So you’ve chosen to build an eCommerce website, and to use Magento’s powerful open-source software and catalog of thousands of extensions as the backbone for your website. Whether you’ve been involved in deploying previous websites, or even brick and mortar stores, some of your next steps may seem obvious, but there will be particular nuances around the general needs of a successful eCommerce website, and more specific needs of a Magento storefront.
Create a scope of work
A general contractor shouldn’t break ground on a new building without blueprints and specifications, and neither should a web developer. The process starts with learning about Magento’s out-of-the-box features. Once you know what the software can do, and what it doesn’t natively do, you can better assess any Magento Extensions that you’ll need, and other customizations that you may require. You’ll want to decide what you’ll need for a quick and cost-effective launch and might also consider a wish list for post-launch additions that could enhance your website once you’ve got sales moving and start seeing ROI.
Secure a domain
Domain names are relatively cheap and easy to register. You’ll need your domain during the setup of your site, and you’ll, of course, want to avoid finding out that someone else has scooped up the “.com” that you wanted, forcing you to rebrand mid-project.
Select a version of Magento
Magento offers a free version, which is by far its most popular offering, known as Magento Community. They also offer an Enterprise version with a significant annual license fee. Enterprise includes some extra features not available out-of-the-box with Community and is typically a good fit for businesses poised to generate significant sales.
Choose a hosting firm
Magento is a robust and resource-intensive platform. It’s best hosted by a team that optimizes for Magento and knows it well. While you can get a bare metal hosting solution, it’s often best to get a fully managed solution, making the host responsible for much of the software, hardware, and security upkeep of the hosting solution itself. You’ll typically want a host with 24/7 assistance, most likely with a mix of phone, live chat, and ticket support, and that offers scalability as your eCommerce store begins to grow and requires more hosting resources.
Create compelling designs
Your store should be built around your branding, your content and product catalog, and the features that make you unique. Building a memorable online storefront should include clean navigation and a strong call to action. Most professional designs are created in software like Adobe’s Photoshop and are then coded to HTML & CSS. You’ll want your designs to take into account the built-in features of Magento, and to work well for mobile devices, too. A good designer with experience in creating layouts and graphics for Magento should be able to help keep these factors in mind when presenting you with design drafts.
Merchandize your store and setup Magento features
Magento has user-friendly interfaces to enter everything from categories, attributes, and products to static content. There are many features that can be enabled or disabled globally across all products in your store to make data entry easier. There are also many settings that define the shopping experience, such as whether to display out of stock products and how many products to show per category page. Additionally, these options will help you to stock your store and display your product catalog the way that you want it to appear.
You’ll need to set up relevant features, such as shipping methods, payment methods, and sales taxes. There are also items that can help with long-term success, such as turning on Google Analytics for additional free statistics and reporting, and enabling your sitemaps to automatically generate, helping search engines to find all of the pages and products on your website. A development agency with significant Magento experience can help you navigate the many options.
One of the biggest benefits of Magento is the ability to benefit from the thousands of extensions that have been developed by teams all over the world. This allows you to add new features and functionalities quickly and easily. As with all software, don’t install anything that you don’t really need. Extensions can conflict with each other, and cause problems, and can also slow down your site. As a rule of thumb, less is more. In general, you’ll want to choose extensions that are popular and have proven to work in a variety of stores, that have good reviews from other Magento website owners, and come from developers that include support, and offer some sort of money back guarantee. Magento Development teams can typically steer you toward good choices based upon their historical experience.
Measure twice, cut once
Now is your chance to test thoroughly. An eCommerce store is a large and complex system. You’ll want to click through the various pages of the site, as well as place test orders, fill out contact forms, and test any other relevant features before scheduling to launch your store.
Plan for return on investment
ROI isn’t a given. Lots of businesses open their doors and fail, whether online or not. Behind a successful eCommerce website is a long-term marketing plan. This can include search engine optimization, pay per click marketing, remarketing, email marketing, social media marketing, content and video marketing, feed marketing, affiliate marketing, and other types of campaigns.
Select good vendors to assist you
Whether you need help with design, development, or marketing, having the right contractors can mean the difference between success and failure. You’ll want to choose a team that you can communicate with effectively, that has a track record of success, and that you can trust
About the author
Robert Rand of RandMarketing.com was educated at NYU Poly and has managed the development and marketing of hundreds of websites. Along with Rand’s award winning team, he helps clients take their businesses to the next level by employing best practices, while staying at the forefront of the eCommerce and internet marketing industries. From technical issues to traditional marketing efforts, Robert takes pride in providing our clients with services that will make a difference in their bottom lines.