E-commerce websites


What is an ecommerce website?

An ecommerce website is a website that accepts online payment for a product or service.

Some characteristics of a typical ecommerce website are:

  • Payment gateway
  • Security Certificate
  • Shopping Cart


There’s more to ecommerce than selling consumer products. They may sell things such as:

  • online courses
  • grocery food
  • holidays
  • professional consultations
  • electronic components
  • car rental
  • chemicals for food production
  • high-cost industrial equipment


A lot of products aren’t suitable for online selling but can simply be showcased online. Refer to product-oriented websites for more details.


The objectives of an ecommerce website

Provide a great user experience

People buy when they can shop without impediment. Consumers buy for the pleasure of it. A slow website, lots of ads, popups, lack of information – all get in the way of the experience.

Build up the brand

The brand represents the business in its entirety and people buy from brands. The long term strategy is to brand up – so people make repeat purchases.

Drive enquiries to the business

Not everyone is willing to buy straightaway – particularly for large products (e.g. industrial machinery) or products that require their time, such as training courses. The mid-term strategy is to form a relationship that can be worked upon over time.

Get people to do buy something

The short term strategy is to get people to buy something immediately – the techniques behind that will be covered later in this article.

Characteristics of an ecommerce website

Fast loading

Small ecommerce website are judged to the same standards as large websites. The number one thing people want to do is shop around, not wait around.

Particularly with in the consumer world, the effort a consumer is willing to put into a purchase is little and waiting for pages to load takes effort.

Targeted appeal

To compete against Amazon, who have very low prices and fast deliveries you need to have a targeted appeal.

Speak to a demographic with a particular niche product, look a way to satisfy a particular emotional need will help you be noticed by your target market.

Professional branding

A brand may take a while to come together but make sure it does. Nowadays, second rate websites don’t stand a chance – the competition is fierce. Looking professional is a sign that you are a professional and can be trusted.

Quality content

Content must be descriptive and unique. Content helps with SEO, branding (through tone of voice) and selling. Particularly when products are very similar, a well-written description can be the persuading factor.

Trust signs

To gain new sales, you need to convince people that haven’t heard of you to part with their money. You need to show signs that you can be trusted:

  • Security certificate
  • Professional brand
  • Customer reviews
  • Active Facebook page
  • Customer service like chat, telephone numbers.
  • Clear returns policy


How to make an affordable ecommerce website

The most complicated part about an ecommerce website isn’t the making, it’s the improvements.

Choose the right technology

The single most important factor to consider before you start is which platform to use. The rule of thumb is to choose the simplest possible system for your current needs and your level of experience.

If it’s your first time – use an online system such as Shopify. The monthly costs will be roughly the same as the cost of maintaining a website on your own.

If you require a little more flexibility use WordPress but be prepared to learn about how a WordPress website work. There is more to learn and do on a monthly basis.

We do not recommend using Magento for entrepreneurs or small businesses. This product is more suitable for companies who already have a substantial experience in ecommerce.

Small Business Ecommerce solutions

For most small businesses, the choices fall into two camps: online monthly payment or self-hosted open source solutions.

  • Shopify
  • WordPress

Medium sized Business Solutions

  • Magento
  • Shopify Premium

Large business Ecommerce Solutions

For larger companies, there are a different range of more expensive. Management notes

  • Magento Enterprise
  • Salesforce Commerce Cloud


Choose the right partner

There are ecommerce companies (like Shopify but smaller) that have their own system which they will maintain for you. The advantage of such of these companies is that they do all the set up work for you. The disadvantage is that you’re locked in to their system and they can charge you a lot to do minor changes to your website.

Starfish’s option is based on collaborative partnership. We help you choose the right technology, we help you do the set up but you’re not tied in and you do have to do you your fair share of the work.

Making and running an ecommerce website means you have to roll up your sleeves and understand what’s going on behind the scenes.

Simplify your shipping tables

Shipping calculations works out the cost of delivering the product to the client. Calculations can get pretty complex when you are using different couriers to ship multiple products worldwide. If you are embarking on a global shipping venture work out these details before you start development because the cost of using Shopify changes, and the cost of WordPress development will go up.

