Tips for starting an Ecommerce Website
So you’re ready to start an ecommerce website.. you know what you’re selling, where you’ll ship to, and have purchased a domain name, but don’t know where to actually begin?
Don’t worry, you’re not alone. Starting an ecommerce website can be quite overwhelming, there are many factors you need to plan out before you can start calling ecommerce website developers and starting your project. This article will explain some of the things you need to consider when asking for quotes to develop your ecommerce website, and what you should start researching and planning for.
What do you want in terms of design & layout?
Planning the design and layout of the website is one of the most important aspects of planning your ecommerce website. The design should be clean, easy to navigate, easy to purchase products and checkout. I recommend avoiding pre-designed templates as they never end up looking exactly the way you want them to, and it can be time consuming (and therefore more expensive) to customize pre-designed themes. A simple, un cluttered custom design can never go wrong.
Open source Vs Custom programming
A good way to prepare yourself is to first educate yourself on what options you have. Open source, which means the actual application is free to download and use, can be a good, cheaper solution to start with. There are many open source ecommerce website platforms out there, like Magento, Open Cart, PrestaShop, Zen Cart for example. These are fully functional ecommerce systems and come packed with functionality, and you will have the ability to manage the ecommerce website yourself via an online admin area. Adding new products, categories, putting products on sale and creating coupon codes are all included with systems like these! However.. I recommend balancing out an open source system with some custom programming, mainly to secure the website. Don’t forget that if something is free, anyone can download it (hacker, hacker) and find vulnerabilities in the code.
Custom programmed ecommerce websites can be expensive to develop. This is mainly because more than 60% of the code would be written by the developer, and not downloaded from an open source website or system. This means you can have exactly what you want, have it work exactly the way you want, and chances are it will be a lot more secure; but all this comes at a price. Custom programmed websites can start at $15,000 and go up from there.
Have you prepared an inventory excel sheet?
I cannot even begin to explain how important this is. In order to expedite development of your ecommerce website, you need to have all your products, categories, prices, images, etc organized and ready in an excel sheet so the developer can simply import them into the database. If you have not prepared this, chances are you will delay the launch of your ecommerce website while you’re busy preparing this sheet, or you’ll be charged extra to have the developer manually add the products, or even worse; you’ll be stuck adding each product, one by one, via the admin area.
How will you ship your orders?
Many of my ecommerce website clients did not consider this when planning their websites, and this is important. Will you offer regular shipping? Expedited shipping? Courier? If so, which courier? Have you signed up for an online account with the courier? Most importantly, how will you charge for shipping? weight based? destination based (geo zones)? flat rate? How about free shipping on orders over a certain value? All these factors should be considered right in the beginning and planned for.
How will you accept payment?
This is definitely one of the most important factors to consider. PayPal can be a good option to start with, but most consumers expect to pay directly on the website and not be re-directed to the merchant bank for payment. There are several online merchant banks that offer online credit and debit card processing, and your bank will most probably offer it as well. Don’t forget that merchant banks charge a commission on all transactions, which on average ranges about 1% – 3% per transaction, plus a monthly fee; so keep these costs in mind when selecting an online merchant bank to work with.
These are the most important factors I consider when providing a quote to develop an ecommerce website. If you keep these factors in mind, you’ll be better prepared to weed out the rip off developers from the real ones and most importantly, don’t nickel and dime a proper developer! This website will be a source of income for you and represent your business online, don’t try and save a few bucks and end up regretting it later on. Don’t be mistaken – I’m not saying you should willingly write a cheque for $20,000 to a developer without considering the points above! But make sure you’re not getting ripped off and work with a developer who you feel comfortable with, as chances are this will be a long term relationship.