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The Challenges of Building a Modern eCommerce Website

Eric Karkovack
Published: September 19, 2022

The further we get into the 21st century, the more contradictory the web seems to become. We have a plethora of no-code tools aimed to make things easier for novices and professionals alike. On the other hand, we see service providers that are increasingly complicated to work with.

This tug-of-war is most evident when it comes to eCommerce. Yes, it’s now possible to get a basic shopping cart up and running without too much trouble. For instance, entering products into WooCommerce or Shopify is a streamlined process. It’s the rest of the experience that gets messy.

While eCommerce has never been simple, one can argue that it also hasn’t gotten any easier – despite the technological advancements. Several contributing factors have held back progress. Let’s look at a few obstacles that are getting in the way of building a modern eCommerce website more efficiently.

So Many Options – Each with Caveats

Having a choice is usually a good thing. But what to do when there are so many options available?

Between content management systems (CMS), shopping carts, payment gateways, and related plugins – it’s enough to make even a seasoned developer’s head spin. And, in addition to their benefits, each has caveats to consider.

The recommendations we make to clients are crucial. Security, stability, and scalability are all project requirements. If we miss one or more of these aspects, it could mean a lot of headaches down the road.

That’s probably why many of us go with the tools we already know. Even if there are drawbacks, at least we have an idea of what to expect. Still, there’s always the possibility that a better solution exists elsewhere.

There are pros and cons to every eCommerce provider.

More Stringent Privacy and Security Standards

Privacy and security are paramount for all websites. They become even more important when considering the need to keep an online store’s customer and transaction data safe. A significant breach could be disastrous for everyone involved.

Thus, service providers appear to be making changes to tighten up these areas. It’s a positive in that we want the best security possible. But it can also make a web designer’s job more difficult.

Take payment gateways as an example. During the build process, we are often responsible for integrating them into a website. This usually requires login credentials to adjust settings, access API keys, etc.

But it’s not always a simple task. Thanks to the use of two-factor authentication (2FA), logging in means coordinating with clients to receive security codes. And if your client isn’t tech savvy or readily available, it could cause delays.

Similar scenarios play out across providers. That makes setting up analytics, customer relationship managers (CRM), and even Google Maps APIs a messy chore.

In some cases, clients can delegate access to their existing accounts. Then again, you may have to walk them through setting up the services they don’t already use. It has become a routine, yet frustrating part of an eCommerce project.

Security technologies such as two-factor authentication can complicate the build process.

Data That’s Stored in Different Places, Ways

Data plays a huge role in eCommerce. The right information can help store owners make smart decisions on pricing, inventory, shipping, and more. But all too often, it seems like crucial data is scattered.

This is particularly the case when building with WordPress and WooCommerce. The combo will provide some basics regarding customers and sales. However, the more plugins you add to the mix, the more difficult it is to retrieve the little details that add further context.

While the data may be stored on your website, that doesn’t mean it’s easy to access. Because WordPress plugins can write and store data in various ways, not everything can be wrangled into a single report – at least, not without some serious PHP code to bridge these divides.

And it’s not just a WordPress problem. Service providers such as payment gateways and shipping companies could also have valuable order information. The process for tapping into and unifying it with other site data isn’t always straightforward.

Because eCommerce tends to rely on third parties, data is spread all over the place. Web designers have often been tasked with either building a patchwork system for bringing it together or simply leaving some items out.

Data can be scattered across multiple sources.

eCommerce Is a Different Animal

The reality is that building an eCommerce website is a unique challenge. It’s a puzzle that has multiple pieces – each with varying levels of complexity.

And although the design and build tools may have been improved over the years, other areas have become more difficult to manage. This is due in part to the need for security and our reliance on third-party service providers.

The result is clunky integration processes and disparate data sources. Putting this all together takes time, patience, and expertise. It’s a good reason why web designers should charge significantly more for eCommerce projects.

The finished product can still be outstanding. It’s just that getting there can be a pain!