How to Start an Ecommerce Store with WooCommerce

Woocommerce Homepage

WooCommerce is one of, if not the most popular platform for building an ecommerce store in the world and in this post, I am going to give you a step by step guide on how you can start to create your own online store using this platform.

Now I have built a few sites using WordPress and WooCommerce and the process I go through in this post is how I do it. Some of the ways that you do things will vary slightly to what I put in this post as it does depend on the web host that you are using.

Before You Start!

Before you can begin, there are a couple of things that you are going to need:

Number 1: A Domain Name

This is your virtual address and you need to get this sorted before doing anything else!

Number 2: Web Hosting

WordPress + WooCommerce is a self hosted solution so you will need to get yourself some good quality web hosting. If you haven’t got that already then check out the posts I have linked to below

Best Ecommerce Web Hosting
The Best PCI Compliant Ecommerce Web Hosting

Once you have chosen your host, there are two things you want to do before installing WordPress.

The following two things may be slightly different to do as cpanel layouts can vary from web host to web host. As you will see from the images below, this how you can do it if you decide to host your website with Krystal (my web hosts).

If your cpanel or admin area does look different to the Krystal layout, then do a quick search of your web hosts documentation to see how you can do it on their system.

Install an SSL certificate

Once you have access to your Cpanel account, which will be available through your hosting accounts admin panel or at your domainname.com/cpanel. Once you log into your Cpanel, you want to install an SSL certificate before installing WordPress as it just makes life easier in the long run.

Now there two different options for installing an SSL on your cpanel and I will cover both of them below.

Free SSL (LetsEncrypt)

Most hosting companies will have an option to install a LetsEncrypt SSL certificate on your site and it is really easy to do. Simply navigate to the security section of your Cpanel, click on the LetsEncrypt SSL icon and follow the instructions.

When installing this, make sure that you put it on both the www. and non www. versions of your domain name.

Paid SSL (Comodo, GeoTrust, Thawte etc)

If you don’t want to use a free SSL certificate, then you can opt to use a paid one. Fortunately it is just as easy to install a paid one. Go to the security section of your Cpanel and click on the SSL/TLS icon and then the install and manage SSL certificates.

Scroll down the page until you see the options for installing an SSL certificate, select the domain you wish to install it on from the drop down menu and then paste the Certificate and Private Key for your SSL certificate. Once you have done this, click install and your SSL should now be successfully installed on your site.

Change your PHP version

This might sound a bit scary but it will massively improve your websites performance. Your PHP version will probably be set at 5.6, which was fine a few years ago but as with all technology it has improved over the years.

At minimum you want your site to be running 7.0 but 7.2 is the best from my experience and your WordPress site will work properly. 7.3 is an option but not everything works with it and you want things to run as smoothly as possible.

Changing your PHP is really easy, simply click the Select PHP Version link in the software section of your Cpanel.

When you go in to the PHP selector, it will tell you what version you are currently running and below this is a drop down menu that will show you all the versions that are available. To change the version, select the one that you want and then click Set as current and it will change it for you.

Installing WordPress

You are now at a point where you can install WordPress and it is relatively easy to do.

At the bottom of your Cpanel page, you will see a Web Application section, click on the view more section. This will take you to the Installatron section of Cpanel, which allows you to install a variety of different web applications on your website.

Under the Applications Browser tab, you will see all of the available applications. Scroll down until you see the Content Management and look for the WordPress application, click on it then click the install the application.

You will then be taken to the WordPress install page, first you need to select the domain name you want to install WordPress on, if you have installed your SSL certificate then choose the https prefix.

Then you need to choose a Admin username, password, admin email, website title and website tagline. Make sure that your username and password are strong as you want to make life difficult for not so nice people who want to gain unauthorised access to your site.

I would recommend before clicking install at the bottom of the page is to click the advanced settings and set a schedule for site back-ups, you can select weekly or monthly.

WordPress will then be installed on your website and you will be able to access your admin area at yourdomian.com/wp-admin.

Setting up WooCommerce

By this point, you have a basic WordPress install on your website and now it is time to start to add WooCommerce and get your site moving towards being ready to sell on.

