So you’re going to do things with a bit more control and under your watchful eye, exciting! However, before we overload ourselves with giddy thoughts of customizing an off the shelf solution with amazing features, we first need to establish things. Registering a domain, setting up hosting, installing the shopping cart on the server (hosting), and beyond!
Let’s assume you’ve laid out some goals, planned milestones, and gave yourself a general deadline to get your store up and running. Great! Now we can begin the actual steps to making it all happen. Note, this list isn’t in any particular order but should serve as a good guideline for moving forward:
Rule #3, Contain Your Energy!
It’s always exciting to start a new project or begin building your next idea. For some of us, we get no better satisfaction than laying the ground work for our next project. However, this energy tends to burn bright, fast, and fizzles out in a short while. The excitement, drive, and enthusiasm escapes us and we move away from the project. It will be wise of you to take your time, not try to do everything at once, and schedule milestones for yourself.
Purchase the domain
You’ll want to pick a good and reputable website to purchase your domain. My personal recommendation is http://namecheap.com/ as I currently have 20+ domains with them and anytime there is an issue, the support staff are very reasonable in working towards resolving it. Their prices are also very fair and they often have excellent deals. You’ll want to avoid any company owned by EIG due to their poor performance in many areas (read: https://www.reviewhell.com/blog/endurance-international-group-eig-hosting/), this goes for both hosting and domain purchases.
In addition to the domain, you will be offered options of adding on SSL, WHOIS protection and various other goodies. SSL is a must for e-commerce stores (and more so, modern websites that transmit any sort of data). It would be a good idea to purchase an SSL certificate with your domain, however you can use https://letsencrypt.org/ if you’re comfortable. This article assumes you’re not that person. In addition to the SSL certificate, you will need to purchase a dedicated IP address, these are usually less than $2-$3 a month.
Purchase a hosting plan:
This part has many options, considerations and things you’ll need to research, but you can use the below points to help gauge which is the right choice for you:
- If you have zero experience with Linux terminals, or server administration – go with shared hosting plan.
- If you have experience with Linux, setting up technology stacks, and are comfortable managing server security and packages – go with a VPS plan.
More on the points above. A shared hosting plan is a small chunk of a server that you rent on a monthly / annual basis. Most shared servers tend to be slower, limited in what access you have (not always an issue), and requires zero configuration on your part to get up and running. They’re ideal for most new ideas or smaller stores. A VPS (virtual private server) is similar, but with dedicated resources to your website. They often allow you to manage the server directly (installing certain packages via the command line), require the installation and configuration of technology stacks,and demand constant security monitoring, fixes, and adjustments to scale.
Lower-end VPS packages and Shared hosting plans tend to be about the same price, but come with many trade-offs. It’s possible to save a few dollars if you elect to pay for hosting annually as opposed to month-to-month.
I’m not going to make any suggestions for shared vs. VPS companies, but there are TONS out there. If you go with shared hosting, make sure they offer cPanel, plenty of email accounts, databases and have reasonable reviews through Twitter, Facebook or various outlets.
Installing the shopping cart:
At this point, I really hope you’ve settled on a shopping cart that best fits your needs. If you selected a shared hosting package the good news is that cPanel offers a way to install a lot of popular e-commerce platforms with a few clicks. Through a service called Softaculous, you literally select your desired shopping cart, enter in some basic information, and click ‘install’. It does all the hard work for you. If Softaculous does not offer your desired platform, you’ll need to go to the vendor’s website, download their shopping cart, and then install it via FTP. Most decent shopping cart platforms will have an installer to guide you through the process.
You now have a domain, hosting, and your shopping cart operational. Without diving into the initial modifications, plugins, or adjustments needed to make some carts perform better, I suggest you begin to get intimately familiar with the shopping cart of your choice’s options, administration, and community. It’s likely you’ll be able to find a ton of plugins, guides, and a supportive community that will help you grow your platform. After you become comfortable, it’s time to add your products and begin to build up for your launch day.