You can build an e-commerce site in one of two ways. In one way you can utilize an open source platform like Prestashop, Magento (Community Version), WordPress, Opencart and a number of other options. An open source e-commerce website is very popular and provides total control, which is either good or bad or depending on your wherewithal and your needs. Open source specifically means that the source code, that is, the code that the software is built on is freely available to the public and can be shared or modified.
The other option is the opposite of an open source platform which is a closed source platform. A popular e-commerce engine based on a closed source platform is Shopify, Big Commerce, SquareSpace, and the enterprise version of Magento amongst numerous others .
The difference between the two as it relates to cost (in important decision factor) is that with the open source platform you don’t have to pay additional costs for the software. So once you build your website you don’t have to pay the extra $30 a month or $40 a month for keeping the website. And that may be beneficial to some people. Although it’s important to weigh the pros and cons of utilizing an open source platform or a closed source platform for an e-commerce website. On another article I discussed with the positive benefits of a close source platform like Shopify
Picking an e-commerce platform.
There are many different types of software engines for developing all types of websites and the one you decide to use is ultimately based on what you’re trying to build. Now regarding an e-commerce website, there are a couple to consider, all of these are free and powerful, and by powerful, I mean that they can do a lot.
After you’ve decided on a name to use for your business, the next step in developing your eCommerce website is to decide what type of platform you are going to use. When working with my clients, I use a platform that can easily grow their business and so with your e-commerce website you want to plan for the future.
For instance, If you only have 20 items to sell today, but you foresee having to sell 2000 items in the future, then you want to have an e-commerce platform that can scale, or grow with you. The good news is that most platforms can scale. Here are a couple that I use with my clients that you can look up to and research.
- Prestashop – I use PrestaShop the most because it is open source, its very powerful and it offers many great features such as coupon redemption, business to business e-commerce, customer segmentation, advanced marketing, and statistics, just to name a few. I like it because within a short amount of time you can build a site that competes with the biggest e-commerce websites in the world.
- WordPress – The next one on my list is WordPress because it is one of the simplest platforms to work with and because its been around a long time you’ll have a lot of people who you can turn to for support if you ever come across an issue. WordPress is a unique platform in that it is the most versatile platform around. It is a platform that you can turn into anything by attaching a complementary software called plugins to it. In addition, it is one of the best platforms for SEO.
- Zen Cart – Zen Cart is another great platform that offers great designs and presentation. Just like the others, it offers a full online store management and it is in the open source category. The Zen-Cart platform is solely an e-commerce platform and is great if you’re looking for a stable and solid e-commerce platform.
They are the easiest to use, free and they offer a full online store management capability straight out of the box. There are many more e-commerce platforms out there, but if you’re new to e-commerce web development and you would like to put something together quickly, from my experience, I would say that these three options are the best places to start off.
Selecting a hosting company.
Selecting a hosting company is the same as selecting the land you’re going to build your house on. You want to select a good hosting company that will be there when you have issues. I personally use 1and1 hosting, but there are many great ones out there. Here are a couple I’ve used with clients and on my own personal projects.
- Godaddy – You’ve probably seen Godaddy’s commercials somewhere on TV; they tend to have amusing, tongue in cheek advertisements. The reason why I like Godaddy is that
- They are available 24 hours, 7 days a week.
- Because they are the biggest hosting company, they have low prices, year-round service, and top notch, knowledgeable customer support. I’ve called them at 3 AM on numerous occasions to work out an issue.
- 1and1 – I like this hosting company because it particularly fits what I do. I build lots of websites and applications and I need the space to host those sites and 1and1 provides. Their technical support is not as good as Godaddy’s, but if you’re a bit more technical it’s a good option to go with.
- Media Temple – a high end hosting option. This is probably the BMW of hosting companies. They offer great performance, and a superior customer service and one of the best user-friendly interfaces I’ve ever come across. A good option if you have a little bit extra to spend.
Installing your eCommerce platform.
Each of the platforms I mentioned above can be installed with relative ease and due to their stability and popularity, each has a community of people willing to help, including myself. When downloading an ecommerce platform, the instructions generally inform you what your hosting needs to have to support it, ensure your hosting has the required details and you should be up and running with ease. Once you’ve installed your eCommerce platform, there are 2 remaining todo’s
- the first on is adding your products. When adding your products to Prestashop, WordPress, or Zen-Cart, you find that the interface with each of these feels intuitive. The people behind each open source option really spend a lot of time making sure that each one is as efficient to use as you can imagine. The first time I used Prestashop to build my own e-commerce site, I was blown away by the ease and it’s the same with the rest of them.
- Next is to connect your payment processor to your ecommerce store. The keyword is here is ‘connect’ because all you have to do with these e-commerce platforms is to connect or plug in the payment processor feature. A payment processor allows you to accept credit card and once you’ve connected this you can start selling immediately.
There, you have your e-commerce store built and set to go. Good luck.