I’m a web design newbie and new to eCommerce. I am working on a site for a small start-up that wants to sell < 100 products online (need a few attributes like size, color, etc.) and wants to be able to update content and dynamically add categories and products.
Cost is an issue for them. They are in a shared hosted environment on GoDaddy and unfortunately tied into a five year contract.
First, i selected Magento as my solution of choice. However, it had terrible performance problems on GoDaddy (12-15 sec response time just w/ the demo system) and GoDaddy would not help with tuning but recommended an upgrade to a dedicated server solution. This was not viable and too costly for the client.
Then, I decided to go w/ ZenCart – GoDaddy seems to promote this and it seems to do what my client needs.
I had just armed myself with numerous Zen books ;) when I learned that my client processes their credit card payments through Costco. The client made a call to Costco and was informed that they had to use a payment gateway called "Virtual Merchant" and that this gateway only supported certain shopping carts.
Just for fun, I ran through the entire list to see if any of the product sites validated W3C and who was using tables versus CSS. Of the 20+ vendors, only two validated – one as strict, one as transitional.
So here is my dilemma; do I ditch ZenCart and try to figure out which of these other carts would work with Virtual Merchant? do I try to use the user contributed module someone developed for Virtual Merchant – ZenCart? (last updates to this code was end of 2007 and various reports of issues implementing it). Am I really tied into using Virtual Merchant because of Costco or can I use one of the standard gateways like authorize.net or paypal pro or payflow with Costco?
I think this depends on what your role is in this situation and where you are coming from.
Sometimes, in fact I would go so far as to say most of the time, businesses need more than just a web "designer". Let’s face it there are lots of people with artistic flair, who can have a go at making something pretty. On the other hand, the number of people who can actually understand business needs and translate that into something that works for the business is far, far smaller.
Cost is an issue for them. Well here’s news for you. Cost is an issue for everyone! Of course I’m not telling you anything you didn’t already know, but the major factor in costing is not actually how much you spend it’s your Return On Investment (ROI). So what if they have 5 year hosting with GoDaddy, that’s what $600? That means nothing until you know what there projected sales are. It sounds to me like they made a mistake and purchased the wrong plan or chose the wrong supplier – that happens in business, especially with technical decisions, and it’s all the more reason to get someone like yourself involved sooner rather than later.
One of the most important jobs as an Internet Consultant is not to get sucked into the mistakes of your clients.
My advice to you would be to go back to your client and re-assess there needs and see how that fits in with your knowledge and expertise. Over the next 1,2,3 years how many transactions are they expecting, how much does that represent in sales dollars, how much is online, what is there budget? If they can’t give this sort of information I would question if they should even be starting up.
Your expertise (or area you desire to work in) is with Magento and ZenCart so obviously if they are going to be doing getting a sufficient ROI you should aim them towards a custom solution on a host of your choosing with a reputable e-merchant account. If their projected sales won’t justify that cost, or they don’t want to spend the money, don’t compromise yourself by trying to come up with a solution using the scraps they throw you – try taking a different approach altogether. Selling to consumers and want a low cost solution – think about an e-bay shop. Want a custom solution where you don’t commit to a lot of upfront cost – try FoxyCart. By applying some of the creative thinking that you use in your design work you can give the client what they need without compromising yourself.
I’m sorry for the rather long post but this happens to be something which I’m rather passionate about. I wish you all the best, and please do tell me what you decide to do and how it is going.