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Scalable WordPress Hosting for Developers – WordPress.com News

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Scalable WordPress Hosting for Developers – WordPress.com News

WordPress powers forty-three percent of all websites, supporting everything from small hobby sites to major sites such as Rolling Stone, TechCrunch, and even The White House

If you want your WordPress website to scale and accommodate anywhere from 10 to millions of site visits a month, you need to choose your hosting wisely. When a site is business-critical, you need scalable hosting that can support its performance and security requirements

WordPress.com is a managed WordPress hosting solution that accommodates the growing demands of your site, allowing it to scale with you and your clients.

In this article, we’ll take a look at the importance of scalable WordPress hosting, as well as how to ensure that your sites are as highly available, secure, and performant as possible. We’ll cover:

  1. Shared vs managed WordPress hosting
  2. Why managed hosting is best for growing sites
    1. Security
    2. Cost containment
    3. Scalability
    4. Performance
  3. How to make your site more scalable
    1. Use a Content Delivery Network
    2. Caching
    3. Autoloading
  4. Wrapping up

Shared vs managed WordPress hosting

When evaluating WordPress hosting options in terms of scalability, it’s important to understand the differences between shared hosting and managed hosting.

Shared hosting is like going to the gym where you need to share access to all of the equipment like treadmills and weights. If there are too many people using the treadmills, you may need to wait your turn, which can impact the amount of time you need to spend at the gym to get your desired workout. 

With shared hosting, your website shares server space and resources with other websites; if one website gets a lot of visitors or needs more resources, it can slow down the performance for everyone else on the same server.

Managed hosting, like what we offer at WordPress.com, is like having a home gym. The equipment is yours, and you can use it whenever you want––no need to wait in line! 

With managed hosting, your website has its own dedicated server and resources, so you don’t have to worry about other websites affecting its performance. Not only that, similar to how a personal trainer establishes your workout schedule and nutritional suggestions, a managed hosting provider manages all of the technical stuff for your website, like keeping it safe and making sure it runs smoothly.

Building upon the workout analogy, as your goals change, whether it’s weight loss, muscle gain, or general fitness, a personal trainer will customize your workout plan to meet the desired goals. Similarly, when the demand of your website grows with a larger audience or new service requirements, a managed hosting provider ensures appropriate resources are allocated to support those needs so that your website continues to perform in high traffic. 

So when trying to find the best hosting solution for scalability, managed hosting is typically recommended over shared hosting.

Why managed hosting is best for growing sites

Shared hosting can be a great budget choice to start, especially for small-scale hobby sites and other sites that aren’t business-critical. However, when you are working for clients or customers, you often have requirements that even the best shared hosting providers aren’t always equipped to handle.

Especially when developing a complex site, it’s important to have hosting that can grow with a site, as your host will need to support more traffic, a greater number of plugins, or different types of editorial content. 

Unfortunately, many shared WordPress hosting platforms have some difficulty meeting this need, and there are a number of common problems you may face when using shared hosting:

Security

Security can be an issue with some of the shared hosting providers due to the fact that multiple sites are sharing resources. Depending on how the infrastructure is configured, a vulnerable plugin on someone else’s site could affect yours, even if you keep all your plugins, themes, and WordPress core up to date!

As your site grows, you’ll also likely need to add more users with permissions to log in and manage the site. Thanks to WordPress’s user roles, it’s easy to restrict what parts of a site users are able to change. However, as this list of users grows, so do the opportunities for less-secure practices to sneak into your site and potentially compromise things.

One major concern is authenticating users who need access to the backend of your site. With a solution like WordPress.com, you get our Secure Sign-On, which allows you to use a single set of credentials to access both the WordPress.com dashboard and the backend WP Admin dashboard of any of your sites, quickly and securely. It also allows you to enforce two-factor authentication or security key authentication to ensure that everyone who has access to your site is accessing it in the most secure way possible.

Since eligible WordPress.com plans also run on WP Cloud’s architecture, your site gets double protection through the use of their Linux namespaces and control groups; they separate your site data from other sites and users. 

WP Cloud also encrypts site traffic with Transport Layer Security (TLS), protecting any data your users share with your website (and vice versa).

Cost containment

A common pattern among shared hosting companies is to be relatively cheap but charge for additional features a la carte, such as a content delivery network (CDN) or increased bandwidth. 

While this might make sense for someone just starting out, more advanced sites may need additional features, which can rapidly make hosting your site an expensive proposition. A better choice is finding a managed hosting provider that gives you everything you need to scale your site for a flat rate.

