Here’s a step-by-step guide on how to build your own online shop with Shopify.
I’ll cover all the basics and bit more, so you could get your online store up and running ASAP.
Let’s get started…
How to Set up Your Own Online Shop with the Help of Shopify
Signing up with Shopify and starting your store couldn’t be any easier and they even offer a 14-day free trial to get you going.
To launch your Shopify store, you must sign up for an account.
1. Sign Up with Shopify
To start, visit Shopify.com. Use the signup form to start creating an account.
Enter the required details and then click the ‘Create your store now' button.
Your store name needs to be unique or Shopify will ask you to choose something else.
After this initial screen, you’ll be asked for a few more details, these include your name, address, country and a contact number.
You will also be asked if you have products and, if so, what you aim to sell. If you’re just trying out Shopify to see if it works for you, you can select ‘I’m just playing around’ in the Do you have products? dropdown, and ‘I’m not sure’ in the ‘What will you sell?’ section.
Once complete, click ‘I’m done’.
2. Start Setting Up Your Online Shop
After you’ve signed up you’ll be directed straight to your store admin screen. Now you are ready to start customizing your store’s look, uploading products and setting up payments and shipping.
3. Choose a “Theme” or “Layout”
Shopify has its own official theme store. These themes are all guaranteed to have full support from the designers so you know your store is in good hands.
All themes come with a comprehensive list of modifications you can make without having to touch a line of code. The premium themes come with more modifications, but that’s not to say you can’t achieve a great looking site with a free one. These changes are outlined in the next section.
If you want to make wholesale changes to a theme, there are very few limitations on what can be achieved by accessing the HTML and CSS. Don’t worry if you haven’t got any coding experience. Shopify has an international team of design agencies they call ‘Shopify Experts’ that you can hire to fully customize your site.
To find a theme that suits your needs we recommend the following:
1. Browse the Theme Store
Log into Shopify and visit the Shopify Theme Store at themes.shopify.com. Here you’ll find over 180 theme variations to choose from, including a good selection of free ones.
You can filter by paid or free, industry and by features. You can also sort themes by price, popularity, and most recent.
2. Check the functionality and reviews
Once you’ve found a theme you like, click on the theme’s sample image. You’ll be given more information about the theme, such as whether the theme is responsive/mobile ready among other features.
Scroll down to read some reviews to find out what e-tailers using the theme think of it.
3. Preview the theme
To see the theme in action, click View Demo. You’ll see this below the green ‘Preview Theme in your Store’ button.
If the theme comes in a range of styles, you can also view demos of the different styles by clicking on them.
4. Get the theme
Once you’ve found a theme you like, click the green button.
Shopify will ask you to confirm that you want to install the theme.
Click Publish as my Shop’s Theme.
Don’t worry if you’re not 100% sure it’s the right theme for you. You can always change your mind later.
After the theme has installed, Shopify will let you know and will give you the option to Go to your Theme Manager. Click this.
Your theme manager shows published themes (the one you installed or activated most recently) and unpublished themes below (previously installed themes).
4. Edit Shopify Settings
The majority of Shopify themes allow you to make simple changes that can massively change the appearance of your store, so you can rest assured knowing you won’t end up with a website that looks like a clone of thousands of other stores.
On your admin screen, select ‘Themes’ from the left-hand navigation menu. On this page you will see your live theme in a box at the top, in the top right-hand corner of that box will be two buttons. The first one is of three dots, which gives you some basic settings changes. One of these allows you to make a duplicate of the theme. We highly recommend you do this in case you make some changes you don’t like, then you can delete the duplicate and start again. The second button says ‘Customize Theme’. If you click that you will be taken to a page that controls all the basic functionality of your store. This is a great time for you to have a thorough play with the settings and test out all the features so you can find out what your site is capable of.
Changing colors in your theme
The most common features will include:
Some themes will also allow you to reposition elements on pages such as showing product images on the left, right or center of the page. You can also choose whether you want to display social like/tweet/pin/+1 buttons.
5. Add Your Products to The Store
From the bar on the left select ‘Products’. You will then see a blue ‘Add a product’ button in the top right-hand corner of the page. Especially look at those that will help with SEO such as name, description, and URL. Also, include as much detail about variants as possible to help inform customers about your items.
This is also the screen where you upload product pictures. Once the images are uploaded you can rearrange them so don’t worry about uploading them in any particular order.
Product images can make a sale so make sure you show your products off to their best and highlight any special or unique features with close up photos. To keep your store looking tidy we suggest you keep all images the same dimensions. Unless of course, you plan to make your collection pages look like a Pinterest board.
Once everything is filled out always remember to click the ‘Save product’ button in the top and bottom right-hand corners.
