Ecommerce Website Development 101: How to Build Your Online Shop

Web Design

ecommerce website elements on various coloured shapes

Contents

16 min read

Having a website act as a window into your brand is one thing, it’s another to turn it into a fully-functioning store through ecommerce website development.

It all sounds so simple on paper, too: take what it is you offer, and then upload it to a website for people to see.

Nothing is ever that simple when it comes to website development, be it ecommerce-related or otherwise, which you yourself will know if you’ve ever dabbled in websites that aren’t built using a run-of-the-mill template.

This explains why there are so many brands typing in ‘ecommerce development company’ into Google on a pretty frequent basis.

Everyone wants an ecommerce website that delivers, and we’re going to help you work on just that as we break down the various elements surrounding ecommerce website development.

Everything you need to know for your online marketplace to be as potent as any in-person location — that’s what we’ll be covering.

Let’s jump right in.

What is Ecommerce Website Development Exactly?

As you can imagine, ecommerce web development is a very complex process, one that requires a particular set of skills, a la Liam Neeson in Taken, only your skills here need to be sharper, as one false move could mess with the overall performance of your site.

Ecommerce website development is all about how you construct a website fit for market, one that can accept online payments, and offer an all-round rewarding experience for users.

Rewarding in the sense that they’ve completed a purchase with little to no fuss involved.

Global online sales are expected to reach 22% of all retail sales in 2023 (vs. 14.1% in 2019)
— Statista

Most believe that they can handle the ecommerce-orientated web development themselves, which might work if you have only a handful of products on offer, but with size comes scale.

And the bigger you grow, the more your site will need to handle. Plus, your site might not be optimised correctly, meaning it requires a skilled hand to get everything set up.

Again, this is why ‘ecommerce development company’ is such a popular search.

computer with code on the screen

Why is Ecommerce Web Development so Difficult?

That’s easy: websites are either built wrong to begin with, or you aren’t being as comprehensive as you should be.

Comprehensive in your thought-process behind certain decisions, and comprehensive as in this type of upgrade requires coding/technical skills that many lack.

It can take years to hone these skills, sure, you could take a few online classes, but you can streamline this process by simply going with a web development company to handle your ecommerce needs.

Basically, if everyone could do it, then there’d be no need for a post like this.

Types of Ecommerce Websites

Before we break down how you can develop an ecommerce website of your own, it’s important that we look at the types of ecommerce websites there are out there.

You can split ecommerce sites into three unique types:

  1. Business to Customer (B2C): Arguably the most popular type of ecommerce store. These sites sell everything from clothing to furniture.
  2. Business to Business (B2B): Companies that target other companies tend to be a lot more tactical in the approach. These sites sell everything from software to training.
  3. Customer to Customer (C2C): Re-sale sites like Ebay and Depop come to mind, businesses where users sell directly to other users.

Working out which of the above you are is step one in an extensive list of ecommerce web development.

Still, this is something you might have already mapped out.

The Benefits of Running an Ecommerce Website

Outside offering a complete shopping experience from the comfort of wherever, there are countless benefits that come from operating an ecommerce website.

Businesses with products to sell will already have ecommerce in mind, and we get that.

This section is for those that are on the fence, those that might think they don’t need to have that ecommerce element when they so easily could.

We can name multiple sites that started off as a service, but would later begin selling merchandise to promote the brand in new and interesting ways.

The benefits of running an ecommerce website are as follows:

  • It’s a store that never closes
  • There are reduced operational/marketing costs
  • You can track and analyse customer behaviour better
  • Your brand can sell products on a global level

You’ll find that more benefits present themselves in time — once your ecommerce site has been up and running for an extended period of time, and you’ve promoted it accordingly thanks to your marketing efforts.

How to Develop an Ecommerce Website

It’s time to get into the nitty gritty of ecommerce website development, by running down the steps, directly.

Please note: You don’t need to craft an entire ecommerce site by scratch, as existing sites can easily be reworked to allow for shopping.

That being said, if you are going to craft a website from the ground up, then it’s probably a good idea to go with WordPress to create it.

We say that because WordPress has various plugins that make bringing your shop online a total doddle.

But yes, let’s look at how you can develop an ecommerce website of your own!

Work Out What it is You’re Going to Sell

It goes without saying, but you should have a decent idea of what it is you’re looking to sell before you alter/create a website fit to showcase products.

Or, are you going to sell other people’s products, acting as a middle-man of sorts, becoming more of a community-focused site?

Is what you’re selling physical or digital? That’s another question you might ask yourself.

Which you choose will shape the rest of your website, so choose wisely. Your decision should always be based on the overarching goals of your business.

Remember that.

Confirm the Goals of the Business

The goals of each business will differ depending on the market they operate in, and everyone has their own wants/needs.

Confirming the goals of the business is a lot more than working out a very simple formula. On this occasion, it’s about asking yourself why you want to sell online.

Attracting more business is the common response, but how are you planning on making this happen?

