There are so many guides out there that kind of tell you how to start an online store.
But I find there’s a lot of fluff and can often leave people more confused than when they started.
So my goal is to create the definitive guide to creating an online store.
Better yet, the way I’m going to show you today will only cost you the price of hosting, no expensive solutions, no paid themes.
My goal is to show you the most cost-effective way to build your online store in a single afternoon.
Get Domain and Hosting
The Domain name and Hosting are essential if you want to create a website.
The Domain name is what your customers will type in their browsers, for example, my domain name is okryan.blog.
The host is a computer that stores your website’s data and makes it accessible to the internet.
There are two things you need to consider when choosing your domain name, the name and the TLD.
When choosing your domain name, you need to pick something that is easy to remember and simple.
I would personally try to avoid using numbers because often people might get confused whether they should be typing “1” or “one” in their browser. If you want to use a number in your domain name, I would suggest you buy both domain names are redirect the domain you don’t want to the domain you do want to use. What that means if someone types in the incorrect domain name, they get redirected to your website.
The TLD is the suffix of the domain, for example, .com, .com.au, .co.uk or in my case .blog.
The .com TLD is the most popular and is generally what people most think of when typing in a domain, however, because of its popularity you’ll find it really hard to find your ideal domain name.
If you live in a country other than the US and plan on selling exclusively to your country, it would be a good idea to get the TLD that is specific to your country, for example, in Australia, we have the .com.au TLD but in order to purchase one, you have to have an Australian Business Number. Because of these restrictions, it’s much harder to buy the domain which means there are much more options if you want that perfect domain name.
There are a couple of things that you need to consider when it comes to hosting for your online store.
Let’s Encrypt is a free SSL certificate, an SSL certificate is important if you want to have an online store, if you have an online store without one, most browsers will stop people from viewing the website.
This is because, without one, your customer’s data is exposed to hackers, which means if you plan on processing any credits cards, an SSL certificate is a must!
Not all hosts offer Lets Encrypt, so before choosing a host, make sure check, otherwise, most hosting companies will offer paid SSL certificates.
WordPress one click install
This is a standard these days for hosting companies, if they don’t offer this, it could be tricky installing WordPress as you’ll have to do it manually.
Not all hosting companies Cpanels are created equal, some companies offer really user-friendly Cpanel which if it’s your first website, this is a must.
The Cpanel is the backend of the host which lets you install WordPress and make changes and additions to the content.
My recommendation for hosting
I personally recommend Bluehost, it’s one of the best value hosting companies that offers everything you need to get your online store up and running.
I have some exclusive bonus training videos and tutorials for anyone who purchases from Bluehost through my affiliate link, that will show you step by step how to take your store to the next level, which you can find at okryan.blog/hosting.
Now that we’ve purchased our hosting and domain, it’s time to activate your SSL certificate.
If you’ve purchased your hosting and domain through Bluehost, you can set this up by:
- Logging into your Bluehost Cpanel.
- Click the Addons tab
- Locate SSL Certificates and then click on the learn more button
- Click Get Started under the WordPress free SSL
WordPress is a content management system (cms), a cms is the skeleton of our website which presents all our data and prevents us from having to code the website from scratch.
WordPress is by far the most popular content management system and is used by some of the worlds biggest brands.
One of the best things about WordPress is that you can increase its functionality by adding plugins, one of the plugins we will be installing is called Woocommerce that allows us to add a shopping cart to your website.
To install WordPress on our Bluehost server:
- Log into your Bluehost Cpanel
- Locate the Website section and click Install WordPress
- Click Install
- Choose the domain you want to install WordPress on and leave the subfolder blank.
- Make sure the email is the main email you use and change the login username and passwords, these will be the username and passwords that are used to login to your website
- Click Install now
A quick note on username and password, there are bots out there that will try to break into peoples websites by using the most common logins such as “admin” and “password”, so please for the love of god do not use admin as your username and password as your password or else you will get hacked.
