Here's my guide to set up a simple e-commerce website using free and open source tools. I see too many people spending too much money on overly complicated websites that don't last. Hopefully this guide can help someone. (I take no credit (or blame) for the software used in this guide - it's just stuff I've found and liked.) I'm going to assume you know very little or nothing about websites if you're interested in this guide, so I apologize if some things are too simplified. (And if they are too confusing let me know!)
If you are starting an e-commerce website in your spare time hoping to be the next Amazon, it's not going to happen. If you are trying to do it all yourself with zero budget then manage your expectations. Ideally you will have knowledge or help in 3 areas:
This guide is mostly about the technical. I assume you know what you want to put on your site (content) and how you want it to look. This guide will help you convert that mockup you've done into an actual website. You will need an at least an understanding of domain names, hosting, html, css and as you get more into it php, SEO and other advanced tools. Google (or bing) is your friend. Chances are someone has had the problem before you. When you have a question or problem use specific terms to narrow your results - e.g if you want to make a static page the front page on a wordpress site instead of the blog page, search google for 'wordpress make static page home' and the first result gives you your answer. Learning how to ask your question will solve most of your problems. Learn advanced googling. Use site:site:codex.wordpress.org to narrow results to just wordpress's documentation. Check dates on forum results - software changes rapidly - an answer from 2005 probably won't be valid anymore. Do some tutorials - start with html
, then do CSS
. Even if you never write a line of html or edit a css file it will give you an idea of some of the restrictions and capabilities.
OK...Part One: Domains and Hosting.
Domain names are separate from hosting. You buy a domain name from a Domain Registrar such as godaddy. I recommend getting hosting from a separate company, that way if there are problems with your host it is a simple process to go to the registrar's control panel and change the nameservers. (Nameservers are what points the domain name to the actual computer hosting the site.)
As for choosing a domain name, that's a whole article in itself. Try for a .com with as few characters as possible and a pronounceable word (it doesn't have to be a real word). If the name you want is taken don't mess with backordering or whatever they call it. Your wait may be forever and more than likely will be in vain. If you really can't find anything, go to pool.com and search there. Pool.com lists names that are due to expire in the next few days. Search for a few letters of the name you'd like: e.g if you want a t-shirt site search for 'shirt' and it will show all domains expiring in the next few days with shirt in the name. If you are the only bidder on the name it will cost you $60 if you get the name. if there are other bidders there is an auction. I've gotten maybe 10 names from pool.com and never had anyone bid against me, so I can't tell you how the procedure goes.
Just buy one year to see if your site makes it - so long as you renew within 12 months you wont lose your name. Your domain name should be less than $10 for one year. There are some bad stories about godaddy, but I've had no problems with them for my several hundred names.
Now comes hosting. You want the cheapest linux hosting you can find from a reputable company. Search webhostingtalk.com's Web Hosting
forum for advice and coupons. They have a shared hosting offers
forum where you may find some deals. You want a linux hosting package with cpanel and fantastico. Space and bandwidth aren't important until your site gets successful - right now anything you are offered will be more than enough. I see deals on there for 5GB space and 50GB bandwidth for $2.50/month - perfect for your startup website!
In your welcome package from the host will be the nameservers. You now need to go back to your registrar and change the nameservers to be the one's in the welcome pack (there are a minimum of 2). (If you can't work out how to do it google 'godaddy change name server'.)
Now depending on where you are you wait. Sometimes it's a few minutes, sometimes a few hours, but you need the names to propagate through the pipes. (You can get to your site from a temporary address, but for this exercise we need the name to be working.) Once you can successfully get to yournewshop.com you need to login to the control panel. It will be at yournewshop.com/cpanel. In there you can do all sorts of good and bad. Be careful. Do the tutorial if you are unsure. You are going in there for two reasons - set up email, and install Wordpress.
I've started using google apps
for email hosting. It moves email away from your site and taking up space, gives you a shared calendar, it's reliable and best of all it's free. Added benefit, when you change hosts you get to keep your mail and calendar. Another article will set about getting your mail moved to google's servers.
For now click on 'Email Accounts' on your cpanel and create a couple of email accounts. One trick with cpanel and email accounts is forwarders. Forwarders let you forward an address to different accounts. If you want all mail sent to your new domain to go to your existing email address you don't need to create any accounts, you just need to setup your 'catch-all' address. e.g you want [email protected]
, [email protected]
, [email protected]
and any other misspellings to go to [email protected]
you need a catch-all. In cpanel just click on 'default address' and input your email.
If you'd like to use [email protected]
as your new email address click on email accounts and add it. If you also want [email protected]
to go to [email protected]
without having to check a separate account you can simply add a forwarder that will forward mail from that address to your new address with creating an account. (One con to this method is when you reply to a message it will be from bob.)
Part Two: Time for wordpress. (coming soon)