eCommerce Website Development: A Complete Guide

ecommerce website development

eCommerce Website Development: A Complete Guide

So, what exactly is eCommerce Website Development?

eCommerce is a term that stands for electronic commerce and is the activity of buying or selling of products online. An eCommerce website allows visitors to find the products they desire and securely enter their payment information to complete their purchase. This means that eCommerce website development is the process of developing an eCommerce website in order to start making sales online. But how do you go about doing this? In this complete eCommerce website development guide we’ll be laying out 8 essential steps to take in creating a beautiful, functional, and responsive eCommerce website for your brand. Along with that, we’ll provide you with helpful information, tips, and tools throughout this article. Sound good? Well lets get started..

eCommerce Website Development Meets Growth Driven Design

When going through this eCommerce website development guide, we recommend following growth driven design methodology to maximize your results and minimize your financial investment.

Growth Driven Design takes on 3 steps…

  1. Strategy: Develop an empathetic understanding of your audience’s world and how your website can solve problems along their journey
  2. The Launch Pad: Quickly build a website that looks and performs better than what you have today, but is not a final product. Rather, your Launch Pad is the foundation on which to build and optimize from.
  3. Continuous Improvement: With a launch pad site live and collecting user data, you can start identifying the high-impact actions you can take to grow your business.

Before continuing with this article, take the time to read about growth driven design as combining its practices with this eCommerce website development guide will help ensure the success of your website.

Step 1: Develop a Strategy

Creating a  strategy is the foundation behind any successful business endeavor.

Before you look deeper into your ideal buyer and their needs, you should create a business plan or add key information about your new eCommerce website into your existing business plan, including any details about goals and funding.

Creating a business plan for the digital aspect of your business is a step that shouldn’t be neglected.

A business plan will help you set clear goals and assist you in creating an action plan to achieve them. It will also help you realistically estimate and budget for the costs of your online business.

If you own a retail business you may already have a business plan and that’s perfect. If so, we recommend you edit that business plan to include your online endeavors or you can create a second one specifically for the online aspects of your business, the choice is yours!

Your eCommerce business plan should include the key concepts any normal business plan should have.

However, making it specific towards the goals of your website and what you hope to achieve digitally will help keep you and your team on the right track.

Creating a business plan will help you…

  • Evaluate your business ideas
  • Plan for your next phase
  • Clarify strategy, goals, and tactics
  • Scope the necessary work
  • Hire and build partnerships
  • Secure funds if necessary

Check out this business plan template made by Shopify.

Now that you have the digital aspects of your company included into your business plan, you should start to research your ideal buyer and develop an empathetic understanding of your audience’s world and how your website can solve problems along their journey.

This is part of the strategy stage in the growth driven design methodology and is a step necessary to take in your eCommerce website development journey.

Having a clear strategy along with goals can help drive momentum for your website launch and helps you to execute on your objectives and become customer focused.

Step 2: Choose an eCommerce Website Development Platform

Following up the strategy stage, it’s time to choose the right eCommerce platform for your business to sell on.

From Shopify to Magento all the way to WooCommerce, there are many different eCommerce platforms to choose from. Each holding a similar goal, which is to provide a great place for your business to sell on and grow with.

However, each platform isn’t the same in the way of offerings. With different price points, plugins and themes available, and difficulty level, you may find one platform fits your needs more than another.

So, how many eCommerce platforms are there to choose from?

Well here’s a list of some of your options…


And the list goes on and on…

It’s important to put the time and research into this step as your website is a tool and choosing the wrong platform can become a negative flaw for your business.

The best way to get started in choosing the right platform is to write out a list of what your business would require out of your ideal platform.

This could be: good customer service, a low or flexible price point, certain integrations, a wide range of apps, etc.

Taking this list of requirements, you’ll want to research different eCommerce platforms and check off the ones that meet your requirement and ones that don’t. Narrowing it down until you have a winner.

We’ve researched 3 of the top eCommerce platforms that may be of interest to you. We recommend you start your research by reading that article top eCommerce platforms article as it goes more in depth about choosing a platform that’s right for you and can prove useful.

 


Step 3: Register a domain & get hosting if necessary

The first thing you’ll need for your website is a domain name along with hosting!

l’ll start by talking about hosting as this depends on what eCommerce platform you chose to use in Step 2.

