How to Set up an Online Store Step by Step

How to Set up an Online Store

For anyone that has never set up an online store it can be very confusing. There are many choices available so it is difficult to select what is best for your online business. Before creating a store you must first look at your business goals such as how much money you wish to make each month, types of products you wish to sell, a marketing plan and how you will accept payments.

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Types of WebSites: How Do You Decide?

Types of WebSites

Many site owners don’t think far enough ahead before building an online presence. They often throw up a web site that doesn’t have enough flexibility for growth then waste money getting it redesigned.

Types of websites

1. Informational

This is where you just want to convey information about a product or service without selling anything. It could only be a few pages or contain hundreds of pages. For a small site of 5-10 pages I recommend building a static html website. This means the pages mostly remain unchanged because they are evergreen (timeless content). To build a large content website I recommend a content management system that uses software such as WordPress or Joomla. It enables you to add as many pages as you like (stored in a database) plus they can easily be updated by logging into a backend administration panel.

Affiliate website
This type of site sells products for other companies. Typically you sign up as an affiliate who provides an affiliate link to place on your website. When a visitor clicks on that link they get redirected to the company website to make their purchase. You receive a commission every time someone buys from your site. With your affiliate website your goal is to provide enough valuable content to pre-sell the visitor so they are motivated to purchase from you.

2. E-commerce

If you wish to sell something online you need an e-commerce website. This type of site is much more involved. You’ll need a shopping cart, payment gateway, SSL certificate for secure transactions and a merchant account. You’ll also need to calculate the tax and shipping fees for each item you’re selling. One of the easiest methods for accepting online payments is using the PayPal Shopping Cart.

PayPal Shopping Cart
PayPal takes care of the whole transaction process without purchasing each of the services separately. You simply pay a small fee to them for each transaction. Read more at: How to Build an Ecommerce Web Site Using the PayPal Shopping Cart

If you’re only selling an ebook or a few items I suggest using PayPal. You can easily create “Buy Now” buttons. For a large number of items use the PayPal Shopping Cart.

Large online store
If you’re selling 100s or 1000s of items I suggest hiring a professional to build it. Zen Cart is one of the best free shopping carts for building your online store. It enables you to create search engine friendly pages, use PayPal or any of the main payment processing companies such and it’s free. Your main costs will only be to hire a professional web designer that is familiar with Zen Cart.

Sales page or landing page
A sales page is usually reserved for selling ebooks or software. It consists of a long web page with payment links scattered throughout the page. A landing page is primarily used for selling items with Pay Per Click Ads such as Google Ads. It usually is a one page site that contains affiliate links or your own product. Read Landing Page Design – 7 essential elements

Brainstorm what types of products or services you’ll be selling or information you’ll be conveying before deciding on the type of website you want to build. It will make the process much easier and faster to finish.

Need to design an informational or e-commerce website? Please visit:
Portfolio of Web Sites Designed by

Herman Drost is the Certified Internet Webmaster (CIW)
owner and author of

Free Shopping Cart – Create an Online Store With Zen Cart

If you’re looking for a free shopping cart that has more features than many of the paid solutions look no further than Zen Cart. It’s a free download and is often included in your hosting plan. This means you can install it from fantastico within cpanel with one click.

Here are some of the main benefits I discovered:

1. Inexpensive

It’s free to install but you need to set up a hosting account.

2. Easy installation

Once you have unzipped and uploaded all the files to your server you just need to change permissions for several directories, insert the install URL in your browser then follow the instructions for installing Zen Cart.

3. Easy customization

If you’ve already designed your own template you can create a basic custom template first then customize it by editing the style sheet and using the admin panel that comes with your installation. The admin panel allows you to turn off the right or left columns, right or left sideboxes, banners etc.

It takes a it of time to learn how to do this but once you’ve done it it gets faster.


Zen Cart is not a backend solution ie you can’t just add some html code to your custom designed template. You must either use their own termplates or create one of your own. Zen Cart is a front end and back end solution for a creating a complete online store.

4. Manage pages, products, banners etc from the admin panel.

Pages can be created on the fly without having to learn HTML.

5. Helpful online forum

Response times to your questions on the forum are fairly fast…generally within an hour (according to my experience).

Here are more details of Zen Carts’ features

Easy Installation

* checks the database and server for requirements before installing
* installs using a built-in installation tool
* prepopulates the basic store information
* optional demo products

Global E-Commerce Ready

* multiple language support
* multiple tax support
* multiple shipping methods
* multiple currency support
* multiple payment methods

Customer Status Modes

* unrestricted shopping
* must register to view prices
* must register to view prices and merchandise
* showroom only

Catalog Status Modes

* showcase mode without prices
* showcase mode with prices
* normal shopping mode
* down for maintenance mode

Categories and Products

* unlimited category depth
* physical merchandise
* downloadable virtual products
* products can reside in multiple categories
* product options as dropdowns, radio buttons, checkboxes, and text input

Customer Retention Tools

* periodic newsletter in plain text or HTML
* order status emails and records in the customer account
* referral tools
* gift certificates

Promotions, Sales and Discounts

* individual special prices
* global sale reductions
* category-wide sale prices
* discount coupons
* customer group discounts
* quantity discounts
* one-time charges
* minimum and maximum purchases per product
* prices by attributes

Powerful Administration Tool

* configure your minimum and maximum values, image sizes and customer details
* choose which layout settings to use for the spotlight listings
* pick which details to show on your product details page
* edit your policies pages with HTML (if desired)
* add, delete, move, link or copy your products
* create and manage your product attributes
* manage product reviews, featured products, specials and store wide sales
* shipping and payment module installation and management
* price and taxation control
* banner advertising controls
* newsletter creation and sending
* content management tool, easily add new content pages

Fully Customizable Catalog Templates

* XHTML 1.0 compliant – nearly table-less layout
* change the colors, fonts and many graphics using Cascading Stylesheets
* add, move, remove sideboxes via the Admin Tool
* template overrides that do not get overwritten during upgrades
* override functionality without having to learn PHP
* create as many different looks as you would like and choose them from the admin

Get 1000s of NEW visitors to your website without spending
a dime on advertising.

Read my new ebook “Article Marketing Strategies“…
to learn one of the most effective ways to drive 1000s of visitors to your online store.

Herman Drost is the Certified Internet Webmaster (CIW)
owner and author of Web Design, Web Hosting, SEO