When starting your first online store, it’s usually best to start simple and keep your costs low.
It makes little sense to hire an expensive web designer – or to sign up for an eCommerce service with high monthly costs – until you’ve proven that you can sell your first products and keep your customers happy.
What Is a Website, Really?
- Sometimes a website consists of static pages that are similar to the pages you create with a word processing program. Although it’s not recommended, you could create a home page by typing a few lines in Microsoft Word and saving the document as index.html in the web folder you can access in the control panel of the web host that you chose when you registered online.
- Instead of a word processor, professional website developers more often use Web development software. While this approach can provide a great deal of control, as described in the next article it can be very difficult to learn.
- Today many websites consist of pages that are displayed on-demand by a content management system (CMS). The CMS gives you an easier way to create and organize your web pages, and uses a database to store the information. As described in the next article, we use a free CMS called WordPress for this website, but you can also pay an eCommerce service a monthly fee to host your website and give you their own CMS.
What Makes an Online Store?
In addition to a working website, your online store will also need:
- Shopping cart software that lets customers choose the items they want to buy and calculates shipping, tax, and any other costs.
- A payment gateway that securely accepts payments and temporarily holds the funds in an account called a merchant account.
This chart shows some of your options, including software that you can install yourself and services that suppliers can host for you. We’ll explore these options the next articles, starting with alternatives to set up your website.