Set up collections (a group of products)
A collection is any group of products that have some feature in common that customers might look for when visiting your store. For example, your customers might be shopping for:
Products can appear in any number of collections. Usually, you would display your collections on your homepage and in the navigation bar. This helps customers find what they’re looking for without having to click through your whole catalog.
Manual and automatic collections
When you add a new collection, you can select how products should be added to it. These are the two options:
A payment gateway allows you to take payment from your customers via your website. The price and commission rate is important, but it’s also important to see what features they offer. Not all payment gateways are created equal.
You need to look at the following when choosing the right payment gateway for you.
When you take a payment, some gateways will keep a small percentage or flat fee (or sometimes both) for letting you use their service. Compare these based on what your anticipated sales are.
You need to know what types of card are accepted by your chosen Payment Gateway. All accept VISA and Mastercard, while most accept American Express. Paypal is also popular for online payments.
Some gateways will take the payment on their own servers via their own form. This means the customer is taken away from your checkout and they pay on the form provided by your payment gateway. They are then redirected to your confirmation page once the customer successfully pays. This allows you to have a bit more control of the checkout process. Now you can circumvent Shopify’s limitations in that they don’t let you customize the checkout other than with CSS.
Payment gateway transaction fees are added on top of Shopify’s own transaction fees. However, as of November stores based in the US and UK can use Shopify Payments. Depending upon your Shopify plan, you can save on these extra costs. Relative to your plan you will receive these highly appealing rates.
Depending on how many transactions you make every month it could be worth upgrading to take advantage of these savings.
If you live in the US or UK your store will automatically use Shopify Payments. To complete this, click the ‘Complete Shopify Payments account setup’ button found in Settings > Payments. If you wish to use a third party gateway you can use the ‘enable payment gateways’ link on the same page.
6. Get Your Online Shop “LIVE”
Before your site can go live you need to add a few more details about your company and how you plan to make deliveries and pay tax.
Make sure all your business information is filled out on this page. Also, make sure to make use of the Google Analytics feature. This can prove to be an invaluable source for tracking your store visitors.
If your shipping rates are too narrow, or you don’t give enough options, you may lose out on some sales. Shopify will only calculate a shipping rate for your customers based on the rules that you define in the Shipping page of the admin. To make sure you won’t lose any sales:
Test your order system
To test your system you can simulate a transaction using Shopify’s Bogus Gateway.
To use the Bogus Gateway:
Testing a real payment gateway with a genuine transaction:
Is this free?
Yes – just be sure to cancel and refund the order soon after you place it.
If your billing cycle hits after you’ve placed the test order but before you cancel it, the transaction fees will appear on your bill. You can still cancel after paying your bill to Shopify, but you’ll receive the refund as a transaction credit on your account. You can use transaction credits to pay future transaction fees.
7. Consider Buying a Domain Name
To get your site live you’ll need a domain name. You have two choices for this. Firstly you can buy a domain from Shopify and it will be added to your store automatically. This saves you time, especially if you have no knowledge of hosting a website. These domains typically cost $9-$14 USD per year. Your second option is to purchase a domain from a third party such as GoDaddy. These domains start from $1.99 USD a year. The downside is that you’ll have to redirect the DNS records yourself which can seem daunting at first.
Here are the steps to put your new Shopify store live on a third party domain name.
In the Shopify admin, from the left-hand navigation go to Settings and then Domains and add your domain name using the ‘Add an existing domain’ button.
Login to your domain registrar and make the required changes.
Otherwise, no one will be able to access your site even once it’s live.
Whilst in Settings > Domains, you can choose your main domain by using the drop-down at the top of the screen:
Ensure that you also check the ‘Redirect all traffic to this domain’. This means that traffic to all other domains will be directed to your primary domain. This is crucial for good SEO.
You can repeat steps 1 and 2 with other domain names you own. All domain names will redirect to the ‘Primary’ domain, which you can change at any time with the ‘Set as primary’ option next to each domain name.
Note that the number of domain names you own has no influence on SEO.
And that is all there is to it. In theory, you can have a great looking, unique and fully-functioning store in less than half an hour without having to be a web expert. This way you can spend most of your time marketing your product rather than having to maintain the site.
In regards to customization, Shopify allows almost every aspect of their templates to be altered in some way. You can also change the functionality of most parts of your site. On top of this, they also have the largest app store for added functionality. Comparatively, Volusion only has one template that can only have minor changes made to it.
The only real downside is not being able to fully customize your checkout. Shopify restricts access to this page for security reasons. However the checkout comes fully responsive, so it will work perfectly for customers shopping on mobile devices.