How to build a business website?
Selling on social networks or marketplaces is good until the number of customers grows. This is when you need a bigger and more convenient platform to sell goods. You can run a website based on out-of-the-box applications or build a website from scratch using custom services of a web app development company. Let's look at each of these options in detail.
(Image source: E-commerce Guide)
Out-of-the-box solutions can be hosted and unhosted. Hosted simply means that the company will host your store, and you will have to pay a monthly subscription fee for their services. Self-hosted means the platform will provide you with software, but you have to get your own web hosting. Hosted solutions include Shopify and Bigcommerce. Unhosted platforms include Magento and Woocommerce.
These solutions are a great fit for small business who wants to create a branded store online. However, out-of-the-box solutions might also suit big companies that do not require sophisticated features on their e-commerce web app.
Out-of-the-box solutions have certain pros and cons. The advantages of the service are the following.
1. Ease of use
Turnkey solutions are easy to set up and require little or no technical expertise. Customers get onboard and can start selling right away. The solutions usually contain all the basic features to add products, define prices, and manage delivery. They include an inbuilt payment system and support services so that businesses don't have to bother with functionality.
It is much cheaper to create an account on an e-commerce platform than to build a custom web app. Out-of-the-box solutions are a good option for startups who have just started their business. Such service as Shopify cost from $29 to $299 monthly depending on the complexity (lite, basic, advanced versions). Some site constructors such as Weebly enable you to create free or paid accounts for $8-38 per month.
3. Possible extensions
To enhance the user experience you can extend most of the available out-of-the-box solutions with additional applications. For example, Shopify offers its customers to which include cart countdown timer, Facebook chat, or an Auto Currency Switcher and more. These tools may favor your site conversions and boost your income.
1. Limited customization
Customization is a process that requires making changes in code. It is necessary for those users who want to add some specific features, for example, to use an original theme instead of a standard one. Most of the out-of-the-box solutions have some opportunities for customization. A lot of them provide users with an open-source code so that it is possible to customize a web app to some extent. However, if your business is growing and you need to add new payment options and more languages, superficial customization is not enough. For more advanced e-commerce functionality you should choose custom development.
2. Too many extensions
Despite limited or no customization, out-of-the-box solutions often encourage customers to install free or paid extensions. Extensions to the out-of-the-box software can help you run your business more efficiently. Before choosing a platform, it is better to consider how much extensions you may need in the future not to overpay for limited options. Moreover, with so many extensions, it would be much harder for you to move to another platform.
3. Support options
Out-of-the-box solutions provide businesses with a range of support options. For example, Shopify provides users with all the necessary information about navigating the platform, executing payments, choosing shopping options, reaching customers. It has instructions about setting up a domain name, changing themes, getting business metrics, etc. But out-of-the-box platforms are not tailored to react to the needs of your particular customers. Building a web app from scratch lets you create an inbuilt support platform, which contains all the needed options for customer support.
Custom software development
(Image source: Take It Personel-ly)
While template sites are fast and easy to set up, custom web app require more resources. However, this investment is beneficial. Many users of custom web app would never return to the pre-built solutions. Though custom e-commerce sites are more expensive and need more time to launch, they have a lot of advantages. Here are some of them.
Custom solutions are good for those businesses who wish to make their sites unique. You can easily adapt a web app built from scratch to the needs of your company. For example, you may broaden the delivery options if you deal with food or set promo codes for specific products. Customization broadens opportunities of stacking web app with needed features.
One of the most significant benefits of custom solutions is that you control the whole process from web app development to operations. Out-of-the-box e-commerce software may change tariffs and services. You have no control over it. It is like renting a flat. The flat owner disposes the property at their discretion. And the terms of the lease can be changed at any time. On your site with special features and advanced SEO tools, you can feel like a landlord. Everything is in your hands.
3. Specific credit card processors
Not all turnkey solutions can process payments with different payment options. And they don't always manage international payments. If you intend to expand your business expands abroad, you should carefully study payment possibilities of the e-commerce platform you choose. A custom web app enables you to implement the most suitable payment system. In case you need to change something, you can hire a developer and get the job done.
4. Advanced security
E-commerce sites deal with personal customers' data such as their credit card numbers. Of course, it should be protected. Template based sites are equipped with security systems. Still, the level of their safety depends on providers. Differently, building a custom web app enables you to adjust a web app to the highest security standards.
It is hard to predict the tempo of business growth. When you suddenly get massive traffic, and your web app is not prepared for it, you're in trouble. Out-of-the-box solutions can be a good choice for small businesses. Still, as soon as the number of visitors hits thousands, you should think about a more complex architecture to cope with this task. If a small “cart solution” doesn't seem appropriate for the demands of your business, develop a custom site to attract and serve loads of customers.
In the end, choosing between out-of-the-box and custom web app, take into consideration your current and future business needs. Turnkey solutions are beneficial for beginner entrepreneurs. Custom ones can be more accessible for growing businesses. If you are comfortable with pre-installed features and don't plan to scale, out-of-the-box solutions can be a good option for you. Custom web application seems suitable if you plan to stack a web app with specific features and control the flow of your business at all stages.