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visible soulweb design

serving corpus christi & the world since 2003


eCommerce essentials

Navigation should be clear and simple and the checkout process should be as intuitive as possible.


Building a good eCommerce site requires close attention to detail. The security of your customers' personal information is a primary concern. You also want your visitors to have an enjoyable experience on your site so that they will browse the maximum number of store pages. Navigation should be clear and simple and the checkout process should be as intuitive as possible.

Below I have listed some important features that any eCommerce website should have in addition to the general web design principles I describe elsewhere.


Shopping Cart

A shopping cart is simply a nice way to structure your inventory in categories and allow customers a convenient way to pay for their purchases. There are many commercial and even excellent free shopping carts readily available. Shopping carts may be hosted on your own server (osCommerce, Miva) or hosted on a third party's server (Mal's). I will work with you to find the solution that best fits your individual needs. I have experience with installing and maintaining osCommerce, Miva and Mal's shopping carts but I can install and configure any cart of your choice. Here are a few good shopping cart options:

  • osCommerce is a free Open Source cart used by many internationally known retailers. It is full featured, easily customized and secure.
  • Zen Cart is another very popular free Open Source cart.
  • Miva is a commercial shopping cart software written in proprietary Miva code. It is a very popular shopping cart solution and it includes the ability to encrypt the customer database. My webhost includes the basic Miva cart in its hosting packages.
  • Mal's is a free "hosted" shopping cart. At checkout your customer is redirected to the Mal's secure payment screen where the customer information may be entered and stored securely for manual processing. This is a very economical options because it does not require that you set up your own cart or buy an SSL certificate.
  • Paypal Shopping Cart is a free shopping cart service offered by PayPal for its registered members. The Paypal cart concept is very simple. You set up your list of store items in your Paypal account. Store items are manually added to your website pages and Paypal "Buy Now" buttons are added to each product. On checkout customers are redirected to Paypal's secure site for processing. Paypal payments as well as Credit Card, Debit card, and direct bank transfers may be processed. Customers do not have to have a Paypal account to make a credit card payment.

SSL Certificate

Any tranfer of confidential customer information must be made using a secure, encrypted connection. Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) is a commonly used secure protocol for transferring encrypted (scrambled) information over the internet. Purchasing an SSL Web Server Certificate is essential to the security of customer information and seeing the little padlock in the browser frame gives your customer confidence in the security and professionalism of your website. There are various vendors from which you may purchase well known and trusted SSL certificates. Two of the most popular are Thawte and Verisign although there are other popular and more economical solutions. I will help you weigh your options when you are ready to purchase your SSL certificate.

Payment Processing

There are a few options for accepting payment for online purchases.

  1. Check/Money Order/COD: The most basic is to accept non-electronic payments such as checks, money orders, or COD. This most basic option does not technically require an SSL certificate since no sensitive customer information is transmitted over the internet. But your customer confidence is greatly enhanced by the certificate even if it is not technically necessary.
  2. Manual Credit Card Processing: If you have a Merchant Account with a Credit Card Processor then you can manually process payments for online purchases. What this means is that your customer submits a credit card number with his purchase which is stored in the database on your webserver. This method requires an encrypted database to protect sensitive information from any potential hackers. You receive an email notification that a purchase has been made but the sensitive information is not included in the non-secure email. You must login securely to the shopping cart Admin Panel to retrieve the sensitive customer Credit Card information. Then you can manually process the transaction as you would process any other Credit Card transaction in your "brick and morter" store or office. Mal's shopping cart functions in this way.
  3. Online Credit Card Processing: This is the most professional option for processing Credit Card payments. The online transaction is processed and approved instantly allowing the customer to receive immediate confirmation of the order. Online Credit Card Processing requires an account with an online Payment Gateway service who will securely process your transactions. I will work with you to find the Payment Gateway that best suits your needs.

Store Maintenance

Of course you will need to add your products to your online store and update them when necessary. Well-written product descriptions and good clear product photos are an important aspect of a successful ecommerce site as is up-to-date inventory. If you do not have the time or the desire to update your online inventory I offer these services at an hourly rate.