One of the fastest growing sectors of the web is e-commerce.  With everyone selling things from ebay, to amazon, and their own sites, e-commerce has become a major factor in developing sites on most Content Management Systems, including Joomla!  Here’s some of the top mistakes we notice people making when building an ecommerce site in Joomla!  Have you done some of these, or maybe have some of your own?  Leave them in the comments, we’d love to hear them!

Site Security

Without of a doubt, one of the biggest concerns for users shopping online is security, especially with the recent round of high profile hacking that has occured over the last year.  And, to be honest, they have good reason to be concerned!  With their financial viability, and their wallets on the line, shopping on a secure site is a legitimate concern!  Unfortunately, most webmasters don’t see it that way.  I can’t tell you how many sites I’ve come across that have minimal levels of security, many ignoring established standards like using SSL Certification to protect their users information.  Want a quick way to lose your business?  Get hacked and lose your customers information!  I think site security tops the list of mistakes that e-commerce site owners overlook, in their site.

Search Optimization

It was hard deciding which was a bigger mistake, Site Security of Search Optimization - but Site Security won because of it’s implications for users.  Regardless, one of the things I notice time and again in sites that I come across and sites I work on is the lack of optimization.  This is not exclusive to Joomla!, webmasters on many platforms overlook this, but we’re looking at Joomla! here.  To be honest, e-commerce sites have a certain level of built-in SEO edge.  The fact that each of their products offer them a unique page that can be optimized to benefit their rankings gives them an immediate edge over other sites who have to build each page from scratch!  This one is an easy one to fix, most shopping carts for Joomla! provide very good SEO capabilities for each product page, just use them!

Site Speed

Todays shoppers shop online for several reasons, but primarily because it is convenient, and fast … well, most of the time it’s fast.  Having a slow site is detrimental on many fronts.  Google will tell you that they pay attention to how fast your site ranks in determing search positions, and users will tell you that they will go to another site before they’ll wait for each of your pages to load.  With that in mind, it should be a no-brainer that you need to pay attention to your site speed, right?  But so many don’t!  The ironic thing is that it’s not hard to improve your site speed!

Customer Retention

Once you get past all the technical problems like security, optimization, and site speed, the bottom line is that you need customers.  And once you get them, you want to keep them!  One of the thing that most webmasters overlook is the potential that repeat-customers bring. It’s free money!  They already trust you (hopefully) from a previous transaction, so getting repeat-business should be easy!  Unfortunately most e-commerce owners overlook even the basics like a targeted newsletter, customer retention programs and discounts, and basic customer relations.

Wrapping It Up …

Looking back, there’s a lot of mistakes e-commerce webmasters make, we’ve all made them at some point! Fortunately, paying attention to, and utilizing some of the basic tools available through Joomla! makes life easier for everyone, including your users!  With the experience and expertise of the CNP Integrations team behind you, your shop will run smoothly, securely, and efficiently, continuing to make you money as it grows!

Joomla! CMS project Mistake Number Three: Having bigger ideas than your budget, resources and time will allow or than what is actually needed to provide the intended solution.

Often times we get a client with a relatively small budget and limited web experience that wants us to do all of the work and expects a fully functional Amazon type of ecommerce web portal system. Needless to say this is rather unrealistic. Robust features and capabilities are abundant with few limitations when building a portal system using Joomla! CMS. This platform is built on open source code and you can leverage over 7500+ 3rd party extensions. However, where you do have limitations is in the skill level and resources available from the principle instigator as it relates to the scope or vision they want to implement.

 

Avoid Scope Creep

As a creative guy myself I have been the king of scope creep in the past on my own projects when I start letting my imagination wonder on all of the possibilities. I am though easily wound in when I start thinking about how much time it is going to take me or my team to make these ideas a reality.

One of the challenges I have as a consultant is being that translator between the visionary ideas of the project and the practical programming aspects required for the content experts to achieve the most realistic outcome and managed expectations.

Build a Realistic Plan

If you are starting a project it is great to map out all of the cool ideas and WOW! factor as long as you can hone this down to a realistic project plan that will be within your means and present your ideas in ways that never overwhelm your end users. Not to mention that you want to see the best value for your investment in a Joomla! CMS system tailored to your business goals. One of the tools I like to use to get everything in perspective early in the planning process and throughout the project is a mind mapping tool called mindjet (www.mindjet.com).

