This article is for anyone that is currently having an eCommerce website developed, or is planning on developing one in the near future. If you are a client and your developer is in the process of building your new online store, this article should help you prepare the things you and your developer will need to streamline the process and get your website finished correctly and faster.

Depending on the arrangement you have with your developer, it’s very possible that you will be required to provide the content for your online store, such as images, text, prices…  The listed items in this article include the most common requirements, your particular requirements will vary depending on what type of online eCommerce website you are building.

Domain Name

The first and probably the most important element for your online business is the domain name.  A domain name is a name you select for your website, the URL.  For example, our domain name is sellersbay.com.  It’s usually a good idea to try to get the .com extension when searching for a domain name.  Ecommerce websites require a higher level of trust than regular websites that are not accepting transitions and exchanging money.  It’s important to select a domain name that sounds professional, is as short as possible, brandable, and no dashes.  An example of a good domain would be.  ********.com and not *****-********.shop

Other extensions are becoming more and more popular, but in my opinion, the .com is still the best.  Other options are .net, .co and hundreds of others.  If you can’t find the domain you would like for your business, try looking on auctions, such as https://auctions.godaddy.com/ or other such domain auction sites.  Sometimes the best names have already been taken, but you can find them on auctions for a few hundred.  The name of your business should be used as your domain whenever possible.  If your business name is XYZinc.com you could look for domain names such as xyz.com, xyzinc.com, xyzwidgets.com, widgets being whatever you sell.  The goal here is to keep it simple, professional, and memorable.  As far as purchasing your domain name, first ask your web designer, developer if they resell the domains, sometimes they do and they can give you a discount.  However, always make sure the domain name is in your name as the owner and keep your login details private and secure.  If you lose your domain, you lose your business, make sure all measures are taken to secure it.

It’s also a very good idea to register your domain name for a lot longer than 1 year.  If you are serious about your business and plan on being around for a while, then you should purchase your domain name for at least 5 years.  There are a few good reasons for this, one, it’s strongly suspected that Google’s search algorithm takes this into consideration when ranking websites. And it would make perfect sense because if you are not planning on being around then why would they rank you higher than someone who is?  Also, there is less of a chance you forget to renew your domain and lose it inadvertently. 

Logo & Branding

If you don’t already have a logo for your business, it’s advisable to first have your logo created and then build your website around it.  The reason is, it’s much easier to create a logo and to create an eCommerce website, and it will give you and your designer the color scheme and feel of your website and some other hints, such as what fonts to use and the overall focus of your business.  If possible, and if needed, it’s a good idea to also have a brochure, letterhead, and any other branding materials completed during this time.  You will likely have to create content for these materials, which can then be repurposed for your website. Keep in mind that any content you have that has not been used online in some way can be used on your website if it’s suitable.  

eCommerce Website Hosting

The 2nd most important element of your online business is your hosting choice.  It’s extremely important to select a well established, trusted, and secure environment for your new online store to be able to grow close sales and keep your customers coming back for more.  

Types of Website Hosting

There are many types of website hosting available, but most of the time the level you choose directly relates to your budget and how fast you think your business is going to grow. For example, if you have a brand new, unknown product you want to sell online and you only have a few customers or none yet, then it’s usually a good idea to start off with a shared hosting environment, but one that will allow you to grow.  To do this, I recommend using a hosting provided that you can start with a shared but upgrade to either a dedicated server or cloud hosting.

Difference between Dedicated, Shared and Cloud Hosting

Although there are other hosting options besides dedicated, shared, and cloud, I will only be clarifying these three options for now, as they are the most common.  

Dedicated Servers

Dedicated servers are dedicated to your business only, hence the name.  There are two types of dedicated servers, managed and unmanaged.  If you have an in-house server administrator, then lucky you, you can afford to purchase the unmanaged dedicated server and save a few bucks each month.  But we recommend the managed dedicated server, which means the hosting provider takes care of all those pesky changes you will need during your many years, hopefully, in business.  Managed dedicated servers are a great choice for most eCommerce stores because you can usually expand by adding more drives to your server.

