The ecommerce website designers you select and the technology you choose to build your site with will be a major influence on the success of your new website. But how do you make a good decision? This article talks through some of the key factors that you need to understand.
More Than Pretty PicturesPeople often consider websites to simply be a more modern version of a printed brochure or business card, in practice so much more can be achieved. Websites need to be useful to the end user. On the internet the competitive environment is different - people have much more choice, and the competition is two clicks away rather than 20 minutes drive! If your website doesn’t give the user what they want quickly and easily they will go elsewhere. In particular a website needs to be fluid; it must be constantly evolving, up-to-date, and usable. Ecommerce website designers are beginning to realise that the old methods of building a website and providing an ongoing 'update service' is not good enough.
Static versus DynamicA static site is a collection of website documents that require website design skills to update. Users of the site can navigate and view these pages, but because they are “static” nothing will change until the original ecommerce website designers change it.
A dynamic ecommerce website is an application. The website is able to respond to the user inputs, allowing more advanced features like forms, shopping carts, forums, searches and database access. A good dynamic website will also provide tools that enable the website owner to create and update website content without any assistance from the original ecommerce website designers.
These dynamic features are very important to a serious website owner. An ecommerce website should not be thought of as a static brochure. For an ecommerce website to be effective it should be constantly evolving. It should be going through a continual process of measurement and improvement. A good dynamic website system should continually measure your ecommerce website performance and feed-back to you any problem areas that are occurring.
Why Not Flash?Flash is a technology often used to create animation on the web. While it can create visually impressive movies and presentations, and is definitely useful for specialist purposes, it has some fundamental flaws that make it unsuitable for general purpose ecommerce websites. Below are some basic reasons for steering clear of flash unless it is used very carefully in a very specific setting.
- Flash websites tend to be created once and then left alone.
- Flash content is typically superficial, and seldom provides useful information to the customer.
- Flash typically requires an external specialist designer to create and update the content. This content can quickly become stale.
Ecommerce WebsitesEcommerce is defined as the process of selling and buying goods and services via the internet. When selling your goods and services online, it is important to display your products and services in a simple and logical way so that they are easy to find. It must be very simple and intuitive to navigate the website and use the buying functions. Placement of the products, sales copy, product photography, general page design and so on will all make significant differences as to whether your products sell well or poorly.
Security is a vital factor when collecting sensitive information over the internet. Your ecommerce website should use a technology called Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) to protect all sensitive information. Customers want to know that all key information is safe from theft when they shop online.
After an online payment is received, an order confirmation needs to be sent immediately to the customer letting them know that their payment was received and their shipment will be sent out as soon as possible. Remember, many customers will be a little nervous when they purchase off you for the first time. It is important that you reassure them as soon as possible.
The final part of the process the business will be alerted that an order has been placed and needs to be shipped as soon as possible.
Selecting an Ecommerce Website Designer
DIY Ecommerce Website Designers
This option involves purchase a piece of the software that will assist in the authoring of a website and taking the DIY approach. You will need to select a software package, learn the software package and create the website.
This method is used as an initial attempt by many small businesses. It is often a cheap alternative to commissioning a professional ecommerce website designer. Unfortunately the time required to learn not only the technology but also the techniques and the methods required to build a successful ecommerce website is enormous. Skilled ecommerce website designers and developers generally require a tertiary qualification and years of experience. A successful ecommerce website requires a rare combination of artistic, technical and online sales and marketing skills
Most ‘Do It Yourselvers’ end up spending a lot of time producing a ecommerce website that is a complete failure. How do we know? We are talking to people who have taken this path every day! The time and energy that you will spend learning a software package and how to design and build an ecommerce website is far better spent concentrated on the important aspects of the ecommerce website that relate directly to your business – sales copy, photography, marketing and promotional strategy, customer service policies etc.
Cowboy Ecommerce Website Designers
Your uncle's aunt's nephew's cousin can NOT cheaply build you a successful ecommerce website, any more than they can build you a house or fix your car. The website development industry is still a very young one - most website development companies only started to appear in the mid-nineties. So, it is perhaps not surprising that the WWW sometimes resembles the Wild Wild West.
Graphic Designers -> Ecommerce Website Designers
Since you already have an existing relationship with someone who designed your business cards for you; you might wonder whether they can build you an ecommerce website. Graphic designers generally have just *one* of the skills needed to produce a good ecommerce website: they have the ability to produce something that looks good.
Unfortunately graphic designers tend to focus on this to the exclusion of many other important aspects such as usability and functionality
In many cases to deal with the technology, design agencies will have a relationship with a website development company who will implement the website designs that the design agency produce. This can prove expensive and cause issues with support and communication.
For websites with limited functionality, a website design agency will produce a static site. The real problem with this method does not become apparent until you have to pay for the time and expertise of a professional ecommerce website designer to make any small changes to your ecommerce website.
Website Development Companies
Website development companies specialise in the construction of websites and have the required technical skills to produce an ecommerce website with all the bells and whistles. This is sometimes the downfall of such an approach, because this functionality is often at the expense of the design. If a design is not professional looking, you run the risk of not only losing customers, but more importantly degrading your company image and brand.
Most website development companies can setup a dynamic system for your ecommerce website, but it will come at a price. Because they are constantly rebuilding the wheel, designing and building websites from the ground up each time, the cost of building a dynamic ecommerce website can be very expensive. These completely custom dynamic ecommerce systems are unable to leverage off the testing and constant improvement process that occurs when many websites are built on a single ecommerce website engine (or ecommerce product). Once the initial website development is over and your ecommerce website has been launched, you are “on your own”. Further enhancements to the ecommerce website and the system come at a cost. Support is often limited as the website and the associated system becomes completely out-dated.
Ecommerce Website Products
Whenever a new technology is introduced everyone builds their own customised solution using the new technology. Eventually products are developed that utilise the technology. These products become the standard – or the common way to utilise the new technology. And once these standard products are developed, prices drop and the technology becomes cheaper to obtain. By reinventing the wheel each time, there is little standardisation, commonality and consistency and the cost is high. Custom-building a dynamic ecommerce system for your business will either result in a very high cost or a poor solution. Many ecommerce website products now exist that provide a high quality solution for a very reasonable cost
The Cookie Cutter Ecommerce Website Product
A cookie cutter ecommerce website product allows the customer to design their own website very quickly by completing a quick ‘wizard’. The ‘wizard’ will take the owner through a quick set of questions such as; website layout, colours, logo etc. Cookie cutter ecommerce websites are low-cost because the remove the consultative part of building a website. The website owner is given no assistance from a website expert and the key areas of design and planning are removed from the website development process. The result: a poorly planned website that looks highly unprofessional. (These comments may sound extreme – but if you are considering an ‘cookie cutter’ type solution try checking out the portfolio of websites that have been produced. For example – take a look at the Yellow Pages Site Builder websites (www.yellowpages.co.nz)).
The Zeald Ecommerce Website Product
The Zeald ecommerce website product provides the benefits of outside expertise (experienced internet consultants, website designers and developers) combined with a powerful and flexible website product. It contains a suite of tools that provide you with everything you need in order to be amazingly successful online (Find Out More About The Zeald Product >>)
There are so many different options and methods for producing an ecommerce website. Take your time, inform yourself, become aware of the pitfalls and you will be secure in the knowledge that you have made an educated choice.