Building ecommerce store: doing from scratch or using templates?

When launching the ecommerce website, you get into an evaluation game. You draw a pros and cons table and spend lots of effort to make that one precious and so important online product. Not only you have to think very carefully about the logics, features and flows of your website or mobile app, there is also a choice of technology you will use and it’s not the easiest one. Let us try to make it simpler for you.

Ecommerce is extremely diverse. It has already virtually penetrated almost every sphere of sales. Yet every sphere has it’s own peculiarities, or example, platform selling electronics will be different than food delivery service, and fashion shop is not the same as building materials store. Having created more than 200 e-projects and understand that each needs a different approach.

But are there really such significant differences? The representation of various products differs from one another, yet it’s mostly some tweaks around the visual and purchase logics, rather than a crucial concept change, right? Digital ecommerce portals themselves are logically similar, so one of the most important questions is to choose a platform or coding language that you will use for development. And this is something to think about.

Reviewing ratings and comparison articles, you can come up with a shortlist of some good CMS or frameworks.

For example, for a functional more or less standard ecommerce site, Magento is one the most well-known CMS (Content management system) with a very modular structure enabling fast development and nice customization. But, if you rather plan to focus on content and blogging, then WordPress may be a choice for you. It works perfectly fine for a typical shop, where you choose the design from vast library of templates and just integrate WooComerce to implement needed shop features.



How about specifics and custom features, you could ask. This is the toughest question here. Creating your own ecommerce platform is a complex and challenging experience, but there are some certain steps you could take to make it work:


What do you want?


Let's say you have a business that requires an online shop. You expect it to evolve and even go international.

You have several choices:

  • choose one of the ecommerce CMS, that are, ready-made solutions
  • develop something unique, tailor-made for your needs.

In general, each of the ways has pros and cons, and when choosing you need to acknowledge the specific requirements of your business. Take into account the products complexity, resources needed and the development strategy. Otherwise, the wrong initial choice will turn out to be a waste of time in the future.

In fact, time is a very important factor when working on an ecommerce project. After all, what  any business wants - to launch on time. Therefore, you either choose a typical e-shop creation and it will take relatively little time. Or choose a custom solution that will take months to be developed yet providing you with unique product in the end.



The difference between standard and custom solutions.


  • Let's start with the design, for standard shop you can simply use a template design and adjust it to your needs. For custom solution it’s better to develop a unique UI / UX design, and even consider sophisticated front-end effects like parallax or animation. Same approach can be used for any part of the functionality: you can take standard catalog and roll it out, or you can make it more usable or attractive, for example, different calculators or custom filters.
  • Let’s also not forget about the admin panel. It is one of the most important parts in your online product, as it’s your main tool in it’s management.  Not only it should include standard editing and product management abilities, it can also give you complex analytics; different dashboards; helpdesk, ERP/CRM and telecom integration; automated products import / update / parsing; complex media file management.


Money, money, money


Without a doubt, standard ecommerce projects will always cost less than custom-made. But the long-term value must necessarily be studied in detail. It is especially important when we talk about the growth of your business. How much of the things will you need to exceed or change? Will you create new things along the product? When will you increase the volumes and how does the system differ when it happens?

At some point, you will have to scale and adjust business processes and workflow, and it's much more difficult (if possible at all) with template solutions. When this happens, you will most likely have to give up what you have done and will be able to create something more sophisticated by starting all over again.




And here we slowly approach another important point - the flexibility. A custom project will always be valued higher than a store that was created out of a template or ready-made modules. Losing flexibility is worth the money and even more crucial aspect is that it's a big barrier for growth. Template designs plus modular development are designed to meet most needs, not your needs.


"I want to change"


Any business wants to fix bugs and execute upgrades as soon as possible. Therefore, it would be logical to talk about which platforms are created for convenient corrections and updates

CMS platforms and open source frameworks are the tools you can use for development on any coding language. Most popular ones usually have a very active development community which is a large and virtually immediate help in corrections and updates. Use those that have it up to date.


Pay close attention to this aspect, when working with your partner team for development: the code has to be created according to the latest language/framework/CMS standards and documented in detail!


What happens, if you’re no longer satisfied with the team that’s been developing the project for you?

It’s a mistake to think that such partner has to be with you for «life of the project» as only they know exactly what’s going on inside.
Well, first: if this is how your project has been developed, you’re far down the hill with it. No project can be created so only one person/team/company can figure out what’s inside. Code standards, modular infrastructure and documentation will simply enable a newcomer to understand the product in just a few days. Any!


Choosing to create from template or create your site from scratch - of course, is up to you. Everything depends on the volume, functionality and even the design. Every business wants to have a unique and special online tool. Choosing a platform to build your ideal website is difficult, and sometimes costly. But our last and main suggestion for a complex custom development you’d want to undertake: hire an experienced in this matter Product Owner who will help you build the strategy, draw a roadmap, manage the process and then look for resources to execute.

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