Working in Brighton as we do we are asked to design many different types of eCommerce websites, all with very different requirements, as well as budgets. Ecommerce websites can range from £5000 to £100,000+, and which eCommerce solution is best really is down to the individual project.
Broadly speaking there are 3 main routes:
1. A bespoke eCommerce web design platform
This is a completely custom eCommerce website, created specifically to match the business processes required by the project. The main benefit of a bespoke eCommerce solution is that it gives us complete control of what we do and how we do it, as we are not restricted by how a 3rd party piece of software dictates you should do things. These applications can also be much more efficient animals (therefore perform faster), as they don’t contain all the bloated functionality that 3rd party ones often do.
Bespoke eCommerce web design is however often more expensive, and when we are in a market such as eCommerce where there are so many good platforms out there these days, it’s the age old issue of why reinvent the wheel?
Bespoke was the preferred option for many years, but more and more these days we are choosing a platform of some kind. Now we generally only suggest the bespoke route is considered if requirements of a project indicate that significant modifications would need to be made to any off the shelf system to get it working.
2. A 3rd party fully hosted eCommerce web design platform
e.g. http://www.shopify.com/, http://www.volusion.co.uk/ etc...
These eCommerce platforms are relatively cheap to buy and setup, and are fully hosted and maintained by the software vendor. They are aimed primarily at companies wanting to set something up quickly and easily without any hassle of ongoing maintenance. That said they are used by bigger companies as well, and the level of customisation available these days is pretty impressive.
The downside of these eCommerce platforms is that we have limited access to the underlying code and so can really only affect how things look, we can’t change how they function. Therefore we are reliant on the functionality they provide; we cant customize it in any major way.
In our experience being in control of your own functionality is very important, and for this reason we tend not to pursue this option unless price point is a major factor.
3. A self hosted 3rd party eCommerce web design platform
This is software that’s either available free (because it’s open source), or can be purchased via a license fee. Examples of such platforms would be NopCommerce, Magento, OsCommerce, PrestaShop etc...
Which one is right really does come down to the individual requirements of a project, and this is a decision we take together with a client. Sometimes this comes down to personal preference, for example a client might prefer the shopping cart process of one over another, or might have "been recommended a particular solution by a colleague". It more often however comes down to feature sets, and making sure the "out of the box features" most closely match the business requirements of the project, for example a client may have a need to integrate with a particular payment gateway thats only a feature of certain platforms.
Minimizing how far we need to customise an off the shelf solution really is the best way to keep budgets down on an eCommerce website design project, hence why we go through this decision making process with all client as opposed to just proscribing a particular solution.
Butterfliesanddragons.co.uk - An eCommerce
website built in NopCommerce
Our current favourite eCommerce web design platform is: http://www.nopcommerce.com/, and its what we developed http://www.butterfliesanddragons.co.uk/ in which has received great praise from both the client and customers.
If you are interested in any of the eCommerce web design solutions mentioned above please do get in touch with us today at the Skiff in Brighton. We can very quickly help you determine which option might be best for you, and in most cases we have demo sites of platforms setup which you can have a play around on to see what you might be getting. You can either call us on 01273 603995, or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.