Ecommerce Website Development

Ecommerce website development is the process of developing the technical aspects of your ecommerce website — how it functions, accepts payments, behaves in response to user action, and appears aesthetically.

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The People and Processes Behind Ecommerce Website Development (+ What You Need to Know to Get Started)

If you want to start-up an online storefront, there are plenty of ecommerce platforms out there that will let you launch with a turn-key solution that needs little to no development at the outset. But once you begin to scale, you may find you need deeper customisations to keep your customers coming back for more.

In this article, we’ll talk about what ecommerce web development is, how you can find a developer or team of developers to help you realize your vision and the steps to take before launch. Let’s dive in.

What is Ecommerce Website Development?

Ecommerce website development is complex, but it doesn't have to be complicated. You have to consider a number of factors, including website performance (e.g., page speed, checkout processes) and user experience.

While ecommerce does present some particular challenges, finding the right ecommerce development company or freelance developer will ensure you're able to meet those challenges easily. Some of the challenges of this large-scale undertaking could include:

  • Determining the right features and functionality for your project
  • Understanding which ecommerce framework might work best for you
  • Integrating ecommerce into an existing ecommerce site or website template

Difference of Ecommerce Development vs. Other Types of Websites

Websites vary in complexity. Some include little more than one long page, while others are extensive, with robust back-ends and complex functionality. Ecommerce sites are way more than HTML and CSS. They’re more complex because you have to accept payments online and make sure your site is easy to search and navigate.

What’s the Role of an Ecommerce Website Developer?

Ecommerce web development is critical to the success of your online business. Web developers play an important role in making sure that potential customers can easily navigate your ecommerce store, find what they're looking for and check out easily and safely.

They work with a range of different skills, from back-end programming to front-end ecommerce web design and their responsibilities may vary depending on the type of store you have. The right developer or team of developers have the capability to:

  • Design your ecommerce storefront to be both functional and beautiful
  • Make it easy for customers to find what they want, whether through filtering by size, color or price
  • Help you decide which features work best with the rest of your website content

… and the list could go on!

Choosing the Right Developer

Let's look at what an ecommerce developer does, why it's important that their skills align with your needs for your ecommerce web design and how choosing the right one for your ecommerce project can help increase revenue for your company. 

The best way to ensure your web developer provides the best user interface for a great user experience on your site is by hiring one with experience designing and/or developing for ecommerce. 

With any luck (or if, like BigCommerce, your platform has a strong partner program), you can find ecommerce website development services familiar with the latest in ecommerce best practices and trends in order to produce a site that will delight your customers and guide them to conversion.

1. Understand different developers’ strengths.

Some developers are great at bringing your brand and shopping experience to life through a beautifully designed front end, while others excel in back-end customisation and technical implementation.

When you evaluate developers for your online store, make sure you know what their strengths are. While some developers will be capable of both back-end development and front-end design, they more typically pick one of those as their primary focus. Make sure that the developer you choose has skills aligned with your needs.

2. Base your choice off your needs.

Don’t choose a developer or development company until you deeply understand what you want from your ecommerce storefront and what skills will be necessary to make it happen.

For example, if your ecommerce solution uses an open source framework, then a back-end developer may be more essential than someone focusing on design (though you'll likely need both). If you're using a SaaS platform, you'll probably need more front-end work than anything else — though you may also want someone well versed in building APIs. While most SaaS platforms have a relatively robust set of apps with pre-built integrations, further complexity is best handled by an expert.

Functionality To Consider When Developing An Ecommerce Website

Different features and functionality you may want to consider in developing your ecommerce website will vary based on your business model and unique needs.

Based on your set goals and metrics, create a list of features your ecommerce website needs. These should be closely aligned with your customer lifecycle. For example, a local small business may not need to support multiple currencies, but this will be a crucial feature for a cross-border retailer. Features will sometimes impact pricing, so it’s beneficial to know what you really need.

The easiest way to determine what shopping cart features you need is to work from general to specific.

  1. First, list all the general must-haves; for example, does it support your payment gateway of choice?
  2. Next, add extras that your business needs, like automatic sales tax/shipping rate calculation.
  3. Prioritize all the nice-to-haves from 1 to 5, where 1 is a crucial feature for driving revenues and 5 is a handy add-on that could make your day-to-day operations more efficient.

1. Responsive design.

Today, you need a website that supports responsive web design, because people are using mobile devices to shop your website more than ever before. You could also have your ecommerce developer create a mobile app, but that is becoming less necessary as technology advances. 

Either way, the goal is to make sure you can deliver a consistent shopping experience whether your site is accessed on a desktop or mobile device. Mobile commerce was predicted to bring in $314 billion in the U.S. alone in 2020 — 44% of total ecommerce sales.

2. SEO capabilities.

Make sure your developer understands how to make your website SEO-ready. SEO, or search engine optimization, is a great distribution strategy for your content and it's an essential aspect of your website design. 