With WordPress.com’s eligible plans, you get access to WP Cloud’s ultra-powerful Global Edge Caching, unrestricted bandwidth, a site accelerator CDN, and high-burst capacity, all included within your plan.

Scalability

As your site scales, you’ll be adding more content and getting more traffic. Your server needs to handle the increased demands and load that a bigger, more highly-trafficked site requires. A managed hosting company handles traffic spikes and increased demands on the server behind the scenes, so that you can rest assured that your site won’t be held back by the hosting infrastructure it sits on. 

When comparing hosts, the ability to handle increased infrastructure demands should be a primary consideration; you don’t want your website to go down just when it’s getting more exposure than normal or while your business is growing.

In independent, third-party testing, WordPress.com stands out for its top tier performance, even under increased load. Your site will also load quickly at scale due to the quantity of PHP workers available from WP Cloud for each eligible WordPress.com site

PHP workers process PHP code to build pages, execute processes, and fulfill requests. The number of PHP workers provided by your host impacts the amount of uncached requests your site can handle at once. The more PHP workers your site has, the quicker content can be shown to your audience.

Our custom resource management system automatically scales to over 100 PHP workers that will support your sites and keep things running efficiently, regardless of the number of visitors trying to access them at once. 

blue buildings going from small to tall with a blue cloud with the WordPress logo in it on a black background

Performance

One of the major downsides to shared hosting is speed. Because you’re sharing the same server and resources with many other customers, there are limits to how fast your site can load, especially if your site or someone else’s site on your shared server experiences heavy traffic. And as you probably already know, sites that perform better and load more quickly are more attractive to customers and do more business overall

Even though many shared hosting solutions claim to offer “unlimited” bandwidth or other resources, there are practical infrastructure limitations due to the fact that you’re sharing with others. 

As your site grows, shared hosting can also lead to decreased stability and uptime. With multiple sites competing for resources, there’s a higher likelihood of performance bottlenecks and server strain, potentially causing frequent downtimes and slower loading speeds. Consequently, you may find yourself spending more time on maintenance tasks to address these issues.

With WordPress.com, your site resources will scale with your website as it grows, so you never need to pay overage charges or worry about being too successful. Eligible WordPress.com hosting plans include WP Cloud’s robust and automated burst scaling to ensure that your website will never slow down or crash as a result of heavy traffic spikes or excessive concurrent users.

How to make your site more scalable

No matter where your site is hosted, there are some best practices that you can implement to make it more scalable:

Use a Content Delivery Network

A Content Delivery Network (CDN) provider has dedicated servers around the country or world that can serve your site’s static assets quickly, dramatically improving page load time. Serving static assets from a dedicated CDN, instead of serving them from your web server, frees up your web server to process requests to the actual site, and helps these resources load faster for users around the world. When you can, you should always use a CDN to make your site load more efficiently.

If you decide to use WordPress.com for your site’s hosting, you can take advantage of the Site Accelerator from Jetpack and offload the responsibility of serving static assets, such as images, JavaScript, and CSS, to the CDN. This will ensure that even as you add more media to your site, performance won’t be affected, because the heavy lifting will be handled by your CDN.

Caching

Another way to make your WordPress site more scalable is to effectively utilize caching. Hitting the database or an external API to fetch data for rendering a page can slow down your site. By caching some of these performance-impacting pieces, you can significantly speed up page load and ensure your site remains performant.

A form of caching uses the transient system built into WordPress, which can store the result of a long-running database query or API call in the wp_options table of the WordPress database, allowing quick lookups. In general, any data that takes a long time to generate is a good fit for a transient. Transients expire over time, so they won’t always be cached, but when they are, they can significantly speed up page load time. Check out this complete guide on WordPress Transients to learn more.

There are also caching plugins that do some of this work for you. However, in many cases, hosting providers implement their own caching systems that conflict with these plugins, so be sure to check with your hosting provider to see if the caching plugins you’re interested in are compatible with their infrastructure. 

WordPress.com has all these caching solutions built-in, there’s no need to use additional plugins to handle caching.

Autoloading

Another improvement you can make to your site, regardless of your hosting provider, is checking how many autoloaded queries you have. By default, certain options in WordPress are autoloaded, meaning they’re queried from the database on every page load, regardless of whether they’re needed on that particular page.

By only autoloading the options that are actually required everywhere on your site, you can reduce the number of database queries made on each page load, which will make your site load much more efficiently.

If you’re not sure what’s getting autoloaded, you can check the total size of all the options you are autoloading by running the following SQL query:

SELECT SUM(LENGTH(option_value)) as autoload_size FROM wp_options WHERE autoload=’yes’;

This will give you the total size, in kilobytes, of options that are autoloading. If this is more than a megabyte, you should investigate what you are storing in wp-options and what’s being autoloaded to see if there are any optimizations you can make here.

