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eCommerce Web Design Solutions
by Randy McClure
eCommerce web design is a lot more than just putting your company brochure on the net or adding an internet shopping cart to your existing product catalog. There are some fundamental differences between doing business online and doing business the traditional way. Before you design your business web site, you must know what specific goals you desire to achieve with your business web site, determine how best to meet your goals based on your budget, and then determine what software and services you will use to design your e-commerce web site.
Web Site Business Objectives
A small business web site can do many things. This can include:
- Generate Leads. Pre-sell your business services and products to generate telephone, e-mail, or online form leads from customers.
- Generate Sales Quotes. Solicit or generate automated quotes that in turn generates a customer sale or lead.
- Generate Advertising Revenue. Display online content and free services with affiliate or ad network advertisements that generates advertising revenue from your merchant partners.
- Provide A StoreFront. Host online catalog that fully automates the customer purchase and communications process.
- Generate Customer Traffic. Generate customer traffic from search engines and business directories to pre-sell your product or service. Traffic is then re-directed to you main web site or product web pages.
Your e-Commerce web site design is greatly influenced by your specific web site objectives for your small business.
eCommerce Web Site Design Fundamentals
A web site is a lot more or even a lot less than a traditional store. There are more considerations with ecommerce web site design versus a traditional store. Web design considerations include:
Customer Friendly: Present a professional image, offer customer convenience, have good sales copy, and just make it easy for the customer to make the desired response (click, lead, sale).
Search Engine Friendly. For most online businesses, most customer traffic comes from search engines like Google, Yahoo!, or MSN. If part of your e-Commerce web site design strategy is to generate search engine traffic, you will need search engine optimization expertise to succeed. Buy it or grow it.
Web Site Automation Tools. There are thousands of web site tools such as shopping carts, content management systems, e-mail auto-responders, payment processors, search engine optimization tools, online bulletin boards, traffic analyzers, and advertising management tools. Some of these tools are cheap and some are expensive. If you do not have the expertise to evaluate these products, it is probably best that you do not make any major investments in expensive web site tools. Wait until you become knowledgeable enough to evaluate web tools and add-ons for your business web site and that you have a specific need.
Costs. Costs, of course, are a key consideration for any e-Commerce web site design solution. You can usually purchase web site tools and services up-front or by subscription. Subscriptions can help you with your cash flow up-front. Usually you do not need to make any long-term commitments with subscription software or services. Subscriptions are good because as you become more knowledgeable of specific web site solutions you can add and drop web tools and services at will. Buying software up-front is good if you know that you will definitely use the software for a long time (1 to 3 years).
Web Site Design Options
eCommerce web site design options can range from doing it yourself with web design software such as Microsoft FrontPage or outsourcing the entire web site development to a web design company. For a business, a free site with a free web site builder is not the answer. A free solution will not generate the desire response from the customer, is not search engine friendly, and is limited in growth for web site add-ons. A free affiliate site can be OK for making a sale, but have another method to generate traffic to your affiliate site as search engines will rarely give high rankings to cloned affiliate sites. Here are some e-Commerce web site design options:
Do-It-Yourself. Buy web design software and do it yourself. Good option if: technically inclined, marketing skills, part-time web publisher, limited budget.
Do-It-Yourself Using Templates. Buy web site templates, web design software, and do it yourself. Good option if: technically inclined, marketing skills, supplement with low cost web design services.
Do-It-Yourself Using Web Site Builder Solution. Buy business web solution service. Good option if: not technically inclined, have marketing skills, and willing to make some investment. Do not waste your time with a site builder that just clones a snazzy web site. You will not get a web site that generates traffic or sales.
eCommerce Web Site Design Company or Consultant. Outsource your web design work. Good option if: not technically inclined, limited marketing skills, medium-to-large budget
As with any business there are risks. In evaluating an ecommerce web design solution it is best to know your objectives, have enough business knowledge to evaluate your web service suppliers as well as your business web tools, and maintain a positive cash flow.
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