Most platforms like Shopify and 3Dcart have hosting built in with their monthly subscriptions, meaning you don’t have to worry about using any third party web hosting software.


Shopify

We’ll suggest choosing a platform that offers hosting for any beginners as this removes any headaches associated with setting up third party hosting.

However, if the eCommerce platform you chose is open source like PrestaShop or Thirty Bees, the platform itself is free to download but you’ll have to setup web hosting with software such as SiteGround, HostGator, or DreamHost.

This option of using an open source platform is recommended if you’re looking for full control over your website and have the experience, patience, and time it takes to set everything up properly and make sure its functional.

Now let’s talk about setting up your domain.

If you decided on a open source platform, you should be able to purchase your domain on the third party web hosting software you chose.

For example, if you were to use WordPress.org and went with the WooCommerce plugin, you’d need to get hosting and say you decided on using Site Ground for that hosting. Now directly in the Site Ground panel you should see an area where you can purchase and manage any domains.

SiteGround

If you didn’t chose Site Ground for your hosting, the premise should still be similar and there should be an area where you can purchase a domain.

On the other hand, if your web hosting was built into the eCommerce platform like it is on Shopify, WordPress.com, and 3Dcart, you’ll be able to purchase your domain there or transfer a domain that you already own.

shopify domains

We’ve found a great article with domain best practices that we recommend taking a look at.

Quick note: Doing research on each eCommerce platform will tell you whether or not they’re open source or if hosting is built in.

Most of the platforms that have monthly plans have the web hosting built in and the ones that are free to download usually require third party web hosting.

Step 4: Creating your launch pad website

We know you’re excited to get started designing the actual look of your website and you should be!

However, before you do that you should play around with the eCommerce platform that you chose in Step 2 in order to get used to it’s features and navigation.

You don’t need to know all the in and outs as that’ll come over time, but having a basic understanding of the platform you’re using will make things easier for you to get started.

Okay now for the fun part! Designing the layout of your website and customizing it towards your brands unique image.

Remember that this is the launch pad version of your site which you’ll be building on overtime.

Once you start gathering data on your website traffic you can further optimize it accordingly.

Let’s get started…

Pick a responsive website theme

The first thing you should do is choose an eCommerce theme for your website.

There are thousands of different website themes made for eCommerce stores with their own unique style and features.

You’ll be able to find themes for the eCommerce platform that you chose by doing a simple google search.

For example, if you chose to use Shopify you can search “Shopify Themes” and you’ll see results for eCommerce website templates.

eCommerce Website Development

Another popular theme store is Theme Forest.

eCommerce website templates

Now when choosing a theme that you like, it’s critical that you do your research and make sure its responsive and optimized for mobile devices.

It’s not the best scenario when you finish building your website and then go an try to optimize it for mobile devices (which is a must) and finding out you’re using a theme that’s not made for mobile devices in the first place.

We recommend taking the time to learn how to optimize your website for mobile devices as it can prove beneficial in the long run, both for SEO and for providing your customers with a great user experience.

Add your website content

Now that you have your theme, you can go ahead and add the content you want on your website.

This shouldn’t be the final product as this is only the launch pad for further optimization, but take your time to include any messages, images, etc that you find is most important for your customers to see.

Depending on the theme and what eCommerce platform you chose, you could use a page builder plugin like WP Bakery or Elementor  (for WordPress).

When you’re building the layout of your website, remember to keep user experience top-of-mind.

Creating a good user experience has to do with having a deep understanding of users, what they need, what they value, their abilities, and also their limitations.

Knowing this will enable you to create a seamless website design, one that works with the customer rather than against.

Check out some of these best user experience eCommerce websites to get ideas on ways you can optimize your own website towards providing a seamless shopping experience.

If you’d like to learn more about designing your website, we highly recommend reading our complete eCommerce website design guide where we go over exactly how to choose a color scheme and other various important web design topics.

Step 5: Add plugins & integrations

After designing the launch pad version of your website, you should connect important integrations if you haven’t already done so as well as choosing which plugins to use.

Plugins

There are thousands of different plugins to choose from. Each having their own unique benefits, it can be hard to choose the right ones for your online store.

Plugins can help your business with anything from marketing, to sales & conversions, and all the way to store design. The options for plugins are limitless.

We’ll list some of the top plugins for different eCommerce platforms that you should take a look at.

For Shopify

For Magento

This plugin is perfect for all your email marketing needs. With a 4.8 star rating we’re sure it will meet your standards.

