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Building a Website for Your Home Based E-Commerce Business

1. Purchase a Domain that is easy to remember. Purchasing a Top Level Domain (TLD) such as a .com, .net or .org is your first priority. This gives you a chance to lure customers in with a catchy and memorable name. You can choose to use your newly purchased Domain Name as your website name or you can use it solely for hooking potential visitors from Search Engines. If you already have an established business, it is in your best interest to purchase YourBusinessName.com first. Even if you do not plan on using it, there are currently no internet laws set in place to keep your competition from purchasing YourBusinessName.com’s Domain Name and using it to direct users to their website. The only way around this is by getting a legal trademark for your business name which will prevent such issues.

2. Locate a solid hosting company. If you plan on using a website designer or development company, they will be able to either help you with this or sell you a plan from their hosting solutions. Every website needs 3 things to operate at its bare minimum: 1) Domain Name, 2) Hosting 3) The actual design that people will see and use to navigate the site. Expect to pay anywhere from $25.00 to $45.00 per month for e-commerce website hosting. E-Commerce website hosting is typically more expensive because it requires additional features that static HTML websites do not such as Database access, PHP support and 24/7 tech support should a problem arise.

3. Apply for a merchant account. One should be careful in finding a reputable merchant account service. These services typically try to lure you in with low rates and a Free credit card machine which you will end up paying for in the long haul. Be sure to read every single word of the fine print and don’t sign anything until you are completely comfortable or your lawyer has reviewed the contract. Having a merchant account will allow you to process credit card orders that originate from your e-commerce website. Having a merchant account will allow your customers more payment options and will probably increase business significantly as opposed to only accepting check or money orders.

4. Use a website developer or development company. Try searching online for a website designer or development company to create your website. The days of creating a website on your own, watching the orders roll in and actually looking like a reliable business are gone. Google.com is a good place to start as well as SuperPages.com and other service oriented directories such as MarketingTool.com. Using a website developer located in your area is a good idea, but not always necessary. Most website developers are capable of telecommuting meaning they can work remotely from their offices in another city or state while still keeping in contact and creating the site to your satisfaction. Make sure to request a free quote or estimate on your project. Read the website developer’s agreement contract and be sure you will not end up paying for nothing. Expect to put down a 25% deposit as reassurance to the web developer that you are serious about moving forward with the project.

5. Make sure your website maintains its purpose and appeal. This is your website that you have hired someone to build. Keep in mind that while it is in the best interest of the website development to create you a professional, meaningful and successful website – this is still your website. It may be easy for the website developer to lose sight of your purpose. To maintain your websites appeal and professional look, you will want to establish credibility and trustworthiness. To do this, I recommend text content that is not revolving around selling your product or services. Keep in mind that visitors rather see benefits versus features. Repeating yourself over and over will only bore and possibly insult the intelligence of your visitors. Try using factual information used in your field such as statistics, detailed descriptions or “nerd talk.” This will show to your visitors that you know what you your business and are a reliable source.

6. Add a Privacy Policy and Terms of Service agreement. Since you will be collecting information from your website, it is a good idea to include a Privacy Policy explaining to your visitors how you will use and protect their information as well as a Terms of Service agreement which outlines how your company will provide services and products to its customers. There are many Privacy Policy generators on the web available to feely use and copy to your website. Visit Google and search for Privacy Policy Generator. You will probably be asked to fill out today’s date, your company name and website URL. The generator will plug the information you provide in to preset fields on a premade generic Privacy Policy. Do yourself a favor and read the entire Privacy Policy making sure to make appropriate changes that apply to your website. Do not just copy and paste.

7. Test, test and retest before going live. E-Commerce websites have a lot of functionality behind them other than just Shopping Carts and Checkouts such as Newsletters, Featured Products, Specials, Newly Added Items and other custom features depending on your online store. Be sure to test and retest these features before going live. Your website developer should be able to offer a testing environment before your site launches. This testing environment is used as a way for you the client to be able to view your functioning website and iron out all of the small details before your visitors and customers see them.

8. Pay your website development company. Your website development company no doubt put a lot of time and effort into your project. Paying them promptly is a good idea for a number of reasons. Depending on your situation, some developers may allow you to pay in 2-3 monthly payments. This means that you will not have full control over your website until the full balance has been paid. If your balance goes unpaid your website will likely get shut off. This could mean big headaches for you and lost visitors and sales. Not to mention the reconnection and/or late fees that will be associated with unpaid bills. Not paying your bill can severally damage your relationship with your website programmer/developer. Make sure to maintain a long lasting relationship with your programmer/developer even if they are expensive. Remember, it will always be more expensive and time consuming to go out and find another designer or developer just because you ruined a promising relationship.

© Copyright 2007 MJM Design. All rights reserved. This article was authored by Matt McWilliam for MJM Design. Matt McWilliam is the owner of MJM Design located in downtown Cleveland, Ohio. Read more about Matt McWilliam.
 

 

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