Ranking highly on Google search engine results pages for relevant keywords helps drive traffic to your site from interested users who are searching online. SEO organically delivers you with potential customers with high intent who are more likely to convert, and the traffic you get from SEO is cost-effective.

3. Site speed.

According to research by Unbounce, nearly 70% of consumers admit that page speed impacts their willingness to buy from an online retailer. Fast-loading sites are also a plus for SEO since Google uses site speed as one of the ranking factors. This is why you need to hire an ecommerce website developer who knows how to optimise your ecommerce store so that it's not only functional and beautiful, but fast-loading.

4. Integrations.

No ecommerce platform will come with every single feature you want natively. You’ll have to make sure your platform enables you to customise your offering by offering plugins and integrations with apps and solutions that you need. Of utmost importance is your payment gateway integration, but that’s not all. Consider the following:

How do you want your back office to run? Many businesses prioritize connecting their ecommerce solution into existing ERP, OMS, PIM or CRM systems, so you’ll want to make sure the integration you need is possible with the platform you choose.

What kinds of digital marketing do you rely on? If you want to deliver a personalized experience, you may want to use a customer data platform. Dig into what you can do with your data, so you know what’s possible with each ecommerce software. Can you integrate your data with your email marketing system? You may also want to consider things like on-site chat or SMS marketing, and if you need to integrate with marketplaces like Amazon or with social media channels.

7 Steps For Developing a Custom Ecommerce Website

It's not necessary — or particularly recommended — to build your ecommerce website from scratch. There are many platforms that can help create an ecommerce store with minimal coding and technical skill required on your part. 

But determining your platform isn’t the only, or even the first, thing you need to do before development. Here are the things you should consider before launching the development process.

1. Determine what you are going to sell.

Do you want to sell your own products, or resell other people's? Who do you want to sell them to? To answer those questions, it's important to know what type of business model best suits the goals for your store. 

Consider whether you plan on selling physical goods online, digital downloads only or both. Will you sell only to consumers, or do you want to sell to other businesses instead? (Hybrid B2B/B2C businesses are becoming more popular as well.)

2. Understand the goals of the business.

What are your business goals? The decision to sell online is a big one. And you can’t proceed with action until you figure out the essential operational bells and whistles.

To do that, start with why. Why do you want to sell online? To attract more business — that’s easy. But how exactly do you plan to make this happen

  • Will you use your ecommerce business as an avenue for direct-to-consumer sales
  • Do you want to drive online traffic to supplement brick-and-mortar operations? 
  • Do you want to expand a B2B business to B2C or vice versa?

Apart from your baseline goals, think in terms of ecommerce metrics.

  • What kind of growth would you like to see post-launch, and how will you measure it? For example, what’s your goal in terms of weekly online sales volume? 
  • Do you plan to sell locally or internationally, too? 
  • What’s your plan for growing a customer lifetime value? 
  • How many products do you plan to sell?

3. Understand the intended shopping experience.

What kind of shopping experience do you want to give your customers? Some of the experiential features you may want to consider include (but are not limited to):

  • Enabling your customers to filter search results by size, color or price with a click of the button
  • The ability to compare products side by side
  • Offering an optimised, one-page checkout experience
  • Promotions, discounts and other types of offers

Think about whether your target audience wants a simple and quick shopping experience, as they might with necessities like some CPG products, or if they’ll take some time to browse your site and discover new products. You’ll likely want to structure your site for a different customer journey depending on your answer.

4. Discuss platform options.

Luckily, today you don't have to build your ecommerce storefront from scratch. There are plenty of ecommerce solutions to choose from, and you can find the right one for your needs. There are advantages and disadvantages to the different ecommerce platforms out there; that’s why you need to know exactly the features you need to make your business the best it can be.

Some of the most popular ecommerce platform options include BigCommerce, Magento, WooCommerce and Shopify or Shopify Plus. Some merchants with content-heavy sites like to use WordPress — and several ecommerce platforms, including BigCommerce, offer integrations so you can combine your content and commerce.

5. Add products.

Make sure it’s easy for you to add and edit product listings, and that your inventory can sync across all of your sales channels. This makes back-office operations easier and helps you avoid overselling your products.

When you do add your products, you want to focus on these things:

  • High-quality product images: give your customers the confidence that if they order from you, they’ll receive exactly what they expect.
  • Detailed product descriptions: Particularly for highly researched products, you’ll want to make sure that you include all pertinent information, product specs, sizing information, etc.

6. Set payment and shipping settings.

An ecommerce website developer can assist in the shopping cart and checkout process, as well as how to integrate payment gateways into your site and get shipping set up. You’ll typically have many payment gateways to choose from.

You don’t have to integrate them all, but American customers are increasingly interested in paying via different payment methods like buy now, pay later. Plus, if you’re selling cross-border, you’ll want to choose payment gateways that support your target country or countries.