Wrapping up

When it comes to building and growing your WordPress site, the last thing you want to worry about is your hosting provider not being able to handle your expansion. By choosing scalable, managed WordPress hosting that takes care of all of the core features required to host your site, you’ll be able to grow without issue, keeping your customers and users happy.

You can rely on WordPress.com’s managed WordPress hosting as a fast, secure hosting environment that will scale with you and your clients’ success.


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How to Start a Dropshipping Business and Earn $150k/yr: A Step-by-Step Guide

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How to Start a Dropshipping Business and Earn $150k/yr: A Step-by-Step Guide

Exposing the Lies of Dropshipping Gurus: How to Start a Dropshipping Business the Right Way

Are you tired of watching countless videos promising to teach you how to start a dropshipping business and make a fortune overnight? Have you followed their advice, only to see your e-commerce store fail miserably? If so, you’re not alone. The truth is, many aspiring entrepreneurs have been misled by dropshipping gurus who claim to have the secret formula for success.

We strongly recommend that you check out our guide on how to take advantage of AI in today’s passive income economy.

Dropshipping gurus often showcase their impressive revenue figures, claiming to have made thousands of dollars in a single day. They promise that anyone can easily replicate their success and start a dropshipping business with minimal effort. However, what they fail to mention is that these results are usually short-lived and unsustainable.

The reality is that building a successful dropshipping business requires far more than just selecting a winning product, setting up a store, and launching a few ads. It involves careful planning, strategic marketing, and exceptional customer service. Unfortunately, most gurus focus solely on the initial stages of starting a dropshipping business, neglecting the crucial aspects that determine long-term success.

The Pitfalls of Following Guru Advice

When you start a dropshipping business based on the advice of gurus, you may experience a brief period of success. You might make a few sales and feel excited about the potential of your new venture. However, this initial success is often followed by a sudden drop in revenue, leaving you confused and frustrated.

The reason for this decline is simple: the strategies taught by most gurus are not designed for long-term sustainability. They focus on short-term tactics, such as running aggressive ad campaigns and testing countless products, without considering the importance of building a strong brand and providing excellent customer service.

The Importance of Customer Satisfaction

One of the most critical factors in running a successful dropshipping business is customer satisfaction. When you start a dropshipping business, your primary goal should be to provide an exceptional experience for your customers. This includes offering high-quality products, timely shipping, and responsive customer support.

Unfortunately, many dropshippers overlook the importance of customer satisfaction in their pursuit of quick profits. They focus solely on driving traffic to their store and making sales, neglecting the needs of their customers once the transaction is complete. As a result, they often face a high number of complaints, refunds, and chargebacks, which can quickly erode their profits and damage their reputation.

Building a Sustainable Dropshipping Business

To start a dropshipping business that stands the test of time, you need to shift your focus from short-term gains to long-term sustainability. This involves investing time and effort into building a strong foundation for your business, rather than chasing the latest trends or relying on questionable tactics.

One of the key elements of a sustainable dropshipping business is a well-defined niche. Instead of trying to sell a wide range of unrelated products, focus on a specific category that aligns with your interests and expertise. This will allow you to establish yourself as an authority in your niche, attract a loyal customer base, and differentiate yourself from competitors.

Another crucial aspect of building a sustainable dropshipping business is branding. Develop a unique brand identity that resonates with your target audience and sets you apart from other dropshippers. This includes creating a professional logo, designing an attractive website, and maintaining a consistent brand voice across all your marketing channels.

Prioritizing Customer Service

To ensure the long-term success of your dropshipping business, you must prioritize customer service. This means going above and beyond to meet the needs and expectations of your customers, even if it requires additional time and effort on your part.

Start by providing clear and detailed product descriptions, including accurate shipping times and return policies. Respond promptly to customer inquiries and complaints, and be proactive in addressing any issues that arise. Consider offering personalized thank-you notes, free gifts, or discounts to show your appreciation for your customers’ business.

By focusing on customer satisfaction, you’ll build a loyal customer base that will not only make repeat purchases but also recommend your business to others. This word-of-mouth marketing can be incredibly valuable in driving sustainable growth for your dropshipping business.

Automating Your Dropshipping Business

As your dropshipping business grows, you may find it challenging to keep up with the increasing demands of customer service and order fulfillment. This is where automation comes into play. By implementing automated systems and tools, you can streamline your operations, reduce manual labor, and focus on scaling your business.

