While for many people operating on the Internet is second nature, for many small businesses it is still all a bit confusing. Small business owners who are not particularly “tech savvy” might shy away from entering the e-commerce revolution due to either a lack of appreciation for the amount of revenue an online facing storefront can generate, or a bit of intimidation. For these people, I offer some very good news. In the world of Web 2.0, there are many readily available assets on the Internet that you can leverage in order to simplify this process immensely. In fact, by following the steps below, anyone with a basic understanding of how to use a computer and the Internet should be able to launch their e-commerce business and be selling online in 8 hours or less!
There are really very few tools required for this process. The only tools you will need to complete this process are a computer and an Internet connection.
There are a few minor expenses. These expenses are explained in the following section, but the total expenses total no more than $80.00
Hour 1: Set Up Hosting and Domain
The first step in the process of launching your company is setting up the hosting for your website. Many people may think that this step comes last, but as we will be using one of the features offered with hosting to set up the site, we need to get this process moving up front. The requirements for hosting are as follows: It needs to only be a basic hosting account, it needs to come bundled with the Wordpress standalone program, you need to be able to have ftp. access to the website. Many hosting companies offer such a package, but for the sake of this tutorial, I will recommend GoDaddy as they have what seems to be the fastest setup time. The “Economy” package is only $4.99 a month, and it meets all of the previously mentioned requirements (http://www.godaddy.com/gdshop/hosting/shared.asp?ci=13081). If you are unsure of the package to purchase, call the hosting company and speak with a representative.
Many hosting companies are also domain registrars (such as GoDaddy), and they will offer a break if you register the domain at the same time as the hosting account. GoDaddy will tack on a domain name to the order for only $1.99. For those who do not know, a domain name is the name of the address that users will type into the address bar in order to get to your website (aka www.modernbusinesslife.com). Choose your domain name wisely.
Once you have checked out and paid for your hosting and domain account, the hosting company will likely send you an email saying that it may take up to 24 hours before you can visit your website. While I have received this message from GoDaddy several times after registering a new account, this process has never taken more that 3 hours.
Note: The hosting and domain setup is probably the area where the most people get confused because they find that there is allot of web “lingo” being thrown at them. If you get confused, pick up the phone and call the hosting company. This is what they are there for, and they can walk you through the setup process.
Hour 2: Looks Can Kill
One of the most overlooked areas of launching a website is how the site looks. Many small businesses do not pay much attention to this, but I can promise you that their would-be customers do. It is vitally important that you have a professional, and appropriate website design. So, how does one get a professional design without being a designer or hiring one? The answer is to obtain a “template”. A template is basically a shell for the website… a ready made design. As we will be leveraging “Wordpress” as our platform to build the website on, you will need a Wordpress ready template. There are many providers out there, but one of the most professional providers I have come across is called Woo Themes and can be found at http://www.woothemes.com/ and their theme templates average around $70. These templates are easy to integrate, made specifically for Wordpress, and are very professional.
In hour 2, your job is to seek out and purchase a template for you Wordpress page website which we will be setting up shortly. Woo Themes is a great place to start, but if you do not find a theme there that satisfies you, try searching on “Wordpress Themes” in Google. Once you have purchased this template, save it to your local drive. We will be using it shortly.
Note: Though Wordpress is primarily a blog, there are many templates which are formatted to suit more of a web store format. For the sake of selling items from this page, these are the kinds of templates you should keep an eye out for.
Hour 3: Gathering Your Content
While we are waiting for the hosting account to finish the setup process, we can begin to gather the content that will go on our website. Gather up any relevant text for the typical website pages (Home, About Us, Contact Us, etc). Remember, we are just looking to have enough material to launch the business. You can always add to this later. If you plan on having products listed on your website, be sure to collect any product pictures/descriptions.
As we are shooting to launch the website in a rapid manner, think streamlined. Don’t collect unnecessary or supplemental content at this time. Websites are a constantly evolving beast, and they will grow with new content over time.