If you know the end goal and can plan the phases of your project with the proper milestones this will help you know when it is appropriate to move to the next phase. It will also allow you to hold your purse strings in a way that you get the best return on your investment. With that said not spending enough on maintenance and support over time can be just as risky.

Make Sure you have the Right Technology Strategy for the Targeted Goals

A while back we did an extensive strategy session for a client and together we came up with a fantastic quadrant map of their customer base, the top 20 questions they would want to ask their clients and this discussion evolved into what could have been a very cool online tool for their Joomla! CMS eCommerce web site. Hey, we would have loved to build this and our programmers would have eaten well and sent their kids through college from the level of work it required.

As a consultant though looking out for the best interest of the client I had to tell them to first evaluate how many times this form process and application would get used and would this really be a good investment at that point in the project? I went on to suggest that they could real in a lot of customers with a manual process and be more affective with a personalized interaction first and then if they get overwhelmed with more work than they could handle perhaps then this would be a good investment to consider at that time. As it turned out the personal approach I recommended was a far better end game for their marketing approach and business success. Even though the owner was passionate about building this tool, everyone won from taking a step back and getting perspective.

Be Careful not to put your Business at Risk

If we would have eagerly taken on the development project as they wanted us to they would have spent a ton of money that would have not been a good return on their investment and thus put their business at risk. So even if a client has the money to spend “right now” we still have to ask;

  • Can you afford this and how much should you invest over what period of time to protect your investment?
  • What features are going to give you the greatest return and where should you place your priorities?

Even though not every return is tangible you have to be careful to keep the right balance between value, perspective and risk. The last thing any business or project needs is to run out of money before you reach a satisfactory or useful level of completion. A half-baked solution is mostly useless.

Give your customers what they need and you will be successful!

We ended up with more business from this customer by giving the right advice, the customer ended up growing more business through a personal approach and the end user received a higher level of customer support and personalized service. They turned out to be one of our greatest success stories.

In conclusion make sure you ask the right questions as you bring your project into scope, be realistic in what you can afford both in time and treasure and remain focused on what is essential to meeting the needs of your end user. Of course somewhere in this mix you want to keep enough of your vision and creativity to make the site your own and be able to stand out in a crowded web space.

When it comes to building an ecommerce site on Joomla!, the options and capabilities are staggering.  Our last post about ecommerce covered the Top Joomla! E-commerce Solutions for different types of ecommerce endeavors.  But opening up shop online is serious business, and there are a lot of things that often get overlooked when it comes to starting a store.  Here’s a couple for getting your Joomla! E-commerce store online successfully!

Getting Paid

One of the most commonly overlooked things for any ecommerce store is, suprisingly, how you get paid!  Not that people forget they want to make money, but exactly how they collect that money from store purchases is often left until the last minute or forgotten all-together.  Obviously there are many ways to get paid - from taking a credit card using a merchant account, or using the popular Paypal services, to the many other checkout services including Google Checkout, 2Checkout, Moneybookers, and Amazon payment gateway just to name a few. Choosing the right services, and, more importantly, the right combination of services is critical, since choosing the wrong ones can leave potential buyers frustrated and stranded, with no easy way to pay for their purchases.

Attracting Visitors

While the old adage of “If you build it, they will come” may work in many areas, but the internet is not one of them.  Just putting together your shop and listing your products is only the beginning of your journey.  Getting your name out there, getting traffic to your site, and keeping the new visitors coming is a never ending process.  Along the way you’ll probably learn something about things like PPC, Adwords, SEO, Affiliates, and Conversions - all important aspects in the world on online marketing.  While you can definitely tackle a lot of things by yourself, and some of them are best left to you as the business owner, having a trusted team that’s been through the process time and again will only give you an edge over the competition.

Shipping is an important factor in any online business, since, unless you’re selling digital products,e verything has to get shipped!  Makign sure that you have a correct setup for easily getting orders shipped out on time, and not losing money on shipping is important.  Most Joomla! Ecommerce solutions offer an easy setup for shipping costs and calculations and will help you get the proper setup for whatever shipper you choose (USPS, UPS, FedEx, DHL, etc.). For those with international audiences advanced shopping carts like Virtuemart and RedShop can help you navigate international shipping costs and how to set that up.

Todays internet is an attractive market for many in getting into online ecommerce.  Joomla! Ecommerce systems help you get set up, and manage your store with ease, and help you work out all the details along the way.  Whether it is setting up a new store, strategizing and assisting with your ongoing marketing plan, or helping you support and navigate the details of a thriving ecommerce store, having an experienced team like CNP Integrations can go a long way in making your life easier, and helping you grow your business!