  • Will your ecommerce business drive more interest to physical stores?
  • Do you want to expand into other markets at some point?
  • Will your ecommerce store become the main way you do business moving forwards?

Try to leave enough room for metrics to influence any future decisions. In other words, leave enough room for growth.

open store front sign

Recognise Varying Shopping Experiences

It’s impossible to dabble in ecommerce website development and not consider the habits of online shoppers. Habits that dictate everything from how a page is laid out to the size of certain buttons.

The customer journey is vital to every website, ecommerce-optimised or otherwise.

Your goal should be to hand visitors an experience they’ll remember — remember in how easy your site was to use, how easy it was to filter based on sizing, etc etc.

A memorable ecommerce site recognises that there are multiple considerations to account for. Not only do these sites recognise these considerations, but they offer solutions in the way of experiential features, as mentioned.

Look into Ecommerce Platform Options

Remember when we said you didn’t have to build an ecommerce site from scratch?

Yeah, that’s because there are various solutions to pick and choose from, with all sharing a common goal: to get you up and selling!

Off the top of my head, there are multiple ecommerce platforms out there, including:

  • Big Cartel
  • ChannelAdvisor
  • Magento
  • Shopify/Shopify Plus
  • WooCommerce

Which you choose will depend on you, although, when we’re developing ecommerce sites for WordPress, we tend to lean more towards WooCommerce and Shopify.

Some platforms allow you to integrate content in with commerce, making for quite the combination!

Adding the Products to your Ecommerce Site

Okay, so at this point you should have a the skeleton of an ecommerce site all set up and good to go, but there’s something missing, surely?

If you guessed: ‘the products’ then you’d be 100% right.

An experienced ecommerce development company will tell you to optimise your website for quick and easy uploads. After all, there could be hundreds of products listed, which is a lot of work on your part when it comes time to get everything up on there.

Oh, and don’t neglect the quality of the product images and the descriptions that sit either underneath or next to the visuals.

A detailed description, coupled with a high quality image, can make the difference between a potential customer and a frequent customer.

Sort Payment and Shipping Details

Are you an international brand/business? If so, then you’re going to need an ecommerce site capable of supporting multiple payment options.

And then there’s the whole buy now, pay later wave to contend with. Services like Klarna, ClearPay and PayPal are to be expected on certain sites these days, giving buyers the opportunity to pay their way.

Klarna, ClearPay and PayPal Credit have all appeared in recent years, giving buyers the option of buying products/services now and paying for it later.

This could be the most difficult part of the ecommerce web development process because of how many variables there are.

If you find yourself stuck, then there’s nothing wrong with seeking help from a dedicated agency partner.

Don’t try to do it yourself if you have no clue how to proceed, especially when it comes to anything to do with payments. A site that isn’t set up correctly could open you up to a world of problems.

Ecommerce Web Development Over: Time to Launch

So you’ve worked out what it is you’re selling, the goals of the business, and so on.

Your ecommerce site should be ready to go at this point, pending a quick test run where you monitor the speed and performance of the site. Oh, and don’t forget to test how the site looks/runs on mobile and desktop.

Having an ecommerce site checklist handy is easily the best way to test everything beforehand.

Here’s a few things to cross off when running some last minute checks:

  • High Quality Images: Is everything you see of a set standard?
  • Web Navigation: Can you navigate from page to page accordingly, or are some links broken?
  • Inventory Info: Is the inventory listed properly, and can it be edited easily enough?
  • Product Descriptions: Does every product have an accurate description attached, and does it have typos?
  • Country Settings: Does the site configure to specific countries, or does it break?

And don’t forget to test the functionality of tracking codes and discount coupons if you’re offering those, as they can be quite finicky.

person using ipad

Functionality and Ecommerce Web Development

The above guide is a very basic way of looking at ecommerce website development, which was by design on our part to give you a rough idea of what’s expected.

Functionality can be a big question, depending on how much thought you’ve put into your ecommerce website.

Before we touch on anything else, remember: If you ever find yourself stuck on what to include/not to include, then check your business goals again.

These goals should keep you on the right lines if you find yourself second guessing yourself.

For example, you might think that you need to optimise your site for international currencies, when your brand is planted in one specific area, or country.

Your goals might be to expand at a later date, but you should be thinking about the here and now, and less so about expanding before you’ve even built your base!

SEO Optimised

Easily one of the most important aspects of any ecommerce website — or website, generally — is how optimised it is for SEO.

Again, this is where using a platform like WordPress comes in clutch, as it allows you to easily optimise various pages on your site to make it findable within search engines.

Make sure that every product is tagged correctly within the back-end. Doing so will help with SEO in more ways than one.

The easier you are to find, the more website traffic you’re going to get heading your way to you and the products you have on site.

SEO is as all-encompassing as it might seem, and with good reason. It nets you organic traffic without requiring additional payment. Think of it like free advertising for you and your business.

Responsiveness

Just because your website displays countless products on there, doesn’t mean that it’s going to automatically connect with potential buyers in the ways you want.

