My first e-commerce site cost me more than $95,000
I built my first e-commerce web site back in 1998. It wasn't developed on any shop solution or anything else. It was pure .Net. And it took several months, mostly because we had to hand-craft the gateway code to (Chase) Paymentech. In those days, they would give you sample code and you'd construct everything from there. It wasn't just the pure transactions we cared about. We had to write code to put a hold on people's cards, and then code to release the hold, to refund funds, and/or to actually push the transaction thru.
Three of us worked for a couple months to get all of it right and we thought we were done when my partner showed up and said he had just secured an incredible national contract with American Express. At the time we were the smallest company (10) to appear on their business offerings page (between to CompUSA & Kinkos). The challenge was that we needed to offer their members some special deals – on certain products and also on shipping. That meant an additional set of weeks to figure out exactly how to do this.
Mind you, this was before all the additional e-commerce requirements that exist today regarding safety and the protocols for capturing and storing credit cards. That said, the total cost of developing that site was likely in the neighborhood of $95,000 – 120,000. It sounds like a lot, but it was a core part of our offering (and it did pay off – as we sold the company several months later).
Seven years ago it was cheaper – $10,000
About seven years ago my old team at Emphasys went to build another e-commerce site in the real estate space. It's no longer 1998 – I can tell you that. But what was amazing was how little things had changed. Yes, there were payment gateways that would automatically take care of the initial interaction with Authorize.net, but it looked like we'd either have to code up something ourselves or pay for a larger package to enable the other portal that would let us deal with post-authorization charges (post them, clear them, etc) as well as letting a customer serve themselves (change credit card, update address, etc).
The price of the effort wasn't $95,000 but it still took a person a few weeks to get everything ready. What's worse is that some key features weren't available on the platform – like outbound emails, or the ability to attach files to email. So let's roughly calculate the cost around $10,000. That's good news since almost all of it was sunk cost – we were already paying the staff, so there was no additional outlay of funds.
I've worked on several e-commerce systems since then, and each time it's a different set of challenges, and every time it's faster than it was back twenty years ago.
Here's why I love WooCommerce
Today, if you want to save time and money, there's no better platform to use than WooCommerce when you're building an online store. The other day I worked with a customer to create a store. The work took minutes – 180 of them. Not days. Not weeks. Not months or years. Three hours and I was done with everything but the customer's content.
WooCommerce makes things easy. It makes things fast. And it's free to get started with. Sure, you may end up buying a few extensions, but you won't spend $6,000. I bet you'll spend less than $1,000. And when I think back to the world twenty years ago where we spent 100 times that, I'm thrilled by the forward progress of technology. Particularly eCommerce technology.