A friend recently asked for some advice on how to go about creating an online store. There are a lot of e-commerce solutions out there, which can make choosing the right one difficult.
However, before you rush off and research a load of options, make sure you can answer the following questions -
1. How many products is the site going to sell? How will these products be organised?
It’s important to have a clear idea of how you want to organise the products on your site, and indeed how many products you want to sell; as many e-commerce solutions are priced based on the number of products you want the solution to handle.
Ordinarily, we’d recommend creating a wireframe for the site, prior to selecting an e-commerce solution. A wireframe is a simple visual representation of the site and how the pages relate to one another.
For example, lets imagine that we are planning to launch a website selling socks. It’s conceivable that you’d have four top level categories:
Then within each of these top categories you will have further sub-categories – e.g.
Children’s – Boys
Children’s – Girls
Again, from here you may have further categories e.g.
Children’s – Girls – Knee Socks
Children’s – Girls – Ankle Socks
Clearly it will take time to get all of this down on paper, but once you’ve planned your site out, it will be much easier to implement, and of course, you will have a much clearer idea about the sort of e-commerce system you are going to need.
2. Are the number of products for sale likely to change frequently? How regularly are you going to have to edit and update the site?
If you are going to regularly add and/or delete products, then you’ll be well advised to look for a solution will allow you to update yourself, rather than a fixed solution which can only be amended by the e-commerce provider.
3. What expertise is available to you? Do you have or know anyone with the technical abillity to help out? Do you need a system that can be used with little or no trainning?
Any e-commerce solution will require some training to use . However, work to your strengths – if the person who will be responsible for managing the system is not particularly technical, make sure you select a user friendly, intuitive solution.
4. How much control do you want over the look and feel of the site?
Some e-commerce solutions allow only very limited customisation – as such you may find that you do have as much say in how your site and the products you sell are presented. If you have a particular look and feel in mind – make sure the solution which you select is fully-customisable.
5. What payment methods do you want to use?
There are many different payment options available – these are often referred to as Payment Gateways. Your choice of payment method is very important, because you are asking your users to submit sensitive financial information – they need to be able to trust the payment gateway. Therefore using well known, trusted and established companies can be of benefit. As such we would also recommend offering more than one payment method, so your customers have a choice.
6. SEO considerations
Fortunately most e-commerce solutions generate search (and indeed user) friendly urls - e.g. www.sockz.co.uk/childrens-socks/girls/knee-socks.html rather than www.sockz.co.uk/product3/category1/sub5.html – but make sure your chosen solution generates search friendly urls; you’ll be saving yourself a lot of heartache in the future.