How Not To Get Burned With A Shopping Cart Website

There is nothing that scares me worse than a shopping cart website. There are a number of questions and steps that are needed before it would be possible to select the platform and start programming. I have a pretty good questionnaire, but even then it’s possible to miss things. The first step is to understand the full business process, and how the user will interact with the website. There are things behind the scene that need to be considered as well. How the cart will take on products is another consideration. I have seen cases wherein the manufacturer / supplier had a specific format where data sheets needed to be in. The cart needed to match this format in order to import products. Here is a pretty good start for questions to ask….

  1. What is the product being sold?
  2. Outline of the total sales process
  3. How is shipping handled? International Shipping? Flat Rate / Ground,  USPS, FedEx, UPS
  4. Who is the merchant account vendor?
  5. How is the Sales Tax Setup.
  6. Does the cart store data? (AIM, CIM, etc.)
  7. Is the cart in compliance with latest security standards?
  8. Does the server meet the required security standards?
  9. Does that product have variations of itself?
  10. Does the cart have any special features?
  11. Does that client have the budget to meet his business requirements?
  12. Does the cart tie into any third part accounting system.
  13. How is the cart being optimized for Search Engines?

Missing any of these questions will run up hours, cost and the patience of the client. I ended up as the second programmer on a cart that was quoted as a “simple WordPress cart.” It turned out that the end client was only selling quantities of three, and those had to group together. The first team ended up buying two unnecessary plugins and running up hours going back and forth. There ended up being four rounds of shipping requirement changes. Each one of these changes ran up hours because the person “selling” the cart had no idea what he was selling. The “simple cart,” turned out to be a little more complicated, and even more so because of the lack of direction from the start.

Is these situations the clients/end client will blame the cart and the programmers as both parties just want a working business solution. This is why it is so important to have a professional involved during the start of the process. This individual will not only need to understand the technology that is used to create the cart, but also how it ties to the business requests of the client.  In many cases every request for cart functionality will not be possible due to budget constraints.