Before ordering and developing an e-commerce website

Before ordering and developing an e-commerce website

21 questions to ask yourself before ordering and developing an e-commerce website

E-commerce is not an exact science. Running a successful online store, capable of rapid development will require in-depth research, logic, vision and a little sorcery. When your customers come with a request to run an e-commerce store, it is very important that you are on the same plane to match almost all your desires. Asking the right questions before you plunge into the design and careful development, you can prevent trouble and save a lot of money. How do you know if you are asking the right questions?

Keep 21 questions that each agency or a qualified developer should discuss with their e-trading clients from the very first meeting:

1. Is the e-commerce store the only thing that this site will be? What about the pages dedicated to other aspects of your business?

This is important because it affects not only the design but also the further development of the site. It is important to consider the basic architecture of the platform. Will there be pages like “About Us”, “Privacy Policy” or “Terms and Conditions”? What about the blog? Getting the answers to this question will help you choose the software platform from scratch and indicate the approximate scale of the project so that literally before the release you are not upset by the phrase “And we wanted to write more articles about the products …”.

Designating the architecture and site maps allows you to save time and money on pills for future headaches.

2. What exactly are you going to sell? (garments, electronics, services, etc.)

Internet trading can take various forms. Have you ever bought a licensed program on the Internet, and then downloaded it to your computer or phone? This is an e-commerce transaction.

The same is true for digital versions of books. Products that require direct delivery have their features because your store needs to calculate the cost of this delivery. And you also need a warehouse for storage and shipping to complete one transaction. Also, you need a consistent inventory (we will talk about this later). Electronic goods and services are almost a different world because you need to determine delivery method and format (directly from the page or by email). And all of this will affect the functionality of your e-commerce (online store).

3. How many goods or services are you going to sell as a whole?

Or, to put it simply, will your e-commerce (online store) be large or small? The number of products and services you are going to sell is directly related to the number of pages you need, the file array and the size of the database. It’s very simple: a large website – means a lot of different products, which means a lot of space (and vice versa). All this must be taken into account. It will also affect storage capacity and other architectural components.

It is better to initially provide a little more space to leave room for manoeuvre and then do not be surprised that you need to redesign the site to accommodate additional new elements.

4. Do you require different categories and subcategories for your products or services?

If so, how many categories or subcategories you have?


    • Domestic appliances <category>
      • Vacuum cleaners < subcategory>
      • Washing machines < subcategory>
    • Electronics
      • Gaming consoles
      • Mobile phones

It is important to configure the site structure, which allows two things:

  • Easy categorization.
  • Easy navigation
  • Integrations

Think about it this way: if they can’t find anything, they can’t buy it. Logical categories and subcategories can help you understand where your products are and help your customers navigate through them. It also makes it easier to showcase related products, which can encourage people to buy more.

5. Do your products need specific attributes? (For example, the same T-shirt, but in different sizes and colours).

If so, should the architecture of your site be able to keep separate records of goods based on these attributes?

Attributes are like an extra layer within product categories and subcategories. Now that we know how your products are sorted, what is the difference between each product? Usually, we are talking about colours and sizes. If you sell T-shirts, any colour or shirt will be a unique item, even though it will all be a product of the same category.

Besides, is it necessary to consider the availability of goods in stock depending on the size, colours and other attributes? This will affect the way your website works.

6. Do you have products that are fully adapted to the needs of the customer? (e.g. a branded jersey or a calendar with the company logo.)

Even though it seems to be quite simple, it will require an additional programming section, as the site will require a field to enter the company name or unique text, and an option to upload a logo image.

7. What about quality pictures of the products?

Would the manufacturers or distributors of your products provide professional photos?

They say it is easier to show once than tell a hundred times. A great photo is key to success. Good product photos help to sell. We strongly recommend taking professional photos of every product from several angles. However, all this means an increased number of files and increased bandwidth requirements, so it is important how the photos will be compressed so that the customer does not wait a minute to download all these great photos.

8. Have you made up your mind about delivery yet?

  • Will I have to pay for shipping separately from the products?
  • What would be the most appropriate shipping method (you may choose a few)?
    • Exact shipping costs through a direct link via DHL, USPS, UPS, FedEx, etc. services.
    • Fixed-rate depending on location
    • Free delivery depending on the amount on the receipt.
  • Do I need to automatically provide the customer with the delivery details (tracking number)?
  • Do you need to deliver on weekends, holidays, and other special restrictions?
  • What countries will you ship to?

It is usually during the shipping phase that business people lose all interest in e-commerce. But we love logistics. Fully fulfilling an order is a thorny path. But ideally fulfilled order causes the clients exclusively positive emotions, cultivates loyalty to the shop and he rarely refuses from his postponed shopping cart.

Usually, people integrate their e-commerce directly with shipping companies (FedEx, DHL, etc.) to have an actual price based on the weight of the product and its location. All these transport companies have excellent API technologies and they allow you to brand their packaging and labels.

