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Ecommerce website considerations

Thinking about an Ecommerce website?

What is Ecommerce?

Ecommerce means selling goods over the internet. One of the reasons why ecommerce websites tend to be more complex than other websites is that there are so many details that need to be explained and discussed when building an ecommerce website. Every online business has different needs, so one solution is unlikely to fit all.

Some questions to think about …

  • What are you selling? (eg physical goods, electronic downloads)
  • How many products are you selling?
  • Do you have individual SKU (stock keeping unit) numbers for each unique product including variations of color, size, etc.?
  • Where will you sell (abroad?) – VAT is not payable on exports outside the EU.
  • Are your products distinct, or do they have options (eg colour/size)?
  • Does one product consist of several others?
  • Are there accessories and can one product be substituted for another?
  • discounts / offers – Is there one price per product or will you charge differently based upon the type of customer? Are there different prices for different order quantities?
  • What shopping functionality should you offer…
  • do you need to create user accounts
  • track orders
  • local currencies
  • taxes
  • shipping
  • stock control – Do you need to integrate into any back-end systems such as accounting systems, order processing or stock management?
  • invoices
  • How will you take payment? – Credit card, debit card, Amex, Paypal etc
  • How will items be delivered?
  • What reporting and other functionalities are required?
  • How frequently do you add or remove products from your catalogue – and how often do prices change? Does you wish to perform this maintenance yourself?
  • Will you need the ability to update products and pricing from you own computer?

Hosted products

Popular hosted products include Shopify and Foxy Cart.

Pros:

  • You should be able to get up and running quickly with a hosted solution.
  • To keep things simple, this can be a great solution, especially in the early stages of a business.

Cons:

  • Usually a monthly fee
  • Limited customization
  • Users will have to visit three websites to complete their purchase (your website, a hosted cart and a pay page).

There are also specialist services that assist with the delivery of digital purchases such as e-books and software.

 

 

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Website health check

Website Health Check

With regard to your website, how many of these suggested good practices can you tick …

□   Is your website organised into 5-8 main pages?

□   Have you tried not to rely heavily on images, with little accompanying text, which could cause problems for search engines such as Google?

□   Have you tried to avoid large images which are slow to load?

□   Have you avoided using frames, which can be difficult for search engines to follow?

□   If your website uses dynamically generated webpages which are created ‘on the fly’ such as Forums and Online stores, and can cause problems for search engines, have you considered using the ‘robots’ file to control which pages search engines visit?

□   Do you have a memorable URL (web address)?

□   If you have an intro page that uses Flash or Shockwave files, do you offer a non-flash version for older systems to access? Have you considered if your welcome page is needed?

□   Is your website written in valid HTML code? You can check this at: http://validator.w3.org/

□   Have you checked that you have meaningful page titles for each page? (the title is what appears at the top of your web browser)

□   Have you reviewed the navigation structure of your website and checked for any stray webpages that are hard to navigate to?

□   Have you considered having a sitemap on your home page?

□   Where possible, have you used filenames and directory names that are keywords?

□   Do you need to research new keywords?

□   Does your website use meta tags containing concise and precise information?

If you need any further help or advice, you can contact Jane Walker – telephone 0777 169 1194.

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Website setup

How to set up your own HTML website

Step1 – choose a domain name

A domain name is the web address of your website .

It is beneficial to choose a domain name that is the same name as your business or gives people an idea of what you sell.

Step 2 – find a web hosting company

Web hosting companies charge from £0 to over £30 per month depending on how much space you require, security levels, if you require database support, and many other things. See our article on the pros and cons of free web hosting.

Step 3 – build the website

Many people build websites using software such as Macromedia Dreamweaver or Microsoft FrontPage.

To begin with, you should plan out your website on paper, to determine the layout of the website and how all pages will link together.

Start with the homepage and then work your way through the website.

Customers should be able to get a feel for the website layout and content by looking at the home page.

You should create a contact page that is clearly linked from all pages, the home page in particular.

You should also create a page that details the background and nature of your company.

See our website health check blog for more on this.

Step 4 – go live

An ftp program can be used to ‘upload’ files and images. Many are free – see http://www.download.com.

step5 – submit your website to search engines

You can submit your site to Google using this link: http://www.google.co.uk/addurl/

See our blog on promoting your website for more on this.

step6 – update your website regularly

If the information on your website stays the same then customers will not have much reason to return again. Also, search engines take more notice of websites that are regularly updated.

Good luck. If you need any further help or advice, you can contact Jane Walkertelephone 0777 169 1194.

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Free web hosting

Free web hosting: the pros and cons

The price of setting up a website can range from very cheap, to extremely expensive. If you set up your own website, rather than paying a web designer to do it for you, there are basically two costs that you will need to consider: the domain name and the web hosting. Domain names are fairly cheap, usually under £10 for one or two years. The price of web hosting can vary considerably, depending on ‘who you go with’ and ‘what you want included’.

Paid web hosting currently starts at around £2 per month. There are a number of companies that offer free web hosting, but before you rush to sign up, it is worth looking carefully at their restrictions and seeing whether their plan would meet your website’s requirements.

Understandably, most people do not want adverts to be placed on their websites, so this restricts the choice of which free web hosting companies to use.

With free web hosting you may need to download an ftp program in order to transfer your files to the Internet. If you are using Microsoft Windows, I recommend FTP Commander, which is available free at http://download.cnet.com.

When deciding whether to use free web hosting, you should consider questions such as:

  • Does my website need to submit information (for example, using a ‘contact us’  or ‘registration’ form) or use forums – if so, you will probably need to choose paid web hosting to get the ability to host these features.
  • Does my website need to upload large picture or video files – most free web hosting providers have restrictions on file sizes.
  • Do I need an email account facility – not all free web hosting accounts include this option.
  • Do I require a custom error page to be displayed if the page required is not there – not all free web hosting accounts include this.

When deciding, look on the Internet for reviews that have been written about the web hosting provider that you plan to use before signing up – sometimes you can find that unacceptable ‘downtime’ can be a problem. Click here to see some reviews of free web hosting providers.

Here are a few free web hosting providers that are worth checking out:

byethost.com

www.awardspace.com

Good luck. If you need any further help or advice, you can contact Jane Walker – telephone 0777 169 1194.