In today’s Internet-driven consumer marketplace, it’s important to have a plan for selling your products and services on the web. This means you need an e-commerce website.
While that can sound scary and intimidating to someone who doesn’t have a lot of experience building or designing websites, the truth is that it’s never been simpler for an amateur or novice to launch a working website – specifically a functional e-commerce site that allows you to process sales.
So, where do you start? What comes first? How do you decipher which tools and resources are the best? We’re going to answer all of these questions and more. Just follow along:
1. Choose the Right Platform
The first step in the process is to choose a website building platform. Also known as content management systems (CMS), these are the engines that allow websites to run. The three most popular platforms are WordPress (which has an incredible 50.07 percent market penetration rate), Drupal and Joomla.
If you’re new to building websites (which is why you’re reading this article), you’ll probably find WordPress to be the easiest solution. It has a streamlined interface, gives you access to thousands of unique themes and useful plugins, and has an excellent support community. But we shouldn’t discount Drupal or Joomla. They just have a little steeper learning curve.
There are also some good DIY template solutions. Though they also have a bit of a learning curve and less in the way of customization options, sites like Squarespace and Wix. These comprehensive solutions allow you to most of the things discussed in this article within their sites, but you'll pay a monthly price and lose some control. It all comes down to what you're looking for.
Related Article: Tips to Improve Customer Service on Your E-commerce Site
2. Select a Hosting Provider
This is the point where some people get confused, so take your time with this step and make sure you understand what’s happening. While you’ve selected WordPress (or one of the other solutions) to be your website builder, you now need a host.
A web host is a company that will connect your website to the internet. You can build whatever website you want with WordPress, but it can only go live with a host, such as HostGator.
You have plenty of choices here, too. When looking for a host for your online business, it’s best to go with a hosting provider that specializes in e-commerce – or at least hosts a lot of existing e-commerce sites.
3. Name Your Ecommerce Site
Now it’s time to name your website. This is a crucial step in the process, so don’t rush this stage. Choosing the wrong name can ruin your chances of success while selecting the right one can increase your visibility.
Some key points to remember when choosing a domain name:
- Make sure the name is easy to spell. A complex site name can prevent people from searching and finding your site.
- The name should be memorable and unique. This will help people remember your website in the future.
- For e-commerce sites, choosing a domain name that describes your niche is effective. This tells consumers what your site is about before they ever even visit.
Make a list of potential domain names and then run them through a domain search to see if they’re taken. If you find one that’s available, you’ll want to register it. Depending on who you choose to register your domain with and how desirable the name is, the fee for the average domain will only be a few dollars.
4. Find a Theme
As mentioned, WordPress offers the best selection of e-commerce themes. If you’ve chosen WordPress as your CMS, now’s the time to start browsing various themes. While you can find a bunch of free themes that may do the trick, it’s worth checking out some of the premium ones. They typically come with more customization features and richer functionality. Here are some of the most popular e-commerce WordPress themes for this year.
5. Craft a Site Outline
According to Entrepreneur.com, it’s important to write a website outline before beginning the design phase. “An outline helps you get the most out of your website design/e-commerce budget. It will also help you determine whether you, or someone in your company, can design portions of the website, or if you need to solicit outside help. That way, when you hire someone, it will be for only the parts of the job that you'll need to have outsourced.”
A thorough e-commerce website outline will touch on everything from content and structure to design, navigation, and credibility. Everyone on your team should have a say in this process. This includes interns, receptionists, salespeople, marketing managers, and everyone in between. If they are part of your company, they need to play a role in crafting the site outline. The more opinions you can get, the better. You’ll eventually want to narrow things down to just a handful of people, but getting lots of suggestions from the start can be helpful.
6. Start Designing
Finally, it’s time to begin designing. Thankfully, if you’ve carefully followed each of these steps, this process won’t be as time-consuming or stressful as it could be. When designing your site, focus on simplicity, functionality, and speed. E-commerce shoppers value these three things and want the buying process to be effortless. Check out these web design tips for some inspiration and ideas.
Prepare for Ecommerce Success
Building an e-commerce site takes hard work, patience, and a willingness to learn new skills. However, it’s not as challenging or difficult as so many make it out to be. If you take the process step by step and avoid looking too far ahead, you can build an effective and profitable site.