My first e-commerce site cost me more than $15,000
I built my first e-commerce web site back in 1999. It wasn’t developed on any shop solution or anything else. It was pure .Net. And it took several weeks, 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.
Two of us worked for a couple weeks 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 days 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 $15,000 – 20,000. 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).
Three years ago it was cheaper – $6,000
About three years ago my team at Emphasys went to build another e-commerce site in the real estate space. It’s no longer 1999 – 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 $15,000 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 $6,000. 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 a different architecture (though I often use WordPress). I’ve worked with (and liked) phpurchase especially when they became cart66,
Here’s why I love WooCommerce
As I wrote about before, a few months ago I wanted to create a small site to sell a premium WordPress plugin, called ElegantPURL. We’d taken some code we’d worked on at work, and over a few nights and weekends we had enhanced it to the point that we could release a free and a premium version. So it was time to create an e-commerce site again.
Do you know how long it took? Seriously?
Less than 2 hours.
- The Platform: WordPress.
- The Plugin: WooCommerce.
- The Extensions: Stripe & Software Add-on
- The Total Cost: $100 + labor.
What I’m not saying
Now, if you go look at the site, you’ll see why. There’s very little text, no real support infrastructure, and only a few videos. You can tell I did it in one night while watching Big Bang Theory. And I’m not suggesting all (or any) e-commerce sites should be done in 2 hours. They shouldn’t. Seriously. They shouldn’t. Don’t find a programmer and tell him he should be done in two hours. I know you’ll do it. But if you point to this page, everyone will see that I told you not to. But it works. It collects money, sends emails, and activates a plugin. So all in all, it does what I wanted it to do.
What I am saying
WooThemes announced that WooCommerce was turning 1 year old this week and they’ve put all their extensions for sale. You seriously don’t want to miss this. Here’s why I’m saying it.
I don’t care how inexpensive your staff is – they can’t compete with the price of these extensions. Each extension saves you 1-10 hours. Even if it’s just 1 hour, what’s that worth? Is it worth $20? Then go buy the extensions – especially this week, as you’ll get to use them extensively across all your sites (next week that will change).
I’m not just saying it, I did it.
Want to see how many I own?
That’s right – 21 different extensions. About a $700 investment with WooCommerce. But guess what? I’m an expensive guy and I know the value of my time and on each WooCommerce site I build, I use an average of at least 2 or 3 plugins that save me multiple hours. So is it worth it? Yes. Absolutely. Without a question.
NOTE: None of the links on this page are affiliate links. I’m suggesting you buy some of these without any benefit to myself. I don’t see anything wrong with affiliate links but I’m too lazy to go look up all the codes. 🙂
So here’s my question to you: Which extensions are your favorites?