Starting a new website can be a daunting task. Do you want to do it yourself, or have someone do it for you? Do you need a CMS? You'll also need to consider payment gateways and SSL certificates. Our list of common questions below can help ease your concerns and get your website online as soon as possible.
A content management system (CMS) is an online platform that underlies many websites and enables the website owner or webmaster to easily administer the website. This can be as simple as making changes to text and images on the website or as complex as changing the layout and complete look and feel of a website.
Content management systems are designed and built to enable business owners or employees to make changes to websites without the need for advanced technical knowledge and know-how. CMS platforms will often include WYSIWYG (What You See Is What You Get) editors that function in much the same fashion as well-known word processing software like Microsoft Word.
Content management systems are deployed using various web technologies including PHP or ASP scripting languages and MySQL or MSSQL databases. These technologies are the core of a content management system's user-friendliness.
Content management systems are used by millions of websites as a way of reducing costs and increasing efficiency. CMS platforms remove the need for businesses to constantly contact web developers when changes are required. This means no additional web development charges or waiting times for the changes to be implemented. Changes to the website can be completed instantly and easily by internal staff when required.
Although content management systems allow the not-so-tech-savvy web user to make changes to a website, they do still require an initial design, set up and build by experienced web developers.
WordPress is an open source blogging platform and content management system based on the PHP scripting language and MySQL database technology. WordPress was originally designed as a blogging platform, giving users a simple-to-install online application to design, create, and manage a blog.
Over time, WordPress has grown in popularity, with millions of users worldwide. It has become the number one content management system worldwide, powering 22% of all new websites. Further to this, WordPress has grown as an application. Since its inception WordPress has sprouted thousands of new features and functions that have enabled it to become the number one content management system not only for blogs, but for an array of websites.
WordPress enables users to create pages, manage content including text and images, and extend its functionality with plug-ins. WordPress also has a template-based system using a template processor that enables the easy install and deployment of pre-made design templates. This functionality allows almost any WordPress user to install and change WordPress themes with the click of a button while maintaining the information on the site.
WordPress' advanced plug-in architecture allows users to effortlessly install plug-ins from a library of over 17 thousand. These plug-ins are designed to extend the features and functionality of WordPress beyond the out-of-the-box feature set. Plug-ins can be found for almost any requirement, from SEO and eCommerce to gallery and user management.
PHP or Hypertext Preprocessor is an open-source, server-side scripting language used for websites and online applications. A PHP interpreter is installed on a server so that when a website is built using PHP the server can read this PHP as instructions and translate these into the website you see.
PHP is known as a server-side scripting language, which means all the code is processed before it reaches your computer. The server where the website files are stored processes the PHP and output is generated which is then sent to your computer/web browser.
PHP allows for complex instructions to be processed on the server in a secure manner. This could include accessing a database or storing login credentials within the code. If a website is developed using PHP a user cannot see or read any of the PHP code because it is processed on the server before the output is sent to the user. The output of the PHP code is usually HTML/CSS pages that are read and understood by your web browser.
Because PHP can execute complex instructions including querying a database and sending log in requests to a server in a secure manner it is an ideal language for the development of Content Management Systems (CMS) such as WordPress.
Netregistry provides business web hosting solutions that include support for PHP and other scripting languages.
HTML or HyperText Markup Language is the most basic coding language for the web. HTML is known as a client-side language, compared to PHP for example which is a server-side language.
HTML is a mark-up language. This means it is not used to manipulate data or provide complex instructions for a website but rather it is used to simply change the look and feel of text and images on a website.
HTML provides a way of structuring a web page's images and text using HTML tags. These tags work as a pre-set list of instructions that are interpreted by your web browser. The tags can 'mark-up' text to provide formatting, spacing, sizing and distribution on the page. Along with CSS, HTML is used to give each and every website its individual look and feel.
CSS or Cascading Style Sheets are formatting and design instructions that go hand-in-hand with HTML. CSS provides a way of extending the formatting instructions provided by HTML tags so that a web page's layout, colours and fonts can be manipulated.
CSS, in the same way as HTML, is read and understood by your web browser. An HTML web page references design and formatting instructions within a CSS file. These instructions are then interpreted by your web browser and the colours, fonts and layout you see are all governed by the CSS.