Once you’ve created your website, you can now access the back end of WordPress site by going to your domain name and adding /wp-admin.
For example, my website is okryan.blog so when I log in I head to okryan.blog/wp-admin and enter my username and password.
Once you’ve logged in, you’ll be taken to the WordPress dashboard where you can make changes to your website.
The left-hand side of the Dashboard is where you’ll find all your options to add pages, features and change settings.
One of the most important things to do in your Dashboard is to keep WordPress, plugins and themes updated if you don’t regularly update your website, this could compromise the security of your website. To update your WordPress site, hover over the Dashboard tab and click Updates, WordPress will then show you anything that needs to be updated.
There are two plugins that we need to build this website, Homepage Control and Woocommerce.
Homepage Control gives us a little more customisation options for our Homepage and Woocommerce gives us the e-commerce functionality.
To install these plugins head to.
- WordPress Dashboard by adding /wp-admin to your URL.
- Hover over Plugins on the left-hand sidebar and click Add New
- Search for Homepage Control in the search bar, the plugin we want is by WooThemes.
- Click Install Now and wait for it to download, then click Activate.
- Now hover over Plugins again and Click Add New
- Search for Woocommerce in the search bar
- The Woocommerce plugin should appear, it’s by Automattic.
- Click Install Now, wait for it to download then click Activate
You should now be taken to a startup wizard that will guide you through the steps required to get started selling online.
The locations page is where you put your address, the currency you will be accepting and the type of products you will be selling.
To accept payments on your website, you’ll need a third party payment processor, the most common one is Paypal, however, Stripe is also becoming extremely popular, both of those are free and easy to join.
I tend to uncheck the processers I won’t be used to prevent unnecessary plugins being installed on my website.
Depending on the country to operate from, you will also be presented with different payment options available exclusively to your country, you can find out more information here.
You can set the amount you want to charge for shipping within your country and what you want to charge people who want products shipping outside your region if you’re only shipping to your country you can uncheck this box.
There are much more advanced shipping options we can choose within Woocommerce but this gets the basics set up.
You can also select what dimensions your products will be in, it will generally set the correct system relative to the country you live in.
You’ll be presented with three options that are checked by default.
The Storefront theme is my personal recommendation for anyone who is starting their first online store.
A theme is what structures the appearance of your WordPress site and there are thousands of them out there, some free and some paid. I would recommend staying away from free themes, as I mentioned before, out of date themes can cause security issues and people who make free themes have no incentive to keep it updates, the only exception to that is Storefront because it is designed by the Woocommerce team.
Because it was built by the team the makes Woocommerce, it is built from the ground up to work perfectly.
Storefront is a free theme that has paid extras, however, the free version is more than enough to get you started and as you become more profitable you can reinvest the profits into additional plugins to increase its features.
Compared with other popular themes such as Divi, Storefront is much more restrictive, which is why I think it’s perfect for beginners. One of the issues I have with highly customisable themes such as Divi is that most beginners don’t know the elements of good web design, so for every amazing Divi website I’ve seen, I’ve also seen some awful ones. However, because of how rigged Storefront is, it’s really hard to make it look bad, while you may not get the store you imagine, I recommend starting off with Storefront, to begin with, then reinvest your profits into a web designer who can create your perfect store for you.
This is going to be tough for a lot of beginners to hear because you’re constantly bombarded with ads telling you that you can make a beautiful website that looks exactly how you want it with one of these highly customisable themes, but odds are it’s not going to happen, which is exactly why I recommend Storefront for beginners.
I haven’t found this to be much use if you’re outside of the US so I would recommend uninstalling it.
Mailchimp is a great option for your first email autoresponder, it’s free, to begin with, and this plugin will give people the option to opt into your mailing when they check out which means you can help build a relationship with your customers. If you use a different autoresponder, uncheck this box.
This one is up to you, Jetpack can be helpful but completely optional.
If you don’t want Jetpack scroll down and click Skip this step.
