Not that long ago, setting up a professional online shop would have involved a rather expensive trip to your local Web design firm.
Thankfully, things have changed, and if you’re prepared to invest some time and effort it’s possible to do it all yourself – and it’s surprisingly easy, even if your computer skills are limited.
In this article, we are going to show you how to set up WooCommerce, a fantastic open-source eCommerce platform that runs on top of WordPress, the popular Web Content Management System (CMS).
If you want a quick introduction to the power of WooCommerce, we’d recommend watching the short video that you’ll find on the WooCommerce homepage.
However, here are a few of the (many) highlights of WooCommerce:
1. Simple setup: Listing your products on a WooCommerce site is really easy – in fact no more difficult than finding your way around a word processor.
2. Low cost: As we mentioned earlier, WooCommerce is an open-source platform. This means it’s completely FREE to use. You may wish to add some third-party extensions to increase functionality, but for many people, WooCommerce will prove completely adequate will no additional spend whatsoever.
3. Great order handling: WooCommerce helps you manage the “back end” of your eCommerce business as well as the Web-based shop-front. The interface makes it easy to manage the order process and monitor stock levels.
4. Superb promotional support: WooCommerce makes it really easy to provide offers to your customers with things like voucher codes, and even special offers for people who promote your store via social networks.
5. Easy payment processing: WooCommerce integrates with dozens of different payment platforms, making it easy for you to achieve the most important thing of all: taking revenue from your customers!
If you’ve not played with WooCommerce before, we think you’ll be truly amazed at the possibilities, especially when you consider the fact it’s an open source product. You can even upload products with different colour options and allow clients to flick between them. This is a platform that’s good enough for truly professional companies, and it’s estimated that an impressive 10% of eCommerce ventures are currently using it.
For the purposes of this article, we aim to take you through the following steps:
1. Registering a domain for your eCommerce business and arranging Web hosting.
2. Installing WordPress (the CMS that WooCommerce “sits on top of.”)
3. Installing a suitable “WooCommerce-ready” WordPress theme.
4. Installing the WooCommerce plugin.
Setting up your store is beyond the scope of this tutorial, you can find a more in-depth tutorial here.For now, we will concentrate on building the foundations for your eCommerce business.
Let’s get started.
Getting a domain and hosting
Before you can do anything, you need an address for your website (a domain), and a place to host your website (Web hosting service).
We have produced a very detailed step by step guide to registering your domain and setting up your hosting. You should visit the page now via this link. (The links will open in a new window or tab, so you can easily return to this guide at any time – see you shortly!)
The next thing you need to do is install WordPress on your new domain. Luckily, we have another step by step guide telling you exactly how to do that.
Once again, click the link to move forward to the guide. The guide will open in a new window, so you can return to here when you are done.
Choosing a Theme
To make WooCommerce work, you need to use a WooCommerce-ready shop theme for WordPress.
Obviously you will need to take some time to research suitable themes and find one that’s ideal for your individual business.
Here are a few places to begin your search for a suitable theme:
1. The WooThemes library: WooThemes (the organisation behind WooCommerce) offer a selection of themes of their own. Although WooThemes do offer some free themes, most of their WooCommerce-ready themes cost in the region of $99+.
2. ThemeForest: ThemeForest is one of the leading providers of themes for all kinds of content management platforms, and they sell numerous WooCommerce-ready WordPress themes.
A key benefit of ThemeForest themes is that they are cheaper than those offered by WooThemes, typically in the region of just $50.
Here are a couple of WooCommerce ready themes on ThemeForest that we would particularly recommend.
- Flatsome: This is a particularly well-designed, minimalist theme – particularly well-suited to fashion retail.
- MayaShop: This is a very elegant theme suited to all kinds of online shops.
3. WPThemes: WPThemes is one of our sister sites, where we review a wide range of WordPress themes. If you find one you like, the site links directly across to ThemeForest so you can make a purchase.
You will find a great roundup on eCommerce themes on WPThemes here.
Installing the Theme
Once you’ve chosen and (if relevant) paid for your theme, you will usually download it to your computer in the form of an archived ZIP file.
Uploading it to WordPress is very simple, just follow the guide below:
1. Log on to the dashboard for your WordPress site.
2. On the left of the dashboard, hover over “appearance” and click the “Themes” option:
3. You will now see a screen showing all the themes available to you, complete with previews:
4. As we’re using a theme of our own, we want to use the “Add New Theme” option. Click the big plus button shown in the screenshot above.
5. Next, click the “upload” link, shown in the screenshot below.
6. Click the “Choose file” button, and browse to where you stored the ZIP file on your computer. Then, click “Install now.” You will have to wait a few minutes while the file uploads to your Web hosting space.
7. All being well, you should receive a message saying that the theme installed successfully. Now, click “activate” to make the theme live.
Installing WooCommerce is no more difficult that installing a theme, but first you must download WooCommerce to your computer.
1. Visit the WooCommerce website using this link. Click the download link (as shown below) to start downloading the file to your computer.
2. Now you need to upload the plugin to your WordPress installation. From the WordPress dashboard, click on “Plugins,” then “Add New.”
3. Click the “Upload” button, as shown below.
4. On the next screen, click “Choose file” and point to the WooCommerce ZIP file, then click the “Install Now” button. The plugin will take a short while to upload to your Web space.
5. Once the WooCommerce plugin is uploaded, click the “Activate Plugin” link.
6. Next, press the “Install WooCommerce Pages” button.
7. If everything goes well, you should now be taken to a WooCommerce welcome screen, and notice that there are new WooCommerce menu options available on your WordPress dashboard (both shown below).
Congratulations! WooCommerce is now installed and ready to go. As we said at the start, setting up your store is beyond the scope of this article, but you will find a more in depth-tutorial here. You may also wish to take a look through the WooCommerce documentation.