How to Plan an eCommerce Website

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E-commerce websites have paved the way for an easy and convenient shopping experience. Due to the ease offered by them, the demand for ecommerce website development is increasing day by day. Although there are tons of e-commerce websites on the web but not all are successful. This is because it requires proper plans and approach to plan a site. Although planning a site may seem a bit tedious and time consuming, but it will ensure that everything runs smoothly and also helps to save a lot of time.

Planning has a number of phases, including deciding what you’re going to sell, what your audience is, what your platform will be, and what your design will look like.

If you aren’t sure what an eCommerce site is, or if you want to see examples of what others are doing, check out these web design inspiration posts:

The first step in planning an e-commerce website is to determine what you want your site to do. The basic aim of an e-commerce website is to sell products and services. Whatever you are selling, you need to make it compelling enough for the buyers to buy products from your site. For this, you should make it as easy as possible for your customers to buy products. As per the rule, the buyer should be able to buy product within 3 clicks. Make it more and you may make the buyer switch to some other site. Therefore, plan the user interface accordingly.

Next you should analyze your target audience. It is very important to research properly on who would want to buy your products. This will influence the design if the site. Design the site according to the type of your target audience.
It is also important to determine whether you require special site features or not. It depends on what you are selling. If you have a handbag e-store, you may need to have a refined search option so that customers can filter a search by color or brand. You may also want to provide the customers with coupon codes. Therefore, it is better to plan beforehand what all features you want to add in your e-commerce website.

Next you should jot down your limitations. It is better to be realistic. While planning your site, it is important to consider whether you have any budget constraints. If yes, how much is it going to limit what all you can do?
It is important to take into account if you have all the tools you need. The tools required depend on how much of the build you are doing. However, you may need graphic editing software like Photoshop, a web development application, e-commerce and online store management software, and domain name and web hosting service.

You also need to decide which e-commerce platform you will use. There is plethora of e-commerce platforms available these days. You need to find out which would be the best for you. Select an e-commerce platform based on your shopping store’s requirements. If you have a comprehensive knowledge about this, you can consider going for an open source cart or you can also build a platform yourself. And if that is not your cup of tea, you can also consider hosted carts.
Some of the good e-commerce platforms are:

  • Magento: It is certainly one of the most popular open source shopping cart available these days. Magento offers some really awesome features like analytics, integration, capability of wish lists, multiple images for products, advanced product filter search, advanced customer service, tones of payment methods, marketing/promotional tools and so much more. Magento has also released the mobile commerce platform.
  • Shopify: This is another interesting hosted platform. It is extremely easy to set up, manage and update. With this you can get a site running within minutes. However, it lacks in certain features. It comes with a monthly fee and it also requires you to pay commission for every sale. Also, it being a hosted platform means you will have less control of your platform.
  • Zen-Cart:  Zen-Cart is a free pre-built eCommerce platform that is designed to be installed and skinned so you can quickly create your site.  The disadvantage is the complexity of theming and certain customization options.
  • osCommerce: Probably the solution that’s been around the longest, osCommerce has a ton of ready-made resources such as modules, templates and customizations ready.  It’s easy to setup and be running your shop, but the results of osCommerce often look somewhat generic.

There are some content management systems that come with e-commerce add-ons. You can consider them as well. Some of these really good CMS are WordPress, Drupal and Joomla. They have many plug-ins that provide e-store capabilities to these CMS. Some of the plug-ins available are eShop, Shopp and WordPress MiniCart. However, these CMS are not perfect f if you want a fully manageable e-commerce site.

Another alternative is to go the DIY route and build your own platform. However, this requires a fair amount of web development knowledge and lot of time as well. But it would be worth doing only if you have highly customized needs. And if you build it yourself, you will have full ownership of everything. That includes your code base as well.

You can also do some research and find out what other e-commerce websites are doing. Try to learn and do not forget to consider all your findings when you are building your e-store. Have a look at Amazon. It is the world’s largest online reseller. What is so special about it? It is the simplicity of the site. It is very easy to navigate and find what you are looking for. Another example is the site Nation Toys that has an excellent and colorful layout that perfectly compliments the products they sell.

Following the right steps in right manner will ensure that you get good results out of your planning. After you are done with the planning, you should make a mock-up or wireframe of what your site will look like. Hiring a good and reliable ecommerce web design company should be your next step.

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