Hour 4: Installing Wordpress on Your Hosting Account
At this point, it is very likely that you hosting account should be active (assuming you went with a host like GoDaddy). This means that you should be able to install Wordpress on your hosting account. For those more technically inclined users who registered with GoDaddy, login to your hosting account an access your CPANEL. From there you should be able to install Wordpress. For everyone else, this is where I suggest that you take advantage of the customer service department for the hosting company that you chose. Call them, and explain to them that you would like to install the bundled Wordpress software to use as your website. Any customer service department worth a salt will walk you through this step by step.
During the setup process, you will be given an address to access the administration side of your wordpress website. It will likely be www.yourdomainname.com/wp-admin . Make note of this address, as we will be using it in the next step.
Hours 5 and 6: Install and Configure the Wordpress Theme
Wordpress allows you to change the “theme” (or look) of your Wordpress blog by going into the administration area, and selecting the menu item called “Appearance > Themes”. Wordpress comes bundled with some ready-made themes, but often times these are not very professional looking, and thousands of other users may be using the exact same theme. This is where the premium template that you purchased comes in. If you downloaded a template from Woo Themes, it should have come with installation instructions (any template you download from anywhere is likely to have this documentation). Follow these instructions in order to install the theme. This will likely require that you log into the file manager for your hosting account and upload the files to the correct sub folder within the Wordpress folder. Again, feel free to call your hosting company for an explanation on how to access the file browser or ftp folder for your hosting account. For the non-technical folks, this will likely be the biggest hurdle to overcome (which is why 2 hours are allotted to this task).
After your theme has been uploaded, you can log back into the administration area for Wordpress page, and go to the “Appearance > Themes” menu item. You should now see your purchased theme as one of the themes in the list. Select that theme and then click the “Activate Theme” button. Congratulations! Your theme should now be active for your wordpress page.
Now you can customize your theme. In your Wordpress admin console, go to the menu item title “Settings > General” in order to customize your blog name, subtitle, contact email address, etc.
Hour 7: Add Your Content
Now that you have set up your hosting account, created your domain, installed Wordpress and your purchased theme, and customized your website, you will now need to add in your content. WordPress is natively a “blog” (or web log), and while we will be utilizing some of the blog functionality, we will also be using the page creation and content management ability to easily spin up a website. In the Admin Console, under “Pages > New”, you are able to create new pages for your website. At this time, you should create a new page for each section of your website (such as About Us, Contact Us, etc). Your template should automatically add in and wire up the navigation for you each time you create a page. On each page, place the appropriate content. If you have a “products” page, list the product images, descriptions, and prices. We will add the “purchase button” in the final step.
Hour 8: Get to Know and Love the Plugins
The final hour of this process will be spent installing and adding “Plugins” to your Wordpress site. Plugins are premade, and ready to plug in applications that you can download from your Wordpress admin console by going to “Plugins > Add New”. There are masses of user created plugins for anything from adding a newsletter registration to your site to interfacing with your facebook page. The one that we are interested in at this time is a PayPal Plug-in. Search for this (there should be several to choose from), and once you have found the one you like, let the application install it by selecting the “install plug-in” button.
Once you have installed the plug-in, you will need to register for a PayPal account in order to accept credit cards and payments. You can do this at https://www.paypal.com/cgi-bin/webscr?cmd=_registration-run .
Each plug-in will let you insert it into the page differently, but it should be fairly straight forward. Consult the plug-in documentation to determine which method is used, and go back to edit your “Products” page that you created in the previous chapter to enter the purchase buttons. For a more in-depth approach on doing this, please refer to my previous post here http://modernbusinesslife.com/?p=56
This 8 hour process should get you online, and selling product… but it only scratches the surface of what you are able to do with Wordpress. You should now have created the foundation to extend the functionality of your site through the use of plugins (which is one of the greatest strengths of the Wordpress platform). Maintaining a website is a continuous process, so don’t get frustrated, and keep at it. It will pay off.
If you enjoyed this post, make sure you subscribe to my RSS feed!