This article explains the fundamentals of how to build an eCommerce website using innumerable methods accessible to a developer. I am unveiling these with an aim at giving enough comprehensions of the options an eCommerce entrepreneur owns to accomplish his/her dream project.

Getting acknowledged with these options will let you make an informed selection of the options and chose the best-suited approach. To give a deeper understanding, I will compare all of these options on different grounds.

By understanding the pros and cons of each you will know the best-suited options for your cause within your budget and resources.  

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Aspects of comparison: Options for starting an eCommerce site

  1. Technical skills: What skills are required to develop, setup, and manage the site?
  2. Hosting: Which type of web hosting is supported by the options?
  3. Feasible features: Which features are inbuilt or can be built in the later stage?
  4. Scalability: Can you extend your site for large scale business?
  5. Customization: Can you customize code post development?
  6. Cost: What is the budget required for development and post-development?
  7. Time: How much time is required from development until going live?
  8. In-house/Outsource: Does it require an in-house team?
  9. Multi-vendor eCommerce/Inventory: Does it support multi-vendor marketplace model?

How to Build an eCommerce Site  

Considering the above-mentioned aspects, I am grouping the feasible methods into four major categories:

  1. Code one from the scratch
  2. Customize an open-source eCommerce platform
  3. Buy a SaaS or PaaS based eCommerce platform
  4. Buy an open-source custom eCommerce platform
  5. Code your site from the scratch

1. How to Build an eCommerce Site: Code one from the scratch

This approach suits the best to the eCommerce entrepreneurs willing to launch a large-scale website with unlimited customizability and scalability.

Those who want to have full control of the development and management of the website can use this approach. You should be an expert coder or a full stack eCommerce developer to code your own eCommerce site.

Alternatively, you can invest some mammoth capital to out-source the project. In either of the cases, the developer should possess the required technical skills.  

Technical skills

If you aim at building your own eCommerce site with modern features and security measures, you need expertise on a competent tech stack.

A tech stack in a complete set of different technologies required to develop, deploy and manage a web application/software.  

You can choose from the following popular tech stacks for your eCommerce project:

  • LAMP– Linux (operating system), Apache (web server), MySQL (database), PHP (programming language).
  • Python-Django– It is based on the Python programming language, Apache web server and MySQL database, Django framework, which is also written in Python.
  • MEAN– MongoDB (database), Express.js (application framework), AngularJS (front-end framework), Node.js (runtime environment). This stack has developed some of the biggest eCommerce sites on the Node.js shopping cart technology.  Ex. Amazon.
  • MERN– It makes MongoDB, Express, React/Redux, and Node.js. Considering the popularity of React. JS in front-end development and Node.JS in back-end development. It is a modern form of Node.js eCommerce development.  

Framework: Each of the stacks has its standard framework and MVC structure.

After selecting a tech stack, you need to choose a corresponding framework to develop your eCommerce site from scratch using a standard coding practice.

Read also: How This Family Guy Earned Over $1 Million from 3 Websites

Scripting: Besides the programming framework for server-side programming, you will need a script to design the UI of both the back-end and front-end.

HTML, HTML 5, CSS, JavaScript etc. are few of the popular designing scripts, which are used with popular UI designing frameworks such as Bootstrap, Foundation, and Skeleton for front-end, and Symfony, Laravel, and Zend frameworks for back-end design.  

Additional tech stack: Besides the development tech stack, you will need some additional knowledge of the tools and implementations for shopping cart technologies.

Few of them are as follows:

  • Payment gateway API integration.
  • Content Delivery Network integration.
  • Testing software for QA and testing.
  • Shipping services API integration.
  • Email API integration.
  • SMS API integration ex Twilio.
  • Google Shopping API integration.
  • Currency and Time-zone API integration.  Etc.

Read also: How to Reduce Shopping Cart Abandonment

  • Hosting

While learning how to build an eCommerce website from scratch, you possess complete ownership of your source code.

You can upload the source code to any web-server provider of your choice. Any web-host, which supports your tech-stack can be selected for going live.

  • Features

As you have the source code, you can add as many features of your choice.

Unless the tech stack limits you, you can have the liberty to add any new feature or new design to your website.

  • Scalability

The access to the source code and your coding skills give you unlimited scalability. Depending on your tech stack, you can scale your website to handle mammoth features, number of visitors, and number of products.

