How to Build an E-Commerce Website in 1 Day: A Step-By-Step Guide for Complete Beginners [Self-Hosted Edition]

Ecommerce_sales
You may want to build an e-commerce website to make more money. You may already be selling offline and want to increase your revenue by selling your products online. The good news is that it is now cheap and easy to build an e-commerce website.

Ten years ago, it would have cost you US$5,000 to build an e-commerce website. Now, you can build an e-commerce website for less than US$200.

While a professional website developer may be able to give you a top-notch website, they also cost a bomb. Luckily for you, you can now use free software that can help you build the basic e-commerce store you want.

The best thing? You don’t even need to be a highly technical person to do it. Anyone with some basic computer skills can build an e-commerce website.

In this post, I will show you step-by-step how to build an e-commerce website. Even with no experience setting up a website, you will be able to gain basic skills to do so by the end of this post.

Are you ready?

Let’s go.

Step 1: Deciding what to sell 

Before you build an e-commerce website, you must first decide what to sell.

If you want to make money online, you need to sell a product or products that people want to buy. You don’t want to waste your time and money to build an e-commerce website if nobody buys from you.

To find out what people want to buy, you need to first check if there is a real demand for your products. Here are some useful resources you can use to help you decide the product to sell:

Step-By-Step Guide On How to Find a Profitable Product to Sell

How to Find a Product to Sell Online [14 Chapters]

You need to spend time deciding on the right products to sell. By doing so, you can start making money from your website.

But even if you do your research, you can still end up with a product that does not sell very well. The key here is keep experimenting with different products. Use the guidelines in the resources above to help you pick a new product until you find a product that does sell. With e-commerce and any business, patience pays.

For now, you only need to narrow down on the first products you want to sell. Once you have chosen your products, it is now time to choose a domain name.

Step 2: Choosing a domain name

Your domain name is like your online address. It lets people know where to find you online.

Though you can choose a free domain name from websites like WordPress or Blogspot, you will have more authority and credibility when you buy one.

But what domain name should you pick?

Neil Patel recommends picking a name that is easy to remember and a maximum of two words long. You may also want to pick a name that tells your visitors what you are selling.

Here are some examples:

BloomThis.com is a website that sells a flower subscription service in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

bloomthis-ecommerce

The domain name Bloom This is short and easy to remember. Visitors can also guess what the business is about.

Here’s a website for another business: MakanDiantar.com

makan-diantar-ecommerce

MakanDiantar.com is a website that sells food delivery to people in Yogjakarta, Indonesia. The name MakanDiantar literally means ‘Food Delivery’ in Indonesian.

If I was hungry in Yogjakarta, it would be easy for me to remember MakanDiantar.

Although your domain name needs to be unique and memorable, try not to overdo it.

http://www.thelongestdomainnameintheworldandthensomeandthensomemoreandmore.com/ may be the world’s longest domain name, but I doubt anyone can remember it!

You also want to choose a domain name that is easy to pronounce, to avoid misspellings. A domain name like www.zoksyr.com may be unique and interesting, but different people may pronounce it differently. This may cause them to end up on wrong or error pages.

Once you have picked your domain name, you need to pick your extension. The extension is the part that completes the end of the domain name such as .com, .asia, .biz and so on.

With over 1,000 extensions to choose from, which should you pick?

When you can, go with a .com extension. The reason is simple: .com is the extension that everyone remembers most easily. It is the extension that everyone relates as the online world.

The next best option is to go with a country extension such as .my or .com.my for Malaysia or .sg or .com.sg for Singapore. But do note that country extensions normally indicate your business origins or where you are doing business. Depending on your business nature, this may or may not be a good thing.

If you are a Malaysian seller wanting to target Malaysians, a .com.my or .my extensive can gain you credibility. But if your audience is not specific to a particular country, it would be better to stick to a .com instead.

The only problem with a .com extension is that the best ones are already taken. Like this one:

Screen Shot 2016-07-19 at 1.01.17 PM

Though so, with some effort you should be able to come up with a domain name that is still available.

In a nutshell, when choosing a domain name, keep it

  • Short
  • Relevant to your business
  • Easy to remember and
  • Easy to pronounce
  • With a .com extension

Take time to consider the domain name for your business. It is the first thing people will type into their search bar to find you online!

Step 3: Buy a domain name

Once you have chosen your domain name, it’s time to buy it.

Buying a domain name is easy. I normally buy my domain names on GoDaddy or Exabytes (for .com.my and .my domains).

Unlike choosing a domain name, buying a domain name is easy. All you need to do is buy it from the website that has the cheapest offer.

Say, I want to sell wedding accessories online. I check for raveweddings.com on GoDaddy:

Screen Shot 2016-07-19 at 1.20.28 PM

On GoDaddy the listed price is RM9.99 (USD2.5). Sounds cheap? Look again. The fine print says ‘when you register 2 years or more. 1st year RM9.99 Additional years RM64.99 (USD16.5).’

As you are just getting started, you would not want to buy a domain name for more than one year. So you need to find out what the price is for just one year. It turns out that for just one year, the price is not RM9.99 (USD2.5), but RM44.17 (USD10).

Screen Shot 2016-07-19 at 1.33.33 PM

But it is still cheaper Exabytes, which is selling the same domain for RM59/year (USD14.8).

