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What type of ecommerce website design solution best suits your business
by Peter Day

The main ecommerce website solutions.

Deciding on which type of ecommerce website design solution that best suits your business will depend on your budget, software programming skills and how much free time you have. There are 4 options available to you with ecommerce web site solutions.

Option 1. Free off the shelf shopping cart.

This is the "do it all yourself" ecommerce solution and there are lots of them available. However you need to have fairly high computer programming skills, like PHP an SQL. Most work very well and are secure, but you are stuck with a limited design choice and some very basic shop features. You can modify these ecommerce websites to suit your businesses needs yourself, although to do so you need to have a good understanding of open source software language coding like PHP, MYSQL, JAVA and HTML, or the time to learn them. For most business owners this is not very practical, as it consumes valuable resources and time resulting in an ecommerce web site that may appear amateurish and doesn't present your business in a professional manner or worse, you get a online store that doesn't function as it should - ultimately costing you sales and money.

Option 2. Template style pay by the month shopping cart.

Template based solutions are the type where you pay a monthly fee to have an online store - its like "renting" your online store. You choose a website layout design from a list of pre-designed templates, choose the colour scheme you like, type style, upload your logo, and then your ready to add your products.  While this is may appear to be the cheapest of the paid ecommerce website solutions, template based solutions can end up costing you more money over time than any other solution. This is because the companies that offer these solutions often charge you a transaction fee on your sales - Imagine paying the landlord of your bricks and mortar store a percentage of each sale you made!  Template based solutions also work on the basis of the more products you have, the higher the monthly fee is, so as your product list grows, so will the cost of running the store. An important consideration is you are tied to this particular company for the success of your online business. If they suddenly go out of business, so do you! If they increase their charges you would have to accept it, because to move to another provider can mean starting your business again from scratch, as many of these providers will not allow you to have a complete backup of your online stores data, including products, orders and customers. Some might only allow you to download a copy of your customer list and order history, but not your product information, so you would have to load these up again which is very time consuming. They can insist on a minimum term or hire of your store as well and these type of ecommerce websites also tend be very slow to load. This can be annoying to shoppers trying to buy your products and ultimately result in lost sales. One very important factor to understand is these type of ecommerce solutions are generally not very search engine friendly. While these companies claim to offer search engine friendly shops, search engines often find it difficult to crawl these stores and list pages and products properly. You also may not be able to use important search engine specific tools such as sitemap.xml files and robot.txt files effectively, if at all. Not having a "real" search engine friendly store can be disastrous for your online business when the whole purpose of your e commerce web site is to make new sales over the net.

Option 3. Customised online store that uses specialised proprietary technology.

This is by far the most expensive way to get an e commerce web site and for the majority of small businesses, its not really an option. Often called a ´bespoke´ solution, these ecommerce websites claim to be built from the ground up to your specifications. However in reality the framework, or the nuts and bolts, has already been created by the design company using for example, ASP/VBscript language which is Microsoft licensed software and then modified to design an e commerce website to suit your requirements. The advantage for big businesses is your ecommerce web site database can be connected directly to your companies internal database, which may make it easier to control stock inventories and customer accounts. However, as this type of ecommerce website uses proprietary e commerce website coding specific to that design company, it forever locks you in to that company which can be problematic - If they go out of business, what will you do. If you want changes made, you have to get them to do it. What if they decide to change the programming language your web site was designed with to something else, leaving you with an ecommerce website that cant be updated, or grow with your business. You may even be required to always have your ecommerce website hosted with them, perhaps forcing you to put up with an e commerce web site that is slow and unreliable.

Option 4. Customised online store that uses existing open source, royalty free shopping cart technology.

This is the ecommerce website solution offered by Your online shop. Its a great compromise between the expensive ´bespoke´ proprietary design website solution and using a free off the shelf shopping cart solution. The advantage of customising and modifying an existing open source e commerce web site design like OsCommerce or Magneto, is you are not paying to re-invent the wheel. With the right design company, you get the look, features and functionality ´bespoke´ proprietary ecommerce design offers, along with the peace of mind knowing that the ecommerce website design uses existing open source technology based on a secure and proven e commerce engine. Also you have the freedom to have your ecommerce web site hosted where you want and even modified by another website design company.
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