Your Complete Guide to Ecommerce Web Development
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Ecommerce web development is essential to your business
Every business needs to have a website in today’s world, as it helps users discover your company and learn what you sell. But it’s especially helpful to have an ecommerce site, as it enables users to buy your products online.
Of course, you can’t generate an ecommerce site with a snap of your fingers — it takes time and effort to build it, which is why you need to invest in ecommerce website development. But what is ecommerce web development, and how can you get started with it?
We’ll answer both of those questions below, so read on for more information. Then consider partnering with WebFX — the agency with over a dozen web design awards — for our expert web development services. Just call us at 888-601-5359 or contact us online today!
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Inside ecommerce website development’s definition
Ecommerce web development is the process of building and designing a site where users can buy your products directly through an online store. Having an ecommerce website gives people the chance to make their purchases through their phone or computer instead of visiting a physical store.
What are the benefits of ecommerce web development?
Ecommerce websites are valuable because of the convenience they offer users –– people can buy from the comfort of their home, which can result in higher conversion rates for your company. Web development for ecommerce is ultimately a tool to help you generate more revenue.
What is the difference between ecommerce web development vs. ecommerce web design?
In addition to web development, you may also hear the term “web design” used. Web design and web development refer to similar concepts, but have different connotations: Web design refers to more visual or surface-level features, while web development refers to the technical, coding side of things.
What is front-end vs. back-end development?
Web development for ecommerce is a lot like putting together a car.
On the surface, you must make the car look and feel appealing — nice leather seats, a clean dashboard, and a glossy finish on the car’s exterior. But you also must put together everything under the hood — the engine, the battery, and more.
Similarly, ecommerce web design requires you to optimize both the visual components of your site and the coding that works behind the scenes to help your site function. Those two levels of development are known as front-end and back-end development, respectively.
Front-end development deals with the elements of your website that users will see. It covers features like:
Back-end development, meanwhile, focuses on the parts of your site that are hidden from view. Some common back-end elements include:
- Website coding
- Image file storage
- Cookies and pixels
- Data collection forms
- And more!
Not all sites require in-depth back-end development, but ecommerce websites do. Back-end development is how your site manages all the information associated with your online store, from your product inventories to your customers’ payment methods.
Should you use a CMS for ecommerce web development?
When you code your website, you have more than one option at your disposal. You can manually code everything or you can opt to use a content management system (CMS).
Coding a website involves manually creating all the code that runs your site. As you would expect, it requires a certain degree of coding knowledge, and can take a considerable amount of time. That said, it gives you the freedom to make a website that’s wholly original and stands out from the crowd.
A CMS, on the other hand, is a platform that handles the back-end elements for you, leaving you to design the front-end alone. If you have no knowledge of coding, a CMS can be very helpful, as it cuts down the work significantly.
However, using a CMS will limit the originality of your site, as it will typically limit you to an assortment of pre-made elements and templates rather than letting you develop unique pages from scratch.
The ecommerce web development process
You don’t want to stumble through the process of developing your ecommerce website. For best results, you’ll want to follow a series of specific steps when designing your site.
Here’s a seven-step guide to the ecommerce web development process!
1. Set goals for your website
If you want your ecommerce website to drive success, you must set goals. Your goals determine how you structure your website.
You can set goals like:
- Increase brand recognition
- Increase leads
- Increase sales
You can also set goals for individual page types on your website. For your product pages, you might set the goal to increase sales.
You may also want to include informational pages about your industry or your business and have goals for those pages. That means you might have goals like:
- Familiarize users with who we are
- Introduce users to our team
- Educate users about how we make our products
- And more!
The goals you come up with at this stage will be what guide you throughout the rest of the process, so be sure to hang on to them.
2. Decide what elements are must-haves
Before you whip out your computer, the first thing you’ll want to do is determine what you need on your ecommerce site.
To help you come up with ideas, consider visiting some other ecommerce sites to see what features they include. You might include some features like:
- Detailed product listings
- User review section
- Simplified checkout
- Product feature videos
- Wish lists
- Related items section
3. Create a sitemap
Once you have your general goals in mind, it’s time to start planning out the specific layout of your site. The best way to do that is to create a sitemap.
For clarification, the term “sitemap” has more than one meaning — in this instance, we’re referring to the sitemap that involves creating a simple outline of the different sections and pages on your website.
You can make your sitemap with something as simple as a whiteboard and a marker. The goal is to plan out all the different areas of your site and how they connect. For an ecommerce website, that also includes planning out different sections of your store.
4. Purchase a domain name
The final step before you start building the website is to purchase a domain name, which is your site’s URL. You can use websites like GoDaddy to check for available domain names. Once you find one that works for you, you can buy and register it.
Don’t just pick any domain name, though –– your URL matters! You want to find a domain name that is memorable, succinct, and represents your brand. In many cases, your company name will be the best option.
You can also register a domain name through a CMS if you choose to use one.
5. Develop your back-end
Once you’re ready to start working on building your website, start by setting up your back-end.
This part is where your coding decision comes into play — either you can manually code it or use a CMS. If you use a CMS, many of the back-end elements are already in place. You’ll still have to set up some of your back-end, but with a CMS, you’ll do it via a front-end format rather than directly interacting with code.
6. Develop your front-end
After your back-end is set up, you can move on to your front-end. This part is where you move into the territory of ecommerce web design, optimizing the look and feel of the website.
Since front-end optimization is all about creating elements users will directly interact with, be sure to focus on visual appeal and functionality. Some useful front-end optimization techniques include:
- Branding yourself through colors and fonts
- Adding visuals to break up text
- Making the navigation as intuitive as possible
- And more!
With a well-designed front-end, you’ll retain more traffic that visits your site.
7. Launch your ecommerce website
With all the above steps completed, you’re finally ready to launch your site! Be sure to test everything before your site goes live — particularly when it comes to the purchase process in your online store. Double-check that everything works the way it should.
Once you’re confident that everything is in order, you can put your site out there and start driving revenue! And of course, it’s not eternally set in stone — even after you launch your site, you can (and should!) continue to optimize it to drive better results.
If you want to learn about migrating an ecommerce site, read our ecommerce platform migration guide.
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WebFX knows ecommerce website development
Ready to kick off your ecommerce web design? WebFX would love to help! We know web development for ecommerce, and with over 1,020client testimonials, we’re the agency small businesses trust to drive top-tier results for their digital marketing campaigns.
Then invest in our web development services to get help optimizing your website for all the steps listed above. You’ll even receive a dedicated account representative to keep in touch with you on everything we do.