E-Commerce Websites: What to Know Before You Build
Here at Vision Advertising, we handle both website design and development in house. One of the biggest challenges we have in the world of web development is explaining to clients how an online store fundamentally changes a website, and how bolting on e-commerce to an existing website can cause big problems to both the user experience and website security. Instead, it’s important to build it from the ground up around your e-commerce platform to reach that higher standard and get all the functionality you can out of your website’s store.
Setting the Foundation: Selecting Your Plugin
While you could create a store from scratch, we highly recommend starting with a plugin – not only does it save you months or years of work, but they also come pre-tested and supported. We’re looking at WordPress plugins (we work in WordPress and recommend the same to our clients), the top three which I selected from my personal experiences with them and their ability to meet different needs.
WooCommerce is the most popular eCommerce plugin for WordPress. In 2015, it was acquired by Automattic (the company backing WordPress.com) – meaning it’s sure to be supported for years to come. There’s a large number of themes and add-ons available, as well as a very active user and developer community. WooCommerce supports both digital and physical goods, supports a wide range of payment and shipping options, and has a deep support library.
Easy Digital Downloads
As the name suggests, EDD excels at selling digital goods and boasts an almost unmatched list of features – from integrations to wish lists – with a large list of compatible payment gateways and a suite of marketing tools. All that said, you can also sell physical goods with EDD, which is why I included it.
BigCommerce is built for scale and is best suited for business owners who already own a large, or rapidly growing, brand. One of the best features is the ability to sell from anywhere – Facebook, Instagram, eBay, Amazon – and many more, all from one place.
Building Your Website Around Your Store
As I mentioned above, it’s important to start from scratch when it comes to e-commerce. The reasons range from better integration to avoiding technical problems. Here’s a few things you’ll avoid:
- Clashing UI and Themes: Store plugins often come with their own visual UI (user interfaces) that might clash with your current website theme. It also might not play well with your theme at all, leading to manual edits where the two UI’s clash.
- Poor Website Integration: From having CTA (calls to action) to the store on other pages to showing possible product purchases, many websites will require extensive reworking to properly promote your store on non-store pages.
- Transaction and Notification Issues: Depending on how your store is set up, there may be issues or gaps in your backend setup that can affect transactions and notifications.
- Required WordPress Updates: Many of these stores only work with the most recent version of WordPress for security and compatibility reasons, requiring updates or new supported themes.
Securing Customer Transactions and Server Stability
Once you’ve decided to have a website where money digitally changes hands, you need better security to safeguard the money and private data of your customers. If you don’t already have it, you need to get SSL certification. Beyond secure end-to-end encryption, you also need to buff up your website security to prevent exploits and cyber-attacks. Part of that will be making sure your website maintenance is regular, to make sure you’re running the most stable and secure version of WordPress and plugins. Lastly, make sure your website host is secure and has a reliable uptime on their servers.
If you’re looking at selling physical or digital goods from your website, it’s vital that it’s done right to avoid breaches in your security and reputation, let alone the appearance and functionality of your website. Myself and our great team here at Vision Advertising can help. Learn more about our website design and development services, and then contact us to start planning out your online store.