Web Design: Integrating e-Commerce by Kurt Thumlert
For web developers who prioritize graphics and design work, reconciling the
art of web development with building an e-commerce platform can be somewhat
problematic. Design and programming are the foci - and these are the skills
developers spend years refining, weekends investigating, and long nights
tweaking. That's why for many people providing web design solutions, the
e-commerce dimension of building a site can often be a bit unruly - if not
Here, it's the art and science of web development that's the fun part. Juggling a variety of e-commerce vendors for different e-commerce needs (or performing the in-house technical work of commerce-enabling a client site) can be infinitely less rewarding than primary web design/development.
Unfortunately, most clients don't spend a lot time reviewing the nuances of source code - that weird cipher rippling beneath the surface of their web pages. Instead, business functionality is their primary goal - and online credit card authorization may supplant web artistry on your clients' list of priorities. And rightly so - it's their business at stake.
So on the web developer's plate, you have the responsibility of translating a client's vision into a web-based reality, of mobilizing the underlying code. In many cases, you also have the additional task of e-commerce enabling the site - integrating e-commerce systems and coordinating various service providers. Synchronizing these latter aspects of development can be frustrating, regardless of whether you outsource or perform tasks in-house.
Here, you may be required to organize secure server hosting, integrate an automated payment processing system and secure order page, incorporate catalog and shopping cart functionality, and in some cases you may even have to help swing a card-not-present merchant account so your client can accept credit cards on the Internet. There's a lot of detail work to manage.
The solution, of course, is to eliminate all this confusion by finding one reliable service provider who you can handle the entire spectrum of e-commerce tasks for you. The ideal situation - for both the web developer and the client - is to have these e-commerce duties out-sourced to a 'single-source' e-commerce company: a vendor that can manage and coordinate every feature of a solid, flexible e-commerce platform.
Why is that ideal? Because rather than simultaneously juggle three or four different companies to expedite services for your client's site, you have one point of contact for all your e-commerce needs. Later, this benefit extends to your clients as well: they will have that same point of contact for all of their customer service and maintenance issues. Everything is already consolidated and streamlined.
Of course, compatibility and integration is key to a successful partnership. Therefore, technology like automated payment processing systems, catalogs, and shopping carts must not only be state-of-the-art, but flexible enough to be seamlessly integrated into your design work. Here, your vendor should be able to offer secure transactions, a robust processing system, full-featured catalogs and shopping carts (with custom-design capability), and secure hosting at a recognized data center.
And so you don't have to foreclose the possibility working with a wide variety of clients, your service provider must be able to accommodate multiple business models and commerce channels - from shippable e-tail and downloadable goods to subscription and donation-based platforms.
Above all, the process of adding e-commerce functionality to a website should always enhance design. Aesthetics and navigability cannot be jeopardized. Your web development credibility is at stake when you integrate an e-commerce platform into a client site - and that's why your service provider has to be reputable on all fronts. With a single, reliable vendor, you also avoid any 'weak links' among a group of individual service providers.
Finally, if you are working with a single-source partner, you have the opportunity to negotiate a lucrative reseller or revenue sharing plan. Your web development packages will not only offer total e-commerce functionality, but every time you e-commerce enable a client site, you'll earn a percentage or fee for the referral. By working with a vendor who consolidates all aspects of an e-commerce platform, you have a better position to leverage a worthwhile revenue sharing deal.
About the Author
Kurt Thumlert is Internet Content Specialist for PaymentOnline - a company that provides e-commerce solutions like the eCom Business Pack Pro for Web Developers <http://www.ecombusinesspack.com/ecbp.html> . Feel free to contact Kurt at firstname.lastname@example.org <mailto:email@example.com>