Steps for Setting up E-Commerce

1. Your Current Website
Take a look at your website data as it will be the basis for all of your e-commerce web design decisions. If you already have a website up and running, pull reports such as website traffic, demographic data, basic SEO rankings and other metrics you may deem fit. Also, visualize the internal linking structure of your website. Does an e-commerce site fit with your business model?

2. Choose a Store Platform (Shopping Cart)
Open Source
OsCommerce - is an e-commerce and online store-management software program. It is an open source software that can be modified and customized to your business needs. The system interface is a bit more advanced than the simple Zen Cart software; but it provides more comprehensive data on customer contacts, purchase histories and allows more integrative reporting. OsCommerce allows your customers to view, select, and purchase items within your store. Adding inventory items is often as simple as uploading an excel spreadsheet in to the software, and then tweaking the products after the core information is in the system.

Zen Cart
Zen Cart is a simple e-commerce, store management program that is mean to be easy and effective. Zen Cart has been in existence since 2003 when it split from osCommerce. In fact the two shopping cart solutions are very similar. The main differences between the systems are that Zen Cart operates on a template system and your store’s look and feel is more difficult to customize. Zen Cart includes additional features in the form of modules such as gift certificate and the ability to sell PDF files.

As far as simplicity Zen Cart takes the cake. The program comes with a step-by-step installation guide that ensures even the beginners are setting up their shop the right way. Once installed, the interfaced dashboard gives you key statistics and ecommerce activities such as (orders, customers, and hits). These first glance statistics are great for sparking creative marketing decisions. However, Zen Cart is a bit harder to navigate than osCommerce.

Closed Source
Most e-commerce vendors will provide you with a closed source e-commerce platform. Closed source solutions can be more costly than open source, but include additional features and support. A major disadvantage to open source software is the support is largely based on forums and “DIY” features. For business people who aren’t in to troubleshooting and trial and error, closed source e-commerce solutions will give you shorter downtime. Generally, closed source e-commerce software is also more secure, because your product’s source codes and packages are hidden. However, an IT staff may be able to manipulate the open source code to make it just as secure. With this comes a highly customized, useable solution for e-commerce; generally with closed source, you will be paying more but getting more features and support. To see the different features that e-commerce services offer, view the web design vendor subcategories.

Your business should choose a solution based on how many products and services you offer. A costly closed source platform doesn’t make sense for a business that only has 5 products. In this case, it would be smarter to integrate a simple solution like a Wordpress CMS shopping cart plugin. Also, keep in mind the SEO implications with each decision. You want to be able to customize your products title, descriptions and URL structure to optimize your site for search engines

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