Besides, operators such as ShipStation, Veeqo and Ordoro integrate with multiple suppliers and can make the process even easier. Also, they provide tracking numbers, so you can get better service.

Fixed-rate delivery is also very popular. It is easier for the customer to understand and remember that the shipping cost is always the same, and this often increases the total purchase size. And the volatile cost of delivery can scare away.

Another thing to think about is: will the delivery price be determined by weight, size or both? It’s a big job because every product will need this information added to the backend system. Also, do you offer free shipping if the amount on the receipt exceeds a certain threshold? If not, it is most likely worth it. Is there free shipping within your country? Do you need to deliver certain items separately? Are there single rates for certain parts of your country or city?

Any qualified developer can handle all these tasks, only each step should be marked separately. Of course, it is much easier to do it in advance than to come back and update every detail to make sure that the delivery is calculated correctly.

It is also worth remembering that if your products are time-bound (for example, you deliver food or flowers), then the order must be programmed accordingly. So if your customers want to order something, they can do it only at a certain time.

Finally, you must mark all the restrictions on shipping. Are you going to send products only within your country? Or do you want to ship worldwide? Are there certain countries or areas where you don’t want or can’t ship your products? This all affects the way your site is programmed. Delivery is the keystone of a modern e-commerce shop, and discussion of this issue should never be postponed.

9. Do you have to charge sales tax? Can your products and services be subject to additional sales tax separately? If so, please describe the tax rules.

Taxes are a huge part of e-commerce, and this is still an under-researched area where governments have yet to learn how to regulate everything. The internet today is a big pirate bay where e-stores simply don’t think about taxes, except for big corporations like Amazon.

The general rule is that you charge taxes depending on where the goods are delivered. You can imagine what a logistical nightmare this would be if you didn’t think about it all through. What are the taxes in the sending country? What taxes does the recipient country have?

The European Union has started to develop rules and formed a special organ for collecting taxes. However, if your country is not connected to the EU by any agreements, then you do not have to obey them. Thus, most people collect tax for their country, but they do not collect tax outside of it.

To properly make an e-commerce store, the agency needs to know where and how you are going to collect the tax so that it can compile tax tables and reports to make sure that you are acting within the framework of tax law.

10. What about the bank account? Do you want to use a payment gateway?

It’s very important. The two most popular gateways are Stripe and PayPal. They can be used for free via the WordPress platform called WooCommerce. In this way, you will provide your customers with a simple, familiar, and secure way to pay for goods purchased in your store. Any other additional payment gateways are also easy to set up, and the Woo Extension Library will help you with that.

Payment gateways provide an alternative payment option for customers who are not used to sharing their bank card information with every site they buy something from. PayPal, for example, does not share such information with anyone, which is very attractive to customers. If you tell your agency in advance that you plan to use any of the payment gateways, it will be easier for developers to configure it correctly from the beginning, rather than twist it to the site additionally.

But you still have to make a choice based on UX design (User Experience). You need to decide how important it is for the customer to stay within your site as long as possible, rather than jump to a third-party site such as PayPal to complete the purchase.

It seems to us that the deeper the integration with the site, the better. For any e-commerce (online store), it is more useful if the buyer stays on the site as long as possible, because it increases profits. In any case, any agency must discuss it with the customer the sooner the better.

11. Do you want to sell a subscription? Does your online store need a recurring billing?

Apart from the initial order, does the customer need to self-manage the recurring billing?

This applies to sites that are available for subscription or that sell licenses. Recurring payments require additional work from the payment service provider and require the addition of a WooCommerce subscription module. Today the transition of websites to subscription models is a worldwide trend, which means it’s worth discussing before developing a website.

12. Are you going to introduce certain products or services, prices or discounts for visitors such as wholesalers, retailers or distributors?

Sometimes store owners offer good discounts for wholesalers. On the developer side, this is done through a discount, which depends on the user account. Usually, these discounts come with a fixed percentage, e.g. 10%, or the total discount depends on the number of goods purchased.

Along with specific discounts, there is also a question in the categories of your customers.

For example, sometimes sites with a special subscription allow only certain customers to view certain products. Some online stores offer products with age restrictions. Check with your development team about how to implement this in your online store.

Maybe you want to separate products, some of which will only go to wholesalers and others to customers.

All these things are easy to implement, it is important only to discuss the tasks before you start.

13. Do you need to track the limit on the goods you sell? (e.g. stock balance or available space).

  • Does your website need to indicate that the product is out of stock or has run out of space somewhere?
  • Do you want to implement pre-order or waiting lists?

This is another big problem for retailers. What level of inventory management do you need? Is the availability of goods in stock displayed to the customer (will he see that the goods are out of stock)? More importantly, are pre-orders available to users so that they can buy items that are currently out of stock? In this case, will the waiting list be available or will you simply notify users that the item is back in stock?

All of this should be considered before launching because customers are very upset if they see that the item is out of stock.