You can always add this later.
This is the final page of the startup wizard, you can subscribe to the Woocommerce list if you want, otherwise, click the Visit Dashboard button.
We’re going to add two pages but not add any content just yet.
To do this head to
- Head to your WordPress Dashboard
- Hover over the Pages tab and the left-hand side and click Add New
- The first page is the homepage, the way Storefront works are that it uses the page title on your homepage so name this page either the name of your store or something like “Welcome” and click Publish
- Now we want to add a blog page, this is where all our posts and updates will be added
- Hover over the Pages tab and click Add New
- Name this page Blog and click Publish
There are three types of menus available to you which are Primary, Secondary and Handled
To change your menus head to:
- Hover over Appearance and click Menus
- Click Create new menu and give your menu a name such as Primary the click Create Menu
- Under the pages tab Select your homepage, Shop and Blog and then click Add to Menu
- Click the drop-down on your homepage tab and change the Navigation label to Home
- Scroll down to the Menu settings tab and select Primary Menu
- Click Save Menu
- At the top of the Menu page, click Create a new menu
- Give your new menu a name such as Secondary
- Select the My Account checkbox then click Add to Menu
- In the Menu Settings select Secondary Menu
- Click Save Menu
- At the top of the Menu page, click Create a new menu
- Give your new menu a name such as Handheld
- Select your homepage, Shop, Blog, My Account and Cart checkbox then click Add to Menu
- Click the dropdown on your homepage and change the Navigation Label to Home
- In the Menu Settings select Handheld Menu
- Click Save Menu
There are a few default settings that come with WordPress that aren’t ideal so we are going to make a few changes.
In the WordPress Dashboard, hover over Settings and click General.
Here we can change the timezone and the way the date is structured, if you’re in the US the default settings are fine, however, for us in other parts of the world who structure our dates differently, here is where we can change them.
This is where we set the homepage and blog page for your store.
In the WordPress Dashboard, hover over Settings and click Reading.
In Your homepage displays select A static page and in the Homepage drop down choose your homepage and in the Blog drop down choose your blog page and click Save Changes
Permalinks dictate each pages url suffix, to change these head to your WordPress Dashboard, hover over Settings and click Permalinks.
In the Common Settings tab select Post name and click Save Changes.
The Homepage for Storefront works a little bit differently than other themes.
When you add content to your homepage, all your content will be held within the featured image, this is often referred to as the homepage banner and everything underneath the featured image is set by the theme.
To customise the homepage head your WordPress Dashboard and hover over the Pages tab and click All Pages.
Click the find your homepage and click Edit, this will take you to the page editor for your homepage.
In the right-hand sidebar, you’ll see a tab the says Featured Image, this is where you can upload your homepage banner image, in the same sidebar, find the tab that’s called Page Attributes and click the Template drop down and select Homepage.
Now you can add content and buttons that will be added within the homepage banner.
Then click Update.
Now we can customise the elements of your website.
In your WordPress Dashboard, hover over Appearance and click Customize.
This will take you to your homepage with a customisation sidebar.
When you’ve made changes, don’t forget to hit Publish to save your changes.
I’m just going to summarise some of the main tabs you need to adjust.
This is where you can upload your websites logo if you want it to be displayed in your menu or if you want to edit the text in your menu.
You can also upload a site icon which will be viewed in bookmarks and on the top of your browser app.
This is where you can adjust your header menu options such as background images, colours etc.
Here you can edit the text colours and the accent colour.
Depending if your featured image is light or dark will affect which Hero heading colour and Hero text colour you should choose to complement.
In this tab, we can change the colour of the buttons of the website.
This tab is made available by the Homepage Control plugin we installed earlier.
This is where we can adjust what shop sections will be viewed on your homepage and which order they will be seen.
If you can’t see this tab, that means you haven’t installed or activated the plugin.
Now we’re going to fine tune the Woocommerce settings and set up the payment gateways so we can begin to accept transactions on your website.