By definition eCommerce refers to businesses and consumers buying and selling products online. The majority of eCommerce websites on the internet are retail stores selling products directly to the public. However there are also a proportion of online stores dedicated to business-to-business (B2B) sales or wholesale activity. eCommerce does not only refer to the selling of physical products; it can also refer to the selling of services where payments for the services are made online. As a general rule an eCommerce website is a website where a transfer of funds is completed electronically — hence eCommerce.
How does eCommerce work?
Because there are hundreds of different products and services for consumers and the multitude of different ways these products and services can be delivered, eCommerce by its nature is varied in the way it works. In its most basic form eCommerce works as follows:
- Consumers choose a product or service on a website
- Consumers pay electronically on the website (online credit card transactions) or using a third-party payment provider such as PayPal
- The business owner or merchant receives the order and payment and the order is fulfilled (delivered by post, booked in for services etc)
Making payments online is completed via a secure connection to ensure that sensitive data such as credit card details and personal information are kept private.
What are the benefits of eCommerce to the consumer?
Over the past decade eCommerce has become the preferred method of shopping for a large number of consumers. Online shopping provides a vast array of benefits to the consumer that is otherwise unavailable in standard brick-and-mortar stores.
Quick, easy and convenient: eCommerce has enabled the consumer to complete transactions from the comfort of their own home, transactions that would usually happen within the walls of a store. Transactions now take only minutes, rather than the hours included in physically getting to the stores.
Product comparisons: Not only are consumers finding it quicker and more convenient to shop online but they are also making more comparisons than ever. Comparing the price, delivery time and product specifications has never been simpler. Quickly browsing multiple websites that stock products that suit your criteria is as simple as a Google search — consumers can now compare multiple products from all over the world in minutes.
Lower prices: Many consumers are turning to eCommerce for their needs due to the lower price for many everyday items. Different factors on the merchant's side of the equation allow them to sell products at a lower price compared to a standard store and these cost savings are often passed on to the end consumer.
What are the benefits of eCommerce to the merchant?
Reduced costs: End consumers are treated to lower prices and this is all due to reduced costs for the merchant. Online retailing requires no sales staff, hence a reduced labour cost. Electronic payments which are often automatically tracked and linked to accounting software results in reduced paper work and reduced errors in data entry. Costs involved the maintenance of a physical storefront are also removed, with the major cost of eCommerce going to warehousing and product storage.
Shorter time frames: eCommerce allows for highly reduced lead times, as well as the more efficient delivery of products.
Increased consumer reach: eCommerce allows online merchants to stock a larger product range than a traditional store. This larger product range means more products are suited to a larger consumer base and hence greater possible reach. eCommerce stores are also available from anywhere, interstate and international customers are no longer a missed segment — this results in a massively increased possible consumer base.
Netregistry offers eCommerce solutions that can help you get your store online more quickly — our hosted eCommerce solution makes managing a secure online store a breeze.
SSL stands for Secure Sockets Layer. When you send and receive information on the internet (submitting online forms, posting messages on websites) it is often insecure — data transmitted is un-encrypted and sent "as is". This means that during transmission of this data it can be intercepted maliciously and the data used in any way.
SSL is a way of encrypting data sent over the internet. This means that before the data is sent it is encrypted in a way that makes it unreadable if intercepted. When it comes to sensitive information such as personal details, usernames and passwords or credit card details the use of SSL is imperative. Ensuring that sensitive data is encrypted using SSL makes it virtually impossible for it to be stolen and used without your consent. Once the information reaches its destination it can then be decrypted and read as normal.
Secure Sockets Layer technology requires the use of an SSL certificate. SSL certificates are granted by certified providers on a per domain name basis. SSL certificates are usually incorporated into eCommerce websites to protect credit card details and user data, but are also found where personal details or usernames and passwords need to be entered.
The technical side of SSL involves complex cryptography to encrypt the data before being sent and decrypt the data on arrival. Find out more about how SSL works.
Online payments are made thousands of times per second all over the world. There are hundreds of different ways these payments are made, including PayPal and EFT transactions, but a large proportion are based on payment gateway technology. A payment gateway allows a connection directly between a website and a bank, meaning that payments can be placed directly on a website and deposited straight into a bank account.
