The previous articles went through my thinking about building an ecommerce website and why I chose to do so. Now how do I choose the right software, hosting package, development process etc.? I hope in the next paragraphs I will explain why I chose a self-hosted WordPress based website using Woo Commerce and a variety of plug-ins, etc.
If you read my blog on why WordPress is a great piece of web software, it may appear as if I am a convert to this technology. Honestly, I have learnt the hard way after over 25 years in the IT technology jobs that I should remain a software agnostic, and find the right software for the job. For this job I believe this would be WordPress. It is not that the basic software is free, but the platform is very stable and lots of great developers have built software that can be used on the platform. This is particularly important as I want a flexible ecommerce site. The choice of platform and ecommerce software goes hand in hand. Woo Commerce is a great company that develops software for WordPress; their ecommerce platform is a leading solution. Most of the basic functionality is free, but if you need anything special the price for add ones or plugins is very reasonable indeed.
WARNING – I have said before that I am a closet techie, so I am very confident working with software. In fact I have spent the last 2 years getting to know the WordPress platform and themes, plugins etc. in a reasonable level of depth. I am confident that I can install, modify, change and enhance this combination of WordPress and additional software. If you do not have my expertise and experience, the great news is that over 60% of the world’s websites are built on WordPress so there are lots of people you can call upon to help you. Find one locally who speaks the same native language (in Europe we say ‘mother tongue’) and lives in a similar time zone as you (+ or – a few hours). This will save you a lot of time and grief in the future.
Why Woo Commerce, there are others but I found this is great. Also when it came to choose which ‘theme’ or website design I wanted, most theme developers integrated very well with Woo Commerce products. This saves a great deal of time. I did some research but found that choosing WordPress, Woo Commerce and a theme designed for these got me 75% of what I wanted. I did extra research to see if an affiliate type website could be supported on this combination of selected software, the simple answer is yes.
Next chose to self-host or not and what website name to select. This was an easier question to answer than I expected. Free or very cheap hosting plans give little support for my chose software selection on their free or basic plans. Therefore for few extra pounds I chose to self-host with a UK based hosting platform, they also helped me get my domain name. This was probably the most difficult decision at this point as I wanted the site name to reflect what I am selling and where I am selling it. More about this in later blogs.
In summary choosing the platform is not complicated, although you will get lots of conflicting advice from different techies. I was able to try out all the software I wanted beforehand for free – do not spend forever testing every feature as you will burn loads of time. Eventually you have to make a decision and go with it.
When this set of decisions is made, believe me many more will follow. These will include, what will my site look like, can I tailor it, how will my ‘products be displayed’, what about prices. As an affiliate based site, I knew I would need to load many products, descriptions, etc. form the supplier, and I needed to check that this could be done. This is probably my biggest worry as I did not want to spend time and effort doing this manually every day, week or month. I will explain in a future blog how I dealt with this ‘data feed’ to ensure I could do it fairly quickly without too many problems.
At this stage, I have my website domain name, a hosting platform, software to load on it to start building my ecommerce site, an idea of what it will look like. So now it gets serious.
Please note, I am writing these blogs a couple of months after I have gone live on my platform. I wanted to give you advice on what works rather than just theoretical solutions. Also whilst I have made mistakes, I may try and explain my thinking and why what I am telling you works. Yes you could have chosen another platform, another ecommerce solution and used a standard hosting package, this will work. But this is my story, I know this works.