What to be careful of when building your ecommerce website?

The previous articles went through my thinking about building an ecommerce website and why I chose to do so, chose the right software, and start getting it up as a self-hosted site. Now let’s move it along a bit, and really start this journey.

I decided I wanted to design and then build it myself. You can get a friendly WordPress developer to do all the work for you; it is great to get the extra heads and hands to do the work, just be careful of the following:

  • You can go to many sites to get contract or freelance work done. My experience has been very mixed, from the 16 year old kid (here in this country and abroad) who ‘lies’ to you about what they have done, and they quote a unbelievably cheap price. Avoid them like the plague unless you like wasting money & time.
  • Choose someone who is the same time zone as you, who is happy to support the site for a period afterwards. Speaking and reading the same language helps otherwise you will get frustrated that things do not get done the way you want them, and problems never get sorted in a timely fashion (remember it is your business here).
  • The developer will make a number of suggestions. Some of these will be great some you will not understand. Like most things in life, a developer will work with the tools, themes, plugins etc. that they know well and so will suggests these. Do not choose them just because they are ‘free’, unless they do what you want. You can say ‘no’ or ‘I do not understand what you are suggesting’.
  • After the site is up and working, there will be problems, there always is. Some small ones, some really big ones. Remember to cost in some support for the first months to give you peace of mind.

Building these sites does not have to cost much. There is a lot of great open source code out there. I got the all the software to run the site for free or the free version of it. Choose after a little bit of thinking, or get a recommendation.

When running this type of website, assuming it is self-hosted (please go for this option as it gives you so much more flexibility and control), you should do a few things.

  • Keep somewhere safe the usernames, passwords etc. that you are using to set these up, and all the ones for the hosting provider plus the site itself.
  • Keep a log of what is going on (a word document is good, or just a paper folder), if you do not, in the future it will come back to haunt you.
  • When you set up your website, make sure you install it as multi user or network site under WordPress. This way you can set up the live site, all future sites (same domain name) plus testing sites at no extra expense. You will always need a testing site (can be called sandbox site); because technology changes and you want to test things before they go live. There is a little extra admin needed but not much. From day 1, I set up test sites because you should not make untested changes to your live site; you will break it and cannot go back.
  • Try not to modify the software code that you acquire – if your developer wants to then be very afraid. Make sure you can choose themes and plugins that can be modified and configured by admin panels, not be hacking the code.
  • Try and choose a good quality theme (from a company that has a track record) and good plugins. Take it from me, yes at some point in the future you will want to redesign your site (maybe) you do not want to be in the position that you have to spend the money to change just because the theme no longer works on the new version of WordPress or it does not give any more support. If a site translation is key to your site, check you can do it.
  • For an affiliate site the issues associated with linking to the affiliate related sites, are not simple. Also ensuring your theme is linked to the e commerce platform you have chosen, and they all support the type of business you want is key.
  • I am going to write a blog soon on how data is handled as it was the area I invested most of my time. If and when a supplier issues new price list, you need to be able to make these changes quickly. For me the initial loading of data and then the first subsequent update took 3 days elapsed for each of these. Because I had a test site, I was able to test and change the processes associated with updating the price and stock lists before they went live. It was a hard 3 days’ work; I now have it down to 2 hours, because I tuned the process.

Please note, I am writing these blogs a couple of months after I have gone live on my platform – I want to give you advice on what works rather than just theoretical solutions. Have a look at my site here and any feedback is very welcome

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