Starting your own online business? Or maybe you already have a business but want to modernize into the world of online sales? An online store is a big step and a lot of work, but it can lead to bigtime increases in sales in the end.
Online shopping is a consumer’s go-to, and is a must if you’re trying to branch out of your local market.
If you don’t like to get techy and complicated, I strongly recommend getting someone to this for you (like me!). That way you can skip having to figure out:
- Web hosting
- Store and Cart pages
- Payment gateways
- Site/credit card security
- Design detail
Hosted Vs Self-Hosted Web Platforms
First you have to decide if you want a hosted site that does all the work for you in building your site and maintaining your store. You will pay a higher monthly fee, but you might save time. Or you can self-host, pay less in the long run, and make your site just the way you want it.
- Hosting is kind of like riding the bus – you pay per ride, and you don’t have to do any of the maintenance or repairs. However, you’re stuck with a bus that you have to wait for, can’t change anything in, and depend on the driver for the best route. Hosting is using a site that’s managed by a company, and you pay a monthly fee. Shopify for example, is about $30 a month. You don’t get to do a lot of customizing, but then again, then you don’t spend time learning how to customize.
- Self-hosting is like buying your own car. It’s money up front, but then you get to do anything you want. You get to customize it all, and you don’t have to worry about your host changing the terms or layout. Once you pay the initial fees, the charges per month are much less.
As a website nerd, I prefer this latter option. I like to control things. I’m also cheap and so like to pay large sums up front so that per month they’re cheaper.
Coffee Business Site with WordPress and Woo Commerce
I recently just built an online store website for an emerging coffee company, Blind Date Coffee. I used WordPress (still my favorite web building tool), with their plugin Woo Commerce (adds the whole shopping part of the site).
I used Bluehost to host this website (3 year contract $140, but I have ins, so I got it for $99, or $2.75/month. It’ll be about $8/mon after the 3 years). The domain is free the first year, then about $16/yr after that. I also chose a free theme, because my clients preferred a simple layout that can easily be achieved without getting all fancy and expensive.
Then there’s payment gateways, the services that allow customers to pay right there on your site. Do you want to go with classic or modern? Do you want it hosted, where people go to another page to pay but security is taken care of, or integrated, where the customer stays on your page, but you have to make sure it’s secure.
There are two types – classic, and modern.
- Classic – cheaper per transaction, but requires you to have a merchant account, which requires your bank to accept them, and to approve you (can take 4-6 weeks).
- Modern – the new ‘in’ thing is to go modern. Companies realized that Classic is a @#!% so they’ve made their own pre-arrangements with banks. If you’re a small business, you can probably handle the slightly higher per transaction fee.Modern options include Paypal, Authorize.net, Amazon, Stripe, and a bunch of other tiny, ill-supported options (subject to change of course).
Why I Chose Stripe’s Payment Gateway
DIY or Hire Out Your Online Store
Of course all that doesn’t even mention all the other parts of an online store like adding site security (SSL), pages, widgets, images, analytics, and all those other things that always take so much longer than you think it should.
Hopefully this gives any of you online store DIYers an idea of where to start and some of the things to consider. Or, if you’re eyes are fully glazed over by now, maybe it gives you the idea that you want your time spent elsewhere and just want to Contact Me to take care of it all.