Ecommerce web development is about being as responsive as possible, to accommodate various entry points. Entry points that include both mobile and desktop.

We are parroting what we said above, but only because of how important it is that your ecommerce website is thinking about smartphones.

This applies to web design specifically: you should be looking at a responsive design that applies to both.

Lean too heavy towards one and the other suffers because of it.

Mobile commerce is such a large market, so don’t go underestimating it.

And in case you needed even more of a reason, check out this statistic: mobile commerce sales from retailing is projected to hit over £100 billion by 2024.

Website Speed

How fast a website loads and moves as you scroll matters. It matters because a slow website will cost you and your brand interest, and sales.

Site speed tends to dictate the quality of a website in the eye of the consumer, that’s a fact.

If your site isn’t up to snuff in terms of speed, then expect your bounce rate to jump, and expect your competitors to pick up a few extra sales because of it.

Regularly testing your site speed using the appropriate website tools should be the play.

The speed of your site also impacts how well you rank on Google for certain keywords, so yeah, get it sorted!

Integrations

If you look at some of the more popular ecommerce sites out there, you’ll instantly notice that every product page and whatnot is chocked full of integrations and plug-ins.

Ecommerce web development can help you in establishing a platform, but all of these integrations aren’t going to attach themselves to your site automatically.

You’ll need to do that by hand, or, again, get an ecommerce development company — or website-efficient agency (like Canny), to sort it for you.

Ecommerce Web Development: Maintaining the Site

Maintaining your ecommerce website is an integral part of this process.

That’s right, just because you have your site all set up and making sales, does not mean that you can just leave it, occasionally updating it with new products from time to time.

To maintain your site is to keep it hacker proof, for starters, it also ensures that its updated constantly with the latest CSS and HTML codes, codes that change on quite a frequent basis.

Poorly maintained sites really show, considering how sluggish they feel from a speed standpoint too, which you can’t have if you’re looking at making profits.

There’s three unique types of website maintenance to keep tabs on, these include:

  1. Security
  2. Marketing
  3. Storefront

Security

It goes without saying, but when a site starts making money, it’s probably going to attract some unwanted attention.

Hackers are constantly looking at ways to infiltrate your site and take what isn’t theres.

One of the main ways to stay hacker-proof is to regularly check for vulnerabilities to your ecommerce site. Doing so will patch potential holes before the hackers even get a change to do anything.

Creating website backups and constantly updating your security software should keep you covered, just in case.

content marketing meeting

Marketing

Marketing keeps your ecommerce site growing, either through SEO or the ads you’ve paid for.

In terms of SEO, you should be keeping up to date on anything that could be broken within the site, be it links or whatever. This is one form of ecommerce maintenance.

Another involves keeping your site up to date with fresh content, to promote your work in new and trend-focused ways!

Effective content marketing is a sure-fire way of keeping your ecommerce site on the peripherals. Blogs, social media posts, email marketing campaigns, all play a significant role.

Storefront

As an ecommerce site, it’s important to capitalise on seasonal trends and things like that. Just anything that can help you sell certain products at specific times!

A storefront is the same as any brick and mortar shop, in that it is constantly updated to appear visually interesting.

And your ecommerce store should be no different.

Rotating products in and out of any featured sections you might have could shed light on products that might not be selling as well as you’d like them to.

If you’re running storefront maintenance, it’s also important that you keep on top of promotions and price changes. Also, it makes sure that if you sell out of something, that your website reflects that.

There’s nothing worse than a customer scorned by something they thought was in stock but really isn’t.

You’re practically handing them over to a rival business.

Ecommerce Website Development 101: How to Build Your Online Shop

Everything we’ve shared with you today should teach you everything you need to know about building your online shop — or updating an existing site to handle any ecommerce developments you may have.

Just remember to keep your goals in mind with every decision made. Doing so will ensure that everything you do is targeted, and not there because you saw something similar from another ecommerce site.

Don’t forget about keeping the site regularly updated, while monitoring its performance so that it doesn’t slowdown, and therefore, lose you money in the long run.

This is a lot to take in, we get it, which is why the option is always there to come to us for all your ecommerce web development needs.

It’s something we’ve been hinting at throughout this entire post, only now we’re being a lot more direct about it.

With Canny, you guarantee a fully-optimised ecommerce site, one you can regularly update yourself, and with ease. We set you up for success in all things websites.

We’re an established website agency. Get in touch to find out more!

Ecommerce Web Development FAQs

Why should I go with an ecommerce development company?

These companies know a lot more about web design, ecommerce adoption and so much more. Their knowledge/skills tend to trump those you might have in-house. Plus, they’re completely unbiased when working on your website, where you might be.

What is ecommerce web development?

Ecommerce website development looks to map out a website from scratch, or rework an existing website, so that it can sell products in mass to customers. It influences everything from the look of it all, to how it functions.

Which is the best platform for an ecommerce website?

In our opinion, WordPress gives you the best standing. Not only is it really easy to use, but it also streamlines the processes behind updating it with new content, plug-ins, etc.