Billions of us shop online. No wonder when there is at least 12 million and as many as 24 million active ecommerce websites online right now. Is ecommerce website development on your radar? As an experienced B2B website design agency it’s an everyday part of our world.
However complex, however large and seemingly challenging, we know exactly how to develop ecommerce websites that attract audiences, provide superb navigation, and deliver the kind of top quality experience that inspires people to buy.
In a competitive landscape where even the smallest things can make a dramatic difference to an ecommerce site’s performance, perfection is the thing to aim for. Read on to discover what is ecommerce website development, why it’s so important to have a detailed ecommerce website development plan, how it differs from a regular web development plan, the ins and outs of the ecommerce website development process, and some expert recommendations around the best CMS.
First, let’s dive into a crucial question. What is ecommerce website development? The term defines the process of developing the technical aspects of an ecommerce website. It takes into account the way the site functions. It involves making sure all payments are taken quickly, smoothly, efficiently and accurately, giving people a choice of ways to pay. It looks the part, dovetailing with the brand perfectly. And it does all the things users expect in reaction to their actions.
In an extremely crowded digital space that’s only getting bigger and more crowded, it’s vital to stand out. Standing out means doing things at least as well as competing sites. Because some ecommerce sites aren’t as well designed and developed as others, a beautifully made site will deliver instant advantages. But you’ll need to be better than ‘good’ to really stand out. And that means making the best job possible of all the most important elements: the look, the user experience, the payment gateways and options, the way it reacts to people’s needs, desires, and even the mistakes they make. Every user touch point should be perfect in every way.
We can’t overstate the importance of an ecommerce web development plan. Because ecommerce perfection is a complex matter, it’s all too easy to lose track. A detailed plan will keep everything in place, in order, and organised so everyone involved always knows what’s what.
Without rugged, common sense management processes structured to achieve strategically intelligent decisions, it’s worryingly easy to lose the plot. You won’t find us embarking on ecommerce design without a plan! So why is an Ecommerce website development project plan important?
For a start web development, especially ecommerce, can be a very lengthy process. It involves a multitude of different needs, requirements and actions, and a lot of fiddly, detailed work. Without a plan you’ll find it a challenge to make sure the process connects at all the essential points, in all the right ways, from start to finish. Only then can you hope to deliver what’s needed.
The ecommerce site development workflow includes everything from business analysis, where you figure out the goals your ecommerce venture will meet, to the many complex intricacies of User Interface and User Experience design. You’ll need to choose the best eCommerce platform to build the site on, and choose a really good, reliable host to deliver great up-time and fast page load speeds. Without all the fine detail mapped out first, it’s more or less impossible to complete an ecommerce design and build project on time, to budget.
How about ecommerce development vs other types of websites? How does retail site development differ from social networks, blogs, video sites, photo sharing sites, and brochure sites? As it turns out, the things you need to consider when developing an ecommerce website differs quite dramatically from the rest.
Informational sites vary, offering everything from personal blogs to company websites. They’re designed to provide the information people need, everything from samples of their work, demos of tools products and services, news about and around the core subject, testimonials, reviews, meet the team pages, and more. It’s more about marketing communications expertise, not so much about direct response marketing.
Ecommerce transactions are a lot more like direct marketing, where all of your design and development efforts focus on moving people along the buying journey until they finally make the decision and purchase. That’s why ecommerce sites offer the product or service itself, as well as well as every single fine detail visitors need to make an informed buying decision. Because of this, ecommerce sites are seen as more convenient. You can do your research, find everything you need to know, see varied images from all sorts of angles, view the spec, all that good stuff... and you can buy from the same place without having to click away to a retailer.
Next, the ins and outs of the ecommerce website development process. It’s logical to break the development process into two sections, Planning and Execution.
Get the planning right and you save time, save money, complete projects on time, have realistic expectations, maximise the impact and effectiveness of your resources, and stay on track from start to finish.
Get the execution right and the website you build will do everything it needs to do beautifully, without any hitches. It’ll look fantastic, work brilliantly, showcase your brand and products properly, and encourage people to visit, explore, buy, and ultimately come back for more.
The Planning side of ecommerce website development involves first mapping out the scope of the work. You’ll probably find there’s more to think about than you imagined. And that’s a good sign you’re getting right to the bottom of things in the way you need to.
Organising your deliverables means creating a breakdown of the work structure. A work breakdown structure or WBS takes account of the client’s needs, covering essentials like the project tasks and splitting those tasks into simpler subtasks, easier to achieve. Doing it this way helps you take one logical step at a time, creating a vital project roadmap.
