If you want to build an online eCommerce store with the bare minimum of hassle, Shopify is the platform for you. It’s incredibly easy to use, yet produces attractive sites that look very professional.
Shopify is a commercial eCommerce solution, so there is a monthly fee to pay, but plans start at the very competitive price of just $29 per month. When you take into account that this price includes hosting and a professional looking site theme, it’s really not a lot to pay for an eCommerce solution. Also, thanks to a completely free 14-day demo, you can thoroughly test out Shopify and make sure it’s right for you before committing to any expense.
If you want just a quick guide to signing up to Shopify, you can switch to this article here. Otherwise, read on for a detailed guide to setting up your own Shopify store.
Why use Shopify?
Before we get started with our step-by-step tutorial, let’s discuss a few of the reasons why you should choose Shopify for your online business:
- The solution includes everything you need. If you just want to get your store up and running, without learning about Web hosting, security and other technicalities, Shopify is the ideal choice – it’s a truly “all in one” solution.
- It costs nothing to get started. Shopify includes a no-risk 14-day trial, so you can check it meets your requirements before handing over any money at all.
- Shopify is very intuitive and easy to use. You won’t need to thumb through thick manuals or consult Web forums to understand Shopify – it’s been built for ease of use. You certainly don’t need to budget to employ a Web design company! Provided you’ve got photos and product descriptions to hand, you can do everything yourself in half a day, with no previous experience of Web design.
- Shopify includes a wide range of attractive site designs. All the themes (templates) for Shopify sites are well-designed and professional looking. Some are free and some cost a little money, but none appear amateurish.
- There are plenty of add-ons available. There are over 250 additional plugins available for Shopify, covering everything from email marketing to payment processing and social media integration.
- 24/7 support. Even on the inexpensive “starter” pricing plan, you get access to Shopify’s customer support service. You can reach them at any time of the day via phone, email or chat.
How we will help you
The Make a Website team consists of a number of successful Web designers and Internet entrepreneurs. We think Shopify is a great choice for those who need a quality online store but have no desire to become Web experts.
This article will take you through everything you need to start trading via Shopify, from signing up to the service to uploading your first products and thinking about how to take payments.
For the purposes of the tutorial, we will be creating a site for a fictional record store. Obviously there’s no need for you to follow our instructions to the letter and set up a pretend record store of your own! In fact, we’d suggest you instead upload your own products as you follow the tutorial.
What You’ll Need
Here’s a list of the basics you need to get started on your Shopify site:
- A credit card or alternative payment method to pay for your subscription (you don’t need this immediately as you can use the trial for the first two weeks)
- A Web browser of your choice (we prefer Google Chrome or Firefox)
- Uninterrupted time to work on your site and upload your products
- Photographs and descriptions of all the products you want to sell
- Bank and business details to set up accounts with payment providers
With all that in mind – let’s get started!
The first thing you need to do is create an account with Shopify. Simply follow the instructions below:
1. Go to the Shopify website using this link. The link will open in a new window so you can continue to follow these instructions.
2. On the screen that appears (shown below), enter a name for your Shopify store, your email address, and your chosen password. Then click the green “Try Shopify Free” button. As the website states, you can change the store name later if you wish.
3. On the next page that appears, you are asked to provide some more in-depth information. You will notice you can also set up Shopify for use with a physical shop environment by ticking the second box. Enter all the requested details, and then click “I’m done.”
4. You will then be taken to the main Shopify dashboard with Shopify’s default store template loaded. You will also notice that the dashboard shows how long you have remaining on your free demo.
Obviously you’ve yet to upload any products, but if you want to take a look at your site. just click on the name of your site in the top-left and then click “View your website.” The live site will open in a new browser tab:
5. Back at the Dashboard, click the “Select a Plan” button. This will show you all of Shopify’s subscription options, and what they include and entail. The basic plan at $29 per month is generous and includes all you will need to start most shops.
You can sign up for a subscription immediately if you wish, but you may prefer to make use of the demo and sign up once you’re satisfied with your store.
You’ve already seen the basic store template, so let’s start by giving your shop a bit more of a personalised look and feel.
1. From the dashboard page, click on “Edit Theme” button:
2. On the page that appears (shown below), you will see that you can change numerous aspects of the template design. You can change the colours of various elements, upload your own logo and change the fonts. If you click into the menu items towards the bottom of the page, you can gain even more control of how each page of your site looks.
3. You may find that the options above are sufficient to make the store your own, but if not you have plenty of other themes to choose from. Return to the dashboard, and click on the link to “Visit the theme store.”
4. You will notice that the theme store offers both free and paid themes (you can switch between these options using the links on the left).
