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So you want to start an online business – a how to guide 2019, part 2

 

Welcome to the second part of how to start an online business or create a web-shop. If you have missed the beginning then click here for the first part of the online business guide.

 

Starting up your business

You know what you want to do, you know what to sell, so it’s only a matter of selecting the right platform to start building your empire.

Awesome!

I will share with you what has worked best for me and what are – in my opinion – the most important steps for setting up your site.

I’m mostly focusing on the business side of things so I won’t be going deep into technical details. My goal is to help you understand the process of creating an e-shop as a total. But if you have any questions, feel free to leave me a comment 🙂

Note: The below info is basic and generic advice that has helped me in the past that may or may not apply exactly to you. If you have hired a professional to assist you she or he might have a different method. The important thing is to have a solid plan.

Let’s begin.

Website structure

This is a very important step, if not the most important in setting up an online business because the way you will be structuring your website will be kind of a permanent step. Of course you can update it in the future but it’s not an easy task so it’s very important to get it right from the start.

What do I mean with website structure?

structure logical diagram

You need to make a plan, use a notepad if you like, to visualize how your website will be built.

Below are a few questions (similar to the ones on part 1 of this series) that by answering them, it will help you to get a better idea of how to set up everything on your web-shop.

Ask yourself:

  1. What are you selling?
  2. Is it one product or many?
  3. Is it a physical product or a service?
  4. If it’s one product or one service how will you present it to your visitors?
  5. If you have many products or services, do you have categories? Probably yes.
  6. How will you categorize your products?
  7. How will the customers navigate through your products?

The above questions are important to help you identify and create the navigation menu, the links, the structure of your website.

I will give you an example of what I mean.

Suppose you sell clothes. Typical examples of categories are the following:

Men – Women – Kids
And then under Men:
T-shirts, Pants, Socks, etc.

But maybe you want to categorize by clothing type

T-shirts – Pants – Socks
And then under T-shirts to use a filter for:
Men, Women, Kids

This is completely up to you and to whatever makes sense in your business, however, depending on the product you are selling it’s a good idea to check what your competitors are doing and how they have structured their products to get some inspiration.

Examples of navigation menus

Home – about – Products – contact

Home – about – Our partners – History – pricing – contact

Home – Women – Men – Kids – FAQ – Contact

… and so on. You get the idea

These are important things that need to be clear from the very beginning for a smooth and professional process.

Let’s move to the next step (or maybe previous, you’ll see what I mean)

Name your website aka buy a domain name.

This is a step that can be done before your website’s structure, so if you know the name already to go ahead and purchase the domain name. But as I said in Part 1, it’s a very important step as it is directly connected with your future branding activities. You need to put some serious thought into it so chose a brand name/domain name that defines your business.

The basic tech steps for setting up an e-shop, or any website for that matter, are the following:

  1. Buy a domain name.
  2. Buy hosting.
  3. Install/Upload your code to the server.

And I suppose now it’s time to talk WordPress.

Using WordPress for your online business.

Now we are getting somewhat technical. I will explain as simple as I can the process of setting up a website using WordPress since it’s something I have done many times in the past.

There are hosting providers where you can get all 3 (name, host, WordPress) at once without having to go to three different locations to get them.

To make things simple, I do recommend purchasing a hosting package from a provider that has also domain names (or vice versa get a domain name from a provider that also has hosting packages) and if possible double check if they offer 1-click WordPress installation.

This means that you don’t need to download and upload anything, but you can install WordPress once you have access your control panel with just 1 click.

In order for you to build a web-shop then you also need WooCommerce.

This is a platform specifically designed for WordPress and can be installed once you are done with your main WordPress installation.

Setting up WooCommerce can be tricky and requires a lot of work. You might need to hire someone so go ahead and estimate extra costs for that. If you are going to do it yourself, be prepared for a lot of work. Which is fine. Just know that it takes effort and many manhours to put an e-shop together.

The reason why I keep saying this is because I remember my mistakes and the first time I ever got involved with WooCommerce I got so overwhelmed I almost gave up. I was completely blocked. It took me a while to figure things out because I didn’t have a plan in advance.

Once you have a clear structure of your site everything is way easier. But I didn’t and that was my mistake. I was not prepared and I just started installing stuff without having a clear plan of the what’s and the how’s.

But I believe in you 🙂 You can do better than me.

If you don’t have a clear vision use my questions above. Make a small drawing if it helps you.

Visualize your basic categories which will become your navigation links. When you have a clear image of that then everything falls into place.

But also keep in mind. It’s ok to make mistakes and it’s ok to not know things. Working them out is part of the process and a great learning experience.

Let’s move on.

Setting up WordPress “manually” – no 1-click installation.

If you have a provider that doesn’t offer a 1click installation, don’t worry. I will explain what you need to do. The steps are pretty much the following:

  • Buy your domain name.
  • If you have a separate hosting provider set the DNS in your hosting provider’s control panel. This will make your website appear under www.yourdomain.com
  • Go to WordPress.org and download the installation files:
download wordpress

After you have completed the above steps successfully you will have a new WordPress website ready to be modified and customized to your needs.

Then if you want to install Woo-Commerce you can do that from WordPress’ dashboard. From the black vertical left menu go to Plugins> Add new

add new plugin wordpress

and Search for WooCommerce and from the results just press Install now.

install woocommerce

Congratulations! You are all set!

Other platforms

Besides WordPress and WooComerce there are more platforms that you might find better but this comes down to your personal preference. Below are a few of the most common website/e-shop building platforms that you can use.

Pro tip: Try them all before you decide which one is the one for you.

 

Shopify

Magento

WordPress.com (This is not the same as WordPress.org. You access it through your browser. Here is a short video that explains the differences between WordPress.com and .Org )

Squarespace

and I’m pretty sure there are more which I haven’t included in the list above. But feel free to search a bit. However, using WordPress is something I definitely recommend. It has a huge supporting community and it’s a reliable platform.

I believe I have given you lots of information that need to settle in. My hope is that the above article will help you create a solid plan about your future website and if that’s the case then I will be extremely happy.

Next on my series, we will talk about marketing and social media. In other words, how to promote your website once it’s up and running.

Stay tuned!