In our digital era, companies are creating e-commerce websites to reach customers online, gain a competitive advantage, and boost sales. Virtual shopping needs less time, allows people to easily browse products using multiple filters, and make purchases with a few clicks from their devices. Today having an online shop is an essential element of success for any business that provides goods or services.
To help your business quickly adapt to the new conditions, we’ve prepared a detailed guide on e-commerce website development that answers the following questions:
- How do you make an e-commerce website for your business?
- What steps does e-commerce website development consist of?
- How much does it cost to make an e-commerce website?
- How can you reduce the price without sacrificing the end product quality?
Let’s get started!
How to make an e-commerce website for a small business
There are two ways to move your small business online by making an e-commerce website:
- build a large e-shop
- create a simple landing page to display the main products or services.
1) An e-commerce website with 1-7 goods
If your company offers customers a small number of goods—1-7—you should start small and then gradually scale the platform (as needed) adding new elements (e.g., design animations, web pages) and functionality.
This approach is more reasonable as all services will be successfully placed on one page. Reducing project complexity this way, you will not only save time but also lower the e-commerce website development price.
2) An e-commerce site with a large number of goods
In case you have a large selection of products, say, from 10 to 300, launching a large e-commerce site is the best option. Although it may seem to be quite expensive, you can lower the cost without losing quality, for instance, by outsourcing software development and/or using web design templates.
What is included in the cost of a custom e-commerce site:
There are three key things that you should take into account when estimating the price of making an online store:
- Design—This is what users actually see on the screens and interact with when searching and browsing goods. To make an e-commerce website, as well as any other type of web system, you need to start with this important step. Make the design as simple as possible, so that customers can use your service even without thinking.
- Functionality—This is what allows users to perform certain actions on your website: search for the desired goods with the help of numerous filters and product categories, compare products in a table with various parameters, communicate with managers in chats, buy products online via payment cards, or track delivery status via their personal accounts.
- Infrastructure—This is what powers your e-commerce website, including hosting, a domain name, and an SSL certificate, which is necessary to provide data encryption.
Tip: In case you want to build a website with unique functionality or based on a unique concept, you definitely need to start with building a proof of concept for it.
What is the timeline to make an e-commerce website?
1. E-commerce website design
To gain a competitive advantage, you should create an intuitive design and ensure a seamless user experience. All of the elements should be placed in such a manner that people can instantly find what they need. A customer-centric design will help you outrun competitors.
To make an e-commerce website with a minimal budget and under tight deadlines, we recommend that you choose a ready-made design (we’ve already set a filter by e-commerce).
The price varies between $30 and $100: you purchase a design theme, receive it within several hours (or instantaneously), and tailor it to business-specific needs. This approach will enable you to significantly cut the price of an e-commerce website.
The traditional way is to turn to a professional web development studio. In this case, launching an e-shop will take at least 1 month and will require a budget of $3,000. This option will perfectly suit your project if you want to get a branded, unique theme and provide an amazing user experience with plenty of complex elements.
Timeline: 10-80 hours.
2. E-commerce website functionality: Top 10 features
If you have decided to make an e-commerce website, you need to carefully plan its functionality, which may involve user accounts, various payment methods, search filters, product categories, and much more. Take a look at what features you should include in your online shop.
1) User authentication (sign-in and sign-up page)—customers will need an account to fill out personal information, track delivery status, collect points (if you have some kind of loyalty program), etc. But don’t require people to register and login every time they visit your website as it disrupts the user experience.
Timeline: 24 hours.
2) Catalog page & search engine
Although it may seem to be a very simple feature, there are some peculiarities that you should know to make a successful e-commerce website. A catalog of goods should be as simple to use as possible. Implement a detailed search engine with numerous filters, so that customers can quickly find everything they may need:
- Place the search bar on every page of your virtual store.
- Offer the ability to find the desired goods by separating the catalog into different categories.
- Integrate multiple filters to allow people to specify parameters such as brand, range of prices, product color, etc.
- Provide users with the opportunity to compare various similar goods with the help of a table and list of parameters.
When making an e-commerce website, ensure that the page load speed is fast (takes no longer than 2 seconds). This will significantly improve the conversion rate. You can check the website performance in Google PageSpeed Insights. This tool also provides helpful recommendations on how to improve it.
Timeline: 52 hours.
3) Product description page
All goods placed on the e-commerce website should have a description. Simply put, it’s just a card that contains details such as product characteristics, photos, dimensions, and the manufacturer’s name. You can create and upload short videos to engage customers and increase sales.
You should also provide users with the ability to leave feedback. This will help others read reviews and make informed shopping decisions. At the same time, client credibility and brand loyalty will be significantly improved.
Timeline: 50 hours.
4) Shopping cart page
To purchase goods in your online shop, customers will need a shopping cart. Create an “Add to Cart” button, so that users can click on it when deciding what product they will purchase.
Timeline: 36 hours.
5) Checkout page
The checkout page is one of the most important features that you should take care of during online shop development. Ensure you’ve provided all the necessary order details that include the list of products, date and time, payment method, etc.
Offer the opportunity to continue shopping from any page, easily adding to or removing goods from the cart. Remember that users should have complete information about the product including the total cost, a more detailed description, and shipping options. This will help you make a great e-commerce website and attract a lot of customers.
