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How to Commission an E-commerce Website

Commissioning an E Commerce Website

Setting up an e commerce website is a significant commitment in terms of time and money.  If you are just starting out, proxy services such as Ebay and Shopify offer great test trading platforms.  Once your business has grown and you need to start keeping costs down and require your own dedicated site, this is the time to perhaps look to invest.


The topic of commissioning websites is one of the most frequently asked questions from new businesses or established concerns looking for a refresh.  Or another common scenario is a service based business that start to diversify and wants to set up an online retail store to increase revenue.

Finding the right web developer for your business can be a bit daunting.  Firstly, look at other e commerce sites, or ask around locally to try and identify which sites have the look and functionality of what you envisage.  This could then lead you to a few potential companies.

Also attending networking events is advisable, most groups have a web developer in attendance and having the chance to speak with them and ask a couple of key questions may be all that is needed to get you on the right track

It is normal to feel apprehensive about making that call because you will be unsure of what is involved, what budget to set and what questions to ask.  Here is a rough guide

Basic generic considerations

Content management system – do you want autonomy over your own content?  Or do you want the developer to amend when changes are required?  Having a content management system has a larger up front cost, but as you are able to update it yourself, there generally are no ongoing fees for managing content.

The features that you may want to talk about:

  • Blog facility integral to main site – only if you intend to blog, but it is great for your optimisation
  • Mobile friendly interface – 40% of online traffic is from a mobile device and the trend is growing
  • Domain registration and hosting – do you want your developer to provide this, or will you source your own?
  • Are your business needs likely to change quickly in the first couple of years?  If so the site needs to be built in such a way that it can be added to with minimum outlay

Possible questions you can ask your developer

  • Do you support all major web browsers – i.e. are your designs compatible with Google Chrome, Firefox, Internet Explorer?
  • What SEO services do you offer?
  • Do you provide after sales support?
  • What other services do you offer i.e. email, social media

With regards to the possible functions you may want to include on an e-commerce site, here is a general list.

  1. Upload of own product images with option to enter descriptions
  2. Easy functionality to add new lines
  3. Plenty of space with host provider so that website loads quickly
  4. Integral search function
  5. Facility for customers to ask questions and to be able to capture emails
  6. Trustworthy merchant services
  7. Shopping cart that break down costings including VAT and shipping
  8. Customer personalisation such as favourite products, or recommendations
  9. Being able to return to shopping page from basket
  10. Inventory management
  11. Customer / order tracking or tracking customer behaviour
  12. Invoice function
  13. Capacity for as many products as you need and room for growth
  14. Creating customer accounts
  15. Filters e.g. best seller or cheapest first
  16. Service that backs up data regularly
  17. An unsubscribe option
  18. Copyright and privacy policies
  19. Terms and conditions

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