Building an Ecommerce Website
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This guide gives an overview on how to go about trading online and what you need to consider when building an online store or shopping cart. It also explains some of the legalities and regulations that effect an ecommerce website. It also shows how to make your store more accessible to search engines.

Hosting your site
Look for a web site with its own ‘user-writable cgi-bin’ . This will allow you to run your own cgi-scripts and choose from a wider range of shopping cart software. The majority of "paid for" sites now include a cgi-bin as standard. They are generally inexpensive and there are literally hundreds to choose from. Don't use web hosts that place popups and banners into your pages, they may insert html code in a shopping cart preventing it from working correctly.

Receiving Payments
The majority of internet transactions are made by credit or debit card. Traditionally in order to receive credit card payments, you would have needed a merchant account with a bank. However a number of third party processing companies such as Authorize Net and WorldPay have sprung up who can handle the transactions for you, for a small fee.

  • Internet merchant accounts
    They provide you with the ability to accept payments through your website. Once processed the payments are deposited directly into your bank account.  If you already have a merchant account from your bank for over the counter transactions, it may not valid for Internet sales so check with your bank first.
  • Online payment processing
    These can be obtained for a number of third party payment processors, such as Nochex, PayPal or Worldpay. They process the customer’s card automatically and the payment is transfered to your bank account.  They can charge a monthly fee for this service or a small percentage of each transaction.
  • Offline payment processing
    This lets you take orders using fax or telephone. You don’t even need a shopping cart. Payments are processed using a physical or virtual PDQ machine, such as WorldAccess from Worldpay. This is technically the simplest of all the payment methods to setup. It also allows you to check each transaction before it is charged.  You also have the option to wait until the order is dispatched before changing the credit card.

Online Law and Regulations
Merchants trading online need to be familiar with legislation affecting online trading. These ensure that the customer is protected and the merchants products and services are as described.

Promote your site
Advice on publicising your web site and ensuring you shopping cart is search engine friendly.

Shopping Carts
If need to accept orders online and have only a small range of products to sell. A simple shopping cart with images, thumbnails, descriptions and prices will suit your needs. They are relatively easy to setup and maintain.