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#69 [25.04.2006]
 

Building eCommerce Websites

By Nowshade Kabir ©Rusbiz.com

Building_eCommerce_Website

The approach you should take to build your eCommerce site should be same like when you start a new business, launch a new product or start a new marketing campaign. Success in all these endeavors to a large extent depends on a well-written detailed plan. You can increase success rate dramatically for any project if you have a realistic implementation plan. The major challenges you will face while creating development plan for your eCommerce website are as follows:

  • Selecting the primary goal of the website
  • Coming up with needed business objectives to accomplish this goal
  • Selecting the right functionalities to achieve those business objectives
  • Having right content material the site functionalities should produce and need


Primary Goal

Not all eCommerce sites are online stores. Apart from selling products and services directly from the virtual store there could be many other reasons to have an eCommerce site. Some of them are listed below:

  • Build brands
  • Enhance existing marketing programs
  • Sell products and services
  • Launch new product or service
  • Develop a better understanding of the customerís need
  • Improve after sales support

Based on your primary goal, you have to take different strategic approach to planning your site.


Business Objectives

Business objectives are list of processes you need to have on your website in order to attain your goal. If your goal is to sell products through your website you have to display pictures and specifications of your products to the site visitors, have a shopping cart so that a buyer can select products, a payment system to carry the transaction, etc. These are your business objectives.


Site Functionality

System functionalities are a list of the types of site capabilities you need to achieve your business objectives. If one of the siteís business objectives is to send regular emails to buyers, you need to have an automatic mailing system. To display product information, i.e. product picture, specification, saleís terms, etc. you will need an electronic catalog system. For processing a payment you require a payment gateway.


Information requirements

This is the information material the site functionalities have to generate to achieve business objectives. To display product information you require product picture, product specification, saleís terms, shipping terms, payment terms, etc. To send mails to your buyers you need a list of email addresses. For executing a transaction required information would be payment options, information for credit card processing, etc.

Once you clearly identified your single most important business goal for developing the website, and jotted down the needed business objectives, site functionalities and information requirement to realize the business objectives, you are ready to proceed with step by step development of your website.


Writing the development plan

This will require deep understanding of your business goals, site business objectives, content material and milestone goals for overall development process. You will be able to acquire enough knowledge by analyzing existing sites of competitors and researching data related to your specific industry. At this stage you will also clarify resources necessary to build you site and assign responsibilities.


Register domain for the website

While you are still in the process of writing your development plan you should register a domain for your website. You probably heard about the amounts companies have shelled out for domain names like business.com or sex.com. There is no point wasting money on fancy domain names. Any name is fine as long as it is more or less consistent to your business line. Keep in mind two things: avoid special symbols in domain name and donít select a name which is too long.


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Create a one page simple site

After registering your domain name, you should start using it immediately. Design a single page mini site with information, what the upcoming site is going to have, and publish it online. The idea is to get online as soon as possible, because the older your site is the better from the point of view of search engine spiders.


Meta Tags for your home page

Write title name of your site, description of your site, keywords, etc. Use them on your mini site.


Start registering your address in various directories

Now start registering your mini site in various directories and search engines. Donít use the companies that promise for certain small amount they will register your site in hundreds of search engines and directories. You only need to be in the major ones and most of them require manual insertion of site information.


Accumulate content

Now start collecting, selecting and writing contents for your website. This is going to be a time consuming job. A good eCommerce site should have minimum 80 to 100 pages. That means you will need a lot of content for your website.


Site plan

Loosely define the pages needed for the site and links between them.


Create project scope

Scope is the way that you describe the objectives and functionalities of the web project. This gives you a clear picture of the site from technical point of view. It shows the boundaries, i.e. what the project will deliver and what it will not deliver. For larger projects, it can include departments involved, business processes and workflows that will be touched, the data types incorporated, etc.


Design home page and one of the main pages

Finally, it is the time to start designing your web pages. Start with creating layout, sketch and design of the first page and at least one of the other major pages. You will probably need one or more designers for your site.


Create content surrounding two three key phrases per page

Meanwhile, select keywords and key phrases for these and other pages and start developing content surrounding these words and phrases. You might need to involve content developer and search engine optimizer for this.


Select design and layouts for rest of the pages

If you are happy with the look and feel of the home page and the other page that you have created it is time to build layouts for rest of the pages.


Programming

Actually, you should start working on this the moment you finished writing your project scope. You will need programmers and data base specialist to work on this part. The quantity of specialists required will depend on the complexity of the project.


Create rest of the pages

Now is the time to develop physical look of rest of the pages. Donít forget to create Meta Tags for these pages.


Installation on your local server

All your work will be done on a local server and the trial version of your site will reside there.


Testing and debugging

Now that the site is ready it is time to test all the functionalities of the site, check pages for broken links, and other errors.


Let others review your site

If possible, at this stage, request your best customers, industry colleagues and friends to check out the site thoroughly and give you honest feedbacks. Make changes according to the suggestions that you deem extremely valuable.


Publish

Finally, the big day came! Publish your website on the Internet. Make sure to issue a press release covering the usefulness of your eCommerce site.


Constantly monitor and update

In order to serve your audience better you will need to monitor your site. What is working well and what needs improvement? Update your website periodically with specific and quantifiable enhancement.


Promote

Having a great site is not good enough! You have to work on promoting your site so that enough targeted traffic visits your site to make it profitable.

Companies can reap tremendous profits from a robust, well-designed and well-managed eCommerce site with essential functionalities. This includes among others:

  • Sales increase, some times by many folds
  • Better customer satisfaction
  • More sales per head
  • Less work for sales force
  • More profit per sale

While building a website, take a systematic approach so that you can have your website developed on time, with allocated resources and without unpleasant surprises. For more information on web development and web promotion read other articles located at http://ezine.rusbiz.com/archive/.


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About the author
Nowshade Kabir is the founder, primary developer and present CEO of Rusbiz.com. A Ph. D. in Information Technology, he has wide experience in Business Consulting, International Trade and Web Marketing. Rusbiz is a Global B2B Emarketplace with solutions to start and run online business. Click here to contact him.