Now this plugin does have a price tag of $249 USD but if you’re looking to climb up the search engine pages then it is definitely something to take a look at.

For Square Space: 

SentryLogin is a cool plugin that adds password protection, payment tracking, sign-up confirmation emails, and customized sign-up/log-in forms to your website.

Having a countdown timer offers you a chance to create a sense of urgency around your eCommerce products so people will be more eager to buy it quickly.

 For Big Commerce

Smile.io allows you to set up and run your own branded rewards program with loyalty points, referrals, and VIP.

Outfy can help you increase your social reach by promoting your products to 12+ top Social Networks.

For 3DCart

Checkout the page here for 3DCarts available plugins.

Integrations

There are many important integration you should add to your website no matter what eCommerce platform you chose.

Some of these integrations include…

  • Google analytics
  • Google maps
  • Facebook pixel
  • Social media

Adding some of these plugins and integrations to your store can prove useful and bring you one step closer to helping you achieve your website goals.

Step 6: Optimize for search engines

Optimizing your website for search engines is an essential step to take in your eCommerce website development journey in order to gain organic traffic and increase your brands online exposure

Search engine optimization (SEO) is the process of optimizing your website to rank better on search engines in order to bring more, higher quality traffic to your various web pages.

Through different SEO practices, were able to optimize the content on web pages and the website itself to be more appealing for search engines and in return the website and its web pages are ranked higher for given search terms on the SERPS (Search engine results pages.)

We’ll briefly run over these key SEO practices to give you a more in depth understanding.

These SEO practices take place in 3 forms…

  • Technical SEO
  • On-Page SEO
  • Off-Page SEO

Technical SEO is the process of optimizing your website for the crawling and indexing phase. With technical SEO, you can help search engines access, crawl, interpret and index your website without any problems.

On-Page SEO on the other hand, is the practice of optimizing individual web pages in order to rank higher and earn more relevant traffic in search engines. On-page refers to both the content and HTML source code of a page that can be optimized

And finally, Off-Page SEO has to do with promotion methods – beyond website design –for the purpose of ranking a website higher in the search results. Some of these methods include inbound links, PR, reputation and brand equity.

Now that you have a deeper understanding of SEO, you can see how important it is to engage in these practices.

Depending on your eCommerce platform, you should be able to download an SEO plugin for your site to make things easier.

If you want to learn more about how to optimize your website for search engines, check this SEO starter guide out! 

Just remember that SEO is a process that takes time and should be continuously optimized for.

If SEO is something that you don’t have the time to spend doing on a regular basis, check out our eCommerce SEO services!

Final Step to Your eCommerce Website Development Process: CONTINUOUS IMPROVEMENT

After you’ve become somewhat familiar with your eCommerce platform, completed the main design, setup plugins and integrations, and started to implement SEO best practices, you can decide how you’re going to launch and market your website.

It is also a good idea to learn about building consumer trust online as this plays a key role in making sales online.

Beyond that point it is CRITICAL that you do not just set and leave your website.

Your website is a tool that needs to be continuously optimized to reach your set goals and keep up with competitors.

Through your marketing and SEO efforts, once your began to receive traffic to your site you’re going to want to use that data gathered through your Google analytics integration or other analytic tools to further improve your web pages accordingly.

We recommend learning about A/B split testing as this can help to increase the quality of your web pages.

A/B testing, or split testing, presents 50% of users with an alternate version of a web page in order to test the effectiveness of a particular variable. A/B tests are evaluated based on whether the alternate page achieves a higher conversion rate.

Unlike traditional website design, continuous optimization is part of the growth driven design methodology and allows your website to become a tool that grows with your business.

However, managing your eCommerce website can become time consuming and demanding.

Check out our managed eCommerce services and see how we can help you!

Conclusion: eCommerce Website Development Guide

Creating an eCommerce website for your retail business is a smart move that shouldn’t be doubted.

eCommerce is the future and adapting to that future is a step in the right direction.

We hope from reading this eCommerce website development guide and implementing the growth driven design methodology, that you now have the knowledge you need to create your own eCommerce website that’s full of potential.

Let’s work together!

We’re the leading full service eCommerce agency in Toronto. Our passion is in helping small to medium size businesses reach their goals through eCommerce. We’re looking forward to speaking with you, contact us today or check out the web development services we offer here at Verdure Digital.