In this tutorial, you’ll learn how to build a fully-functional WordPress e-commerce website completely from scratch.
Are you thinking of starting your own e-commerce business? If you are, then you’re going to love this beginner’s power guide.
I’ve been wanting to write this tutorial guide for some time now, however, I’ve been putting it off until I felt comfortable enough to do it properly.
As you may (or may not) know, my first ever online business venture was in e-commerce, selling original art/paintings online.
In fact, I’m still doing it today.
Yep, it might come as news to you, especially if you’ve been following me for some time now, that I run two primary businesses:
A web design and digital media company here at Magnet4Blogging, and an e-commerce business selling original art online!
The buzz of running an e-commerce website
Running an e-commerce business takes an enormous amount of time and energy because you’re responsible for a lot of logistics.
However, don’t let that put you off one single bit because the rewards can be enormous!
Whatever your reason for wanting to start a WordPress e-commerce website, I hope you’ll find this guide easy to follow, as well as useful for getting set up quickly and efficiently.
Important note: If you feel that you cannot do this by yourself, remember that I’m here to help you. Click this link to learn more about my web services.
Here’s what we’re going to cover in this beginners power guide
We’re going to cover all of the basic steps you need to take to get set up with your e-commerce website using WordPress and a plugin called WooCommerce.
Once again, this guide is aimed at complete beginners, so I’m going to assume you are completely new to all of this.
If you are familiar with any of the steps below, feel free to skip them.
Here’s what we’re going to cover –
- Getting a domain name and web hosting.
- Setting up a secure SSL (HTTPS), and why this is important.
- Installing WordPress.
- Recommended WordPress settings for an e-commerce website.
- Finding and installing an e-commerce ready WordPress theme.
- Recommended plugins for your e-commerce website.
- Setting up an e-commerce environment on your website using WooCommerce, including extension plugins and creating products, pricing, shipping, payment, etc.
- Recommended pages.
Right, let’s get started.
1. Getting a domain name and web hosting
Let’s start with the basic essentials of any website.
You can skip this process entirely if you already have your domain and hosting sorted. If you don’t yet have web hosting or a domain name, on the other hand, you’re going to need these in order to get your e-commerce website up and running.
For domain name and website hosting, I use and ‘personally’ recommend SiteGround.
I have been a SiteGround customer since 2015 and have nothing but positive words to say about this company.
If you are registering for a brand new hosting account, you can actually get a free domain name with SiteGround, as with most other web host providers.
How to signup for SiteGround web hosting
Assuming that you don’ have web hosting or a domain name yet, here is a quick tutorial video that will show you exactly how to signup for a hosting account with SiteGround, as well as how t install WordPress into your domain name and create your first website.
For a more detailed web hosting setup tutorial, check out this post.
2. Setting up an SSL (HTTPS) environment, and why this is important
Skip this process if you don’t need to know or learn how to add SSL to your e-commerce domain.
Once you have your domain name and web hosting set up, the next thing you need to do, assuming you’ve used SiteGround, of course, is to get your domain name set up with a secure SSL protocol or HTTPS.
In SiteGround, this is very easy to do, and I’ll show you how.
From your account in SiteGround, navigate to cPanel > Security > Let’s Encrypt > and install a new Let’s Encrypt Certificate into the domain name you want to build your e-Commerce website on. See image below.
If you require a more thorough tutorial on how to successfully do this, check out this post.
Why it’s important to use SSL for your eCommerce website?
Simple, for security.
If you are selling anything through your website, it’s critical that your customers feel safe when they’re shopping there.
Their sensitive information, such as credit card details, shipping addresses, usernames, and passwords should all be secured and encrypted at all times when communicating over your website.
We’ll talk more about setting up payment processing later on in the tutorial.
Another reason why using an SSL in your domain name is important is when people see that your site is secured with the padlock icon in the address bar, it helps to put trust in them.
People need to feel safe, and that that they can trust your website before doing business with you. Trust can help improve your sales conversion rates dramatically. See image below.
3. Installing WordPress
Skip this process if you don’t need to learn how to install WordPress.
If you watched the tutorial video above, you’ll have noticed I covered this part of the tutorial, however, I didn’t cover enabling SSL.
