If you want to build an e-commerce site, then you have probably noticed that your web host offers you a choice of “shopping cart” or e-commerce platforms. The most common ones are Tomato Cart, Magento, OSCommerce and Zen Cart. For those who are new to e-commerce, selecting the right platform for their needs may sometimes seem to be difficult. But there are ways to simplify the process. Here are some things to do if you are new to building e-commerce sites:
- First, get informed
There are plenty of websites, blog posts, forum posts, articles and guides which are available freely online and deal with all aspects of e-commerce websites. By reading those, you will have more of an understanding of how e-commerce sites work and how the system which powers them works too.
- Read some reviews
To get some information, you can read some reviews of various e-commerce platforms that were left by other online entrepreneurs and webmasters. This will give you a general idea as to which platforms are preferred by webmaster communities and which ones are not so good. However, it is important not to base your decision exclusively on comments left by others, as a platform that may be appropriate for one webmaster may not be for another one.
- Do a test installation
The easiest way to accomplish this would be to create several subdomains on your main site and then install a different e-commerce platform on each one. That way, you will be able to try various platforms for yourself. You will be able to see the admin panel of the e-commerce suite right away and can see whether you are more comfortable working with one platform over another one.
- Check for the availability of themes and add-ons
Most platforms come with a default theme, but many webmasters would like to customize their site even more. See which themes are available for the platform of your choice and consider whether they would go well with the website ideas that you have. Most e-commerce platforms also have additional plugins and add-ons which you can add that allow you to expand on the functionality of your e-commerce site, such as by adding multiple language support, etc.
- Look at the support available
When it comes to support, you should be aware of one important thing: if you are using free, or open source software, the support that you will get will be quite limited. After all, it would be quite illogical to demand 24 hour a day phone support for a product that you are getting for free. Most of the support on open source products is done through community forums. If you are having a problem, chances are that someone else also experienced the same or a similar issue and posts were made on the forum regarding a resolution. But you should consider whether the support forum is really active and the users are interested in sharing information and helping each other. Obviously, if the entire forum is full of “Look at me! My site is the best!” threads, it will not be very useful incase of a problem.