Building A Web Site On A Budget Part 3: E-Commerce


Read the introduction to this series here, read part one on web developers right here, and part two on design here.

Your online commerce operations are terrible. If you have an online store, it’s clunky and breaks so often that you get customers who contact you directly instead of entering the credit card information six times. If you run a PayPal-only operation, you have all the trouble of entering all the data you capture on your computer, and you still have to pay the extra processing fees.

When you’re revamping your web site, or starting a new one, you’re probably thinking about improving your e-commerce store. Should you use a readymade solution, or should you customize? Is it better to focus on security and efficiency, or is your time better spent building out an attractive online store that makes customers interested in purchasing your goods or services? Here are some options to consider when you’re on a budget. Remember, these budget figures are for your entire web site launch, not just your online store.

Under $500

If you’re starting a new website or revising an old one, but aren’t quite ready to make a big investment in an online store, you’ll probably want to set up an online store through WordPress or another free, open-source content management system. For WordPress, we like WP e-Commerce, which is one of the most popular e-commerce plug-ins out there, providing features such as catalog management, shipping calculators, and support for many payment services. If your store grows, you can add inexpensive add-ons that will make it easy to integrate with Amazon, expand your payment options, or improve your shopping carts.

For selling digital products online, WP Secure Downloads, is a good low-cost service to use, as it allows you to securely sell digital downloads without having to fork over a percentage of your sales to one of the major retailers. If e-commerce is going to be a key function of your new website, you’ll likely want to upgrade to a paid service as soon as your sales pick up. By choosing a free, versatile store with paid upgrade options, you’ll cover your bases without spending a lot of money upfront.

Under $2,500

With a bigger budget, you can afford to make a significant investment in your online store. While you still might want to use WordPress for your content management system, a paid plug-in will give you advanced features that will make it easier to start and run your online store. For example, MarketPress has a clean interface, importing options that allow you to upgrade from your old free e-commerce plug-in, and has great tools that enable you to make an attractive online store. Another alternative to consider is Shopperpress, an easy out-of-the-box e-commerce theme that will allow to set up your store almost instantly.

While these online stores aren’t expensive—a few hundred dollars at most—you will also need to budget for producing the images, product descriptions, and other details necessary to make your online store a success. You might want to hire a professional photographer to create attractive, detail-rich pictures of your goods, and a writer could help make your product descriptions sparkle.

Under $10,000

If you’re spending several thousand dollars on your new website or upgrade, you will probably work with a web developer to help create your online store. While you still might use one of the free or inexpensive readymade applications to get your online store up and running, your developer can help you customize your shopping cart, catalog, and payment operations to match your specific needs.

For example, if you have international clients, you might want to focus on payment and security options. Or, if you have a large and complex line of products, you might consider ways to categorize and display your products.

And, of course, you should ask your web designer to integrate your online store design with the design of the rest of the web site. You might also consider improving your online store’s look on mobile devices, either by commissioning an inexpensive app or, even better, just employing responsive design technique when creating your online store.

Whether you’re spending a few dollars, or a few thousand dollars, creating an online store is one of the best ways to make your web site investment pay off. While there are some really nice free options out there, spending a little money gives you customization options that will show your customers the value of your goods and services.


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