14. Does your e-commerce need integration with other existing systems? If so, which ones?

  • Accounting system
  • Inventory system
  • Customer management system
  • SEO and SMM systems

Integration is the most important process to reckon with. If you do not plan to integrate with anything or the integration itself is not done correctly, it can severely harm your online business.

Is it necessary to synchronize data from your online store with internal office systems? Or with email? Do you need Quickbooks, Salesforce or Mailchimp? There are hundreds of integrations, many of which are critical to the true success of an e-commerce site. If you haven’t planned anything like this, then ask your agency to tell you all the options so you can choose the best solution for your needs.

15. Do you want to implement an affiliate or referral program?

This is a simple but necessary question. Developers should know about all such programs because referral links and affiliate programs also require making payments. One of the popular options is AffiliateWP, which has a ton of additions.

16. What kind of reporting do you need?

  • E-mail for each order
  • Processing orders manually in the backend
  • Daily summaries of shipping bills

This process is often overlooked, but it is extremely important. It takes into account the emails your customers receive when they place an order when you fulfil it or the customer removes everything from the shopping cart.

A satisfied customer is an informed customer, which makes these emails your key to success.

These types of emails are built into WooCommerce by default, and you can customize their form and flow according to your specific needs. These emails, which also serve as a receipt, can be an excellent platform for your additional sales, where you can inform your customers about other products that may be relevant.

The same applies to internal notifications. How do you and your team receive purchase notifications? How do you view your orders? Do you receive emails, or is it all manually on the backend? This solution will directly affect the workflow, so it is very important.

17. Do you want the site to be available in multiple languages?

Would you like your customers not to have language problems or feel left out? You should consider whether you need to maintain your website in different languages. There are several services that can help you do this (for example, WP Engine GeoIP).

You are free to make the site choose a specific language depending on the city, region, country, even the zip code, or any other parameters that you find necessary. You can also use a drop-down menu where site visitors can choose the language they prefer.

If your customers feel at home, they are more likely to make a purchase. The language barrier destroys any market.

18. Does your online store need to accept multiple currencies?

  • Will currency selection be based on IP address? Or will it be based on the final delivery address?
  • Do I need a drop-down list to change my currency?
  • Will the currency be based on one price, for example, EUR and all other currencies will be at the current rate? Or you will fix the price in each currency (without using the exchange rate).

Just like support for different languages, support for different currencies is becoming more and more important in e-commerce. Customers will feel more comfortable when buying in the currency they use the most.

There are many options, but the main two are:

Fix all prices in USD (or your base currency) and then use the current exchange rate to serve other currencies. You set the prices for each currency individually, i.e. if you set the price of an item at 15 USD it is 13 EUR, and so on. In the second example, the exchange rate is not taken into account, so you may have to change the prices manually if the exchange rate varies too much in one direction or another.

Also, it is necessary to determine what factors will influence which currency the client sees. Will it be based on an IP address? Will it be based on the delivery address? Will it be automatic or will visitors be able to choose their preferred currency? And if so, will they be able to change their currency from purchase to purchase?

There is something to pay attention to.

19. Do we need to import or transfer old data to your new site?

This could potentially be a very large task, depending on the size of the site you are moving. For an average online store, a complete migration requires the import of all data, from customer data, order data, product data, images to a lot of other things. Have you made backups? What platform are you moving from?

The online store can take up a lot of space, so there is something to move. Of course, some tools can simplify the process, but the agency initially needs to know what to prepare for to make the transition smooth and painless.

20. What kind of hosting are you going to use for internet trading?

Now that you’ve figured out what your client needs for the site, you need to correctly determine where it will be located. Does your client have the time and resources to host it on their own? Will you provide hosting? Or does the site need the help of a hosting provider? It is very important to solve all the issues related to hosting your site.

For guaranteed scalability, uptime, support and ease of use for your development team, a managed platform is the best choice. After all, hosting providers will take over the main load, and you can take advantage of their knowledge and experience, especially if there is a problem. Good hosting ensures that your site will have a rapid response and availability when you need to scale up for planned and sometimes unplanned traffic jumps.

The hosting provider will also deal with security, backups and more, ensuring that your online store is a serviced mechanism. Also, developers are always much easier to focus on work when the site is already on a good hosting – it immediately gives them the tools they need to competently perform all tasks without worrying about maintenance and troubleshooting on servers.

21. How does your hosting handle the caching?

For performance and scalability, you will need your site to be cached, but with e-commerce sites caching is not so easy.

Caching shopping cart and checkout pages can cause unexpected problems and make your website work incorrectly.

Once you have chosen to host for a web store, understanding its caching rules and making the necessary adjustments will ensure smooth sales.


You may think that these actions and rules are too many, but e-commerce is serious. And if you approach this issue from the very beginning with the awareness, all this action can lead to incredible success without any serious obstacles. Yet such careful preparation will help to build a trusting relationship between the developer and the customer and create the most comfortable atmosphere for productive work.

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