The key tool for delivering e-commerce services is the business website. This must be specified, designed, hosted and maintained.
The website specification should clearly identify what the site is trying to achieve and how its various components will contribute to this. An understanding of the intended user audience is required for both technical and marketing purposes.
Domain names are an enormous help in the branding of a business. Your domain name should be easy to remember, spell, and should show what your business is all about. If not, then potential customers will surf elsewhere and possibly find your competition.
If you purchase your own domain name you can either host your own website or have an Internet Service Provider (ISP) host it on your behalf. Each of these options has its own advantages and disadvantages:
- Self hosting
provided you have the right basic requirements, such as a fast Internet connection and a suitable PC to host your website, then you have full control over access to the website and web storage space. However, you have to take full responsibility for the security of your website and make contingency plans for anything that causes your web server to fail.
- ISP hosting
this option is straightforward and relatively cheap as you don't need to invest in your own web server. It is usually very convenient as the ISP should be experienced in the techniques of web hosting. However, remember that you are handing over much of the responsibility to your ISP, which requires some trust.
Connectivity and bandwidth
The type of Internet connectivity and the available bandwidth will be an important consideration, irrespective of which hosting solution is selected. There are several methods you can use to connect to the Internet. Your choice may be influenced by a number of factors, including:
- your budget
- your geographical location
- the speed of connection required
Your choice of the actual type of connection will probably be between:
- telephone line
- wireless broadband
An important early decision to consider is whether to use a "shop" package, or if the software will be built from scratch.
Shop packages allow you to configure the information you hold about your products, and the look and feel of the shop. However, they can provide limited opportunities for tailoring them to your back office processes.
Alternatively you can get a third party to build the software for you, or develop it yourself. In-house development will probably be dictated by the availability of suitably skilled staff.