To begin head to your WordPress Dashboard, hover over Woocommerce and click Settings.
I’m going to run through a couple of the essential tab before we get started.
Unfortunately, the base version of Woocommerce has a very complicated shipping section, there are paid plugins that you could look at down the line to streamline things, but it could take an entire guide dedicated to the shipping section to get it down pat.
For now, we’re going to keep it simple and set one flat rate for each product and offer free local pickup and free shipping when you spend over a certain amount.
There should already be a shipping zone that is set up for your country, click Edit.
Flat rate should be there from the startup wizard, you can click Edit if you want to change your flat rate you want to charge for shipping, if not click Add shipping method and select Flat rate and click Add shipping method.
From the drop-down, you can select three options
Flat rate is just a fixed rate that you charge everyone for shipping.
Free shipping is a fantastic way to get people to buy more, you can create rules that offer free shipping when you spend over a certain amount, once you add the free shipping method to your shipping zone.
Select A minimum order amount from the drop-down and enter a number below that you want the minimum spend to be to qualify for free shipping.
Once you’ve added a local pickup to your shipping zone, click edit and you can add a fee for the service if you like, however, most people offer free local pickup.
Here we want to set up the payments for your website.
Most people I’ve talked to use Paypal, so I’ll show you how to set up Paypal, Woocommerce has plenty of other docs showing other payment gateways if you don’t use Paypal.
In your Woocommerce settings, click the Payments tab and click Set up in the Paypal section.
Check the Enable/Disable box and enter in your PayPal email.
You the invoice prefix, I tend to change it to INV which is often used as a shorthand for invoice.
You’ll need to enter your Paypal API credentials if you want to process refunds from your store, otherwise, refunds will have to be processed in Paypal. To set this up:
- Login to your Paypal account
- Click Profile and settings
- Click My selling tools
- In Selling online section, click Update for API Access
- In the NVP/SOAP API Integration click Request API Credentials
- You may be asked to confirm request with a confirmation code that’s sent to the phone number on the account.
- Copy and paste the API Credentials in the relevant space
- Click Save Changes
We need to create product categories so we can simplify how people find our products on our website.
To do this, head to the WordPress Dashboard and hover over Products and click Categories.
Give each category you want to make a name and add a thumbnail, the thumbnail will be used as the categories picture on the homepage and click Add new category.
Now we can begin adding products to the store, I know people like to do this as soon as they can but everything we’ve done till this point has laid the foundations to set this whole process up to be easier.
To add products to your store, head to your Woocommerce Dashboard and hover over Products and click Add New.
This will take you to a page where you can add products to your store.
The top input bar is where you can add your products name, below that in the bigger box is where you can add a description that will appear at the bottom of the product page.
On the right-hand side, you can select which product categories this product will be in, these categories were created in the previous step. Underneath you will see the Product image which will be the main image used on your website for your product.
This is where we can set prices and other relevant data specific to your store.
The General tab is where we set the price of the product and if we want to start a sale on that product.
I recommend you check the Manage stock box so you can regulate stock levels.
Here we can set the weight and dimensions of the products, with the base version of Woocommerce, this doesn’t affect your shipping rates but will use this data on the product page.
Once everything is set, click Publish.
You’ve now created your online store, my biggest recommendation is not to treat it as a set it and forget it thing. This is an active site and will take maintenance and work to keep making sales.
There is so much more I want to talk about and show you but would is too much for one single blog post.
I’ve created exclusive free training and tutorials for anyone who purchases their hosting through my affiliate link that is designed to show you how to take your store to the next level, some of the things I include are:
- Installing Facebook pixel and setting up retargeting ads.
- Fine-tuning your shipping fees so you can create shipping rules for different products.
- Creating variable products for things such as shirts or products you sell multiple variations of.
- Creating coupon codes
If this is something you’re interested in, head to okryan.blog/hosting to find out how to claim this offer.