In this guide, I'm going to give you all the information you need to start building an eCommerce website from scratch, with no advanced knowledge required. It will probably help if you don't know anything at all because once you start learning and assimilating information from many different sources, it is easy to become confused and drown in an ocean of conflicting advice.
This guide will act as a roadmap for building your very first website. The main thing to understand is that it is more important to get started and make mistakes along the way than to not start at all.
Everyone wants to go to heaven, but no one wants to die as they say in the Marines. Everyone wants to build fantastic money-making websites, but few are prepared to put in the amount of work that will make a dream come true. This guide will help you understand the steps you need to take to build your website and eliminate costly mistakes that put so many people off.
Never compare your starting point with someone else's middle. It's good to look at other sites and get inspiration for what you would like your website to become, but it's not good to compare where you are now at the beginning of the journey with someone else who has been trading for several years or more.
Have patience and be consistent over the long term to succeed at this. It is much better to work an hour a day over a long period than to burn out after a month.
Begin With The Basics
Don't spend copious amounts of time viewing website builder comparison charts and comparing features before thinking about what type of business you are going to build. Feature comparison is good, but it will only take you so far. At some point, you have to dip your toe in the water, take the temperature and plunge in!
The first item you are going to need is a domain name:
1. Register A Domain Name
A domain name is the starting point for everything else you do online. It is the digital address that people will use to visit your website, and it can also serve as your email address. Owning a domain name gives your business a professional gloss rather than using email addresses from familiar broadband providers.
Many of the best domain names are unavailable but as domain names are rented and not purchased outright many names find their way back into circulation after the original owner failed to renew it for whatever reason.
I have an excellent guide to finding a domain name (coming shortly) and a lot of fantastic tips and tricks to help you search for one.
2. Setup Your Business Email Address
Once you've purchased your domain name, you can put it to work by setting up your email address. Most domain name registrars allow you to set up an email address from within their control panel. I like to redirect all of my incoming emails to my Google mail account so that it captures all the email from all sources. That way if you don't want to let go of your current email address you don't have to.
3. Choose Your Website Building Software
For new websites that don't plan on using eCommerce functionality, there are three choices:
WordPress is the hardest to set up for beginners although many hosting plans have "one-click installers" to make the job of installation a breeze. WordPress is the most flexible option, but it is also the hardest to learn.
You would use WordPress for a blog with many pages or perhaps a corporate website. For people with limited technology skills, I would recommend that you avoid WordPress, to begin with, and try Wix first. Wix has a 24/7 support team, and if you use WordPress, you are left to your own devices.
Wix is easily the best website builder choice for beginners. Wix has the most straightforward interface with which to work and build your site as well as an excellent state of the art website template chooser. Everything is done via a simple drag and drop editor, and if you want to add simple eCommerce at a later date, you can do this too.
Read My In-Depth Wix Review
Weebly follows hot on the heels of Wix being a slightly cheaper website builder option but with loads of features available to expand your website. From a user interface point of view, Weebly is excellent as it doesn't come with so many confusing options in its default state, although you can add more features from the App library as you grow more confident.
Alternatively, for those of you that are going to be building an eCommerce website, there are two clear favourites for UK users:
Shopify is the best choice for those who want to get started with the minimum of fuss however on top of the $29 monthly fee you will also need to pay around $180 for an advanced theme and Apps in the marketplace that you bolt on can add up to a sizeable ongoing monthly payment.
Shopify supports the most channels and is a perfect choice if you are thinking of selling on Amazon and eBay as well as your website because there is plenty of third party software that supports Multi-channel selling. It all comes at an extra cost though so watch those mounting expenses!
Read My Shopify Review
EKM is my choice for UK users who want to build an eCommerce store and get handheld assistance if you require it via the dedicated account manager feature. There are no hidden extra costs to running a store, and all the latest responsive templates are free of charge.
There are plenty of additional features available via the App store, and you can take your time activating them at your leisure. For example, the abandoned cart saver routine which I covered recently is a great revenue saver and a feature for which many other eCommerce solutions will charge extra.
Read My EKM Review
Choose A Website Template And Logo
All of the website builders that I've included in the list above have a great selection of "ready to go" website templates that mean you click once and install.
In the beginning, it is best not to spend too much time trying to customise your design because you might quickly decide that you like the look of another template and you might want to change your look.
Here are three great articles to help you manage the design of your website:
How to choose the right colour scheme for your website
Where to find professional images for your website
Create the perfect logo for your website
Install Google Analytics
Being able to track your daily visitors and how they interact with your website is an essential part of the marketing mix. You need to know if you are connecting with your customers and how they are interacting with your website. You'll find the code to install Google analytics in your Google account, but many of the software packages I've mentioned above merely require you to enter the ID of the site you want to track.
Going through the above list will get you up and running in no time at all, and you should be able to get a website or an eCommerce store up and running in a day using this guide. Some website builders may take a bit longer to "resolve" your newly purchased domain name, but at the maximum, you should be fully working in two days.
Have you got questions? Use the comments below, and as always, you are welcome to contact me if you need any assistance.