As a company that builds custom ecommerce solutions and also implements and extends Open Source ecommerce software like WooCommerce and Magento we often have to decide if we’re going to build something from scratch or if we’ll go the pre-built route. I’ll take you through the internal discussions that we have to decide on which route to go.
We base our decision on the following:
1. The timeframe that is required to get something live
2. The features required to validate an assumption (MVP)
3. The amount that someone is willing to invest
If a client needs a site up as soon as possible (we often have to find out if this really is the case) then we’d most often go with a pre-built solution like WooCommerce. It does depend on what features are needed. If you don’t need the normal ecommerce flow (products -> product -> cart -> checkout -> order) then you may just build out a quick one-page form. If someone is willing to wait for something to be built, we’d then ask the question of what kind of features the business requires.
The required features of an ecommerce store are often the big deciding factor of which direction we decide to go. A big point we often look at is how the end user will use the system and how that translates to what exists in pre-built software and what it would take to build it into those solutions.
If product configurations and checkout processes are extremely complex (and bespoke) then we’d definitely start looking at building something that suits the needs of the end user than having to work within the limitations of existing software. We also have to weigh up the time it would take to build something ourselves and how long it will take to modify something like WooCommerce to do what we need. Sometimes it’s actually quicker to just implement something from scratch than to conform to the requirements of an existing solution.
If a budget is tight sometimes chopping of some features and going as simple as possible is better to make sure what you invest is able to get a return (this is where Agile Development comes in). Also, if an investment is going to be ongoing, we’d consider using something like WooCommerce which can be maintained by end-users rather than custom code that requires developers to keep it up to date.
In conclusion, if you’re asking yourself if an ecommerce site should be built from the ground up or if you should use something like WooCommerce, stop! Ask yourself how quickly you need it, does my store require unusual ecommerce features and what your budget is. Also, consider the fact that features should be tightly linked to what users are actually needing – which can only be proven by putting our assumption in-front of them.
If you’re asking these questions, why not ask us? We’d be happy to chat to you and see what your requirements are.