So you or your client need an online shop to sell online but it should be something easy to use, lightweight and as comfortable as your favourite WordPress. The first idea that may visit your head is: Why don’t I try one of those WordPress e-commerce plugins they have out there? And really why not? You have your inexpensive WordPress hosting that you rely on, you know WordPress like the palm of your hand, but… There are 5 things you should know before moving on with this nice solution.
1. Prepare a list of “must have” features for your future online shop
There are many offers out there that promise to give you a turnkey e-commerce solution with in five minutes and many do buy it. After checkout they get an e-commerce website that looks like thousands of others and that needs to be deeply customised to approach the look and feel they wanted their online shop to have. In the end the five minutes start will turn into 120 hour customisation. There are two ways to avoid this: 1st is to hire a developer that will do the job, this is expensive and time consuming but in the end you may get what you wanted, the 2nd option you have is to write down a list of “must have” features and then search through all shopping cart platforms available and find the one that is closest to the Feature List you’ve written. This will save you a lot of time and money in the future. Below is the list of features of the most popular wordpress e-commerce plugins:
Lesson learned: Find The e-commerce plugin that will meet your needs, and not just the best one out there as they say!
2. Find out the hosting requirements for the e-commerce plugin you are about to install into your WordPress
We used to think that when a hosting company claims that it provides a WordPress Hosting then it really does that and our WordPress website will work no matter what the traffic is or how many and what kind of plugins we have there. We really should take into consideration the fact that a hosting company wants to pop in as many websites as they can on one server, and when they say it is a WordPress hosting it may mean that your hosting plan is capable of handling one WordPress installation with few easy plugins and really low traffic load! So the first thing you should ask a hosting provider is what resources are available with in this or other hosting package, ask them the amount of RAM that your site will be given, this is really important. Why? Lets check hosting requirements for couple WordPress e-commerce plugins:
- WP E-Commerce plugin
- Have cURL, GD and ImageMagick enabled on server
- WordPress 3.0 or higher
- PHP memory of 256m, 32m usually does the trick but for large stores more php memory may be necessary
- An install of WordPress 3.5 or greater
- PHP 5.2.4 or greater
- MySQL 5.0 or greater
- The mod_rewrite Apache module (for permalinks)
- fsockopen support (for payment gateway IPN access)
The conclusion is: you will have to get more then just a wordpress hosting to run e-commerce website with one of the wordpress e-commerce plugins. Don’t just get a wordpress hosting, spend some time with a hosting company’s support or sales person and find out whether this or that hosting plan meets all requirements of the e-commerce plugin you are going to use, this will save you a lot of time and nerves in the future for sure!
The list of some suggested hosting providers:
- Kinsta (they provide: daily uptime checks, automatic backups, SSL integration, DDoS attack detection, malware scanning, hack fix guarantee)
- Media Temple
- Rochen Hosting
- WPEngine hosting
We recommend WP Engine as a hosting platform with WooCommerce
Once again, check if the hosting plan will fit the requirements of the plugin you are going to use!
3. Get SSL certificate
Running an e-commerce site is a bit harder then running a regular blog, it is also important to realise that you as website owner are now responsible for the sensitive information that your customers pass to your database during checkout. In order to secure the transfer of that information you have to get SSL certificate, usually one can get it at a hosting company like Go Daddy. You can read more on SSL certificates and how to install them here. It is truly important to realise at that point that you will obtain and collect a lot of personal information of your customers, and you are responsible for the security of your website. So please make your WordPress website secure and protected. I strongly recommend following these eleven steps to secure your WordPress website
4. Find the best suited WordPress theme that is compatible with the plugin
you are using
There is a good number of wordpress e-commerce themes available now. All of them are of a good design and nice layout and of course this is the main quality of a WordPress WooCommerce theme, but there are few more things you have to pay attention to.
1. Check how fast a live demo of the theme loads.
You may use FireBug with PageSpeed extensions for FireFox to do that, the plugin will show you how fast does the page loads, you will see what are the heaviest items in the theme.
The plugin will even tell you what can be done with the theme to make it load faster. For instance it may suggest you to optimise images.
2. Contact the author of the theme to find out wether the theme implements all the features of the e-commerce plugin it was designed to be used with.
It may sound strange but some themes do look good and professional and at the same time the thee can lack some e-commerce plugin’s features, for instance it can be missing Special Products Widget or “Related Products” are not shown on the Product’s page.
3. Check if the theme is SEO friendly
Like any other WordPress theme the theme that you are about to pick has to be SEO friendly. This means that not just the Blog part of the theme has to be Search Engine optimised, but the e-commerce part too. This means that a Category Page has to have category name in H1 tag, product’s names have to be in h4 or h3 tags on products listings and so on. This is very important for your future income!
4. Make sure that the theme is fully functional with SSL at checkout.
5. Read the e-commerce plugin’s manual
While helping my clients building and configuring WordPress websites I have noticed that vast majority of them just do not read the user’s manual or docs for both WordPress and plugins that they use as a result they pay developers for “tweaks” that they could’ve done themselves. I know that because (have to confess here) a lot of things customers want to change/tweak on their sites are manageable through WordPress/plugins backend, so all I do in that case is changing some settings, and it is easily done with in three clicks tops. Things like thumbnails size, displaying category description above products listing, hiding add to cart button, this list can go on and on. Settings differ from plugin to plugin but the conclusion is one – reading user’s manual will save you time and money. It is like buying a new LED TV that is able to connect to the internet via WiFi and not using this awesome feature just couse you did not read the manual and you don’t that this TV is capable of doing this, ins’t that just a waste of money? Below are some links to Users’s Manuals for couple of WordPress e-commerce plugins. I don’t ask you to read all Docs just look through section to see that many things you can stumble upon while building WordPress e-commerce website are covered in the docs.
I hope this short post will help you to get started with your e-commerce website. If you need some help with your word press website you can always contact me via contact form of this blog, I will gladly help and answer any questions.