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Website building and hosting software suggestions


I'm looking for a website building and hosting software package to use for a small internet-based business. The business has both physical products which are shipped to customers as well as digital products which customers can download. Of course the package should also have back-end capability to accumulate and track customer information, etc.

As I have look around the web, most of what I have found seems to range from 1) extremely simple and inexpensive—almost no-brainer packages—which are said to require "no technical knowledge" to 2) sophisticated applications which do require a lot of technical know-how and are used by professionals to create custom websites.

My technical skills are quite minimal in this area so my biggest objective is to find something in the simpler or lower-end category but which has the capability to scale up to the higher-end category.

For example, our current website was built 5-6 years ago. I had absolutely no understanding of website building, HTML, CSS, etc., at that time (I still don't have all that much) so I had to have someone else built it and they did so using an application called Magento.

A problem with that approach however, has been that every time something needs to be changed or fixed, it can only be done according to that person's availability. Another perhaps even larger problem is that recently we launched a marketing strategy whereby customers can receive free product credits by referring friends & family. In order to make that strategy function smoothly, we needed to add a place during the checkout process, where the customer is asked who referred them and then have some boxes for their response (i.e. referer's name, address, phone number, email address, etc.). To my dismay, I was told that with the current software, adding something like that is not possible. Furthermore, upgrading to a more advanced version, will require a large amount of employee time to transfer data, etc.

As a result, I am hopeful to find an application which on one hand, is simple and allows either I or one of my employees (with not much technical knowledge) to do a lot of the building and ongoing work. But on the other hand, also have it be capable (scalable) so that when I do want to have a professional make large or more involved modifications or add new functionality, I won't have to scrap the whole thing and start from scratch.

Any suggestions or comments would be most appreciated.

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2 Solutions
Scott Fell, EE MVEDeveloper & EE ModeratorCommented:
I think you should look into sites like http://www.3dcart.com or http://www.volusion.com which can help you with both the website and shopping.     Squarespace is also worth a look http://www.squarespace.com/tour/businesses/

If you want a little more do it  yourself http://www.magentocommerce.com/ or http://www.opencart.com/

With the last 2, opencart can be installed with just a little technical background.  The entire thing sits on your own site with a mysql database.  This leaves room for hiring somebody to add and enhance later on.    Magento is highly recommended from some other experts here on EE.  It will be more complex however.
Scott Fell, EE MVEDeveloper & EE ModeratorCommented:
Steve_BradyAuthor Commented:
Thanks, very helpful info.
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