The internet has really changed the way in which a lot of things are being done. With ecommerce, buying and selling goods has never been much easier. You have probably been thinking of starting one of your own but don’t know where to start. Well, the good news is that it doesn’t take much to create an ecommerce site. In this tutorial, we will go through the entire process of setting up a WordPress site from the start to the end. The steps will be accompanied with screenshots as we create an online store together. So grab a front seat and enjoy the tutorial.
Organizing the Website
For an ecommerce website to be successful, it needs to be easy to use. The users of our site will be very task-oriented. They need to find whaever they need to buy quickly and easily. Regardless of whether the customer knows what they are looking for or not, you need to make it easy for them to find products on your store. If a potential customer does not find what they are looking for, they might as well move on to the next site losing you an important sale. Some of the things you can do in order to make it easy to use for the customer include: integrate search features on the site. this is a great way of enabling the user to find what they are looking for easily. So long as the customer has an idea of what they are looking for, having a search feature helps them reach it much more quickly and provide them with a great user experience when shopping on your site. There are a lot of search plugins for WordPress out there and we will be making use of one in our store.
Products and product categories also need to be clear and unambiguous so as not to confuse the customer. Do not leave the customer guessing what they will find in the product.
In case you have a large number of products in your top-most category, you can always make use of sub-categories in order to stay organized. this helps you reduce the number of products in any single category. Also remember to name the categories and subcategories in an easy to understand naming system. Another thing to note about the store is that there are customer who may reach it via search engines. It is important to make use of keywords that are optimized for your site and get higher visibility. Search engines will be able to find and inded your products much easier so long as you optimize your product listing.
Enough with dos and don’ts. I know you can’t wait to get your hands dirty so let’s not waste any more time. First and foremost let us get on with our installation of WordPress. Head over to https://wordpress.org/download/ and grab the latest version of WordPress.
Once you have done this, extract the contents of the zipped file to the htdocs or www folder of your local web server such as xampp or wamp. Both of these can be obtained at this Apache site and Wamp server site respectively.
Installing your web server on your local machine enables you to make changes and see them immediately without having to make use of a web server. This is very handy when you just want to experiment and see how it goes before making your ecommerce site live. You also get to enjoy the freedom of making mistakes no one else apart from you will notice which makes for a great learning opportunity.
Once you have installed your web server, make sure that you extract the files to your local host. For wamp server, this is usually the c:\wamp\www folder while for xampp it is the xampp\htdocs folder. It is also a good idea to rename the WordPress folder into something that is easy to remember for situations when you have more than once WordPress project running on your local host at the same time.
With that out of the way, it is now time to get the installation of WordPress done away with. This is done by following the following steps.
Open your favorite browser and navigate to localhost or 127.0.0.1 which is where the server is located. Once you are there, you will see your WordPress project listed under projects with the name that you had given to it earlier.
Click on the project name and a prompt will appear asking you to create a configuration file. Start the process of creating the configuration with a database already in place for your WordPress site. Creating the database can be done easily in PhpMyAdmin. You also need to set a username and password for your database.
By default, the username is root while the password is blank but it is always a good idea to change this for something else. The password needs to be a very strong one as you will be using this ecommerce site in a world where malicious hackers are always on the lookout for poorly configured sites to attack.
Once you are done creating the configuration file (hoping you did not have any error), it is time to do the WordPress installation. In case you run into any errors, just do a quick Google search and you will definitely find a quick fix. Some of the most common errors may include forbidden access which can be fixed by allowing access on the php configuration file. Supposing you have fixed the errors, you can always start the process again and be done in no time. When you are settling a name for the database, it is important to change it into something else since by default it is WordPress. It is also good manners to change the default database prefix for various security reasons we have looked at elsewhere.
With that done, you now have a working installation of WordPress. You will be presented with a login page which takes you to the admin console. Here is where all the magic take place. At the consol, you can also do all the backend tasks for your ecommerce site in a very simple and intuitive manner.
For instance, you can change the product listing for your site, change the look of your site and add a number of functionalities using addons. there is a lot of work to be done before you can get your ecommerce site up and running so get a cup of coffee (or something 🙂 ) and let us get started.
Before we can change the theme of the site, it is important to note that there are a number of different WordPress themes that have already been pre-configured for ecommerce. Some of the themes are free while others need a license to be purchased before you can get started. The paid themes have a number of advantages over the free ones. However, for the purpose of this tutorial, we will make use of a free theme that anyone can download and play around with. However, if you are looking to go into ecommerce full time, it is important to invest in a professional theme or get a custom one designed for you. This has a ton of advantages for your brand establishment and also gives your customers a good impression of your business. Regardless of the theme you choose to use in your ecommerce site, there are a number of things that should be taken into consideration.