Cloud based hosting

Cloud hosting consists of many servers sharing resources, it’s similar to shared and dedicated in some respects.  It shares resources with other servers in a similar way to shared hosting, but it is highly configurable, expandable, and flexible.  This is the best option if you think your company is going to be very big and requires lots of space and bandwidth to grow quickly.

Server Bandwidth

Depending on what type of eCommerce business you have, it may require large amounts of bandwidth and storage.  Bandwidth is the resources used during transactions, think of your home internet, if you watch lots of youtube videos, online movies, video games, this all uses resources.  It’s the same on your business hosting account.  If you get lots of traffic on your website and lots of sales then you will use lots of bandwidth.  It’s important to find out what the limits are going to be on your account before you sign up and spend months building your business on their servers.  

Storage Space

Besides bandwidth, the next consideration for your hosting is how much server space they will allow. Server space, just like your home computer’s hard drive, is required to store the images, database, content, and other files your website will accumulate over time.  

Email Server

There are a few options when it comes to your online store’s email server.  Your email should have your domain name at the end, so if your company website address is xyzwidgets.com, then you will want email accounts such as myname@xyzwidgets.com so you look snazzy and professional.  To do this, you need to get an email server setup for your domain name.  The good news is that most hosting providers include email hosting and it’s very easy to set up a new email account.  The bad news is, it’s usually not a good idea to use your website server for email, as it can use a lot of valuable resources.  I recommend getting your email accounts with an external service, such as rackspace.com or Office 365.  

Security

As we all know, security is very important for any website, but even more so for an online store or any eCommerce website that stores the personal details of its customers or clients as well as accepting payments of any kind.  This requires an SSL certificate, in fact, Google now penalizes websites that do not have an SSL certificate.  If you have ever gone to a website and been greeted with a warning that the website is not secure, this is probably because they don’t use a website security certificate.  The good news is that in many cases it’s free to have one installed.  But if you have the budget for it, it’s best to pay for more recognized and secure certificates such as GeoTrust or one of the leading brands.  This shows you take your website security seriously, which puts your customers’ minds at ease and gains trust, more sales, and more return customers.  

Privacy Policy

If you review most eCommerce websites, they usually have a privacy policy in the footer of their website.  This privacy policy should be reviewed by a lawyer for accuracy and completeness. Have it written by a lawyer and add it to the footer of your website.  Legalzoom.com has reasonable prices for this.

Shipping Policy

For your shipping policy, you can usually review a few of your competitors, and write yours in a similar way, without copying their text directly. Keep in mind you obviously want to use your actual shipping requirements. This should include your carriers, shipping time requirements, and anything else you think is important concerning your shipping setup.

Tax rates

I won’t go into too much detail on tax rates, but it’s very important that you know where you have to pay taxes and where you don’t, as well as how to pay them.  This is a question for your accountant and depends on what country you are living in, as well as the city and other tax-related issues.  It is important that you find out the correct tax rules and laws for your location and configure your online store accordingly.  Preferably automating as much of the process as possible.

Payment processing

Without payment processing, something strange happens, nothing!  You need a method of accepting payments or you won’t get any.  The most common options at the time of this writing are PayPal and Stripe, but there are hundreds of other options.  Here are just a few.

PayPal.com

PayPal will allow you to accept online payments from anyone that has a PayPal account, but even if they don’t have a PayPal account they can still pay you with a credit card.  It’s very simple to set up a PayPal account and most online stores have plugins to install PayPal and it can be set up in minutes.

Stripe.com

Stripe offers a very similar setup process to PayPal but is for credit cards specifically. All credit card processing is done on the Stripe servers, and their rates are comparable to PayPal. Most of the websites I set up use either PayPal, Stripe, or both.

Here are some other things you should consider.  I will be adding to this article and expanding on each of the points noted below.

  • Shipping carriers
  • Shopping cart
  • CMS
  • Who to hire to build it?
  • How to select the right developer
  • Preparing product images
  • Product details
    • Short description
    • Long description
    • Price/Sale price
    • Quantity on stock if keeping stock
    • Colors, sizes, and other options
    • Shipping price
    • SKU
    • Tags
    • SEO title
    • SEO description
  • Social profiles
    • Profile page layouts
    • Content for profiles
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