e-Commerce for the little Printer

On the surface, finding an e-Commerce provider to host your new webstore is as easy as finding an ISP to host your website. The difference is what happens when you discover it's not working out.

With a website, you simply cancel the old account, find a new ISP, upload your existing content into the new site, and move on. Relocating a webstore, on the other hand, that's like going through a divorce without a prenup. Lots of knots to untangle, big and little.

In e-Commerce, as in real life, it's a really good idea to start out with what you hope will be a lasting relationship.

To begin with, stay away from hosting on your own server. Small print shops (five million dollars in annual sales or less) have neither the time nor the resources to maintain the back end of a webstore. Not to mention the skills to keep out hackers and stay PCI compliant.

Next, make sure the program can accommodate custom product configurations. At a bare minimum, you'll need to offer a choice of quantities, paper, and finishing options. Nearly all carts can handle tee-shirts, but will they get stumped by a simple newsletter?

Finally, templates, lots of them. Free, preferably, and easy to customize to give the store your own look and feel. If you want to hire a designer later on, that should be an option, not a requirement.