A payment gateway is a server that is dedicated to linking websites and banks so that online credit card transactions can be completed in real time.
How does a payment gateway work?
Payment gateways work by providing the secure, integral link between a website (web server) and the bank. When credit card details are submitted on a website the payment gateway receives these details and sends them to the bank for verification. The bank then replies with a response; usually either accepted or declined. The payment gateway then sends this response back to the web server when the appropriate message is displayed to the user — for example "Your payment has been successful".
The actual process is a lot more complex than this and the technical details can be found here.
What is required for a payment gateway?
If you are looking at accepting real-time credit cards on your website then a payment gateway is required. There are three main requirements for a payment gateway to work:
- A website that meets the security and eligibility requirements for the bank to issue a merchant account
- A payment gateway provider. Payment gateway providers offer the server that acts as the link between your website and the bank. The server has a very special configuration and a very high level of security due to the sensitive nature of the data being transferred.
Once all three requirements are met, the payment gateway then needs to be connected to the website and to the merchant account. This will then allow for real-time credit card processing.
What are the benefits?
By incorporating a payment gateway into your eCommerce website you can ensure you are providing the easiest and most streamlined buying experience for your customers. The easier it is to buy from your online store the more likely visitors are to purchase.
A payment gateway is beneficial for a few reasons:
Visitors stay on site: Many websites will take advantage of third party or hosted payment processing facilities such as PayPal. These facilities do work well and can provide secure payment options, however they do have draw backs. A major advantage of using a payment gateway is that customers will not leave your website to make payment. All user information and credit card details are input on your website meaning fewer steps for the buyer. Further to this, re-directing users to a separate website for payment often leads to mistrust and payment abandonments.
Real time transactions and payments: Utilising a payment gateway allows you to accept credit cards directly on your website, but also means that these credit card transactions are processed in real time. Real-time transactions mean that you as the merchant get paid immediately and that the customers get instant feedback as to whether their payment has been accepted or declined.
Saves time and reduces administration: A payment gateway saves time with the fact that credit cards are processed in real time and funds are deposited directly into a merchant account. A payment gateway removes the need for manual card processing or third-party account consolidation.
PayPal is a third party service that allows businesses and online merchants to pay, send money, and accept payments online without the need for a payment gateway. PayPal's service is secure and protected by SSL to ensure that all sensitive data is protected.
How does PayPal work?
To start using PayPal to accept payments on your website you first require a PayPal account. Signing up for a standard business PayPal account is free. Once you have an account created there are multiple ways PayPal can be integrated into your website.
Once PayPal has been integrated into your website customers can start making payments to you using the PayPal interface. The basic set up looks like:
- Customers choose a product or service from your website.
- The checkout process is completed on your website, for example all address details and personal information is entered on your website.
- At the final payment page customers can choose to pay via PayPal.
- With the free PayPal account customers are then redirected to paypal.com where they re-enter some personal details and can make payment either via credit card, or (if they have a PayPal account themselves) via PayPal credit.
- Once payment is completed customers are redirected back to your website.
What are the pros and cons of PayPal?
PayPal offers an easy way to start accepting payments online without the need for a payment gateway or hosted payment page. However there are a few disadvantages of using PayPal as your payment processing facility.
- Customers are redirected from your website to PayPal to make payment. This results in an additional step in the checkout process.
- Often personal details will need to be re-entered, resulting in customers having to enter their details twice — this make the checkout process slower.
- PayPal takes a small percentage of each transaction completed via their service. The amount they take is dependent on the volume of sales that are processed through PayPal.
On the flip side of this, PayPal does have some advantages and it's often a good idea to offer PayPal as an alternative payment method for customers.
- PayPal is a well-known payment service — they are trusted and recognised by a lot of online shoppers meaning that there is little to no reluctance to use the service.
- PayPal offers a highly secure service. Due to the massive number of transactions processed and the sensitive nature of the data PayPal deal with, only the highest level of security is appropriate.
- PayPal is easy to set up and easy for customers to use. Once a customer has a PayPal account they can easily use this for multiple eCommerce websites, making their online shopping experience very efficient.