So, you've decided you're finally ready to start selling your products online. Great! Now what are your next steps?
As with anything else, planning ahead is key. Whether you're choosing an all-in-one solution such as Shopify or a semi all-in-one solution such as the Woo-Commerce plugin for WordPress, or going it alone and building the entire site yourself from the ground up (GASP! - but go you!) ,there are some important things to keep in mind before getting started.
Which Solution Is Right For You?
The first step in choosing which solution is right for you is to evaluate the skills and technical knowledge of you and your team.
If the site were to ever go down, or you are hacked, do you or anyone on your team have the knowledge and skills to potentially stay up all night drinking cauldrons of coffee while debugging the site?
If you feel like you could confidently build and maintain a site from the ground up, you can move on to the building and design stage.
If you don't, there are some options to consider. There are all-in-one solutions such as Shopify and Volusion that can take care of all the technical details for you (web hosting, FTP, security certificates, and even payment methods) and served up in an easy to use Content Management System.
There's are also semi-all-in-one solutions such as Magento, or even plugins for your existing site, such as the Woo-Commerce plugin for WordPress sites.
Design, Function And User Experience
Using whichever solution you choose from above you'll need to design or select and tweak a template for your website that not only looks slick and professional, but is also simple, easy to navigate and converts visitors into customers.
Try to put yourself in the place of your customer. "Would I buy from this store?" "Would I trust these products?" "Would I be impressed?"
Before committing (and potentially paying for a theme) do some quick conversion optimization research and factor you findings into your theme choices.
Also look into how customizable your chosen themes are; you likely want to customize to some degree in the future.
A major point to consider is the "click distance" from home page to product. Try to adhere to a "3 click rule" wherever possible; ensure any product is only 3 clicks away from the home page.
Whether you're going with the all-in-one solution or the ground up solution, it's highly unlikely your customers are going to magically find your site and products out of the blue.
E-Commerce sites often create issues for SEO but it's possible to overcome these issues if you think ahead during the crucial design and build stages. Ensure that all pages, especially your individual product pages, contain unique and high-quality text content that is not found anywhere else on the web.
Similarly, use original product photos and avoid stock photos wherever possible.
Don't just default to the manufacturer's descriptions and images. Your competitors likely do this. Don't be like them - make your store different!
But don't stop there. Consider creating a blog also. It's important to write fresh, high quality posts about topics close to and important to your niche to build traffic to your new site.
(If you want to know why we tell you to blog, click here)
As time goes on, your business needs will likely change and your online store will need to adapt to these changes as well. There may come a point where you or a developer will need to further customize your site. This could include things like adding additional tracking or marketing codes to monitor the business and websites' performance. It could also include the addition of text content, or the addition of certain Meta tags (such as open graph tags or canonical tags) for SEO purposes. This is where some disadvantages of the all-in-one solutions can arise.
As mentioned above, all-in-one solutions, like Shopify, will take care of everything for you (web hosting, FTP, Security etc.) Some of these solutions are open to almost any kind of development customization you could need, while others are not.
With all-in-one solutions, you as a site owner, often have a limited amount of access to certain files within the backend of the site. Often, something as simple as adding some higher quality text content to the home page, and controlling its placement just isn't possible. Some of the options mentioned earlier are certainly better at this than others, but sometimes what you want to be changed, just can't be changed. This could inhibit some customization, and possibly some SEO related improvements, sales tracking and marketing possibilities in the future.
Of course, these are just the basics to consider. There are many, many other factors you will need to consider when beginning to sell your products online. Discount codes, hard and soft conversion points, remarketing, newsletters, mailing list software and many others. But, with these simple tips and considerations, you should have a solid foundation to get started, and take the next steps into doing business online.
- 5 E-Commerce On-Site SEO Mistakes And What You Can Do About Them Now (Jeff Loquist)
- SEO Technical Requirements Checklist, for Ecommerce (Jill Kocher)
- 25 Amazing Ways to Boost eCommerce Conversion Rates (Matt Janaway)
One thought on “An Introduction To E-commerce Web Design And Development”
Great point about SEO! Many people dipping their toe into ecommerce forget about this at the start. It is not simply “build it and they will come” … there is a lot more work required. Also, much like Wal-Mart has killed off small town shops, the big retailers have made it hard to be found on page one for many products (and if you aren’t on page 1, you’re dead). If what you are selling is being offered by Amazon, Wal-Mart, etc., it can be an expensive uphill battle at best.
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