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The Ecommerce Jump Start Checklist

Aug 17, 2007
Entry into the world of e-commerce requires that the site owner has there components planned:

- Products to sell
- Content to advertise the products
- A site host that will run scripts

These are essential before the site is set up. The first two offer direction to the web site, and give the tone for the whole project. The last one is the mechanism by which the e-commerce site will be set up. It will be used to store the content, and the framework, which serves the content, and provides an interface to the payment processing service provider.

The Content:
Every web site needs content. It is usually search engine optimized, added value information that persuades the visitor of the merits of the web site owner' it is there to inform and build trust. It also needs to be able to be found by search engines, and linked in with the products for sale.

Many different content engines are available, and they each offer the possibility to integrate, with varying degree of flexibility and success, with e-commerce frameworks. However, it is often a good idea to choose an integrated solution, as it reduces the workload required to implement the site itself.

The product descriptions also become part of the content, and as such, there needs to be a way to access that content, and provide it to third parties. Typical mechanisms include XML (RSS) feeds, electronic press releases, and article repositories. All of which can be used to leverage editorial content and product information to drive visitors to the parts of the site managed by the e-commerce framework.

The Framework:
The e-commerce framework provides a container into which the content is placed. This includes the editorial as well as product specific content. The capabilities provided by the framework should include a decent template system, otherwise the site maintainer will spend a lot of time cutting and pasting code.

A full content management system might be out of reach for those starting out in business, but integration with the framework and any content management systems provided by the web space provider should be possible. What is important is that the framework:

- Provides reports
- Checks cards before requesting authorization
- Validates email addresses
- Retains customer data in a secure manner

The reports are important so that the site owner can keep track of the incoming funds, expected payments, and refund tracking. It is important that the card data is validated as far as possible before the authorization from the credit card processor is requested because each attempt is usually charged for. If the customer enters a wrong digit, it would be useful to pick this up before the charge is incurred.

The same is true of email addresses: each one is valuable, as it can be used to inform the customer of new products and site updates after the transaction has taken place. On the other hand, any information about the customer that is retained must be done in as secure a way as possible.

Summary:
The above should be enough to get started with an e-commerce framework, implementing a simple catalog of products. In essence, all that is required is a way to add items to a cart, accept payment for the cart, and track the fulfillment of the order.

Where care must be taken is in processing refunds, the manual work associated with keeping the site updated and fresh, and being careful to address issues with site navigation in a timely manner. There is nothing worse than making sure everything is in place, and then finding that none of the product pages are accessible due to a typo in the template providing the lookup URL.
About the Author
CoSource offers more information on ecommerce web development frameworks, custom software development and CoSource - Website design to get your business started.
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