Anyhow, let’s go through the process of installing WordPress below.
Once you’ve dealt with your domain name and hosting, and the SSL step, the next step is installing WordPress into your website.
Once again, I’ll assume you’re doing this through SiteGround, so here’s what you need to do.
From your Accounts dashboard, navigate to cPanel > WordPress Tools > WordPress Installer, and click on the Install Tab.
Next, fill in all the necessary fields to get your e-commerce website setup.
Here’s a step-by-step infographic guide on how to do this –
- Choose protocol – Make sure this starts with HTTPS and not just HTTP. If you are not seeing the option for HTTPS make sure to follow Step 2 of the tutorial carefully.
- Choose domain – This is the domain name you will use to create your e-commerce website.
- In directory – Leave empty if this is your first website on this hosting account.
- Site name – Name of your website.
- Site description – Description of your website.
- Enable multisite – Leave unchecked.
- Admin username – Create one.
- Admin password – Create one and remember it.
- Admin email – Add one.
- Select language – English, unless different, of course.
- Select plugins – Optional.
- Advanced options – Optional.
Next, hit the Install Button.
Installation takes a few minutes, however, once completed, you should be good to go.
The completion page will load and you should be given your new website address and the admin login address.
You can log into your WordPress dashboard using the credentials you created in steps 8 and 9 in the infographic.
4. Recommended WordPress settings for an e-commerce environment
Settings for WordPress websites vary depending on the nature and scope of the site.
Some of the things I recommend configuring for an e-commerce WordPress site, however, are as follows –
- Check the permalink structure, and if necessary, change it to something more SEO and human-friendly.
- Enable breadcrumbs for improved user experience and easy navigation.
- Hide login URL to secure website and to prevent access to WordPress admin login URL (You’ll need a plugin for this which I’ll talk more about later on).
- Discourage search engines from indexing your site. Only do this if your site is brand new and you don’t yet want it to be found through online search.
Check out this post for more tips on configuring WordPress after installation.
5. Finding and installing an e-commerce ready WordPress theme
Now the fun really begins. Finding a shop-style theme that you can use for your e-commerce website.
This can be quite challenging in the sense that there are so many e-commerce themes out there to choose from.
I would personally recommend investing in a premium theme, and preferably one that has been pre-styled for WooCommerce.
I always recommend using premium quality themes just for the support and updates you get with paid themes. This is important as you’ll want to have a well coded, robust, and secured website your customers can use.
Something like Genesis theme framework and a WooCommerce optimized child theme would be a good fit.
If you’re wanting to use a free theme, however, you might be interested in checking out WooCommerce’s Storefront theme.
Check out this post for top e-commerce themes for WordPress.
Installing a theme is very easy. From your WordPress admin dashboard navigate to Appearance > Themes > Add New Theme > Choose File > Upload > Activate theme.
One thing I would also recommend is finding a theme that is easy to customize on your own.
If you need help with website design, customization, and even branding for your e-commerce website, click here to see how I can help you with this.
6. Recommended plugins for your e-commerce website
Once you have your theme installed, activated and set up, it’s time to add some plugins to add functionality.
Now, we don’t just want any old plugins for our e-commerce website.
Since this is a website where you’re going to promote and sell products on, digital or physical, here’s what I would recommend installing and why –
- Business Profile Plugin – Create a profile about your business.
- Google Analytics by MonsterInsights – Track what visitors are doing on your website to help improve user experience, navigation, etc.
- Simple Social Icons. – Help your visitors and customers share your product pages on social media.
- Wordfence Security – Keep your website secure, spam free, and less vulnerable from exploitation and hacking, especially if your customers are going to transact on your site.
- WooCommerce – The most powerful and widely used e-commerce plugin for WordPress.
In addition to the 5 plugins mentioned above, I also recommend the following essential plugins –
If you’re planning on allowing your customers to create a user profile and membership account on your eCommerce website, I’d recommend the following plugin and check out the extensions available. Please note that this is a premium plugin –
7. Setting up your e-commerce environment using WooCommerce
Now, let’s have some more fun to turn your website into a full-blown e-commerce platform to sell your products.
I’ll assume you’ve installed and activated all of the plugins I mentioned above.
