To the uninitiated, setting up an e-commerce site may seem like a straightforward enough proposition–orders and payments come in, products go out, everyone’s happy.

The reality is that e-commerce sites can vary widely in scale, complexity and price, and they are not always easy builds for a designer.

Fortunately, asking yourself a few simple questions before delving into building your site can help you and your designer start off on the same page, and save you time, money and headaches.

  1. How many products do you/will you have?
    Your designer needs to know how many products you will offer. He or she also needs to know how many variations you will offer of each product, the level of product filtering you will require, and the number of categories you will require. The number of products and categories on the site will directly affect the time frame and cost of the project, so knowing and agreeing on these items up front is important.
  2. How much control do you want over the site?
    Some platforms allow the website owner very limited control, causing stress when they want to update products or change content. If you want to maintain creative control of your site, talk to your designer up front about what platform is best for your needs and your budget.
  3. How will you accept payments?
    Decide early on what payment gateway and merchant account you will use for your site, and let your designer know. Also let him or her know if you will be integrating with sites like Google Shipping or Amazon, and if you plan to use discount codes and/or coupons.
  4. How will you ship?
    It’s best to have a plan for shipping in place, as there are many details, such as foreign currencies, state taxes, and shipping deals/discounts that must be ironed out in the design.
  5. How much will this cost?
    When you are up front and clear about your needs and wants for your site, your designer should be able to give you a fair estimate for the project cost. He or she will also be able to tell you how much extra changing your mind and adding things in after the fact will cost you. Remember that aside from the cost of the site design, there will be an ssl certificate fee, and there may be hosting and 3rd party integration fees as well.