Plugins

To get started, you need to install the WooCommerce plugin. This is done by clicking on the Plugins heading in the main sidebar, you will then be taken to a list of plugins that are installed on your site (even though it is a fresh install, there are a couple of plugins that come pre-installed).

At the top of the page next to the word Plugins is an Add New button, clicking on this will take you to the WordPress library of free plugins. Type WooCommerce into the search bar, just like I have done in the image below and you will see a list of plugins that match the WooCommerce keyword.

Woocommerce Add Plugin

Click the install now button, at this point I would also install the PDF Invoices and Packing Slips plugin as well as it adds some really good functionality to the WooCommerce plugin. You then need to activate the WooCommerce plugin so that you can use it on your site, once it is activated, you will be taken through the basic set up guide.

Go through the set up wizard and the foundations of your WooCommerce store are all set up and ready to go.

I would recommend installing a few more plugins at this point to really set your website up properly and to help get you started, I have created a post listing The 10 Best Free WooCommerce Plugins. All the plugins on that list are my go to’s whenever I build a new WooCommerce site. I

f you are hosted with Krystal or any other host that uses LiteSpeed servers, I would recommend LiteSpeed Cache plugin over Autoptimize and WP Super Cache. This is just because the LiteSpeed Cache plugin is specifically designed to work with LiteSpeed servers and will give you great performance when configured properly.

Paid Plugins

If you decide to use a paid plugin, the process for installing it is slightly different to the free ones. You navigate to the same area of your dashboard but when you are on the add new plugin page, you need to click the Upload Plugin button, then the browse button to find the plugin on your computer. All plugins need to be in a .zip file format.

Once you have selected the plugin to upload, click the Install Now button and your plugin will be uploaded and installed on to your website.

Themes

The next step in setting up your WooCommerce store is to start working on the look and design of your site.

The first thing that you want to do is to choose a theme for your website and when selecting a theme you want to make sure that it is compatible with the WooCommerce plugin as not all of them are.

When choosing a theme, you can opt for a free one from the WordPress library or you can buy a theme from a developer, either directly or using a marketplace such as themeforest.com. I would recommend using a free theme to start with, so that you can get used to the WordPress system and also give you a bit of time to understand what you want from your theme.

Whether you choose a paid or free theme, you always want to create a child theme. This allows you to edit and change the theme without the risk of losing the changes when the theme gets updated. It just makes life easier in the long run.

Also don’t have lots of themes installed as they will slow your site down, delete any that you are not using and just have the parent and child theme of the one you are.

Installing a New Theme

To install a new theme, hover your mouse over the Appearance heading of the main sidebar and a menu will appear, when this happens, click on the Themes heading.

This will bring you to a list of all the themes you currently have installed and as with the plugins, every new WordPress install has some default themes installed. By clicking the Add New button next to the word Themes, you will be taken to the WordPress theme library.

There are some options such as featured, popular and latest but if you want to search for a specific theme or keyword, then type it in the search bar and you will be presented with a selection of theme.

To install it, hover your mouse cursor over the theme and it will show two buttons, install and preview. Click the install button and then activate to make it your live theme.

If you are using a paid theme or one that you have downloaded directly from the developer, then you will need to use the Upload Theme option, which works exactly the same as the way you upload a new plugin.

Customising Your Theme

Once you have installed your chosen theme, you may find that it doesn’t look like it did in the demo!

This is because the theme needs to be set up and customised so that it looks its best, before starting it is always worth having a read through the themes documentation so that you know what you need to do to make it look like it should.

There are two ways to access the WordPress customiser, the first is the Customise option within the Appearance section of the main sidebar. The second is if you go to the live version of your website, this can be done by clicking your website name in the top left of the dashboard, a toolbar will be visible at the top of the page and you can go into the customiser by pressing the Customise option.

Woocommerce Customiser

Now the amount of options available in the customiser does depend on the theme that you are using. Some will offer you lots of options, like the one in the image above and some will offer you very little.

Once again, the themes documentation is a great resource for finding what options you have and how to use them on your site.

Conclusion

That brings me to the end of this guide. It was quite difficult to know exactly what to include and also where to stop as there are a lot of different things that you can do when setting up an ecommerce store with WooCommerce.

I hope that there is enough information in this guide to help you get started with WordPress and WooCommerce.

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