I am designing a site that has two, distinct user types: buyers and vendors from a specific industry.

A buyer will log on and make a note of what service they want. Then, a potential vendor will respond if they wish to try and fill the buyer's needs.

The key difference between account types is that a buyer account is free and a seller account is not.

Generally speaking, what is the best way to handle this in 2013? I did a similar site almost 10 year ago (one of my first non-static sites) and it was very cut and dry - vendors logged on/registered in one spot and customers in another.

One approach I had was to create a short generic registration form with two options to choose from: "I am a seller" or "I am a buyer". Based on this, the user would get a separate profile page to fill out and sellers will be routed to a cc form.

I am leaning towards this approach. The idea being anyone can be a buyer but only paid and confirmed users can be sellers. Their account dashboards would reflect their status.

Does this seem the best approach?

There is the universal user approach like amazon - "my seller account", but this site is not as complex (obviously) and the user roles are much more concrete. That is to say, most of the users - especially the sellers - will generally be businesses with distinct buyer or seller relationships. Furthermore, seller accounts are set to be pay up front - at least for now.


2 Answers 2


Make it simple, yet intuitive

I try to break apart the users from their roles on a website. This way they create one account specific to them, then they can go through and buy upgrades and add multiple accounts if necessary.

Users should have appropriate access.

People logging into the site to shop should have access to:

  1. their purchase history
  2. their billing information
  3. any public profile that may appear (if they participate in ratings on the site)

People logging into their seller account should have access to:

  1. items they're selling
  2. sales history
  3. potential sales statistics
  4. information from their past purchasers necessary for completing the transaction (unless otherwise stated)
  5. Business specific information

Things to keep in mind

  1. Because a person is a single entity, they have a name, a main home address, at least one phone number that may or may not be specific to them. (If they list their home phone it may also be used by their spouse.) This whole set of information is usually unique to them. If you can prevent them from creating a separate account it will make things easier if when you're dealing with with user sessions and things like cookies.
  2. They may have multiple businesses and multiple business addresses. Both could potentially show under the same login, however if they log out they should have the option of keeping the accounts separate (some people work this way).
  3. They may want to keep two separate buying profiles for personal reasons or because they own multiple businesses (eg. Sometimes I shop for work on Amazon with a work credit card, sometimes I buy stuff with my personal accounts.)
  4. They may want to provide someone else access to their account for making purchases (if it's Business-to-Business).
  5. They may want to provide someone with access to their seller account (with lower privileges) if they have a clerk that does something for them, or if they need to allow access to their accountant.

From a modern standpoint

The biggest thing to modern websites is understanding the user as an individual and their habits. If a user is happy they'll return. If a user has a bad experience they'll go somewhere else (if they can) or they'll wait until the somewhere else exists. Try to make the website as user friendly as possible. Let them create a login for themselves. Then provide them with the access levels they need to use the site as they see fit. You should be able to track this user data and see if there are any things that you can do in terms of interface changes to speed customer interactions with the site along or make every interaction with the site a positive as possible. If you see people logging in and out repeatedly or having to jump through hurdles in your statics then they're probably not having a good experience.

Remember that all users are different.

  • Upvote dispensed, sir. Your answer be greater then mine.
    – user23463
    Commented May 13, 2013 at 23:23
  • Thanks, this is good advice. I have been thinking about a container (business) account with sub accounts (individuals). For the sellers. The people using the site will be in an official "buyer" capacity at one firm and in a sales role at the other. Dashboards will be important.
    – picus
    Commented May 14, 2013 at 13:54


I would do that exact thing, with two nice big buttons, one saying

I sell stuff!

And another saying

I want stuff!

The other option would be to, instead I making those buttons links, use some jQuery magic and make the page 'expand' to show either the CC form or the buyer form.

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