5. For the purposes of this tutorial, we are going to choose the “Solo” theme, which is one of Shopify’s free options. Simply click on the theme you like and click “Get Theme,” then, to switch immediately to the new theme, click “Publish as my shop’s theme.”
6. Once the theme is active, you can flick back to the theme settings and tweak details as you wish. In our case, we’ve uploaded a rudimentary custom logo and changed the site’s background colour. We’ve also selected the option to make our front page a product page (found under the “homepage” options). You are, of course, free to play around with settings until your site looks just right. Once you are done, click the “Save” button in the top-right.
5. To see how your store looks, click the name of your site in the top-left of the dashboard and then click “view your website.” Our changes are shown in the screenshot below, but by now your site probably looks very different to ours. The site will obviously look rather bare at this point as we’ve yet to upload any products. That’s what we will do next.
Uploading your products
Now we’ve got the bare bones of a store ready, it’s time to begin uploading some products to sell.
1. From the dashboard, click on “Products” and then “Add a Product.”
2. The next screen that appears is quite detailed (and there’s a lot more of it than is shown in the below screenshot!) Thankfully, most of the options are quite self-explanatory. As a minimum, you should fill in the product title, type and description fields, and of course a price. You should also upload at least one image. If you wish, you can use Shopify to hold details of your inventory too, although we won’t cover that in this tutorial.
3. We’ve gone ahead and added our first product, and you should do the same. As well as adding key details, we have also clicked the “Add to collections” option, and added our product to the “front page” collection so it appears on our home page. Once you’re done, click the blue “Save” button in the top-right. If the product fails to save, scroll to the top and Shopify will tell you if you have missed any essential fields. There will be a brief pause after saving your product while the image file(s) uploads.
4. In the screenshot below, we’ve flicked back to our live site. As you can see, our demo product now shows on the home page.
5. You now have the (probably rather long) job of uploading all the other products you wish to sell. We have created one more for the purposes of the demo, but the chances are you with have considerably more work to do! The screenshot below shows the product page for our second demo product.
Preparing for Launch
All being well, you now have a store design you like and have uploaded all the products you need to sell. There are a few more things to think about before you can unleash the store to the public.
There’s quite a lot to do here, but it’s all relatively simple – just take it slow.
1. From the dashboard, go to “Settings.” On the first page that appears (General) ensure that all the details of your store are correct. Some of these you provided when you signed up. Also on this page, you can enter meta data that will determine how your store appears to search engines.
2. Still in the “Settings” menu, select the “Checkout” link on the left. Here you can configure your settings for taking customer payments. By default, Shopify stores are configured to take PayPal payments. By clicking the “Settings” button shown below, you can configure a range of PayPal options, including the PayPal account linked to your Shopify store.
There’s nothing to say you must stick with PayPal as your method of taking payments. You will see that there are dozens more payment method options, and we advise that you review them and choose one that best suits your needs.
3. Scroll further down the page to the section marked “Refund, Privacy and TOS Statements.” Here you can enter your terms of business, refund policies and suchlike, and generate sample text for these areas if you wish.
4. Again, from the “Settings” menu, click “domains.” By default, your store will work from a subdomain of Shopify, but it’s best to choose a domain name of your own if your store is to look professional. If you already have a domain, you can point it to your store (Shopify will provide instructions), or you can purchase a new domain directly from Shopify.
5. If you flick back to your live site, you will notice that there’s still some dummy Welcome and Blog text on the homepage. You will want to amend this before you promote the site. From the dashboard, you need simply go to the “Blog posts” and “Pages” links to access the content of these areas and edit them. While you’re there, you should also customise the content of the “About us” page.
6. Go back to the dashboard and click on “Settings” then “Shipping.” Here you can select what countries you can ship to and control the related costs.
7. Finally, go back to the dashboard and click “Select a Plan.” Choose the Shopify plan that’s most suited to you, taking into account the transaction fees in relation to how much business you expect to achieve, and complete the payment process.
Congratulations! Essentially, your store is ready to go, and all you need to do is share your site’s new address.
Suggested Next Steps
Your store should now be live, but your work has just begun. Here are a few tips for the early days of running your store:
1. Respond quick to orders: Keep a constant eye out for orders, manage your stock levels carefully, and make sure you ship products in a timely fashion.
2. Use Shopify’s blog: Adding regular blog posts is a good way to increase your search engine performance, and it also gives people more reasons to visit your site.
3. Promote! You should make use of social media to promote your store as much as possible, and try to get some offline PR coverage too.
We wish you every success with your new Shopify store!
IMAGE CREDITS: Wikimedia Commons, Wikipedia