Ecommerce Website Architecture: Why You Should Care About It

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October 29, 2021
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Ecommerce Website Architecture: Why You Should Care About It
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Planning eCommerce website architecture is as important as planning a building block.

You need to count in the request of future users, make sure you have enough budget to deliver the promise, and ease the path for the designers to come up with the solutions that would make the use enjoyable, friction-free, and efficient. The reason why we still see ugly buildings that nobody wants to buy — and lame e-commerce websites that nobody wants to use — is because this preparation stage is being ignored too often. 

We at Elogic know from experience that planning an eCommerce architecture at the early stage of a website development project plan is a cost-saving and performance-boosting strategy that every business needs to ensure its long-term operation. While durability and flexibility of the website are major perks of having a working eCommerce platform architecture, the list has many other points. In this article, we’ll discuss why an e-business owner should care about the architecture planning stage, which architecture might be the best fit for your business, and who can get it done for you. 

Why Do You Need a Good Ecommerce Website Architecture?

Ecommerce website architecture is a form of planning and arrangement of the information that’s presented on the website. It also defines a hierarchy of how the data blocks relate to each other. In other words, it’s a way to structure the website, so it can perform its intended functions and help businesses to fulfill their business goals. 

Why is having a smoothly working ecommerce architecture design a must? 

  • It helps search engines (SE) to index the website and rank it higher. SE operating logic depends immensely on structures and their connectivity. So to allow easy crawling and indexing, the target website should be organized in a scannable way.
  • It allows for scalability. Depending on the language and tools used, you may not need to create the website from the ground up — you can upgrade and add functions to the existing one. But it is only possible if you know which parts and structures of the websites will be affected by the change.
  • It enables easy third-party integrations. Just like with the example above, knowing the links and connections in your ecommerce software architecture will help you with powering your software with the solutions offered by many vendors, so you can deliver a better user experience.   
  • It enhances the user experience. Apart from adding new useful features, a comprehensive site architecture simplifies the use of the website. Navigation menu, breadcrumbs, sitemap, internal linking — all that should encourage the customer to stay on your website and surf through it without the feeling of getting lost. 

The person who plans the e commerce technical architecture is called a solution architect, and he/she has to be involved in the website planning process from day one. Discussing the website architecture prior to developing the site will prevent you from extra-budget expenses, unforeseen code conflicts, and spending tons of money for what could’ve been adjusted or improved without deleting it. 
Current practices feature three types of architecture for ecommerce website. Below we explain the peculiarities of each, as well as where they could be the best fit.  

Ecommerce Architecture: Two-Tier Architecture

Two-tier website architecture implies that there are two sides of the architecture (client and database) that correspond to the client domain and the business database domain, respectively. They exist in constant interaction. 

For example, the user retrieves the information stored in the database or sends their data to be stored there (i.e., account or billing details), thus making the database respond to the request to provide or process the data. And it’s because of the well-planned ecommerce website architecture design that such real-time communication is possible.

Two-tier e commerce architecture diagram

The two-tier architecture is commonly used for homogeneous environments as it contains static business rules. It’s also the most preferred option for startups that want to validate the hypothesis prior to spending a lot of money on a full-scale platform. However, it also has certain limitations. 

Pros of two-tier architectureCons of two-tier architecture
— Simple, fast, and cheap to develop and deploy

— Allows for accurate and fast prototyping

— Database server and business logic are close, which enhances performance
— Not suitable for heterogeneous environments, as changing the business logic often will bring down the performance

— Allows for a limited number of users and isn’t scalable

— It has low control and re-distribution level since usually the client-side has most of the application logic

— It’s complicated to change the database structure if needed due to mutually dependent components and monolithic code

Ecommerce Architecture: Three Tier Architecture

In three-tier eCommerce architecture, in addition to client and database, there is an additional middle layer, a server-side. This forms three layers of the architecture: 

  1. Presentation layer (client)
  2. Application layer (business logic)
  3. Database layer (database)

One of the biggest distinctions in this type of architecture is that each layer functions independently, runs on different servers, and is treated as a separate module when it comes to its development, modification, or maintenance.

Here’s how a three-tier e commerce architecture diagram looks like. 

three-tier e commerce architecture diagram

This is a must-have architecture type for large-scale enterprises that presuppose multiple users, but it also has its disadvantages you need to consider. 

Pros of three-tier architectureCons of three-tier architecture
— Improved scalability due to better synchronization between the modules

— Enhanced security level as there’s no direct interaction with data from the database

— Possible partial updates without affecting the whole system

— Availability even if the server is down due to cache data.
— Complex communication between layers, which makes the implementation difficult

— It requires more manual management since there are fewer automated tools to process the content 

Following the logic of a three-tier ecommerce architecture, there’s a type called “n-tier architecture”. In this case, there are multiple servers between the client layer and database layer that balance the data distribution and ensure decentralization. This type has all the advantages of the three-tier architecture but also multiplies its cons, meaning that it’s harder and more expensive to maintain flawless communication between the components and test it. 