Screen Shot 2016-07-19 at 1.39.36 PM

By comparison, GoDaddy is cheaper. If I wanted to buy raveweddings.com, I would buy it from GoDaddy.

You can do similar comparisons between websites to find the cheapest offer.

Step 4: Buy web hosting

Even if you have bought your domain, your website is incomplete without a host. A host is where you store all your online files.

Unlike buying a domain name, price is not the main concern when you buy web hosting.

You need to consider a few factors:

  • Live Chat Support. Pick a web host that provides 24/7 chat support. It would be easier to ask for help through chat than picking up the phone.
  • Good Reviews. Go online and find out what other people say about the web host. Look for positive comments about its speed of support, how the web host handles down time and how friendly their customer service are.
  • Beginner Support. As a beginner, you may want a web host that can help you with setting up WordPress or some other platform. Check if the web host provides this.
  • Value for Price. Once you have narrowed down a few web hosting providers, do a comparison between the features they provide and pick the one with the best value for money.

There are hundreds of web hosts to choose from. Consider the above factors thoroughly before signing up with a host. You can check this guide for a reference on some of the best hosts around. The cost for basic hosting varies from USD4 – USD20 per month, depending on what you need.

I currently host my websites on Site5, which is a service my friend Jan Wong from OpenMinds recommended. It fits all three criteria mentioned. Though it is priced above average, I am satisfied with the quality of service it provides.

Once you have signed up with a host, change the DNS nameservers of your domain so that it directs to your host. The way to do this depends on the domain provider. All you have to do is contact your domain service provider and ask them to show you how to this.

Step 5: Choose your e-commerce platform and set it up

There are many e-commerce platforms to choose from. The one you pick depends on the following factors:

  • the amount of time you want to spend setting up the e-commerce platform
  • the number of products you want to sell
  • the number of sales features you need

The three most popular e-commerce platforms are WooCommerce, Joomla and Magento. For beginners, I would recommend using WooCommerce. It is much easier to set up than Joomla and Magento.

For WooCommerce to work, you must first set up WordPress on your website. There are many ways to set up WordPress. Hosts like Site5 even allow one click set ups. You simply have to select ‘Install & Manage Web Apps’ from the sidebar:

Site5 Web App Install

And then choosing ‘WordPress’ from the list of available Web Apps:

Screen Shot 2016-07-20 at 4.22.20 PM

Clicking on ‘Install now!’ will install WordPress on your website in less than one minute.

After you have installed WordPress on your website, all you have to do is look for WooCommerce under ‘Plugins’ and click install.

Screen Shot 2016-07-20 at 4.29.42 PM

Once you have installed WooCommerce, you can start configuring and adding products to your e-commerce store by following this guide.

Step 6: Choosing Your Payment gateway

Payment gateways are a safe way for your customers to pay you online.

Unlike in countries like the US, where most people are familiar with PayPal, there is no unified payment gateway in Southeast Asia.

To pick a payment gateway, you need to first ask yourself:

  • which country are your customers likely going to be from?
  • which online payment gateway is most popular in that country?
  • are your customers familiar with making online payments?

For instance, if you are trying to set up an e-commerce site targeting Malaysian buyers, you may choose payment gateways such as iPay88 or MOLPay. These are the two most popular payment gateways in Malaysia.

If you are unsure which payment gateway is most popular, you can find out by checking the market place websites in that country like Lazada. It is likely that they are using the payment gateway that the locals are most familiar with.

Do note that not everyone in Southeast Asia trust online payments. You may need to consider giving your customers the option for Cash on Delivery.

Once you have chosen your payment gateway, you have to integrate it to your e-commerce website. For WooCommerce, all you have to do is to buy the extension for it from the WooCommerce official site:

Screen Shot 2016-07-20 at 4.43.39 PMYou have to pay US$79 for this extension, but the good thing is that this is a one time fee. You can use the extension for as long as you want.

Once you have installed your payment gateway, you have all the basic components you need for your e-commerce website.

Conclusion

In this post I showed you the steps you can take to build an e-commerce website. Though it can take some time to learn how to do it, it will cost you much less than hiring someone to do it. 

Down the line, as your e-commerce site grows, you may need to hire a professional to upgrade your website. But for now, if you are bootstrapping, setting up a basic website will be more than sufficient for your needs.

Setting up an e-commerce site, however, does not guarantee you sales. As with any business, you need to work hard on marketing your business so more people get to know about it, trust you and buy from you.

E-commerce is also not the best way to get rich quick. You need to put in the hours to make it into a business people trust and continue to buy from. But if you are patient and persistent, you will see results.

Do you plan to start your own e-commerce website? What are you planning to sell?

Lu Wee is the Founder of The Entrepreneur Campfire. The Entrepreneur Campfire (TEC) is where smart entrepreneurs in Southeast Asia gather. You can find practical articles on how to grow, market and scale your business on TEC.

2 COMMENTS

  1. Lu Wee, thank you for this helpful post. I do have one question – if I am just starting out my online business. Do you recommend that I jump straight into getting a domain and ecommerce platform? Or should I first do some market testing, say using Facebook?

    • Hi Wen Zhe,

      Yes, I recommend you do some market testing both on Facebook and Instagram before setting up e-commerce website. 33% of Malaysians shop on social media so that’s a good testing ground to start with.

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here