Choosing the Right eCommerce System

Online shopping isn’t a fad. Most of us have been exposed to some form of eCommerce for over a decade.

While we might not think of shopping carts on the web and remote ordering as old hat, it really is – eBay is nearly 20 years old (founded in 1995), and Amazon.com just passed its 20 year mark this July (founded in 1994). Even current eCommerce darling Alibaba – a Chinese supply chain group which just had a very influential IPO last month (September 2014) is fifteen years old, and first came online in 1999.

It’s taken a long time for online shopping to get to the place it is now – an accessible, cost-conscious approach to doing small business globally – but it’s certainly been worth it, hasn’t it? We’re now at the point where, with the right platform, anyone can do business with the entire world much more easily than in years past.

Which eCommerce systems do we use?

We’ve had experience with a number of platforms, including

  • Shopify (our preferred solution in most cases) is a subscription-based eCommerce solution that’s gained a lot of ground over the past couple of years for its incredible versatility, great natural SEO power, and the wide variety of features (both built-in and through their Apps store).
  • WooCommerce is a plugin for WordPress, the internet’s most popular content management system. Because it builds into existing sites easily, and uses familiar admin systems, this is a commonly chosen solution for smaller catalog eCommerce sites.
  • Magento offers a lot of great value, whether you’re using their open source free systems known as CE or Community Edition, or building a significantly larger store through their Enterprise Edition offering.

Between these three systems, and their associated ecosystem of plugins and extensions, we can build a solution appropriate to any kind or scale of business online.

How do we build a use case for each eCommerce platform?

As with any project, the first thing we look at is the client’s need.

  • What’s being sold – whether it’s virtual goods like downloads, physical products such as books or condiments – goes a long way toward determining which platform will be the best value.
  • What kind of variety is there? Are we looking at selling a single product, a dozen, or a hundred different products? How will these products be organized? Are there individual products with different versions, such as multiple colours? All of these factors matter.
  • How important should these products look? Before we begin any project, we work with our clients to determine how much focus their products will get within their site.
  • What else will be going on the website? Some eCommerce systems handle content like multimedia and blogs far better than others – so if the site’s content is a more important feature than the shopping system, we need to know that.

There are other factors, such as budget and special requirements, which impact the choice of system. In most cases, however, those are secondary concerns; your website has to function the way you want it to function first, to best serve your customers.

Once we know which system we’re looking at, designing around it is easy.

Like any framework, building an attractive design around the core systems in an eCommerce solution requires a bit of knowledge about what works best for that system, and how flexible the individual steps of the process are.

Some eCommerce platforms – Shopify for example – do a great job of documenting their design requirements, and providing a relatively attractive basic design as a jumping off point. Others, such as WooCommerce, integrate so completely with their environment (namely WordPress in this instance), that designing around the shopping cart plugin is an almost identical process to designing the base theme itself.

Other shopping cart systems – particularly Magento – require a lot more hands-on work to really shine. Where Shopify and WooCommerce provide great jumping off points for easy development, Magento’s much more about the raw power of having total control over your design’s features. It’s much more flexible in some key areas, but this leads to somewhat longer development times.

If you’ve got a product, it’s worth selling it on the web – and we can help.

Building an online ordering system – no matter the scale – is something we talk to a lot of customers about. We’ve worked with a wide range of businesses, from single product feature websites to massive (over 500 product) online markets.

If you’ve got experience with eCommerce – or questions about how to get started – we’d love to hear from you. Feel free to leave a comment below, or get in touch with us through our contact page.