eCommerce Web Development 101
So you want to develop an eCommerce site? The good news is that it has never been easier. The proliferation of DIY website builders like Shopify means you can get your site up and running in a few days. eCommerce web development is the process of building the frontend and backend of your eCom site. In this guide, we will discuss a high-level summary of what it takes to develop a new eCom website.
Before You Build
Some important questions should be answered before you decide to embark on the build plan for your website, such as:
- What products are you selling? Your site will revolve around your product, so decide carefully and determine what SKUs you would like to sell. Be comprehensive as this will impact the project scope down the road, and will affect which website builder you choose.
- Are you B2B or B2C? This will impact your web design. End consumers generally have more options and a shorter attention span. Every visit to a B2C site is a golden conversion opportunity, so the website design team needs to lock in their spending commitment quickly. This means a great UI/UX is of utmost importance, and features like guest check out and express check out help to encourage conversion.
- B2B sites on the other hand are generally reviewed by multiple parties within a potential client organization. As such, you are likely to find case studies and industry certifications on these sites, to gain credibility as a thought leader and primed more towards education rather than conversion. Additionally, because prices are often customized in B2B solutions, you will often find the “Get a quote” CTA on B2B websites, whereas B2C sites have fixed prices that encourage quick closure of sales.
- What is your target audience? What are their preferences and needs? Be as specific as possible on your target customer persona. For example: Kieran, a student between 20 - 28, based in the EU, annual income of 10-15k. Looking for cooking classes on Italian cuisine to learn to cook nutritious meals and meal planning. Deciding the geographies you want to ship to will also influence fulfillment and logistics during the web design process.
- What is your brand’s persona? This includes brand attributes and voice. This will affect customer communications and interactions and how they should feel about your brand. For example, playful, thoughtful, and original. For B2B companies, this will differ in that you will need to have multiple personas for specific roles within the industries you are targeting, e.g. Marketing manager in the F & B (food and beverage) industry, Talent manager in the tech industry.
- What is your brand name? Is it unique enough to be picked up by SEO?
- How would you like the website to look? This will be influenced by the brand persona. What is the color palette? What are the brand colors? When you choose the right brand colors, you make your brand more memorable to the customer.
- What is your content strategy? Customer engagement is key, and to do that you will need to create content. You will need a CMS like Drupal or Joomla to manage this content. Find out how to choose a CMS.
- Have you purchased a domain? Your URL is your customer’s gateway to your website, so make sure it’s fitting. The more unique your brand name, the more likely your domain name is still available. Think about domain extensions too. For example .io is usually used by technology companies. Top Level Domains (TLDs) like .com and .co are among the most trusted and encourage customer click-throughs, but depending on availability you can have more quirky ones.
How To Build?
Tools like Shopify, BigCommerce, and Magento allow you to DIY and set up an eCommerce website quickly. These website builders boast many features including ready-made responsive themes, drag-and-drop prefab customization, payments integration, 24/7 customer support, and (in some countries) fulfillment and logistics integrations.
Each of the website builders has a different value proposition. For example, BigCommerce supports larger catalogs and more payment gateways compared to Shopify and will be more suited for businesses that are looking to scale. Regardless of which platform you pick, these are some of the questions you may want to consider:
Planning The Development
- Determine Your Budget and Timeline: Whether you work with a platform like Shopify or decide to partner with our web development companies to build the site, the top driver for time and budget is the number of individual web pages and their complexity. Think about how many product pages you want on top of your checkout and shopping cart pages. This may be related to how many product categories you have. When you consider your site map before development engagement, you will be able to articulate your requirements better and scope well. Each page also needs to have an SEO-friendly URL.
- Fulfillment and Logistics Integration: If you are selling goods on your eCom site, you will need fulfillment and logistics. There are plenty of end-to-end logistics partners that will take care of picking, packaging, freight, and taxes for cross-border shipments, and even reverse logistics (returns).
Most of these service providers will also provide you with an API so you can retrieve the estimated price for delivery. If you integrate this into your checkout process, customers will get to know upfront how much it will cost to ship to their location based on country and postcode. Customers don’t like to be surprised on the final page of checkout!
Once you have your sitemap ready, the next step would be to create wireframes for your web pages. The lo-fi (low fidelity) wireframes come first. This is the blueprint of your web pages and a visual representation of how the screens are related and navigate to each other.
After you are happy with them, your developer can start work on hi-fi (high fidelity) wireframes. Interacting with these wireframes e.g. clicking through CTAs will give you a feel of the final website.
Check Out Process
Make your check-out process smooth and secure, and you will have great customer conversion. The most successful sites include functions like guest check out or express check out. For your returning customers, saving their credit card information will allow quicker conversion.
The variety and availability of payment methods matter too - not having enough payment methods is one of the reasons for an abandoned cart. Make sure to include payment methods your target demographic prefers. For example, you should include payment by invoice in Germany.
Do You Need a Developer?
If you have specific requirements on how you would like your site to look and how the backend should be programmed, you may want to consider a web developer. From a daily rate of as low as 160 EUR, you can work with a dedicated partner who will help you with both frontend and backend, and keep the project on track for you. Be prepared to provide requirements and specifications on your site; the clearer the idea you have, the better. The developer will also be able to run QA and user testing for you. If you write to us with your requirements, we will get back within 72 hours with a list of 5 companies that suit your needs!
Q1. What is needed to develop an eCommerce website?
In summary: You need a business plan for the products and services you plan to sell. Think about how you’d like your website to look. Depending on the complexity of your eCom site, you may choose to go with a platform like Shopify and build your website with in-built apps and pre-made templates.
Otherwise, if you have more budget and time, you can build a website that matches your exact specifications by partnering with a web developer. If you decide to start with an eCommerce website builder, you can still change your mind at a later stage; a developer will be able to code within it.
Q2. What is the best technology to develop an eCommerce website?
HTML and CSS are commonly used languages for the front end. Java and Python are primarily used for the back end. However, the best technology for a particular purpose depends on the use case, and it is not uncommon for different parts of the site to have different programming languages! Ideally, plan the right web framework for your site before you start development.
Q3. Is Python used in e-commerce?
Yes! Python is an incredibly versatile and efficient programming language and is capable of full stack web development, though it is more commonly used in the back-end. If you have a website that needs you to process a large amount of data, Python is the perfect language. Additionally, Python is open-source, if you run into any trouble coding, you can lean on the community to help you debug.
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