How To Build an eCommerce Website From Scratch

Chris Capelle


Electronic commerce (commonly known as eCommerce) is the act of buying and selling products (and sometimes services) via the Internet. An eCommerce website is specifically designed in order to enable these online transactions. There are several components to an eCommerce site that are not included in standard websites, such as shopping carts, secure checkout and responsive  design. This means the site works as seamlessly on a mobile device (tablet or smartphone) as it does on a computer. 

The growth of eCommerce has been well documented over the past few years, and that upward trajectory  doesn’t look like it’s going to slow down anytime soon. Here’s what you’ll need to consider for a successful eCommerce site.

Define Your Niche

Start the process by deciding exactly what you plan to sell on your site. Are you going to stick to a specific line of products, such as cell-phone accessories? Or cover a larger range of items, such as women’s fashion? Selling virtually everything under the sun is Amazon’s turf, so staying focused on your specific niche is the first step in creating a successful eCommerce site. 

Determine Your Business Model

There are a couple of different ways to go here, each with its pros and cons — you can open your own online store; or partner with a name online retailer via those established marketplaces. Third-party sellers make up a huge part of Amazon’s product listings, for example. There are also other sites to sell on, including eBay, Flipkart and Snapdeal. 

Going it alone obviously requires more up-front work and a dedicated inventory system that is connected with your eCommerce site. Using an established third party eliminates that part of the equation. Of course, you have to surrender a portion of your profits to these sellers for listing on those sites. Some sellers go both routes, working both independently and with established online marketplaces.

Select Your Business and Domain Names

This is an obvious step but coming up with a business name and an easy-to-remember domain name (URL) is key. Needless to say, the name should be relevant to what you’re selling. Similarly, your domain name should also be related to what your products are and should be easy for your target audience to remember. 

Design Your Site

An eCommerce site has to have several key attributes present to be successful. If the thought of building your own eCommerce site is daunting or outside of your wheelhouse, you can hire a designer to handle that task for you. You’ll want the following on any website you run.

  • Simple, Clean Layout and Design: The more bells and whistles on a page, the harder it is to get from here to there. Keeping it clean and simple will pay dividends.
  • Easy Navigation: Including a main navigation menu, product categories, search bar and a site map makes any site far simpler to move about.
  • High-Res Product Images: A picture is worth a thousand words as the cliché goes, and a great picture is worth even more. Use professional product shots from the manufacturer if possible.
  • Complete and Thorough Product Descriptions: A clear, concise title is the first step to sales success. Spell out the benefits of the product and why somebody would want to buy it.
  • Simple Checkout and Payment Process: There are scores of shopping cart software options out there. Do your homework to decide which of the available shopping carts is best suited for your particular situation.
  • Optimized For Mobile Devices: Finally, have your site mobile-friendly, as Business Insider estimates about 45 percent of eCommerce transactions were conducted via a mobile device in 2020.

Secure Your Site With an SSL Certificate

A Secured Security Layer (SSL) is a must for any website that transfers sensitive data via the internet. Having an SSL Certificate maintains the security that your site needs and assures any visitors that their transactions are secure. You can get your SSL Certificate through your web hosting provider.

Other Options to Consider

If you take a look at any of the other established eCommerce sites, you’ll see features that you may (or may not) want included in your site. These include featuring bestsellers on the home page, product collections (bundling related products together as one purchase), product shot zoom options, ratings and reviews, wish lists and sharing options. Naturally, these can mean  higher costs (and time) for your eCommerce site, but if you feel that these extras are worth it, then certainly put them into place. 

Chris Capelle is a technology expert, writer and instructor. For over 25 years, he has worked in the publishing, advertising and consumer products industries.