Deciding how you will get
your ecommerce Web site designed can be daunting. There
are several approaches available, each with different
advantages and disadvantages.
If you have a small business, you may want to consider
a storefront or an online mall. For a fee, these services
help you design an Ecommerce Web site. These services
also host your ecommerce site. These "ecommerce
Web site in a box" services generally have options
that include everything you need to sell online.
Features and support vary by program and can include
options such as search engine placement, credit card
processing, and advertising. They tend to be template
services, however, with less flexibility than a custom
site. Familiarize yourself with the current offerings
in this area before making a final decision.
If you have an ecommerce business that is too large
for or has outgrown the smaller storefront services,
you may want to consider the more flexible custom site.
For added cost you can have a unique site, receive greater
support, and handle more traffic. You have the options
of hiring the same company to design and host your site
or using separate design and hosting services.
Hiring the same company to design and host
This option involves the fewest logistics, but may
come with trade-offs in design quality or host reliability.
Be aware that designing and hosting require different
sets of skills and expertise. When choosing a service,
evaluate their experience and ask for references in
both areas. Go to sites the company has designed and
navigate them. Note how the sites look, how easy they
are to understand, and how quickly they load into your
To evaluate the company’s ecommerce hosting capabilities,
contact current customers and ask how pleased they are
with the service. Find out how often the server is down
and ask about help desk responsiveness. Find out what
order related issues - if any - they have experienced.
Also, consider how your site will be updated. Can you
upload changes directly or do you have to wait for someone
at the hosting company to get to it? If it is the latter,
ask current customers about their experience with this
If you are still considering the design/hosting service
after studying their design capabilities and talking
to their current customers, you may also want to find
out if there has been recent turnover in key personnel.
An individual designer, coordinator, or account manager
can make a large difference in support or design quality.
Using a separate design and hosting service.
By separating the design and hosting, you have more
choices. Thus, you can have more control over both your
budget and your site. Technical incompatibilities are
a risk when taking this approach, however. Be sure your
designer is familiar with your hosting service and it's
technical capabilities. To help facilitate information
flow and minimize technical problems:
- Choose a short list of hosts that offer the ecommerce
capabilities you require and pass "reliability"
tests. Read Don't
Make These Hosting Mistakes for questions to ask
and other mistakes to avoid.
- Find a Web designer experienced in ecommerce applications.
- Together, decide on the hosting service and ecommerce
systems you will use.
Making the Decision
Deciding upon the right combination will take some
research. One way to gather a list of hosting options
is to first find ecommerce sites that you like and/or
have ecommerce abilities similar to your needs, then
ask about the sites' hosting and ecommerce providers.
Asking for referrals from business acquaintances is
another. Many times, people are more than happy to share
their positive experiences. For example, I use five
different hosts and am generally pleased with all of
them. When asked about hosting, however, I always recommend
Lexiconn.com (my WebSiteMarketingPlan.com site host)
because of the exceptional help desk service and support
Another way to discover hosting options is to look
for online advertisements. You can generally find these
designated as "sponsored" listings in search
engines and on informational Web sites. While there
is no guarantee all of the companies you find will be
high-quality, the willingness to pay for advertisements
can be an indication of commitment.
Diligently decide upon your required ecommerce features,
then choose a host with those features in mind. By doing
so, you are creating a smoother path to ecommerce success.
About the Author
Bobette Kyle draws upon 10+ years of Marketing/Executive
experience, Marketing MBA, and online marketing
research in her writing.
Bobette offers a range of marketing plan tools
to fit your business and budget. Find out more
or visit the Web Site Marketing Plan Network,