10 Jan 2006

Do you design ecommerce sites?

We don’t do much design work anymore (yea, the name We Build Pages is really misleading).

We’ve been outsourcing E commerce work to different people over the years, but have never been totally satisfied with past e commerce builders.

Who does Good E commerce that can also make it search engine friendly? I’m a fan of PHP as well.


  1. Scott January 11, 2006 at 1:59 PM

    We’ve had a lot of success with Yahoo! Stores (Yahoo Merchant Solutions). They render every page statically, and contrary to what you may think… you can build a very custom looking website for a reasonable price.

    We have optimized a number of Yahoo Stores and the platform just supports good search engine placement. Since e-commerce stores typically have many pages… if you structure them properly, and do quality SEO, the rankings will follow.

  2. Jim January 11, 2006 at 2:16 PM

    To be honest, yea, “Custom Yahoo Store” sounds like a great contradiction to me…maybe things have changed, but last I recall (as someone not familiar with the Yahoo store control panel) it was a Bitch to work with (give me code and we can edit something in 1 minute…give me a yahoo shopping cart and give me 2 hours to find out how to chance the size of a box.)

    The only reason I’d go with a yahoo store set up is for “traffic reasons” that Yahoo could bring.

    Sorry…that’s just how I feel right now.

  3. Scott January 11, 2006 at 2:55 PM

    Hey Jim,

    Like anything else, it’s all relative. I remember the first time someone called me about a Yahoo Store (years ago). I pretty much dismissed it thinking it was a cookie-cutter platform that offers out-of-the-box, templates stores. What I found was a much more customizable platform than I expected, which has worked very well for a lot of small businesses (and some larger ones).

    You can do anything from a fully custom design, to user-generated product reviews, real-time inventory, and much more.

    There are tradeoffs, but for a small business looking for a custom (yes custom) solution, they’ll find a good option here. It’s not right for everyone, but it’s a real choice.

    Check out callawaygolfpreowned.com (not a site we built). I know that doesn’t fit my initial expectation of what a Yahoo Store would look like.

    We have marketing clients on Yahoo (development isn’t our specialty either), so I’m not trying to sell services here. I just think Yahoo is a real choice for small businesses, and it should be considered.

  4. Jim January 11, 2006 at 3:10 PM

    Thanks for responding again Scott. Ok. I won’t look at Yahoo stores as harshly as I have in the past. …
    But I will throw in this…what if someone wants to move thier yahoo store? Any ideas on how hard it would be to get off Yahoo if one decided to leave…or is your site screwed if you later decide you don’t want the yahoo store (as opposed to moving any php programmed site)?

  5. Scott January 11, 2006 at 6:11 PM

    Hey Jim,

    I’m glad I’ve lessened your disregard for the medium That said, my response may further hasten your disregard…

    You’ve hit upon one of the bigger downsides of Yahoo Stores, in that they are not really portable. You can’t simply tar the site up and move it to a new web host. Regardless of how it may be spun, you’re really not paying Yahoo for hosting your e-commerce store; you’re really paying them for the platform. So moving away from Yahoo Store would be like selecting new e-commerce software and rebuilding your website. I think they may be moving away from this, but that is how it is now.

    I’ve known sites that have moved off Yahoo Store once they reached a certain level of sales, but despite rumblings here and there, businesses usually grow to like the platform once they’re on it. A number of third-party solutions are emerging to optimize order processing and reduce reliance on actually using the Yahoo manager interface. Further, the small business team at Yahoo has really done a great job of supporting the platform.

    I happen to think the platform is an excellent value for many small businesses. I’ve seen a number of small businesses scale from $0 in annual sales, to millions in annual sales. That said, the tradeoffs are real.

    Some quick benefits:

    – Static pages
    – Fairly scalable platform
    – Well supported by many developers
    – Almost non-existent downtime
    – Huge cost savings
    – 24×7 tech support (free)

  6. Bill January 11, 2006 at 6:56 PM

    I personally am not a fan of Yahoo! Stores–I’ve seen quite a lot of issues brought up in other forums where those stores aren’t portable–especially if the owner wants to go to another host.

    I’ve always been a fan of getting the SEOs involved right from the beginning–even as the site is being built and perhaps before it’s even conceived.

