Experienced E-commerce Web Design Agency
Which e-commerce solution is right for me?
We get asked this a lot, and I’m afraid there is neither a definitive nor short answer to this. It really does depend on what you are looking to achieve, by when, and how much you have to invest.
One other important point to make is that who you get to develop your system is as if not more important than which system you use. Bad developers and a good system will generally result in a bad solution, whereas good developers and an average system will normally result in a good product. The point is to find experienced e-commerce developers who you like, trust, and who clearly know the platform they use inside out.
Back to platforms, and it effectively comes down to 3 routes when you are building a system:
1. A bespoke e-commerce solution
This is a completely custom eCommerce solution, created specifically to match the business processes required by the project. The main benefit of a bespoke solution is that it gives us complete control of what we do and how we do it, as we are not restricted by how an eCommerce platform dictates you should do things. These applications can also be much more efficient (therefore perform faster), as they don’t contain all the unnecessary functionality that platforms often do (because they need to be everything to everyone). If the task at hand is fairly simple, they can also be cheaper to develop and maintain than other options.
Bespoke e-commerce systems generally favour less conventional business models, because the platforms don’t fit with the processes required for this business model. A good example of such a system is the Sabre Awards Platform which we built. This is a bespoke awards management system with quite specific workflows, meaning basing it on a platform didn’t make sense. Instead we’ve created a highly regarded bespoke asp.net application which exactly meets the client’s requirements.
2. A 3rd party fully hosted e-commerce platform
e.g. http://www.shopify.com/, http://www.volusion.co.uk/ etc…
These e-commerce 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 e-commerce solutions 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 can’t 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 e-commerce 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, WooCommerce etc…
There are many of these systems out there now, and most of the major players are very mature and therefore similar in feature sets. 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. 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 that’s only a feature of a certain platform. Minimizing how far we need to customise an off the shelf solution really is the best way to keep budgets down on an eCommerce project, hence why we go through this decision-making process with all client as opposed to just proscribing a particular solution.
Generally speaking our platform of choice is NopCommerce. It has a very similar feature list to Magento, however its based on the .Net technology stack which suits most of our clients better.