Take the 2-minute tour ×
ExpressionEngine® Answers is a question and answer site for administrators, end users, developers and designers for ExpressionEngine® CMS. It's 100% free, no registration required.

I've been developing EE sites for the past 4 years but haven't had an opportunity to build a site using ecommerce yet. I now have an opportunity to build a simple an ecommerce site and I'm confident that I can implement it with any of the ecommerce modules available, but since I haven't actually done this before I have some VERY basic questions that have more to do with set-up, cost, testing, etc.

If anyone has a second to share any info I'd really appreciate it!

  • Are there any hidden costs? I know the payment gateways charge a percentage of the sale and have a yearly fee too. The SSL has a fee and setup cost too? Anything else I should be aware of? Payment gateway recommendations?

  • Speaking of getting an SSL set up is that difficult? I'm think of using EngineHosting any other hosting suggestions or recommendations?

  • This is a broad question ... What's the most difficult part of creating an online store? I'm just trying to discover any universal pitfalls or annoyances that might be out there.

  • How do you test the store when you're building it? Do payment gateways allow this? Can I test locally or do I need to use a production server?

  • Anything else I should be aware of? Words of wisdom?

Thanks!!!

share|improve this question
    
Did any of the answers help you? If yes, please mark the answer correct by clicking on the checkmark to the left of the answer. –  Anna_MediaGirl Dec 22 '12 at 6:24
add comment

4 Answers

I have created a couple of ecommerce sites using Expresso Store. I looked into the other available modules and felt Store was the best for me. I haven't been disappointed - it's easy to use, and they have great customer service.

Not all modules have a yearly fee, like Paypal. I have used Paypal and also Worldpay, and both allow test transactions. I've not had the need for SSL because the gateways i've used handle the payments on their sites.

For me, the most difficult part of the store creation was the learning curve. But it's not all that difficult (especially as Store comes with simple templates to copy all the important code from), and once I did it once, the others were much easier and took less time.

Good luck!

share|improve this answer
    
Thanks for sharing your experience. That's helpful information! –  h101 Dec 14 '12 at 16:27
2  
Paypal has a really bad reputation for freezing client accounts without explanation, then forcing you to go through their gauntlet of what they laughably call "customer support" to get a resolution, if you get one at all. It is my understanding that Authorize.net provides free PCI compliance checks every month to make sure your client's site is secure, though I don't have personal experience with that gateway. –  kgrote Dec 14 '12 at 19:02
    
Please whatever you do look at a real Payment Gateway oppose to PayPal. 9 out of 10 support questions pertaining to payment gateways that I answer are for PayPal. If your store is based in the US I would recommend something like Authorize.net or Stripe. –  Justin Long Dec 15 '12 at 0:16
add comment

Are there any hidden costs? I know the payment gateways charge a percentage of the sale and have a yearly fee too. The SSL has a fee and setup cost too? Anything else I should be aware of? Payment gateway recommendations?

Payment gateway fees are usually monthly and a % of the transaction. SSL has an annual fee as well and much be renewed and reinstalled when it expires. My advice is to pay many years in advance for the SSL so you don't have to deal with an annual renew and reinstall. There may also be fees for the actual merchant account if you need one. I like Authorize.net for payment gateway. I hear good things about Stripe. There are others too that are just fine. You might ask on Twitter at #eecms.

Speaking of getting an SSL set up is that difficult? I'm think of using EngineHosting any other hosting suggestions or recommendations?

Hosts usually offer an SSL option through their services via a preferred third-party but you don't always need to buy that option. Most let you buy your own SSL and they will install for a small fee. GoDaddy has a promotion for $12.99 a year SSL certificates here which I think is the best price you will find anywhere: http://www.godaddy.com/compare/gdcompare3_ssl.aspx.

What's the most difficult part of creating an online store? I'm just trying to discover any universal pitfalls or annoyances that might be out there.

I find the hard part to be coding the checkout process and getting that flow working in a way that makes the most sense. I think all the EE carts install basic templates, you then rework as you see fit or just stay with what's in the template. I always rework myself a ton.

How do you test the store when you're building it? Do payment gateways allow this? Can I test locally or do I need to use a production server?

You put the cart into test mode and the gateway into test mode (if needed) and test away. Each payment gateway will have test credit card numbers in their docs and instructions on generating certain errors. Here are the docs for Authorize.net: http://developer.authorize.net/testingfaqs/. You will probably need a production server with the SSL installed so the test transactions are received securely. You'll have to test this. Might be able to test with a local install.

