Four Crucial Tips For Choosing An Ecommerce Website Designer

While our company offers web design and development services for auto parts ecommerce companies, we don’t take on every project that comes our way.

Still, we have a lot of experience with design and development, and we’ve seen what can go wrong. Here are four tips for avoiding the biggest problems that occur during a design update.

Tip #1. Know Your Marketing Strategy Before You Spend a Penny On Design

This is key, mostly because a) you need to know what your marketing costs are before you even think about building a website and b) your marketing plan will help your designer “spec out” the site you need.

Marketing costs are key, as the last thing any website owner should do is spend thousands of dollars on web design, only to find out that they don’t have enough funds to properly market their new investment. This isn’t a “Field of Dreams” situation – visitors aren’t just going to show up to your new site once it’s live. You’ve got to promote your site, and promotion costs more than you might think.

Ecommerce field of dreams

Building a new website is not enough to make the people come. You’ve got to invest in marketing and advertising.

As for spec’ing out your new website, it’s incredibly helpful if your designer and your marketing team can talk about website function and form. Thus, it’s a very good idea to get your marketing team hired and plans ironed out before you begin to engage with a designer.

Tip #2. Study The Big Players Across The Web

Want to be successful selling products online? Model your site after companies that are already doing a good job. Study Amazon.com, Zappos.com, BestBuy.com, AutoAnything.com, JCWhitney.com, plus any ecommerce website in your niche that you know to be successful. Try and answer the following questions:

  1. What features do these sites have? Year-make-model lookup? Shipping calculator? etc.
  2. How does each site’s shopping cart work? Do users have to register first, or can they check out as guests? Is the checkout process all on one page? Do they accept all major credit cards? Do they offer free shipping?
  3. How are their products organized? Are the parts they sell all broken down by category, or do they also break them out by fitment or brand? What categories are they using, and do those categories make sense?

Studying the competition will give you insights into standards and best practices, as well as help you answer the questions that your designer will be asking about how you want things to work on your site.

Tip #3. Make Two Lists

The first list is for all your must-have website features. The second list is for all the want-but-don’t-need website features.

It’s important to create these lists before you contact a designer, as you want to be able to ask them what they think about your list of wants, as well as ask them to prepare a quote for both lists (or, if possible, a quote for all your needs plus prices for each want).

Additionally, by giving your designer a list of specs early in the process, you’ll save everyone some time.

Tip #4. Beware Of Self-Hosted Ecommerce Solutions

Magento Community Version is a powerful and popular ecommerce website platform, but it has a high investment cost, relatively high maintenance costs, and typically requires working with costly development teams.

For example:

  • Designing and developing a Magento site from scratch typically costs thousands of dollars, and some of the best developers can charge tens of thousands of dollars…it’s not at all unusual for Magento sites to costs upwards of $100,000, at least if the customization requirements are substantial.
  • Any self-hosted website requires regular maintenance, periodic updates, and backups…all of which typically require training and/or experience to complete successfully. If you don’t want to learn to do these things yourself, you’ll need to hire someone to do this work for you.
  • Hosting costs can explode as your self-hosted sites grow. Most developers aren’t well versed in what it takes to setup and maintain a stable and secure server, let alone all the systems that high traffic sites need (caching, CDN, load balancing, etc.). If your developers aren’t up to date on the latest tools/tactics for dealing with server load, you’ll spend a lot of money on raw server power to compensate.

When you add it all up, a self-hosted ecommerce site can cost thousands to setup and hundreds a month to maintain. While there are some key benefits to self-hosted ecommerce – the main benefit being full customization options – there are other options.

Hosted ecommerce sites charge a substantial monthly fee ($300+ per month), but they offer a LOT of benefits:

  • No worries about software updates, plugin conflicts, etc.
  • Few worries about security
  • Few worries about backups

We have a list of auto parts ecommerce platforms here that’s fairly comprehensive, and we definitely encourage anyone in the business of selling parts online to go with a hosted solution. Magento, WooCommerce, Prestashop, and other self-hosted systems should be viewed as a last resort.

Summing Up

While there’s a lot more to choosing a designer than these four tips, following the suggestions above will help you avoid the worst problems. If you know your marketing strategy (and budget), you can avoid an expensive mistake. If you know what features your competitor’s sites have and which features your site needs, you’ll know what you need and be able to evaluate options accordingly. Finally, if you know the long-term costs (and headaches) of a self-hosted ecommerce system, you can avoid a big headache that never goes away.

Finally, if you’re in the market for an auto parts ecommerce website, please contact us. We are happy to help anyone in the auto parts and accessories industry evaluate different options. We can draw your attention to features and questions you might not have considered, and also help you outline a basic marketing plan.

Good luck!

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