one of the best in this field for those 2 solutions(if anyone disagrees jus’t point out 2 CMS which can parry to this 2 guys I gladly recommended to our Taylor here :slight_smile:
Give it a try, download, if you have Xampp, Wamp, Mamp, installs and configures in 2-5mins depends of your preferences.

PrestaShop 1.7 - Latest version

Magento Community Edition

again sorry to you all for the long run but someone needed to take 10mins and explain basic stuff in more than 3 lines, not all of us are looking in the same direction, some are just taking advices that has no sense and waste time because they listened to a bad advice on “some” forum or blog.


Best regards Taylor and I hope you will adopt some of this and build your carrier with right tools for right job in the future and never waste a single day for free-riders that don’t know what they want next week, it’s your time, you decide how you donate it to him, just make sure it benefits you as well by learning something new every day, especially on free projects like you develop at the moment. For any other thing just ask here or send over your Skype or email and I will be glad to help you out to get started and think forward when e-Commerce is your choice. Tripples the showcase website or any presentation-type website in earnings, Magento even 5x and I don’t see it will go down in the near future tnx to the communities they have, cheers and hope to hear from you.

edit: the amount of text is bigger than my essay written 15-yrs ago in high-school I swear but amount of injustice for guys like his client free-ride-no-opinion-what-I-want-this-week-need-to-change-top-menu-to-rose-yello-combination-my-good-friend-who-owns-zero-e-Commerce-solutions-advized me to go change it next week hmmm hey Taylor before we open, can we just make small changes, let’s change every single thing or even make a new shop in more fancy colours, sidebar from left to right, menu from top to bottom, no delete the menu… GET OUT OF HERE PARASITE CLIENT GUY !!! LET TAYLOR DO SOMETHING IN NEXT MONTH NOT INVOLVING YOUR EPIC IDEAS ABOUT e-Commerce, or solutions for it, or a menu position or a sidebar side if present - you know why? Because it’s free of charge and I know this better than you my dear client.

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@Taylor-S You have to realize you can’t learn every programming language, framework or current trending techology. You have to decide on something, then became an expert in your chosen world. If you choose to use Shopify or WooCommerce as your standard Ecommerce Platform, then learning everything you can about them. This will add real value to your clients. Rememeber a mechanic who works on Fords won’t spend time learning how to work on Lexus or luxuxy cars. Not saying they don’t have the ability to learn, just Ford knowledge is how they making money.

Belieave it or not there are a lot of small, medium and large companies that invest into an ecosystems like Shopify, Wix, SquareSpace, SalesForce, SharePoint, Add-Whatever-Tech-Here.

How to Choose the Best Ecommerce Platform for SEO (January 2017)

Yeah as I said on other post, were on a same page now. I understand that every product has it’s own customer but as I mentioned before.
I was talking about eCommerc open-source solutions, development Framework environment who are way more powerful than most of the Shopify-Wix-Clix, Dicks and whatever online CMS solution is involved.
Just can’t imagine working in some company and using any of that stuff for absolutely anything useful for me and the company both.
My weife has zero development experience for web, registered Wix account and made her own Furniture web-Shop in 10 days, I did not help her, she wanted to see how much time she will lose on learning to make a Website on WIX.
I on the other way love to work my own stuff the way I like and not depend on any limitations because I like to stand ahead of my deadlines with a smile and happy client because everything is doable when you control(own) it, open-source allows me that comfort you can not have in a payed Web Applications.

Also for new guys want to spend time on shopify, Wix, WooCommerce and other nonsense time-wasting and self destructing solutions - if your company’s must have is any of this guys, just retire and find a new job where you can actually get paid like you should, So my advice is for new developers-soon-to-be-meat try not to depend (just don’t!). I do it my way every time and no holy-Shopify-Wix-Twix is related to a Web Development because in my world a development is an idea, every line of code, every revision and tunning with my clients on the rechecks etc. With all those restriction stuff people actually pay for.

also @Taylor-S listen to @jamesperrin considering a "you can’t learn every language or technology out there, just try find your nearest and stuff you enjoy working on, and go from there. Trust me I’m thinking to drop my 10years of PHP Development on solutions from Joomla, WP, Magento, PrestaShop, Typo3 and so on and so on and I developed complete solutions, portals, landing pages, e-mail campaigns, newsletters, Mentoring 2 younger guys in my company for 6 months and I still not gonna hesitate to go and abandon PHP and being up-to-date with my favorite framework “Laravel 5.3 as we speak” but friend - situation on the web and dev-ops scene just makes me look forward and think about my future and I am convinced JS with frameworks and both server & client side scripting capabilities is a future and will fully blow away most of the old-school-C-like derivates in next few years. In most cases you choose a side: Backend or Frontend, lets say DB Administrator for a large-scale operations DB servers but most cases previous 2 guys are Darth Vader or Yoda’s side, PHP is used mostly for backend and DB driven apps, shops etc. JS can now do both client and server-side scripting since recent improvements and rapid framework and server dveelopment environment of your choice. I will probably go with “MEAN Stack JS” MongoDB, ExpressJS, AngularJS & NodeJS, so practically something for everyone and everything for someone, I like where this Framework goes and how fast it grows, loads pages and executing lots of operations up to 3x faster than other languages with All In One Framework Solution that could be a big payoff to you and your career because I freely guess this guys are just gonna be deficitar as always.