    In the future, I see the ideal situation as being one where the SEO works directly with the graphic designers and the web developers on a site, and that’s exactly why I joined MarketNet recently–a one stop shop for SEO, Web Design, and Web Development.

    I completely understand why someone would want to set up a Yahoo! Store–especially if they’re a small business. But, I don’t see the Yahoo! Stores being a viable solution to someone who wants to have a large ecommerce site with lots of products–typically there’s a need for custom programming and internal SEO-related “features” of the site that wouldn’t necessarily be available via a Yahoo! Store.

    I understand, too, that plenty of small business have used them to their advantage–they’ve had a huge cost savings and have been able to scale their operations. But what happens when they need to move the site? Or what if a company is already using another ecommerce solution? Going to a one-stop web design/web programming/SEO firm might be a better option.

  7. Scott January 11, 2006 at 7:31 PM

    Hi Bill,

    The portability issue is a real one, I agree. See my comment above for a summary of that issue.

    In terms of “custom programming and internal SEO-related features,” both are available on the Yahoo Store platform.

    Believe me, I completely understand why people who really haven’t spent serious time investigating Yahoo’s solution would question it. It’s not right for everyone. If you’re a somewhat larger e-commerce company with goals of doing $50 million in annual sales, it probably isn’t right. If you aspire to do up to $5 million in annual sales, and want to make an investment commensurate with that goal, it is worth consideration. I’ve seen plenty make it there.

  8. randfish January 11, 2006 at 7:32 PM

    Barry does – http://www.rustybrick.com

    Also the e one group – http://www.eonegroup.com

  9. Rob Docherty January 11, 2006 at 10:53 PM

    Hi Jim, glad to see you’re active on your site… here’s my ideas. OSCommerce, with the proper coding behind it is powerful. From large to small, PHP 4 and 5 support, MySQL… I have set a few up and customized OSCommerce a lot if you’d like more insight give me a message via my site.

    Have a great day!

  10. Brian Gilley January 12, 2006 at 12:10 AM

    I purchased an ecommerce software recently called SunShop Shopping Cart. Requirements: PHP 4.1+ & MySQL 3.23+ (should be right up your alley since you prefer PHP).

    I’ve also had some ups and downs with ecommerce developers. They seem to get worse on timliness lately when supporting or fixing what they sold us…

    Anyhow, take a look at SunShop. Very easy to use that someone with even basic knowledge of HTML can handle it – and the URLs are pretty search engine friendly.

    They also offer a host of payment processors that are supported. Take a look at their FAQs for more common questions.

  11. Jason Hendricks January 12, 2006 at 12:18 AM

    Hi Jim,

    I couldn’t resist posting here about this subject as someone that continously researches e-commerece solutions.

    Yahoo stores are very SE friendly, but the fees charged by Yahoo can be annoying, especially when you factor in merchant account fees on top of it. THE best shopping cart as far as bang for buck is our custom solution that we have developed on top of an off the shelf $99 application. If anyone’s looking to just modify their own to suit, go to ecommercetemplates.com and the buy the fresh install. They offer both ASP and PHP versions (no, i don’t receive any compensation for recommending them).

    Jim, you know from our previous discussions that our product pages are well-optimized. We’ve done over 7 million in online sales alone with this shopping cart and never had an issue.

    If anyone is interested in the “hands off” approach and want someone else to setup/optimize your store, please use the contact form on my site.

  12. andy_boyd January 12, 2006 at 5:23 AM

    My 2 cents … get a copy of Interchange and hack it. It’s easy to manage and can be customized to do whatever you want. I’ve got a couple of shops running on it and I know of many others using it effectively. For example, http://www.backcountry.com use it as do many others. Check out http://www.icdevgroup.org/i/dev/hall for more.

  13. Nick Wilsdon January 12, 2006 at 8:09 AM

    I’m a big fan of osCommerce too. I have set up several clients with that now. There is a great template modification available which allows huge flexibility over the design process now (no more hacking away at millions of in line tables!).

    Other community contributions/hacks help you sort out nice URLs across the site to auto-generated sitemaps and pricelists. We’ve written quite a few custom mods ourselves but if you search around on the site you can get a very long way towards the ‘perfect shop’

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