Tip: You can choose MEAN or MERN stack to develop a Node.js eCommerce site. With asynchronous coding and non-blocking, I/O model Node.js shopping carts are very fast and highly scalable. Biggest sites and web-apps like Amazon, Alibaba, Netflix, and PayPal are based on this tech stack.

  • Customization

You get the maximum customizability to modify your code and add as many new features and design aspects. You can edit existing code or override it to customize a particular feature.

Tip: Adopt a modular framework to add new features as add-ons, modules, and extensions. Doing so will let you customize the code without breaking the existing code.

  • Cost

You can never be assured of the cost required to do everything from scratch.

The final cost of your website will include all the cost required to buy a tech stack, pay the developers, hosting provider, API vendors, and much more.

Generally, you need a very high budget to build an eCommerce website from scratch.  

Read also: How Much Does It Cost to Build a Website (+My Blogging Expenses)

  • Time

Doing everything from the beginning takes a lot of time. You need a lot of time to complete each phase:

  • Research on vendors/ tech stack
  • Out-source/start by yourself
  • Project feasibility test
  • Implementation
  • Testing
  • Hosting
  • Setup
  • In-house/Outsource

Depending on your budget, technical skills, and time, you can hire an in-house team or outsource the whole project to a software development company.

  • Multi-vendor eCommerce/Inventory

Depending on your business requirements and model, this approach is capable of developing both the inventory-based or multi-vendor marketplace sites.  

2. How to Build an eCommerce Site: Customize an open-source eCommerce platform

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There various popular free eCommerce platforms in the market. These platforms provide open-source code with all the basic eCommerce shopping cart features as inbuilt.

Besides that various third-party developers build and sell ready-made/ customized modules to add new features to the base platform.

In short, these are CMSs for eCommerce website building. Most of these platforms are based on PHP and LAMP stack.

Example: Magento Community Edition, PrestaShop, OpenCart, WordPress Woo Commerce plugin, Drupal Commerce Add-on, etc.

  • Technical skills

Almost all of the popular eCommerce CMS in this category are built of PHP stack. PHP being a popular technology makes development quite easy.

Most probably, you too possess the basic PHP skills. If not, you can always find affordable PHP developers or development companies to outsource.

In short, you need enough knowledge of any of the platforms and their development frameworks.

For example, if you choose PrestaShop website builder, you will need the knowledge of LAMP stack, PrestaShop MVC, Symfony framework, BootStrap, JQuery, HTML, and CSS.

Bottom line is – the platform comes ready-made with all the basic features. Besides that, you can customize the code in the prescribed framework with little coding as compared to the scratch approach.

  • Hosting

You get the code. So you can host your developed website on any server of your choice.

  • Features

Depending on the platform you choose when learning how to build an eCommerce website, you can edit the codes in prescribed ways to add or modify a feature.

Alternatively, you can purchase ready-made modules, extensions, templates, or add-ons to add a new feature.

Read also: How This Blogger Earned $100K in Her First Full-Time Year of Blogging

  • Scalability

The scalability of your platform depends on the platform’s scalability. Generally, these PHP based platforms are competent enough to handle small-to-medium sized websites.

Magento offers the best scalability among all the open-source eCommerce platforms in this category.  

  • Customization

Customizability is totally dependent on the platform. However, most of these platforms give you great customizability until you follow the prescribed coding style, framework, and tech stack.

The only limitation is, you are recommended to customize the codes using overriding in prescribed formats. Otherwise, the customization will be lost once you update or upgrade the platform version to the latest one.   

  • Cost

The cost depends on the platform you are choosing. Almost all the platforms are free but their customizations in the form of modules and extensions are paid ones.

So, besides a free platform, you will be paying to buy the paid modules from third-party developers. Alternatively, you can ask your paid in-house team to develop the modules when learning how to build an eCommerce website.

  • Time

Most of the basic features come in-built. However, you will need so time to set up the platform and add the latest features.

Besides that, it takes a few hours to host, setup, install plugins, and themes. The required in generally lesser than the approach from scratch.

  • In-house or Outsource

You can hire your own team or outsource the development as there is no shortage of affordable PrestaShop, OpenCart, Magento, WordPress, Drupal, or Joomla developers in the market.

Most of the time, you can simply buy and install a ready-made plugin to your website.

