I find that the actual website construction is one of the most frustrating areas for beginner eCommerce. Most people choose what are known as web platforms. Which are prebuilt websites which you add content and products. This is actually a good choice if you do not understand code or do not wish to become that involved in the process of designing the webpages. If you wish to have a large amount of control over the website and you understand code you may wish to use web design software such as Dreamweaver. Choosing to use code and building your website in this manner really comes down to a choice of need or desire. Because this article is intended to provide small businesses and individuals with the knowledge needed to start an eCommerce I will not go into the details of actually writing in code. Suffice it to say that if you choose to design a website using code and software you will need to have a strong understanding of the software. Your eCommerce considerations will still be the same.
Most individuals and small companies will not choose to write in code and typically they seek to use the most practical means of web design. Choosing a platform can be a difficult task because not all platforms are the same and you will need to make an informed decision. Most beginners make the mistake of choosing a web platform based on any number of arbitrary ideas. They will choose selling platforms based on commercials or even because it is free. As we all know, commercials can be misleading and nothing is free.
There are free web design platforms but these platforms are absolutely useless unless you purchase a domain. Most free platforms for websites are constructed to attract amateur or beginner ecommerce builders and get them to buy hosting. This is not to say that these platforms do not support ecommerce but there are many more factors that need to be considered. Some of the factors that need to be analyzed include support, features, and user friendliness.
There are a lot of companies that sell ecommerce platforms which probably shouldn’t be. I say this because many of these companies only provide the most basic of features or they are really trying to sell web design rather than the actual platform itself. My first website was built using a very well-known company which ended up costing a large amount of money in the long run when the platform could no longer support the business. The primary issue with many ecommerce sellers is that many of them designed their platforms more than a decade ago and have not upgraded them. Many of the free platforms which are available on the WEB have not changed in years. Even the ones that cost money may be antiquated.
This is a tough area of choice because- obviously no company is going to advertise this issue. There are however a few ways that you can choose your platform. Any reputable company will provide a trial period in which you can use their platform and test it. This is your best bet for choosing a platform if a company does not have a trial period then I would skip it. When you go to test your platform here is what you need to look at:
Usability- How difficult is the platform to understand? Does the company explain its platform easily? Is there a guide available?
Support- If you have a question is there a phone number, chat, email, or combination of these methods of communication readily available? This is extremely important! At some point there is going to be a problem with your site and you are going to need help. If there is not a person readily available this can create many problems.
Aesthetics- How does the site look? If you do not have experience with web design you might not have an eye for how a website should look. No worry, you can always look at your competition. See what your competitors have done and see if it compares to how your prospective platform looks. Most of the time you will readily see the differences between these sites.
Functionality- This is a huge area of platform analysis. I cannot stress this enough- all premade platforms have limitations. Typically speaking, platforms will have premade pages which you must operate within the structure. For instance, these platforms will have product pages which are specifically designed for inputting specific information such as product name, description, picture, price, etc... What you need to ask yourself- is this platform capable of supporting and showcasing my product? This is a difficult area because you really need to test the system and see if it is capable of supporting your products. (We will discuss this in greater detail.)