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Building eCommerce Websites that work - Part 3
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|Small Business Ecommerce Web Design
If your small business is venturing into ecommerce, you may be
daunted by the technical wizardry you think is involved. But
fear not: complete web store software packages will keep all the
technical wizardry safely behind the screen, so you don't have
to worry about it. All you have to do is choose a design, stock
your store, and promote it. Here's how to do that.
Designing Your Online Store: Choosing a Template
When starting a brand-new online store for a small business,
you're better off choosing a pre-existing design template rather
than having a design done from scratch.
* Templates. If you're not quite sure what kind of design you'd
like, you can browse through the design templates included with
most hosted online store programs.
* Themes. Some online store builders take the design template
concept one step further, with "themes." Themes are essentially
templates that include not only basic design elements but also
text styles such as font faces and sizes. Themes also allow for
slightly different pages across a website with a single unified
design, without having to configure each page individually. For
instance, a web store theme might include a product description
page, a product category page, an "add to cart" page, and a
checkout page. Just by choosing a single theme, you have all the
pages in the shopping cart designed with a single, unified
professional design, just like big, successful web stores.
* Theme builder. If you want to make changes to a theme-say a
different font or a different color-some web store software
packages make it easy with a "theme builder." With the theme
builder, you can select values for features such as color and
font. You can even choose to build a theme from scratch, though
for most web stores this will be a case of re-inventing the
wheel unnecessarily. You don't need to know anything about HTML;
the interface is much like a word processing program.
* Professional design. Once you've created your store using
templates or a theme builder, you can turn to a professional
designer to make your site really special. Still, you may want
to stick with the basic template or theme-builder site until you
have a firm idea of how users are interacting with it and what
elements are working. That way you'll have concrete requests to
make of the designer.
Building Your Online Store: Inventory
The foundation of any online store is the products or services
being sold. With most web store and shopping cart software
packages, the functions for adding, removing, and pricing items
are collectively called "inventory."
Even if you're selling intangibles such as downloadable
software, you will use the inventory functions to specify how
the items will
be sold. There are options for setting the
available quantity in stock to unlimited, or handling just about
any kind of permutation of selling products or services online.
Web store software makers have seen it all.
One of the great things about using a hosted web store software
package is that if you do have trouble setting something up, you
can get help quickly from customer service.
Adding New Web Pages to an Online Store
If you want to add new pages to your online store, the store
creator software can help. If all you want is to add a new
product, you only have to use the "add a product" feature, which
is often listed under "inventory." However, if you want to add
pages for sales copy, manuals, privacy policies, terms and
conditions, the store creator interface is the way to do it.
Most online store creators have a way of adding pages to a web
store without having to use HTML; you simply type in your text
in the form and upload any images.
Getting Your Store Found in Search Engines
In order for your online store to generate the most business
possible, you'll want to make sure that your store is easily
searchable for Internet shoppers. Unfortunately, some web stores
create pages using a dynamic script that search engines cannot
Often you can tell if a web store cannot be indexed by search
engines by looking at the URL of an inside web page (the
homepage, also called the index page or "front page," will
usually be search-engine-index-able no matter what). If the URL
is a long string of characters that is slightly different from
one user to the next (say, when you open the page on your
computer and someone else opens the page on another machine),
that likely means the site is using "session IDs" which search
engines have a notoriously difficult time interpreting. If the
URL is something simpler, such as
"domain.com/category-5/product-6.php", the page is much more
likely to be search-engine friendly.
The best way to check whether a web store or shopping cart
software produces "search-engine-friendly" pages is to check the
documentation; software that's search-engine-friendly will
usually say so.
Of course, as with any website, doing well in search engines
still requires your site to have links pointing to it and some
text on the pages. Just because search engines can index a page
doesn't mean they'll return it for any searches.
About the author:
Joel Walsh is a web business owner and writer. For a hosted web
store software package, check out this: online store builder: http://www.easystorecreator.com