7. Launch website.

Once you move your website from stage to production, give it a quick test-drive to ensure that you are all set in terms of ecommerce website design, performance and navigation.

Here’s a quick checklist:

  • Review all calls to action and form titles on the homepage and landing pages
  • Test your checkout experience
  • Double-check payment processing integrations (credit cards, PayPal, Stripe, etc)  
  • Make sure that all images are high-definition but well optimised for load speed
  • Look for missing product descriptions and categories
  • Check that all links and forms are functional
  • Verify that your tax settings are correct
  • Ensure that all the inventory is properly listed
  • Test your coupons/promo codes

Also, make sure your digital storefront displays equally well on desktop and mobile, and that the user experience is consistent and up to par.

Executive Summary

Launching an ecommerce business ranges in complexity, and so do the platforms available to you. Whether you start with a complex platform or a turn-key solution, you may find you need some extra ecommerce development help at some point in your business lifecycle. 

Now that you know about the web developer’s role in your ecommerce launch and maintenance process, the functionality you need to consider as you evaluate tech specs and the steps you must take prior to launch, you’re ready to get started. 

Remember, BigCommerce has a robust network of service and solution professionals at the ready if you need assistance!

Ecommerce Website Development FAQs

What is ecommerce web development?

Ecommerce website development is the process of developing the technical aspects of your ecommerce website — how it functions, accepts payments, behaves in response to user action, and appears aesthetically.

Which technology is best for ecommerce website development?

That depends on the functionality you need and the strengths of the developers you work with. You first need to determine your business model and primary goals for your business. Then find the type of technology — whether open source or SaaS or something else — that will give you the best chance of success.

What are some of the challenges of developing an ecommerce website?

Websites vary in complexity. Some include little more than one long page, while others are extensive, with robust back-ends and complex functionality. Ecommerce sites are way more than HTML and CSS. They’re more complex because you have to accept payments online and make sure your site is easy to search and navigate. Some of the challenges of this large-scale undertaking could include:

  • Determining the right features and functionality for your project
  • Understanding which ecommerce framework might work best for you
  • Integrating ecommerce into an existing ecommerce site or website template
VIEW MORE
How do I find the best ecommerce website developer?

Understand the different kinds of strengths different developers will bring to the table, then choose the one that best meets your needs. You’ll also need to determine if you need to hire one full-time for your business or if you prefer to work with a freelance developer or web development agency.

Do I need a front-end developer and a back-end developer?

That will depend a lot on the complexity of your build. If your ecommerce solution uses an open source framework, then a back-end developer may be more essential than someone focusing on design (though you'll likely need both). If you're using a SaaS platform, you'll probably need more front-end work than anything else — though you may also want someone well versed in building APIs. While most SaaS platforms have a relatively robust set of apps with pre-built integrations, further complexity is best handled by an expert.

How do I determine what features my ecommerce website needs?

Different features and functionality you may want to consider in developing your ecommerce website will vary based on your business model and unique needs. Based on your set goals and metrics, create a list of features your ecommerce website needs. These should be closely aligned with your customer lifecycle. Some of the important functionality to account for: responsive design, strong SEO capabilities, speed, and ability to integrate.

Why do I have to make sure my website is responsive for mobile devices?

Responsive design is considered a best practice today because p[eople are using mobile devices more than ever — and because much of the functionality that makes sites responsive to changing phone sizes also makes them more accessible to a wider range of people.

What types of integrations should I plan for?

Many businesses prioritize connecting their ecommerce solution into existing ERP, OMS, PIM or CRM systems, so you’ll want to make sure the integration you need is possible with the platform you choose. If you want to deliver a personalized experience, you may want to use a customer data platform. Dig into what you can do with your data, so you know what’s possible with each ecommerce software. Can you integrate your data with your email marketing system? You may also want to consider things like on-site chat or SMS marketing, and if you need to integrate with marketplaces like Amazon or with social media channels.

How do I get started selling online?

Before even considering how to get your website up and running, you have to determine what you’re going to sell. (That can also have a big impact on the website experience you end up building.) Do you want to sell your own products, or resell other people's? Who do you want to sell them to? Consider whether you plan on selling physical goods online, digital downloads only or both. Will you sell only to consumers, or do you want to sell to other businesses instead? (Hybrid B2B/B2C businesses are becoming more popular as well.)

What are some of the most popular ecommerce platforms?

Some of the most popular ecommerce platform options include BigCommerce, Magento, WooCommerce and Shopify or Shopify Plus. Some merchants with content-heavy sites like to use WordPress — and several ecommerce platforms, including BigCommerce, offer integrations so you can combine your content and commerce.

Should I give my customers more payment options?

You’ll typically have many payment gateways to choose from. American customers are increasingly interested in paying via different payment methods like buy now, pay later. Plus, if you’re selling cross-border, you’ll want to choose payment gateways that support your target country or countries.

VIEW LESS

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