E-commerce website development is as complicated as preparing a fine meal. “Building websites is both art and science,” said Andy Crestodina, cofounder and chief marketing officer at Chicago-based Orbit Media Studios, which develops and designs e-commerce websites. That’s even truer if the goal is a beautiful, user-friendly site.
“Building websites is both art and science.”
Great e-commerce websites have two main ingredients. First are the developer and designer who work together to concoct the website. “Collaboration between designers and developers is the key to compelling, frictionless digital experiences,” Crestodina said. “For e-commerce websites, that means sales.”
8 TOP NEEDS FOR E-COMMERCE WEBSITE DEVELOPMENT
- A seamless, non-frustrating user experience, from browsing to transaction
- Clear and compelling content
- Security and PCI compliance
- Integration with payment gateways, shipping tables, tax software and fulfillment systems
- Friction-free ways for customers to create and manage accounts
- Optimal usability on all devices
- Accessibility by people with disabilities
- SEO optimization
Second is the content — words and pictures plus extras, such as a finely crafted “About Us” page. “The best website on earth will fail if the content stinks,” Crestodina said.
Top E-Commerce Website Development Tips
In addition to having the right people and great content, here are best practices for e-commerce website development.
Set E-Commerce Website Goals
For more efficient e-commerce website development, figure out what you want to accomplish before starting the creation process.
Bite wanted its site to be easy to use, tout its subscription offer and tell a compelling story, said Dakotah Walker, senior front-end engineer at the company, which makes sustainable and vegan personal care products. Solight Design strove for design integrity, easy user experience, communication of the company’s mission and social impact, and “design brilliance,” said Alice Chun, founder and CEO of the New York-based maker and seller of sustainable lighting products.
Choose E-commerce Website Development Tools
It’s unusual for a company to build an e-commerce website from scratch, Crestodina said. Most use platforms (BigCommerce and Shopify are oft-heard names) that offer soup-to-nuts e-commerce tools, ranging from setting up the site to managing shipping, payments and inventory. Some even offer marketing services.
Fees, charged monthly, range from about $29 a month to $2,000 a month for high-volume stores, according to Shopify’s website.
Nourished, which makes and sells personalized protein bars and gummy vitamins, used Shopify to set up its website, said Andrew Craven, head of web development. Integration tools on the platform “enabled us to easily focus on the user’s journey to offer the best experience possible,” Craven said. The platform also makes site updates easy, he added.
Other key tools include a merchant account and payment gateway; a fulfillment service for shipping; and a tax system that helps sites comply with sales-tax rules and avoid tax liabilities. Microsoft Word (or a similar word-processing tool) and Adobe Photoshop (or a similar software) are necessary for picturing items for sale and writing descriptions for them.
Include E-Commerce Website Must-Haves
“Whatever ends up in your e-commerce tech stack, one goal is to never store financial data, such as credit card information, on the website’s server,” Crestodina said. “It’s unnecessary and risky.”
“Whatever ends up in your e-commerce tech stack, one goal is to never store financial data, such as credit card information, on the website’s server.”
Indeed, e-commerce websites must meet certain requirements to be safe, enable smooth processing of payments and dovetail with shipping requirements. Among them:
Security and PCI compliance (payment card industry security standards). Customers need to know their data is as safe from hacking as possible.
Integration with payment gateways, shipping tables, tax software, fulfillment systems, Google shopping API and other outside factors.
A way for customers to create and manage their accounts; this includes order history and saved payment options.
Optimal usability, as Amazon and other e-commerce giants have set high standards for qualities such as speed and searchability that shoppers expect all websites to meet. Optimal usability helps with retention rates, also known as keeping your customers.
Accessibility by people with disabilities. Solight Design accomplished this by using alt text on all images, said Chun.
A great mobile experience. “Although the developers may look at the site everyday on a desktop computer, a lot of your visitors may be on phones,” Crestodina said. Wondering how yours checks out? Whip out your phone and buy something from your site, he suggested.
SEO optimization. Customers browsing for your (insert fabulous product here) won’t find your site without robust SEO optimization. Chun at Solight aligned all H1 and H2 headers on the site with keyword search terms to be seen on Google search. Digital marketing agencies or consultants can help with this, and e-commerce website platforms also have blogs and useful tips.
“A lot of ecommerce websites fail to answer simple and common questions visitors may have during their shopping experience. Make sure top questions are answered everywhere.”
Thoroughness. “A lot of ecommerce websites fail to answer simple and common questions visitors may have during their shopping experience,” Crestodina said. “Make sure top questions (shipping, price, support, etc.) are answered everywhere.”
When you’re finished? Keep going. Use Google Analytics or other tools to track conversion rates (the percentage of visitors who actually buy something) and the number of visitors who buy nothing, rename products with low click rates and other fine-tuning measures to keep improving the user experience and boost sales.
“Websites are never finished,” Crestodina said. “Digital ink is never dry.”