Before we get started, I want to make it crystal clear that the following steps below shouldn’t be rushed. Take your time with it.
If you follow the steps very carefully for each plugin setup, you’ll set your e-commerce website up correctly.
You’ll also need to have a PayPal Business account to process payments on your website.
Now, let’s begin.
Configuring the WooCommerce plugin
The first thing we need to do is configure the WooCommerce plugin.
WooCommerce is a power-packed e-commerce plugin for WordPress and it’s really simple to set up.
I want to keep things super simple, so please take a look at the short video tutorial below created by WPTuts for guidance.
There are many tutorial videos on setting up WooCommerce out there, but I feel this one is the easiest to follow.
Configuring WooCommerce menu cart
Next up, we want to set up our menu cart. See image below.
This is kind of optional, however, I do recommend using a menu cart as, once again, it will help to make the lives of your shoppers a lot easier when shopping on your website.
So, first, find and install the WooCommerce Menu cart plugin, or use the download link above.
Once you’ve activated it, navigate to WooCommerce > Menu Cart Setup and make your desired configuration.
Take a look at the infographic below for guidance on the Menu Cart Plugin Setup.
Configuring PayPal and PayPal Checkout Gateway
Right, lets now setup PayPal payment processing on your e-commerce website. See image below.
Again, please note that you’ll need to have a PayPal Business Account to set up payment processing on your e-commerce website using WooCommerce.
To enable PayPal Standard, you need to set up your Live API Username and Password. You can learn how to access these here.
Once set up, your customers can be redirected to PayPal to enter their payment information from your website’s checkout page. Once they’ve completed payment they are redirected back to your website.
Note: In order for your buyers to be redirected back to your website from PayPal, make sure you have your “Order Received” page set up correctly. This can be a static page that you create in WordPress telling your customers you’ve received their order for processing.
Simply log into your PayPal Account, navigate to Profile & Settings > My Selling Preferences > Website Preferences > Auto Return for Website Payments.
On this page, you can add the Return URL and make sure Auto Return is turned on.
Once again, this is important so that your customers can be redirected to your website after payment to be notified that their order has been successful. See example images below.
You should also enable Payment Data Transfer and copy and paste the Identity Token number from PayPal, into the PayPal Identity Token field in your WooCommerce PayPal Settings page on your website
What this will do is allow you to receive notifications of successful payments when they are made on your website.
If you’re not already on this page, from your PayPal account dashboard, navigate to Profile & Settings > My Selling Preferences > Website Preferences > Payment Data Transfer. See images below.
PayPal Checkout, on the other hand, lets customers checkout directly with PayPal.
To enable PayPal Checkout you’ll need to set up your API credentials in your PayPal account. See image below.
You can make your own preferences when configuring the rest of the options for both PayPal Standard and PayPal Checkout.
Don’t forget to enable these in the Payments tab in WooComerce too. See image below.
For a more thorough tutorial on setting PayPal payments in WooCommerce, watch the short video tutorial below.
Setting up Stripe is a little bit more complicated. In addition, there are some regulations (PCI) regarding the collection of credit card information on our website which you need to comply with.
For these reasons, I’ve decided not to include Stripe setup in this beginners guide. I will, however, write a separate tutorial post and video in the coming weeks to show how to set up Stripe payment in WooCommerce successfully.
Asides from your WooCommerce product pages, here is a list of essential pages to add to your e-commerce website:
- About page.
- Contact page.
- Customer feedback page.
- Terms of Service page.
- FAQ page.
- Shipping Information page.
It’s a wrap!
So, there you have it. Hopefully, you now have your e-commerce website ready for doing business.
You’ll find that there will always be something that needs adjusting, improving, and configuring, so make sure to test everything before launching your WordPress e-commerce website.
The next step is marketing and promoting your new website, so check out these posts to get you started –
- 10 Best Digital Marketing Ideas And Strategies To Grow Your Business
- 19 Critical Digital Marketing Mistakes You Should Avoid (And What You Should Do)
- Inbound Marketing, A/B Split Testing And Conversion Rate Optimization Services
Need help with website design?
If you need help with your WordPress e-commerce website design strategy, launchpad, and continuous improvement, click here to learn more about my Growth-Drive Website Design services.