Next, you have to understand dependencies, things like stock levels and inventory. You’ll need to take every dependency into account so you won’t have any nasty surprises, and then create a timeline that’ll help inform your budget.
Your execution responsibilities involve knowing exactly what you’re selling from an end-customer perspective. Are you going to be operating Business-to Business or Business to Consumer? It’s important because they involve very different marketing propositions.
Will you name the business according to what it sells, or give it a creative name that won’t help search engines classify what the site is all about?
Choosing a platform for the ecommerce site to sit on comes before choosing your domain, a mini-project in itself revolving around Google search and people’s needs.
Over the years we’ve become more and more impressed by Vendr, the Umbraco based ecommerce platform on which many of the world’s best loved and busiest ecommerce presences are built. It’s an unbeatable resource for creating a world-class website layout, designing the site itself, and optimising the design for SEO and for users. These days we prefer to insist on it unless a project dictates we use something different. .
Last but not least, testing is crucial. You’ll need to give the new site a thorough bashing, testing the user journey from every angle multiple times to pick out any inconsistencies, bugs, mistakes, dead ends and more. Once you’re 100% certain everything is working exactly as it should, you can launch the site. When every aspect is figured into a plan, it’s harder to make mistakes, add irrelevant stuff in, and miss vital things out.
What’s the best CMS for ecommerce? There are so many great choices these days, it can be a tough call. Here are some of the best-in-breed, the world’s most popular ecommerce CMS platforms.
WordPress is one of the planet’s best-loved CMS platforms in the world, but it isn’t the biggest in ecommerce and it isn’t actually an ecommerce platform. You’ll need plugins for that. WordPress pairs with its sister CMS woocommerce, which is favoured because of its immense choice of mostly-free extensions and themes. On the downside, you could end up using so many plugins and extensions that it affects the performance of your site. Because plugins and extensions can affect each other, you might have problems when updating plugins in the CMS.
Shopify is one of the world’s best-known SaaS ecommerce platforms. It comes with a very simple interface and affordable pricing, but the number of features you get depends on the type of plan you choose. It’s popular with startups and small businesses but it’s also used by big brands. You get free 24/7 support, great when you’re not a CMS expert, and there’s a separate Point Of Sale system. Choose from loads of cool shop templates to make life easy. The downside? Shopify charges transaction fees for using payment methods outside the platform.
Magento, being owned by Adobe, comes with an excellent reputation, rich in functionality with a large and exciting extension marketplace. It tends to attract fast-growing businesses and big business. With more than 260,000 online stores on the platform internationally, it integrates perfectly with CRM tools used for Customer Relationship Management, ERP software for Enterprise Resource Planning, chatbots and many other useful enterprise-level treats. It also comes with varied set-up and pricing options.
Umbraco is the platform we love the best. At Intuitiv we mainly work with Umbraco, a fantastic tool built on Microsoft’s famous .NET Framework. It’s unusually easy to use. It’s a dream to understand. It delivers endless possibilities around site development, great for limitless creativity. And its stability and security, which used to be less than ideal, have improved beyond imagination. We trust it completely.
Umbraco is flexible enough to integrate beautifully with a multitude of applications and platforms. Because the code behind the Umbraco CMS is open-source, it’s publicly available on GitHub, where it is constantly tweaked and improved to perfect the functionality, the look, and the user experience. Like all Open Source software, it’s much better at sticking to the highest open standards than proprietary software could ever be.
Umbraco includes Vendr, a great ecommerce package designed specifically to interact with Umbraco. And that seals the deal for us. Vendr is a flexible ecommerce solution to add to existing Umbraco v8+ sites. It works very like the latest version of Umbraco, letting us integrate the whole catalogue of current Umbraco third-party Integrations to work with ease inside Vendr. One of the reasons it’s so exceptional is the Vendr founder Matt Brailsford was a keen member of the Umbraco Community before taking the plunge to develop Vendr. Come to use it for your ecommerce development project and you’ll love the results thanks to these amazing tools.
It’s important to understand the basics around ecommerce website development if you want to create a site users love to visit, stick around on, buy from, trust, and come back to for more. If you’d like to explore the potential of CMS platforms for ecommerce, feel free to get in touch for an inspiring discussion. As an experienced web design Oxford provider with loads of successful ecommerce site designs under our belt, we’re the perfect partner for profit.
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