Domain

This is typically the starting point for most people as picking your name, and subsequently your domain, is exciting.

While most people’s go-to suffix is .com and rightfully so – it’s common and the default for most people to type in – it’s also the hardest to get.  With so many websites out there, at the time of writing this there are over 1.28 billion, it’s getting harder and harder to get the .com domain you want. But, fear not, there are a few other options.  Here’s a short list of some suffixes to consider.

  • .ca/.com.au/.co.uk – these are perfect if you run your business outside of the United States
  • .co – getting popular as it’s close to .com sounds businessy (yep, I think that’s a word)
  • .net – was more popular years ago, but you still see lots of websites with this suffix
  • .org – go with this extension if you are an organization, popular with non profits and charities
  • .info – if you need to extend further, .info is a good option

My go to place to see what names are available is namechk it’s a great website to get a overview of what’s available.

You can purchase your domain through majority of hosting providers, or if you need/want to you can purchase it through a provider other than your hosting provider.

SSL Certificate

When developing an eCommerce site you’ll definitely need an SSL certificate.  The SSL certificate allows for the transmission of sensitive information in a secure way. This is an absolute must as you’ll be gathering people’s info such as name and address, and credit card information.

Most hosting providers offer SSL certificates for purchase, but you can totally get one for free from Let’s Encrypt

Hosting

This is where all your files will be stored. The quality of hosting will have an impact on your site as speed is a factor for Google ranking and does effect the user’s experience.  You’ll also want to consider up-time (what percentage of time the hosting provider’s servers are up and running). All the big providers will have a page where you can see up-time.  Lastly, a big deciding factor for newbies is the hosting’s customer service.  You want to be able to get someone on the phone or via live chat quickly to resolve any issues.

So, how do you actually pick a hosting provider?  Well, there is a lot of info and opinions out there about what provider is best. Here are my thoughts

Budget Providers – My go-to ones are GoDaddy, Bluehost (Bluehost as a special WordPress deal for $3.95 per month) and FatCow.  You’ll be getting a shared hosting plan

If you have a bit more money to spend, I highly recommend WPEngine.  They are super fast, customer service is stellar and what I love the most is that they offer a sandbox instance when you can create your site, test and update plugins or really make any adjustments before pushing those changes live for the world to see.

If you end up going with an total eCommerce solution like Shopify, you don’t need to worry about picking a hosting provider as they host everything for you

WordPress

There are a few different options when it comes to what platform you can use.  My go-to recommendations are WordPress and Shopify.

WordPress – WordPress itself is free and in order to have a store on the website you’ll need Woocommerce, also free.  I find for the most part you’ll be able to get up and running with all the free plugins.  Though as you continue into the world of eCommerce and your store grows, you may want to look at some of the great pay-for plugins to up level your game.  These can include the ability to send abandoned cart emails or user specific coupon codes.

Shopify – Shopify is great as it was built from the ground up with eCommerce in mind.  They do have a built in blog option, though it’s not nearly as robust as WordPress.  However, it is faster to get up and running and typically easier to use for novices.

WordPressShopify
Level of technical knowledgeIntermediateBasic
CostCan be free~ $30 per month
Speed to get up and runningModerateMinimal
CustomizationVery flexibleRestrictions – a lot of customizations will cost a lot more
eCommerce to supplement businessIdeal. If you have a business website/blog already on wordpress, creating a eCommerce section is easyShopify is meant for businesses that are first and foremost eCommerce businesses

Theme

Let’s assume you’ve decided to go with WordPress. You’ll need a theme to make your new website looks super sleek. I wrote a blog post all about picking the perfect WordPress theme, definitely check it out!

Woocommerce

I’ve already mentioned Woocommerce but I wanted to dive into it a bit more as it really is a fantastic solution.  Woocommerce let’s you create products where you input descriptions, price, and images.  If you sell more complex good you can create attributions, variations, and grouped products.

If you want to see Woocommerce up and running, you can head over to my consulting business’ website – Erica Lerman Design & Development

Payment Gateway

Now that you have your website built, the last step is to have away to accept payments. A payment gateway is the connector between the credit card company and your bank account.  The common ones these days are PayPal and Stripe, though you may have country specific gateways that are worth looking into. While it’s a bit more work to set up, offering more than one option to customers could be helpful.

While it’s free to set up accounts with payment gateways, you pay on a per transaction basis.  At the time of writing both PayPal and Stripe were 2.9% + 30¢, so if the purchase totals $100, $3.20 ($2.90 + $0.30) goes to the payment processor.  You’ll need to make sure that you work this cost into your product costs.

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