There’s more to eCommerce website development than just your design and choice of programming language. From content management systems to checkouts, you’ll face a variety of options when you build a website to sell products online.
In this guide, we’ll cover the basics of eCommerce website development, from the process of selecting a content and inventory management system that suits your needs to choosing a payment processor that works for your business model.
Is this your first eCommerce development project? Enroll in our course, Building an eCommerce Website From Scratch, to learn how to develop your online store, from concept and design to code and finished product.
Planning your eCommerce website
Building an eCommerce website isn’t as simple as choosing a CMS and adding your products one by one. The scale of your online store – from the amount of customers you expect to have to the amount of products you sell – will influence your choices regarding software, payment processing, and other factors.
Before you start developing your eCommerce website, you need to have a full plan and development schedule prepared. As part of this process, you’ll need to answer several questions, each of which will have an effect on your decisions.
How large will your online store be?
How many products do you plan to sell on your website? Does your company only have two or three different products to sell, or do you have hundreds or thousands of different products for customers to choose from?
The scale of your store has a huge effect on your choice of software. Small online stores can often be built using content management systems like WordPress and Twitter Bootstrap, while large stores generally need to use dedicated software.
When you calculate the total number of products you plan to sell, you also need to take variants into account. If you sell shoes, for example, each size and color should count as a separate product for the purpose of calculating your website’s scale.
This can often mean that a clothing store with what seems like hundreds of shirts, shoes, or other products can really have thousands of unique items which are sold online. Each of these products needs its own unique stock keeping unit (SKU).
Finally, the scale of your eCommerce website extends to categories. Do you sell just one type of product – for example, a shoe store – or do you sell hundreds of types of products, like a department store? The more categories, the larger the scale.
Choosing a development framework
If your eCommerce website is relatively small, with less than 50 unique products, it can often be built using a content management system like WordPress and various plugins dedicated to product management, checkouts, and online payments.
Our course, Create a WordPress Ecommerce Website Quickly and Easily, gives you the exact information required to build your own eCommerce website from scratch using the simple WordPress CMS and some third-party plugins.
Large eCommerce websites with hundreds or thousands of unique products need to be designed using eCommerce software. Many web developers choose Magento – an open source eCommerce application framework – to build their online stores.
Magento offers numerous advantages that WordPress and third-party eCommerce plugins simply can’t match. It’s built from the ground up for large online stores, and is easy to customize and operate.
It’s also much more powerful than any content-focused CMS. While WordPress is an extremely flexible platform for online publishing, it’s far from ideal for developing a product-focused online store.
Are you developing a large online store with hundreds of products? Enroll in our course, MAGENTO Scratch: Open Your First Shop Online, to learn how you can use this powerful open source application to build your first eCommerce website.
Choosing your eCommerce website’s style
Just like your can customize blogging platforms like WordPress to suit any type of website, you can tweak and customize eCommerce platforms like Magento to have any type of look and feel.
Whether you sell stylish clothing or automotive toolkits, the fundamentals of your eCommerce website will mostly be the same. Navigation bars, product categories, and backend databases are similar in structure on most eCommerce websites.
However, you have a great deal of creative control over the way your product pages look. Many eCommerce websites include features like user reviews, product options, and even demonstration videos. As part of your eCommerce website development plan, you’ll need to think carefully about how your product page should look.
Many of the elements you choose to include on your product pages will influence your conversion rate. Learn more about conversion optimization with Conversion Crash Course – an in-depth conversion course with over 25 detailed lectures.
Selecting a payment processor
In order to sell products online, you need to be able to process payments. There are many online payment processing options available, ranging from PayPal checkouts that can be integrated in minutes to complicated merchant banking accounts.
Generally speaking, small online stores will benefit from using a payment processor instead of acquiring their own merchant account. Factors like rolling cash reserves and minimum transaction quotas often make merchant accounts more of a bother for small businesses than an advantage.
By far the most popular online payment process for small eCommerce businesses is PayPal. Although PayPal’s fees can make it a costly option on a per-transaction basis, its flexibility and immense trust among users makes it an excellent choice.
Learn more about building an eCommerce website using PayPal for taking payments in our course, eCommerce Website: Using PayPal. It explains how to use PayPal as a payment processor for one-off purchases, subscriptions, and more.
A variety of other payment processing options are emerging for small businesses in need of low-volume credit card billing. One of the most popular options to come out in the last few years is Stripe, which offers a simple API for eCommerce websites.
Our free course, Integrating Payments with the Stripe API, shoes you how to use the Stripe application programming interface to bill customers via credit card. Stripe’s fee structure is much the same as PayPal’s, making it a cost-effective alternative.
Starting development and deploying on schedule
Developing an eCommerce website is a difficult task, and without the right level of planning and expertise it can often become an expensive, time-consuming exercise in frustration.
To make sure your eCommerce website is developed and deployed on schedule, it helps to have a complete development plan prepared ahead of time. Make sure to include a detailed, itemized budget as part of your website development plan.
Learn more about planning and executing a web development project in our course, The Basics of Project Planning. Go over all of the factors listed above – from payment processing to on-site design – and build a detailed, actionable development plan.
For most eCommerce website development projects, you’ll need a team of skilled and capable people with experience developing using WordPress or Magento. It’s often more cost-effective to outsource aspects of your online store’s development.
Our course, Use Outsourcing to be More Productive & More Profitable, shows you the keys to successful development outsourcing. From design to code to the final product, it’s possible to outsource every aspect of your website’s development.
Are you ready to start selling your products online?
Building an eCommerce website from scratch is no small task, and starting without the right combination of planning and expertise can make the process tricky. Using the courses and resources listed above, however, you can successfully create your own eCommerce website and start a successful online business!