Ecommerce Website Development Series Part 2: Buying Options for Websites

Click here to read Part 1 of this series.

The most important things a company needs to consider when determining which option is best include:

  • How much money the company is able to spend
  • How much customization is needed to facilitate goal of site
  • Knowledge and skill level of the team that will be making changes and updates going forward

The company needs to first determine the budget they’re working with to figure out what they can afford. Then, once goals are determined for the site (ex: transactions, form completions, donations, etc.), the focus should be on how they can design the site to best facilitate those goals. How much customization is required in order to complete those goals? Looking forward, it’s important to consider how the site will be maintained and whether or not the company has the skills and ability to implement the updates that will be needed.

Fully customized website

If a company is considering fully customizing their website, they will need to consider how much customization they actually require. Is there so much that needs to be changed that fully customizing their website will be worth the added expenses and resources required to do so? Once it’s fully optimized, will the company actually be using all of the customized features and putting them to good use? Or, are there things that the website can do without? Would the company still be able to achieve their goals and make money without additional customization? If it doesn’t add important features required to facilitate purchases and goal completions, then is it absolutely necessary to increase expenses on the build? If it’s determined that not all new features will be used or that not all of them directly influence customer experience, then it might be better to go with a partially customized website to save money.

They will also need to consider whether or not their profits or achieved goals will outweigh the added costs of customization. If you’re spending much more on the customization than you’ll ever make in profits, is it really worth it? Because this would be such a significant financial undertaking, it’s important that the company weighs other possibilities.  Is there another way the company can provide options through their site without as many customized features so they can save money on the less important things?

Since so much of the site will be customizable, it’s important that the company has a team that can manage the site updates. When changes need to be made later down the line or new features are implemented, there needs to be someone on the team who can implement those changes effectively and monitor for issues.

Advantages:

  • Complete control over every aspect of the website including look, design, navigation, features, shopping cart process and more
  • Control over website performance (ie. if there is room for performance improvement, you can make any changes to the function of the site to improve site speed, navigation, etc. yourself)
  • Control over the priority/speed with which tasks are completed and changes are made
  • Ability to offer features that are important for your unique customer base and tailor the experience to them
  • The site already has all the customization it will ever need (most likely) so there won’t be a need for a re-launch with more capabilities in the future and potential disruption to site availability and customer experience

Disadvantages:

  • Significantly more costly than other options
  • More knowledge/experience required to implement more features and make sure they work properly

Partially customized website, but based on an existing template

People considering this option should think about the customization requirements that they will be getting out of their site and make sure they can still do everything they need to without having a fully customized design. Will they be able to achieve all of their site’s goals without full customization? If a lack of certain features will potentially impact their visitors’ ability to navigate the site or purchase, then that should effect the decision of how customized the site needs to be. Further, if the company changes its mind and later determines they want a fully customized site, they’ll need to start over and re-launch with a new site, which can be costly and impact customer experience.

They should also consider the budget they are working with. If they don’t need as much customization and can instead save money by sticking with a basic, minimally customized template, they should think about whether that would be a better option. Spending too much on customization that won’t impact site goal completions could be a waste and negatively impact their potential for success.

Advantages:

  • Provide some customization without needing to spend as much money as a fully customized site would cost
  • Ability to customize simpler aspects of the site without needing the knowledge and skills for the more complicated aspects

Disadvantages:

  • Somewhat limited in site capabilities
  • Upfront costs are higher than using a minimally customized site
  • If the need for more customization arises in the future, there will be more expenses incurred and large site updates/changes that could be disruptive to workflow and customer experience

Minimal customization – based almost entirely on an existing template (content only added)

If a company is going to have only minimal customization on their website, they will have to consider how the lack of customization impacts the site’s goals. Will it prevent them from being able to achieve their goals? Would spending a little extra money for more customization help them to have a more successful website? Can they afford the additional costs? If resources are scarce and customization needs are low, this option is the best one.

They should also consider their own level of expertise. If they don’t have the knowledge and ability to effectively make changes to a customized site, they should stick with this option to make it easier for them to update the site in the future. Implementing a customized site that you can’t effectively manage and update would reduce the effectiveness of the customizations you have.

Advantages:

  • Less costly than other options
  • Very low level of skill/knowledge of backend coding and setup needed to make changes

Disadvantages:

  • Very little control over the look and feel of the website
  • Very little control over website performance with little ability to make improvements
  • Your site looks like many other websites which limits your ability to stand out or really drive your specific brand
  • If the need for more customization arises in the future, there will be more expenses incurred and large site updates/changes that could be disruptive to workflow and customer experience

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