  • Multi-vendor eCommerce/Inventory

The official platforms are inventory-based by default. But you can customize them to adopt the multi-vendor eCommerce model.

Alternatively, you can purchase and install a multi-vendor marketplace module or extension to convert your inventory site to a marketplace site in a few clicks.

3. How to Build an eCommerce Website: Buy a SaaS or PaaS based eCommerce platform

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Similar to the open-source eCommerce platforms there are various SaaS or PaaS based eCommerce solutions in the market. The only difference is they are paid, closed course and pre-hosted on a SaaS server.

You cannot customize the codes. Instead, you can use GUI to set up your site and start selling on the go.

Example: BigCommerce, Magento Enterprise, PrestaShop cloud, Shopify, Volusion etc.

  • Technical skills

No coding skills required when learning how to build an eCommerce website using this method.

Read also: How to Reach 100K App Downloads as a New App Developer

  • Hosting

Pre-hosted on a SaaS cloud server.

  • Features

Built-in features. Cannot add new features by yourself.

  • Scalability

Limited scalability. Suitable for small to medium-sized business.

  • Customization

No customizability. Closed source architecture makes personal customization impossible. Will have to buy available paid modules to add new features.  

  • Cost

Vendors ask monthly recurring subscription charges. Charges depend on the packages being offered.

  • Time

Ready-made websites. Only time required is to set up, personalize, and upload products on the site.

  • In-house or Outsource

No need to manage your own team for development or maintenance. Vendors will cover that.

  • Multi-vendor eCommerce/Inventory

Both types of solutions are available in the market. You can purchase the corresponding package depending on your business model.

4. How to Build an eCommerce Website: Buy an open-source custom eCommerce platform

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These are custom eCommerce website builders with open-source code access. They offer a mix of SaaS, eCommerce CMS, and Scratch approach.

I find this option more flexible, scalable, customizable, and competent to create large scale eCommerce sites.

Example: ShopyGen

  • Technical skills

You don’t need to possess any technical skill. You can simply buy a self-hosted custom eCommerce platform and setup your site.

  • Hosting

As you get the source code. You can host the site on the server of your choice.

  • Features

They come inbuilt with all of the eCommerce features. In-built features may differ depending on which vendor you choose.

Read also: How to Choose a Profitable eCommerce Business Idea

  • Scalability

Most of the custom solutions are highly scalable. You can choose a platform with competent tech stack to get larger customizability. For example, you can choose a Node.js custom eCommerce platform.

  • Customization

Accessibility to edit the source code makes it easy to customize the features. You also ask any third-party developer to customize the platform for you.

  • Cost

Most of the custom platforms are paid. If ready-made features are not enough, you will need to hire developers or ask the original vendor to add new features with additional cost.

Total cost depends on the features you prefer on your eCommerce site.

  • Time

The time required to develop your project is comparatively lesser than the scratch and eCommerce CMS approach.

You just need a few hours to set up and go live with your site. However, if you intend any customization in the base code, you can add that time, which will, of course, be lesser than developing it from scratch.

In short, this approach takes lesser time than the scratch method but more time than SaaS because of the customizability.

  • In-house or Outsource

Both the options are accessible in this approach on how to build an eCommerce website.

You can hire a team which will do the setup and customization of your purchased script. You can also outsource the development to the same or third-party developers.

  • Multi-vendor eCommerce/Inventory

Most of the custom build eCommerce platforms give different options to select the business model. Generally, they offer both the features by default.

Besides multi-vendor marketplace software, some of the platforms also give custom solution for other models such as on-demand service marketplace, food delivery eCommerce site, grocery delivery script, and many more.


You can use any of the above-mentioned ways to build your own eCommerce site.

I would recommend sparing some time and researching each of the aspects of how to build an eCommerce website.

Scratch method is least favored and highly impractical when you can do the same with other solutions. Make a list of your requirements and tally them with the popular solutions in the market.

Select a customizable, flexible, scalable, and open-source code solution for big projects. However, you can go with SaaS solutions to get your site in lesser time if you don’t plan on scaling your business.

At last, I would recommend a good initial investment so you won’t have to suffer from limitations in the long run.   

About The Author

Jessica Bruce is a professional blogger, guest writer, influencer & an eCommerce expert. She is currently associated with ShopyGen as a content marketing strategist.

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