Anything else I should be aware of? Words of wisdom?

It's not that hard. Just takes doing the work.

share|improve this answer
    
I have also heard good things about Stripe, plus their fees are lower than most other gateways. –  kgrote Dec 14 '12 at 19:08
add comment

One of the most often overlooked features when building an e-commerce site are order fulfillment and unique shipping options.

For example, once an order is placed, who prints the invoices, runs the CC charges, packages the order etc. If its a larger company they probably have people dedicated to this process, how do they get the information they need? Do they log into the EE CP and do fulfillment there or do they have another system to integrate with that they probably forgot to tell you about during the sales process?

Items that require unique shipping, e.g. breakable things. I built a site years ago that sold soda. Customers can buy a 12 or 24 pack and have it shipped to them, and also buy a t-shirt. Due to their packaging requirements, read fulfillment, they had to ship any order that contained a 12 or 24 pack in as separate packages, thus shipping fees need to be calculated differently.

Every time I help quote an e-commerce site I ask these questions and more than half the time I get an "oh, I never thought about that stuff" sort of response.

share|improve this answer
    
Don't forget inventory management too. Many small to medium sized companies use apps like Quickbooks for their accounting and keep inventory in there too. If so they'll probably want to have EE update inventory in an external application as well. –  Brian Litzinger Dec 14 '12 at 19:50
add comment

Ecommerce is always much more hard work than a straightforward content site. I've been producing ecommerce sites for 12 years now and although the technology has changed the basic issues have remained the same. There's a lot of wisdom already on this post so I'll do my best...

About a year ago I started using EE with CartThrob for ecommerce projects and found them to be a great combination. CartThrob makes use of standard EE channels for product data so there's less of a learning curve for me and my clients.

In my experience the things to watch out for with ecommerce are:

security: don't be complacent about this. Make sure that your site is secure. I've had the nasty experience of having one of my sites hacked. At best it is very embarrassing (you have to explain to your client why it's happened) and at worse you're dealing with legal problems. Of course, having your payment gateway process the transactions off-site makes this less of a problem however you should still take it seriously. Ecommerce sites are a popular target for hackers.

payment gateway: which ever one you choose there are two broad types of service. One where the transactions are processed on their servers and another where your server is used. My advice, use the service where they process the transaction on their server. You can usually "hide" the mechanism by embedding the payment gateway's card authorisation pages into your site using Iframes if you like. Here in the UK my preferred payment gateway is SagePay. I re-style their authorisation pages to match the site and embed them into the checkout in an Iframe.

PCI DSS Compliance: I'm not sure about the rest of the world but here in the UK the banks insist on my customers complying with this otherwise they charge them a monthly fee for being non-compliant. By using an off-site payment gateway the process of being compliant isn't too hard but as a general rule find out what your customer's merchant bank requires of them to trade on line.

shipping: this has already been mentioned. Never underestimate your customer's shipping rules. You will need to make sure that the site's shipping calculations can take account of all combinations that may be ordered as well as types of shipping, geographical area etc. etc. Spend time with your client at the beginning of the project and make sure you really understand the way they charge for shipping. I had a customer who took 9 months to devise their shipping rules because before ecommerce came along it was "Fred in the warehouse who could just look at an order and know how much it would cost". Once you understand their shipping calculations make sure that your chosen ecommerce system can cope. With CartThrob I've been able to write my own shipping plugins because the standard ones haven't catered for my clients' needs.

product data: where is it? In a spread sheet, an MS Word document, on sheets of paper, in a database? One way or another all that data ( descriptions, sizes, prices etc) has got to be put in to your ecommerce system. Find out early on, you may need to charge for data entry.

photography: bad product photos will do more harm than good. Does your customer have good photos of their products? If not, get a professional photographer to take some.

SSL: Even when using a payment gateway I tend to advise my customers to buy an SSL. That way, their customers see that the entire checkout is secure and not just the page on which they enter their card details. I find it helps their customers have confidence in the site. If your customer can afford it, an EV certificate is best.

testing: we all hate this bit. Test, test and test again. Ideally get people to test the site who have never seen it before ( just like real customers). Make sure the site functions correctly, the shopping cart totals are correct for different combinations of products and that the shipping is correct ( again, for different combinations of products in the cart).

I hope this helps. Good luck!

share|improve this answer
add comment

Your Answer

 
discard

By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.