Timeline: 40 hours.
6) Integration with third-party services
There are plenty of services that you can incorporate in your e-commerce website. For example, Google Analytics can be used to collect data about customer behavior, define the audience, and get a clear understanding of the audience preferences. Mailchimp can help you quickly and easily launch engaging email marketing campaigns.
Timeline: 12 hours.
7) About us page
Tell people about your company to increase customer trust and loyalty. Specify important information such as your services (e.g., what kinds of goods you offer), the number of years on the market, achievements (awards, certificates) that you have, quality control (how you ensure your products are of the highest quality), and the history of your business.
Timeline: 10 hours.
8) Content management system (CMS)
CMS is an administrative panel that enables businesses to manage content, goods, and orders. Here you and your staff will be able to view, add, edit, and delete data with a few clicks.
Timeline: 56 hours.
9) Frequently asked questions (FAQ) page
To ensure the highest level of customer care, you should create an FAQ page. Collect all the questions that your leads and clients have ever asked you: about payment, delivery, quality assurance, a return policy, etc. Put yourself in your customers’ shoes and think about what they may be interested in.
Prepare clear answers and publish them on your site. This will be cheaper than integrating an artificial intelligence chatbot. However, such a bot would be invaluable to provide people with instant answers as they will appreciate the time it saves them.
In the context of the coronavirus pandemic, software development speed is very important. The reduced price of an e-commerce website is a great advantage, especially for small businesses.
Timeline: 10 hours.
10) Contact us page
This page should contain your company’s address and all possible ways to contact you. This may include a phone number, email, online chat, Skype, or WhatsApp. Provide a location map, so that people can be sure that your business is real. This will boost your credibility and improve communication with potential customers.
Timeline: 8 hours.
3. Testing and debugging of an e-commerce site
Once you’ve made an e-commerce site (design and development), the testing phase comes into play. Quality assurance engineers check a software solution for bugs, ensure that it works as intended, and complies with the project requirements. If any errors are detected, programmers fix them. When a digital product is fully ready, it is launched on the market.
Timeline: starts from 20 hours (generally it ranges between 20-50 hours)
4. Hosting and domain name to make an e-commerce website
Every website requires web hosting to store numerous files and function on the internet. It also needs a domain name, also known as a URL or website address (i.e., y-sbm.com). Here you can choose between two options: a self-hosted online store and a SaaS (Software-as-a-Service) e-commerce platform.
To build a self-hosted service, you can employ popular solutions like WooCommerce, which is available for free. This means that you can easily install it and then make various e-shops.
The main benefits of a self-hosted service are:
- High flexibility to make an e-commerce website and customize it to business-specific requirements.
- The end price of an e-commerce website is reduced as you only pay for what you need for website development and maintenance.
- You can easily add an unlimited number of products, and incorporate any payment gateway such as Stripe, PayPal, Braintree, etc.
However, many companies without a technical background don’t have the time or in-house resources to learn how to use their own software. In this case, a SaaS platform is a perfect choice for custom e-commerce website development. Although this option is generally more expensive, you won’t have to install and manage a virtual store on your own.
How much does it cost to make an e-commerce website?
To estimate the budget for making an e-commerce website, you should calculate the development cost. Building an online shop is a challenging process that requires significant investment. If you don’t have a clear understanding of your project goals or contract with an unreliable IT service vendor, you can easily end up overspending.
There are 2 key elements that help estimate the price of an e-commerce website: hourly rates of the hired specialists and the number of hours they spend on certain tasks.
Let’s calculate the time to make an e-commerce website:
|Features and stages||Time, hours|
|E-commerce website design||10-80|
|Catalog page & search engine||52|
|Product description page||50|
|Shopping cart page||36|
|Integration with third-party services||12|
|About us page||10|
|Content management system (CMS)||56|
|Frequently asked questions (FAQ) page||10|
|Contact us page||8|
|Testing and debugging
|Total time||328 - 398|
Hence, the approximate time necessary to make an e-commerce website is 328-398 hours.
Now, let’s consider engineers’ hourly rates in different countries. The region that you choose to delegate e-shop development significantly affects the amount of the required investment.
Cost per Hour (Median Hourly Rate)
The median cost of building a virtual store (when hiring middle—2.5-4 years of experience—software developers) in the United States is $16,400-$19,900.
The average price of an e-commerce website in Western Europe is $13,120-$15,920.
The average budget required to make an e-commerce website in Poland (Eastern Europe) is $8,200-$9,950.
Therefore choosing an IT service provider in Eastern Europe can reduce e-shop development costs by nearly half. It is worth noting that the quality will be the same or even better as this region offers a pool of IT talents, field-specific expertise, and professionals who take great pride in their work.
Summing it up
Custom e-commerce website development is a complex process that requires time and investment. Nevertheless, you can significantly reduce the final cost and launch a virtual store much faster using market-ready templates or SaaS platforms.
To make a successful e-commerce website, we recommend consider the following things:
- Modern intuitive design, so that customers can instantly find what they need
- Fast page load speed even when the system has to process thousands of user requests per second
- High website scalability to ensure ease of adding new functionality