It doesn’t happen to me every day to interview “crown jewels” of Magento community. But from time to time I approach the brightest minds in Magento universe and publish the results of my conversation with them (remember aheadWorks interviews with Andre Gugliotti, Mario SAM, Hirokazu Nishi, Kuba Zwolinski)?
This time I talk to the guy who is extremely popular in Magento development circles and famous for his in-depth eCommerce surveys we’re all looking forward to every half-year. Tom Robertshaw, welcome on stage!
Tom Robertshaw is on the left
Q. What was the reason you started conducting eCommerce surveys in the first place?
Tom: I started the prototype of the eCommerce survey back in 2010, although not as you see it now. I was at University, Meanbee was up and running, but we wanted to make sure we were committing to the right platform with Magento.
I started comparing Magento with osCommerce first off. It got great feedback from the community, including Roy Rubin commenting on the first post!
Since then it’s grown massively, in positive reception and audience. For that, I’m really very appreciative. The money has been a welcome by-product of a real interest to keep track of the eCommerce landscape.
Current reports show website, traffic rank, previous eCommerce software, current eCommerce software, IP and hosting country (if available).
Q. You make surveys onсe in six months. Why is it so and not more frequent?
Tom: It used to be run quarterly; it’s only been run less often due to other commitments with Meanbee. Six-monthly has provided sufficiently fresh information, and I don’t get many requests to refresh it more frequently.
Q. What other trends are you planning to analyze in the future and what new statistics can we expect from you?
Tom: From the survey you can certainly expect a much deeper and accurate analysis.
Outside of the eCommerce survey, I’m taking a keener interest in A/B testing of popular Magento extensions. There’s lots of advertising out there and lots of great feedback, but very little quantitative evidence behind the benefits of extensions.
Trying to understand what makes people tick has been something that’s intrigued me for a long time. I genuinely think that we’re pretty bad at guessing, even if we think we’re not. Running tests are the only way to see what people are doing.
Q. It’s difficult to predict things. But could you share thoughts on what may happen to eCommerce platforms in 2013-14 (who might be the leader, what platforms will rise or fall) and what factors may contribute to their growth and decline.
Tom: For Magento, the next year is going to be very interesting to see how eBay continues to absorb it.
Like everyone else, I have my fingers crossed for positive news on Magento 2.0, otherwise, customers are going to lose confidence in the platform.
It doesn’t really need to be said, but the winners are going to be those that focus on commerce as a whole. I don’t just mean mobile, but being a part of marketplaces is key for increasing a customer base.
Any eCommerce platform worth its salt needs to provide the ability to consider the business as a whole. This may be where Product Information Management tools like Akeneo come in.
Q. Have you observed a new trend in Magento world – partnerships between Magento Industry and Solution companies (i.e. extension and solution providers)? Is it happening for good?
Tom: It’s not something that I’ve particularly noticed, to be honest. If that’s the case, it means more developer communication and code reviews.
I would say that this can only be good news for development standards all around. Best practice is a phrase that’s thrown around a lot and the best thing that you can do is get certified, but also partaking in discussion with others about the best way and then documenting it on sites like magentotherightway.com. I think it could be really helpful for others.
Q. You actively participate in many Magento events. Which ones do you rank highest?
Tom: Under my belt I have Magento Imagine, Magento Live UK, Meet Magento Netherlands, Mage Hack UK as well as bringing Magento knowledge to my local eCommerce and tech forums.
In terms of ranking, it depends what you’re looking for. For developers, the hacks are the best. You’re focused on experimenting and pushing the boundary in a certain area. I’m also very grateful to the people that commit their time to the bugathons.
For the decision makers and the consultants I’d really recommend Magento Imagine to get a good understanding of where Magento has come in the last year and also a feeling for what its focus is going to be for the next year.
Tom is the third from the left, top row
Q. I know you like psychology and alternative rock music based on your LinkedIn profile. Perhaps, our readers can get more personal info?
Tom: I studied Computer Science at the University of Bath, and started Meanbee while I was there. I thrive on being busy and productive, whether that be a client work or side-projects.
Outside the boundaries of my 17-inch Macbook Pro… I’m a Christian and enjoy giving back to my local community, e.g. running a Code Club for children to learn the basics of coding.
Q. Tom, give us recommendations on valuable Magento resources that you personally follow.
Tom: Activity on the Magento sub-reddit is picking up, but be careful of the self-promoters. Following interesting people within the community on Twitter is still my RSS feed for the cutting edge Magento and eCommerce world.
Thank you so much, Tom, for your time and detailed answers! It is such a pleasure to have you on aheadWorks blog!
Did I forget something to ask Tom about? You have a chance to bombard Tom Robertshaw with questions about anything you want! Don’t lose this unique opportunity and leave your queries in the comment form below.