The Complexity of E-commerce Web Design

All Ecommerce websites have at least some level of complexity due to their specific requirements, but is there a way to measure complexity and what are the factors that make a website complex?

Measurements of Complexity – there is no specific standard for measuring complexity in a quantitative way but any developer involved in Ecommerce web design will agree that certain factors will affect the complexity of the project including:

  • Size – number of web pages
  • Database requirements – number of tables
  • Number and location of Form feeds to database
  • Experience of the team working on the project
  • Technology used to develop dynamic pages
  • Level of client involvement/collaboration

All of these factors have great importance to the smooth running of the website and providing up to date information to the user.
Size is probably the first indicator to take account of, which does not mean just the number of web pages to be created, it is more about the number of different types of pages that are needed i.e. how many different layouts? How many need additional levels of security (SSL)?
Database requirements will need to be assessed by first ascertaining the way that data comes in to the business, how it is moved around and how it is currently stored. The database can then be designed using this information.
Subjective Complexity
For some web developers e-commerce web design seems complex because of their lack of experience in this sector. Complexity can sometimes be reduced using a simple SWOT Analysis to recognise and eliminate potential threats such as:

  • Lack of information provided by client
  • Lack of collaboration from stakeholders
  • Lack of planning
  • Poor documentation

As much information about the requirements of the business commissioning the website and its users needs to be obtained before design and implementation begins and a plan should be created, e.g. a Gantt chart or spreadsheet detailing the order of work.
Wherever possible, regular client input/interaction throughout the project should be encouraged as it will help to avoid misunderstandings and work having to be completed more than once. In the same way every step of the project should be documented and signed off at regular intervals.
Some Ecommerce websites are made even more complex as a result of algorithms that are required to be coded in to them to give results and exceptions. E.g. an Ecommerce web design that required specialist implementation such as several different voucher codes being accepted plus a reward point system offering variable discounts would require very complex coding to obtain the right results for every customer.
The design of every Ecommerce website is likely to come with its own challenges in one form or another, but it is a whole variety of factors that could make it actually become complex in some way. Ecommerce web design should be approached in the same way as any other software project – armed with as much information as possible from extensive client briefings and then carried out in a logical manner.

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