For one, does the theme allow you to highlight some products and make them stand out in your shop? This can be very handy for featured products, promotions, and special discount offers. Having a featured product not only helps to increase sales but also attracts the attention of the customer to things such as special promotions and discounts that they may not have noticed otherwise. It also gives a good look to your site hence improving the customer experience.
The other thing that you need to look for when getting an ecommerce theme is the ability to add products easily. There are themes that allow you to specify an image for a product as well as highlight a discount or special offer. there are also some themes that are bundled together with ecommerce plugins hence making your work much easier. When it comes to ecommerce, these are the themes that you should go for as a first resort since you will have less work to do in terms of setting up your shop and so on.
Payment processing is usually a headache when you are establishing an ecommerce site. You have to think of how you will charge the customers credit cards, give them invoices and so on. There is a lot that has to be taken into consideration when processing payments such as declined cards so it is always wise to make use of a payment processor.
Also known as a gateway, the payment processor handles all the payments for you at a certain fee and you are freed from all the headache that comes with processing payments. A payment gateway also enables you to offer more payment options to the customers and make the checkout process much smoother . There are a lot of payment gateways out there and your choice will usually depend on the customer you are looking to serve and their preferred methods of payment.
At times, you may be required to have a plug-in separate from the theme for easier management. In this case, you will be doing most of the backend work on the plugin. This include inventory management, order processing, and so on. For instance, Cart66 is a very good plugin for doing all your ecommerce stuff on WordPress. You have a lot of options to choose from in addition to a ton of features. This plugin comes in two versions, the free version and the professional version. The professional version has a number features that are not available in the free version though you can still make use of the free version for experimental purposes. Adding a product with this plugin is very simple from the backend and it is even easier to add products to the store pages. This plugins makes use of a short codes to add a new products to a page making it easier to add a product to any page of your site. You can also embed a products into a blog post on your page promoting the product.
When selling digital products, ensure that you are selling your products and not ‘pirated goods’ since it may land you into trouble. For physical products, you also have to think of other logistics such as shipping to the customer. This may incur the customer additional fees which have to be factored into the final cost of the purchase. Delivering the goods to the customer is something else outside the scope of this tutorial but with some research, you can establish a way of getting the goods to your customers in no time.
Building the structure of the site
With the backend in place, it is now time to make the storefront beautiful and organized. This is where al your artistic and design skills come in handy. There is a lot of considerations when you are designing the storefront such as the responsiveness of the site and the kind of products you are selling. There are some themes that are better when used for physical products while others are great for digital products. The color scheme you settle for needs to be consistent throughout the site and so should your brand. With most themes, you have the option to change the look of the site by uploading your own logo, favicon and so on. Take this opportunity to enchance the look of your site and make it your own.
Having a main page where to feature your main products is always a must have if you are to convert curious passersby into paying customers. Your site also needs to be very simple to navigate and checkout. When it comes to checking out, making it such that the payment process is as painless as possible. this is possible by integrating payment methods such as PayPal where the user simply logs into their PayPal and completes the payment using their PayPal balance or credit cards.
Categories are very important when you are selling a huge number of products on your site. It makes it easier to organize the products and find items easily. The organizations should be in a logical and intuitive manner that makes finding products a breeze for the customer.
When you are listing your products on the backend, it is important that you include as many details about the product as possible in order ro provide the customer with enough information about what you are selling to them. Product descriptions can mean the difference between a huge number of sales or no sales at all. You can also use catchy and attractive words in the product description so as to sweeten the dead so to speak. However, do not include false or misleading information about the item you are describing since the users will not like the experience. Imagine a situation when a customer buys a shoe from your site and in the description you say it is a flying shoe while it is not. The customer will be very disappointed with the purchase and you will have to go through inconvenience of a return, refund and an angry customer.
Image screenshots are also important to have on the product details page. Make the shopping experience fun for the customer with high quality images of the product from different angles. The user will definitely love what they see and as a picture says a thousand words, you will make the sale much more easily.
Here are a few videos showing you some of the features and functions of Cart66.
Creating an ecommerce site is not always a difficult task. As long as you are willing to experiment around with several different options and get your hands dirty, you will be up and running in no time at all. Remember to make the shopping experience fun for the customer and this is only possible with an intuitive user interface. Investing in a professional theme goes a long way in ensuring a smooth shopping experience for the customers and your brand is clearly established in the minds of your customers. Do not be afraid of running into errors as it is all a part of the process and sooner or later, you will have your dream ecommerce site complete and ready to go.
Also if you’re looking for a WordPress hosting provider for your ecommerce site, you might wanna read The 3 Best and Affordable WordPress Hosting For Your Site.