Ecommerce Microservices Architecture

With the abundance of third-party solutions that can enhance the user experience in the eCommerce segment, more and more platform developers tend to give up the monolithic approach (where everything is located in the same code base) and follow the microservice-based one. In this regard, the microservice architecture means the creation of the application/website by arranging multiple services that have less coupling dependency between each other.

Here’s how the microservice architecture looks. 

microservice ecommerce architecture

Commercetools is a prime example of a company that implements this approach to creating e-commerce platforms and tools. Magento is currently in the process of redesigning its architecture and on a path from dropping the monolithic approach. The introduction of service contracts in Magento 2.0 is the first step towards this isolation.    

Here’s how they see their desired microservice-based architecture diagram for e commerce website:

microservice-based architecture diagram for e commerce website
Source:  GitHub

While microservice-based ecommerce architecture seems to be a perfect choice for enterprises, it’s not the best option for startups due to the maintenance complexity. Look at the pros and cons factors. 

Pros of microservice architectureCons of microservice architecture
— Fault isolation (the error of one module won’t affect the whole system)

— Flexibility when it comes to choosing the new technologies (avoiding vendor lock-in)

— Fast deployment due to smaller scope and codebases 

— Easy scalability of any component without affecting others

— Option to debug locally 
— Complex server communication

— More resources are needed for data management 

— Reduced automatic testing option

— More logs to go through when debugging 

Let’s say you decide to improve your ecommerce architecture. Is there anything you can do besides contacting an experienced solution architect that would deal with the technical stuff? Actually, a lot. Here are a few Elogic tips on how to boost your website today!

Ecommerce Architecture Tips to Boost your Website

Architecture might be about the hardcore tech thing, but also about the content and its structure on the website. Here are six DIY tactics we recommend. 

Map and Incorporate Your Target Keywords

The content of your platform draws the attention of your clients but also — of search engines (SEs). The latter shows your page in search results when someone is looking for the product you sell. This is why it’s important that you help the SEs discover, index, and rank your e-commerce website fast. Keywords do this job, so defining, grouping, and distributing them across the website is the first step to take.

Best practices:

  • Create a spreadsheet with columns to represent the website pages 
  • Map keywords to relevant pages, URLs, titles, headings, and content (up to 2 KW for each)
  • Optimize HTML elements, content, and links with the relevant keywords. Make sure they are to the point and organically fit.  

Take Advantage of Internal Linking

Internal linking is connecting two relevant pages/products/publication by hyperlinks. This technique allows you to improve the client’s experience and present more products related to the search without interrupting the buying process. It also has the following benefits:

  • It makes the site navigation easier
  • It encourages the users to stay on your website longer
  • It helps them discover more about your services/products 
  • It facilitates the SEs to index the site and determine whether it relates to the query that one just typed in the search bar.

Schematically, internal linking looks like this:

Internal linking

Using the links and labeling them correctly can boost the performance of the website online and include more keywords to get the attention of the SEs. But don’t abuse it to not end up as a spammy website. 

Work on Intuitive Website Navigation

If the customer can’t find a button or menu he/she needs, it increases the chance of their closing the tap without returning ever again. It won’t happen if you create intuitive site navigation. How to do it?

Add sidebar, footer, main navigation menu, breadcrumbs, and “to the top/down” buttons to ease the search of the product/category/action. Navigation keywords are similar across the apparel stores, so to be ranked higher and shown to a particular target audience, you need to use branded keywords. Here’s how it looks in Carbon38 case:

Carbon38 web navigation

Optimize Your Product & Category Pages

Product and Category pages are the core of any ecommerce architecture design. The client should have zero issues with looking for a thing they need, especially if the product they’re looking for has plenty of variables such as size, brand, price, etc. For example, here’s how Amsale product and category pages are structured. 

Amsale product & category pages

You can see how we organized the categories and made it up to the customers to sort and filter what they’re looking for. Yet, they always have the navigation bar to explore other options.

Use Breadcrumbs

From general to more specific — this is the logic of navigation links known as breadcrumbs. Labeling them correctly will help your readers to know where they are on the site, jump back and forth between the categories, and help the SEs understand what’s located on the pages. This is what Elogic offered Benum, an international distributor of audio equipment. 

Benum bredcrumb navigation

When reviewing a product, the client has the whole row of categories and subcategories that led to this product. Should they need cords to the microphone or compare it to another model, they won’t need to return to the home page and do the search again — they can do it in one click. 

Dive Into Product Image Optimization

And it’s not only the name of the product — it also involves the right size and alternative text if the website is used by people with limited vision/hearing abilities. The basic rule is to keep image naming as close to the potential search query as possible. In our recent article, you can find more advanced image optimization tips

Wrapping Up

Planning an efficient eCommerce website architecture that enables the best performance of the platform is vital to providing the best value to your customers. It will also increase the website’s visibility for the search engines that process the search queries, as well as get you higher rankings in search results.

Elogic solution architects are here to choose the most appropriate type of eCommerce architecture based on your business model, budget, and future strategy.

Build the website that performs and converts now.

Delegate ecommerce website architecture to professionals at Elogic

Hire a solution architect now

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