So you’ve decided to start a new venture online. Great! You might be wondering where to start your online business…and you’ve come to the right place. Let’s discuss the options:
Assuming you are developing an ecommerce business, your site will primarily serve to do two things:
- Act as a sales funnel, persuading each customer to buy your product/service, and
- Provide a shopping cart to process these orders
Your site will be a series of HTML web pages, which contain text, images, videos, and other data to “funnel” people along your sales process. This information needs to be stored or “hosted” somewhere and “served” up to the browsing public as they arrive to your site.
Using Shopify, BigCommerce, WordPress, Magento or a custom-built site?
If you’re setting up an ecommerce business, there may seem to be an overwhelming array of choices for building and powering your site. Each platform has a varying array of features and usually involves a trade-off between simplicity and functionality, for example:
A Shopify or BigCommerce site is incredibly easy to setup and administer, as everything is included in their SaaS ecommerce packages. Because your online shop is hosted on their servers, you won’t need to spend time and effort setting up a hosting package, and paying for this separately. The downside is you may find the functionality is limited, and the possibility for customisation capped. If your site grows quickly, you may find that you have soon outgrown these platforms and need to upgrade.
Using WordPress CMS or Magento CMS gives you access to thousands of open-source plugins (many of these free), and website themes, and allows you to code your own plugins and functionality, giving you almost endless control over how your site looks and works. You can build your site in confidence knowing that the CMS has been tested and is fairly bug-free, and that the website backend is intuitively functional. The downside is that more options can bring complexity of use and extra costs for developers and designers. Building a site on either of these CMSs is scalable and can be as simple or complex as you like. Using one of these solutions will involve renting a web server, or space on a shared server such as Bluehost.
Designing and building a custom website from scratch is not advised for the first-time online business owner. Yes, if you build a custom website you can do anything you want (assuming you have the coding skills), however the time and capital needed to commission such a project may quickly outweigh the benefits. In addition, testing to remove bugs and getting the site stable may create unnecessary headaches which ultimately mean lost revenue and larger costs. As with a Magento or WordPress CMS, you will need to arrange your own web hosting and rent or share a server for this option.
Start quickly, test, and scale up
You may wish to test your idea with Shopify or BigCommerce at the beginning. This will help to minimise the investment and setup time needed, and allow you to test the viability of your business model. If things are working well you can then choose to start developing a more customised site with WordPress or Magento, and eventually migrate your business over to either of these more flexible content management systems.