The Fast Track to ECommerce

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Competition between the various website hosting providers has given rise to some pretty impressive ‘off the peg’ commercial packages for the newcomer to internet trading. Some of their advertising would have you believe that they are offering freeware, but given their requirement that the user actually has to use their hosting facilities this is not strictly true.

Choices

The “off the peg” suggests that the choice, once you have decided on a provider, is limited, but the 1and1 package, for instance, offers more than one hundred and thirty business types, thirty layouts, and a dozen or colour schemes this suggests more than forty-five thousands combinations before you start making your own refinements.

Time and Skills.

The whole process of setting up your site is simplified and requires no programming ability on your part: if you can use a word processor to construct simple documents you can build your own site. Also, their provision of templates compensates for any lack of artistic skills on your part, you have only to choose from a library of layouts and colour schemes to create a credible site.

It is also quick: at a pinch, and having done some background work before you start, you could easily get a site up and running in a single afternoon.

The Compromises

There is an inevitable compromise between user-friendliness and choice. If ‘user-friendliness’ actually means ease of choice then the more choices the user is given at every stage, the less user-friendly a system appears. It is a simple matter to choose between red and yellow, far more difficult of there is a huge spectrum of reds, oranges and yellows to choose from.

Given that these are start-up packages designed for non-artists and non-IT-savvy users it is not surprising that the outcomes often seem chunky and crudely coloured.

Widgets

The packages usually offer a major collection or widgets to do clever things on your site. They offer you the possibility of putting count-down clocks, visitor counters, news-links etc, which to my mind only make a site look busier, rather than better, but may suit your audience.

Picture Libraries

You don’t even have to provide your own images, the web host may well have an extensive library for you to use, but even if they don’t there are a number of free image libraries available, notably the Microsoft collections.

Marketing.

The web hosts are selling their services to you. There’s nothing wrong with that, but be wary. The basic packages often have critical elements missing forcing you to upgrade, almost from the start to gain access to payment facilities, or to allow multiple choice to a would-be buyer (do they want a red one or a blue one?) without your having to load every possible version of an item separately.

Conclusion

Even given all these moans off the peg packages are a brilliant way to start your e-business. Your up-front costs are so low that you can try a number of approaches to your market simultaneously and have a good knowledge before you go to a professional web-designer and lay out serious cash.

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