How to make an e-commerce site

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There’s no better time than now to learn how to build an eCommerce website, but if you’ve never built one before, it can be hard to know where to start.

In our changing world, many people still cannot or do not want to visit physical stores. It is therefore imperative to use one of the best e-commerce website builders if you want your business to benefit from the online shopping boom.

We discuss what is needed to launch your own online store and outline some of the best website building options for e-commerce sites while also showing you how to create an e-commerce website.

Step 1: Create a plan

So: you have a great idea for selling something online, and you can’t wait to see it come to fruition. However, if you want to ensure the long-term success of your e-commerce venture, you need a plan that accurately describes your business and how it operates.

It is essential to consider the following:

  • The product(s) you will sell
  • Your potential customers
  • Payment processing methods
  • Inventory management
  • Tracking control
  • Dispatch
  • Returns Management

You will need to be aware of these elements before building your site, as some will directly impact the framework or technology you use to build it. For example, if a supplier can only send product data in a certain format, you might need to choose a framework that supports importing that format.

If you go ahead and start building a site without considering these aspects, you may discover incompatibilities that cannot be resolved, and it may be too late. This could require you to start all over again, and so extra attention and care initially could save you a lot of time and headaches later.

Step 2: Choose the Right Ecommerce Platform

Shopify homepage

Once you understand these things, you can focus on which ecommerce platform you will be using. These include almost every feature you would need to run an online store, but ultimately it comes down to choosing the right one for you and your needs.

There are many to choose from, and they generally fall into four different types:

  • All-in-one software as a service (SaaS) platform like Shopify, BigCommerce, and Wix

  • Open source shopping cart apps like Magento or OpenCart

  • Open source shopping cart modules that can be added to existing CMS, like WooCommerce for WordPress

  • Add-on shopping carts, like Snipcart, that can be added to any website without the need for a CMS module

Let’s take a look at these in a bit more detail.

SaaS platforms

If you’ve never built a website and don’t know where to start, SaaS platforms are worth considering. You have to pay a monthly subscription, but they can get you from zero to fully functional sites in a very short time. Recurring charges also usually include the cost of your web hosting.

They often come with a large number of templates to get the general framework of the site built in just a few minutes. But they also include easy-to-use website builders that allow you to customize your chosen templates. Alternatively, you can start from scratch if you have a particular design in mind. In some cases, however, you may find that builders aren’t as good at fully custom designs.

SaaS platforms also include almost every feature you would need to run an online business. However, some features may not be available by default and you will need to pay for additional apps. The advantage of SaaS platforms is that you can get a website built quickly with all the details taken care of.

The downsides include the sometimes high recurring fees and the potential limitations of customizing your site.

If you’ve never built a website and don’t know where to start, SaaS platforms are worth considering. You have to pay a monthly subscription, but they can get you from zero to fully functional sites in a very short time. Recurring charges also typically include the cost of your web hosting.

They often come with a large number of templates to get the general framework of the site built in just a few minutes. But they also include easy-to-use website builders that allow you to customize your chosen templates. Alternatively, you can start from scratch if you have a particular design in mind. In some cases, however, you may find that builders aren’t as good at fully custom designs.

SaaS platforms also include almost every feature you would need to run an online business. However, some features may not be available by default and you will need to pay for additional apps. The advantage of SaaS platforms is that you can get a website built quickly with all the details taken care of.

The downsides include the sometimes high recurring fees and the potential limitations of customizing your site.

Open source shopping cart apps

WooCommerce Product Settings Tab in WordPress Interface

If you don’t like the idea of ​​ongoing fees and lack of customization, your solution is to build a site yourself. Choosing a full-featured, open-source shopping cart app is one way you can do that.

The main difference between these and a SaaS platform is that with your own shopping cart, you would pay more upfront to have the site built in the first place. But depending on the volume of orders processed by your site, it could pay for itself quite quickly.

The only recurring fee you’ll likely have to pay is web hosting, which tends to be included in the subscription cost of SaaS platforms. However, paying for hosting alone can be much cheaper.

The other main benefit is that you have more freedom and control to create a unique site for your business. If you need custom features, it’s easier to code them and add them to a site where you control the complete code base than with a SaaS application.

Cart modules

Shopping cart modules are similar to apps, except they are for existing CMSs. Apps tend to be used to build an entire site and are great for e-commerce. However, if you have an existing site and want to add e-commerce functionality, you can add an e-commerce module to the CMS used by your site or create a new site with your favorite CMS and do the same.

Most CMSs, whether popular like WordPress, Drupal and Joomla, or more specialized options like Craft and Statamic, have e-commerce modules that can be installed. Similar to shopping cart apps, you would pay more upfront to install and configure a module, but you would also get the same levels of flexibility.

Additional Shopping Carts

This category of carts probably has the fewest number of options. But it can be a good choice if you don’t want to pay recurring fees or spend a lot on e-commerce integration. With these (for example, Snipcart or PayPal payment buttons), you add a small piece of code to existing sites to add e-commerce functionality.

The back office features may not be as comprehensive as the other options we’ve covered, but they strike a good balance between low cost and flexibility in how you build your site.

Step 3: Choose the right team to build your site

two Mac monitors on a desk displaying website building platforms

If you choose an all-in-one SaaS platform, you may not need help building your site. But if you choose an open source app or module, or an add-on shopping cart, and you don’t have any coding knowledge, you will need a reliable web development team to help you.

It can be tempting to advertise on a freelance website and accept the cheapest offer, but “you get what you pay for” is also true in web development. What you save in freelancer fees may not be worth the extra time and hassle if you choose the wrong provider.

You’ll want to find a person or team that has experience in e-commerce, but is also good at communicating with you and understands your goals for the project.

Step 4: Choose the right web hosting

Once you have decided which e-commerce platform to use, you will be able to choose the best web hosting option. It’s best to leave that until you know what you’ll be using to build the site, as different platforms and systems have different requirements.

Many web hosting providers also have plans tailored to certain systems, so you might want to look for one that specifically supports your chosen platform. You’ll want to choose a web host that can guarantee excellent performance, not only in terms of how fast your site loads, but also near-perfect uptime.

If you’re losing money for every minute your site is down, you don’t want your web hosting to cost you. And because e-commerce involves dealing with people’s personal and financial information, you’ll also want to choose a company that offers high levels of security.

How to create an e-commerce site: Summary

As we have seen, it takes a lot of thought to create a successful e-commerce website. You need to consider how your online business operates, what platform to build your site on, which team will help you build it, and which provider will host it.

While you may be eager to get started, a little time spent planning at the start of the project will ultimately save you time, money, and headaches.

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