Simplify your website

More than a busy and feature rich website, you need a fast website. The advantage of this is that there is less design and development work and SEO results will be vastly improved. Your promotional strategy should be based on good content, not fancy designs.

Shop around for the a payment provider


Create a product oriented website without a payment gateway

How to design an ecommerce website

Use a template

Ecommerce websites have very much the same layout. User friendliness and mobile friendliness are more important than trying to impress with original layouts.

By stickling close to the template, you will have much less quality assurance work to do and you will have a much more consistent design

Create a website mood board

This is a visually-led type project. We use visuals to patch together a design, rather than words to outline the flow of the site.

Whilst you have the option of creating full-color wireframes, you might get better usage out of a mood board.

A mood board is half competitive analysis, half wireframe. It’s a scrapbook of ideas that represent the mood, emotion, tone, sentiment, style, language of your website.

Create creative concepts

Creative concept are like wireframes. They are both layout designs. Except with a concept, your purpose is branding and visual excitement, rather than logical flow.

Create a working prototype

A working prototype concentrates on the functionality of the website, not the layout. The reason for creating a prototype is iron out any kinks in the sales logistics. It’s easy to get carried away with the visuals only to realize that what you have designed won’t work or will be technically too complex.

Working prototype features:

  • Testing the technology platform
  • Testing the sales process
  • Implementing the payment gateway
  • Add / deleting product

Create the content

There is a lot of content that’s needed in an ecommerce website:

  • returns policies,
  • Shipping formulas
  • About us,
  • descriptions of the product
  • content for marketing purposes

If you don’t start this early on in the web design process, you’ll find your website project will be on pause while you catch up with writing.

Content planning will help you write your content faster and more consistently.

How to present your business

Clarity, look, visual aspects.

Important Features of an ecommerce website

  • Fast loading
  • Branded
  • Mobile friendly
  • Shipping
  • Returns Policy
  • Security
  • Customer service

How the website is made

  • Build Approach
  • Speed Optimization
  • Content Strategy
  • Wireframes

Ecommerce digital marketing

Affordable ecommerce solutions

There is a balance to be had between marketing cost and profit. You need a marketing budget and you need to spend it wisely for you to see growth.

A holistic digital marketing and SEO approach is collaborative and economical and it will help you to discover where to spend your marketing budget.

Discover your competitor’s strategies

It helps to know what you’re up against, so that you can create clear and realistic marketing plan. SEO is a long slog; knowing that you’re going in the right direction will give you the motivation to continue.

A SEO based competitive analysis will help you understand what tactics your competitors are using so you know what to do; either to beat them or avoid going up against them.

Learn about digital marketing

If you’re running an ecommerce store, you need to have a clear idea about digital marketing. It will help demystify the whole subject and avoid you falling into the common traps. Start off by reading our guide on website promotion. Collaborate with us and we’ll guide you as you learn the tricks of your trade.

Continuous promotion

Ecommerce marketing is a continuous process. More than any other type of business, an ecommerce website relies on traffic to make sales.

Content SEO

Particularly for small businesses that cannot rely on their brand name alone to get people visiting their site, it’s important that your website is as SEO friendly as can be. Here are some starter points.

  • Keyword optimization
  • Correct and complete content
  • Long descriptive pages
  • Backlinks to your products
  • Reviews

Maintaining an ecommerce website

Technical maintenance

If you’ve decided to go with Shopify or another of the online ecommerce service, you’ll be glad to know that there is little in the way of technical maintenance.

The advantage to WordPress is that you can get a more technically complicated website for less money and development time. The disadvantage is that there will be more things to check on a monthly basis.

Checks will include:


Website Improvements

Ideally, your ecommerce website will be improved on a continued basis. If you don’t do that, you may find that sales drop over time and you’ll be faced with a website revamp.

It is cheaper in the long time to keep improving your website.

Here are some suggestions:

  • Look for consistency in font and design.
  • Make sure your site works perfectly on all devices.
  • Improve content descriptions on your worst performing products.
  • Remove stale photography.