I’m not sure if you heard the news or not, but the latest release of Joomla! is out!  Joomla! 1.7 came out just over a week ago on July 19th and has met some pretty impressive reviews.  In case you haven’t been following, the Joomla! launched a new process for handling releases several months ago with the release of Joomla! 1.6 in January.  The goal was to have a time based release cycle as opposed to the former feature-based release cycle.  This was a big deal.  Joomla! 1.6 was released almost 3 years after 1.5, so the move to a regularly scheduled release cycle was much needed.  So what do you need to know about Joomla! 1.7?

What’s new in Joomla! 1.7

This latest release definitely packs a punch.  While overall the updates weren’t enormous, the specific items represent a huge leap forward for the Joomla! project.  Specifically, the one-click updates.  This is a feature that has been talked about for a while, and it’s finally here!  Previously, updating your site with a minor security release was a hassle, and updating a major release was well-nigh impossible!  With the new update manager in the Joomla! back-end, administrators can now not only update to the latest security release, but even move across major releases with ease!  Needless to say, this saves a lot of headaches for just about everyone.

There are several other updates in this latest release.  Things like adding background images to html modules, the ability to pre-define search terms for menu items, and some other obscure, but important features like an update to the Joomla! installer, including randomizing database table prefixes, which is important for security.

So What do I Need to Do?

The great thing about this release, is that it is easy to update to!  If your site is currently on Joomla! 1.6, all you have to do is make sure you are on 1.6.5, and use the update manager to move right to 1.7!  It’s that easy!  By now just about all major components and templates have a 1.7 compatible release out.  But double check just to make sure.  If one of your components released a new version for 1.7, then you’ll want to install that latest version of the component BEFORE updating Joomla!  Remember, for those of us on 1.6, 1.6 support ends in a little under a month, so this update is important.

If you’re still on 1.5, which most people are, updating is a little more challenging, but still possible.  There are several great tools out there like jUpgrade which will migrate all your core content (Articles, Menus, Modules, Contacts, Weblinks, etc.) to Joomla! 1.7.  Unfortunately you’ll have to update your components manually, since there is a big difference between the two.

However you get to Joomla! 1.7, once you’re there it will be very easy to stay up to date.  No more uploading files via ftp (although you can still do that if you’d like)  the built in installer will take care of everything!  Not only will it handle core updates, but as developers start adopting the new standards for Joomla!, you’ll be able to update all your extensions and components from the update panel!  Easy, huh?

Mistake Number Two: Not staying focused on what is important

When a project begins someone usually writes a big laundry list of all the features they want. Most often this has not yet been reviewed in depth by a developer whom can provide detailed specifications for the project tasking. At http://www.cnpintegrations.com/ and most consulting firms like ours, we call this the discovery phase of the project where we go through this list and map it to either business processes or available extensions for the Joomla! CMS.

In this discovery phase we try to bridge the gaps between what is already available or requires custom coding, how the client could alter their business processes to be more effective or reduce costs and to assess the training required for the client’s users and stakeholders to be effective.

With complex projects especially, you are going to find that because Joomla! CMS is so flexible and versatile and has over 7500+ extensions that often it is very difficult to separate the nice to haves from the core requirements of the site. Because there are so many options it is easy to get lost in cool features that you may like, but may rarely get used.

Keeping discipline not only keeps your costs down but it will also allow you to target the specific needs of your end users. It is always good to step back and take a breath while asking; “Is this really needed or will this distract the user from what I want them to do when they land on this page or navigate through the site?”

It is important to always remember the user experience. When someone lands on your site you want them to be able to find what they are looking for right away. Too many options or distracting features will prevent the intended experience and could confuse your visitors.

One thing I like to do as part of our consulting service at http://www.joomladesignservices.com/ is inspire folks to think about the many possibilities that are open to them using a Joomla! CMS as their content management platform. However, I also have to advise them to use caution since you have to be on target with the core requirements before you wander off in to all of the cool “nice to haves”. However, planning for the future is important as well so you would not have to take two steps back to take one forward.

If you have a lot of ideas that you want to implement at the same time, often you should consider having separate portals for groups of ideas or features. Every situation is different and even complex sites can have a simple point of entry if you plan them correctly.

One of the key teachings in most organized religions is to “stay on the path”. This makes perfect sense both in real life and in the universe of building a Joomla! CMS portal.