How to Build an Ecommerce Website

You have a product or product line to sell online!  That’s a big, exciting first step, and now your question is, “How do I build an e-commerce website?”

You have many options to sell online, and each platform or method has its pros and cons. We distilled some of the options down for you in this article to easily make a good first decision on how to build your store.

What are your store requirements?

The first step to making a decision is to write down all of your store requirements.  We cannot overstate how important this step is.  For example, are you selling items that are variable, meaning you can make choices on some items such as color, size, shape?  A t-shirt may come in different sizes or colors, and this is considered a “variable product”. If your t-shirts are one-of-a-kind or only come in one size and one color, this would be a “simple product”.

Some stores need to be set up with different pricing for wholesalers once they log in, or maybe you do not want to show any pricing on the website until the visitor logs in.  This would be a requirement of the store functionality.

We have some clients here that have local delivery set up, which means we need shoppers to enter a zip code in order to determine if they are eligible for local delivery.  This would be another requirement of the store functionality.

We also find some clients would like to have products that are customizable or personalized with a monogram or some text on the item, or maybe gift messages are included. These are all store functionality items you should write down as requirements of your online store.

How about collecting payments?  Do you need to accept a particular type of payment such as checks, COD, or purchase orders? Who is your payment processor and do you need to use that payment processor or can you use something else?

Also, make sure you think about how you would like to set up shipping and taxes.

Once you have all of the functionality you need to be written down, then the next step is to find a platform that fills your needs.

Use an Online E-commerce Platform

If you have a very simple product and simple store requirements, an online platform may be for you.

Online platforms include Squarespace, Ecwid, Wix, Squareup, Shopify, and Amazon, among others. These platforms are great for straightforward products and store requirements.  The way these platforms work is that you log into their software and configure the website and products on their system.

Pros:

  • Because you are logging into their system, you don’t need to worry about updating the software on the back end of the website
  • This type of website might be cheaper to set up as all of the options are included once you log in
  • Many of the decisions you need to make may be determined for you as the functionality is limited
  • Templates for the store’s look and feel are available and most of the time are pretty easy to configure as is

Cons:

  • Because you are logging into their system, you are limited to the options that this platform gives you. If you have any special requirements for your store, you may not be able to offer those options. These systems are for the most part, not “open source”… meaning that they do not share their code, so no one is able to add on to their software easily to modify how it functions.
  • You are stuck here on this system and cannot move your store to another host or platform easily. This relationship is like a marriage, and you should consider your options very carefully. If you need to move to a new platform for new functionality, you may need to rebuild the store from the ground up on a new platform which takes time and money

Sell your products with Woocommerce:

If you have a more complex product and/or more complex store requirements, Woocommerce and the WordPress platform may be for you.

Woocommerce is installed on top of a WordPress website only. You cannot run Woocommerce on another type of website platform such as Joomla or Drupal.  The makers of WordPress, Automattic, own Woocommerce and so the integration is planned, tested and thought-out. The way the Woocommerce platform works is that you download the Woocommerce software and install it into your WordPress installation, and you log into your own personal website to configure the website and products on your own system.

Pros:

  • Because you are logging into your own system, you are not limited to the options that you require! If you have any special requirements for your store, there is most likely a plugin or software already written and available for sale that will solve your special need. This is really the power of WordPress and the “open source” platform. “Open Source” simply means that the code of WordPress is able to be seen by developers and therefore, developers can modify or add to the code to make it work the way they want it to.
  • You can make the store look whatever way you would like!  The customizations are endless!  You are definitely in the driver’s seat.
  • Templates for the store’s look and feel are available and most of the time is pretty easy to configure for us developers
  • If you don’t like your host or website developer, you are free to move the entire store to another hosting platform! This is an important freedom as you are more independent and able to make decisions for your store that are good for your business model

Cons:

  • Because you own the software on your own system, you need to worry about updating the software on the back end of the website. Most website developers have plans to do this for you, or you can do this yourself, but someone must update the software on a weekly basis at a minimum otherwise your store will fail or get hacked at some point
  • This type of website might be more expensive to set up. WordPress and Woocommerce are free, but extensions such as payment processors, shipping plugins, invoice extensions, etc cost a bit of money each year.  Developer costs also may add up a bit, but should be worth it if they are done correctly

If you are looking for assistance with setting up your e-commerce store, we can help you!  Fill out the form below or give us a call!

Also see our other articles regarding Woocommerce, such as Things to Think About When Setting up Coupons, and Decisions to make when setting up a Woocommerce store, and Creating a Unique and Functional Woocommerce Store Online.

 

 

 

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