One effective way to automate your dropshipping business is by using a reliable order fulfillment service. These services handle the entire process of storing, packing, and shipping your products, allowing you to focus on marketing and customer service. They also provide real-time tracking information, which can help reduce customer inquiries and improve the overall shopping experience.

Another area where automation can be beneficial is customer support. Implementing a chatbot or a comprehensive FAQ page can help address common customer questions and concerns, freeing up your time to handle more complex issues. You can also use email automation to send personalized order confirmations, shipping updates, and follow-up messages, keeping your customers informed and engaged throughout the buying process.

Starting a dropshipping business can be a lucrative and rewarding venture, but it requires a strategic approach and a long-term mindset. Instead of falling for the empty promises of dropshipping gurus, focus on building a sustainable and customer-centric business that can withstand the test of time.

Begin by carefully selecting your niche and products, ensuring that they align with your interests and target audience. Invest time in creating a strong brand identity and developing a professional website that showcases your unique value proposition. Prioritize customer satisfaction by providing exceptional service, responsive support, and high-quality products.

As you start a dropshipping business and your business grows, continuously monitor your performance and make data-driven decisions to optimize your operations. Implement automation tools and systems to streamline your processes and free up your time to focus on growth and expansion.

Conclusion

In conclusion, starting a successful dropshipping business requires more than just following the advice of self-proclaimed gurus. It demands a commitment to providing value to your customers, building a strong brand, and continuously adapting to the ever-changing e-commerce landscape.

By prioritizing customer satisfaction, focusing on long-term sustainability, and leveraging automation tools, you can start a dropshipping business that not only survives but thrives in the competitive online marketplace. Remember, success in dropshipping is not about chasing quick profits or replicating someone else’s tactics; it’s about creating a business that genuinely serves your customers and stands the test of time.

So, if you’re ready to start a dropshipping business the right way, ignore the hype and focus on the fundamentals. With dedication, hard work, and a customer-centric approach, you can build a profitable and rewarding dropshipping business that you can be proud of.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

How can a beginner start dropshipping?

A beginner can start a dropshipping business by following these steps:

  1. Choose a niche and research products that are in demand.
  2. Find reliable suppliers who offer dropshipping services.
  3. Create an e-commerce website using platforms like Shopify, WooCommerce, or Magento.
  4. List your products on your website and set competitive prices.
  5. Market your store through various channels, such as social media, paid advertising, and email marketing.
  6. Process orders and coordinate with your suppliers to ship products directly to your customers.
  7. Provide excellent customer service and continuously optimize your business based on performance data.

How profitable is dropshipping?

The profitability of dropshipping varies depending on several factors, such as your niche, product pricing, marketing strategies, and operational costs. Some dropshippers earn a few hundred dollars per month, while others generate six or even seven-figure incomes. To maximize your profitability, it’s essential to:

  1. Choose products with healthy profit margins.
  2. Negotiate favorable terms with your suppliers.
  3. Optimize your pricing strategy to remain competitive while ensuring profitability.
  4. Continuously monitor and reduce your operational costs.
  5. Invest in effective marketing campaigns to drive targeted traffic to your store.

How much do I need to start a dropshipping business?

The cost of starting a dropshipping business can vary greatly depending on your approach and the tools you choose to use. However, here are some general expenses to consider:

  1. E-commerce platform subscription (e.g., Shopify, WooCommerce): $29 to $299 per month.
  2. Domain name registration: $10 to $20 per year.
  3. Website hosting: $10 to $100 per month.
  4. Product sourcing and samples: $50 to $500, depending on your niche and product types.
  5. Marketing and advertising: $100 to $1,000 or more per month, depending on your strategies and target audience.

On average, you can expect to invest between $500 to $3,000 to start a basic dropshipping business. However, it’s possible to start with a smaller budget by opting for more affordable tools and focusing on organic marketing strategies.

Can you do dropshipping in Nigeria?

Yes, it is possible to start a dropshipping business in Nigeria. However, there are some challenges and considerations to keep in mind:

  1. Payment processing: Not all international payment gateways are available in Nigeria, so you may need to use local payment options like Paystack or Flutterwave.
  2. Shipping and logistics: Shipping times and costs may be higher when dropshipping to Nigeria, so it’s essential to find reliable suppliers and logistics partners who can handle international shipping.
  3. Import duties and taxes: Be aware of any import duties, taxes, or regulations that may apply to your products when shipping to Nigeria.
  4. Internet connectivity: Ensure that you have a stable internet connection to manage your online store and communicate with suppliers and customers.
  5. Market demand: Research the Nigerian market to identify products that are in demand and can be profitably dropshipped to the country.

Despite these challenges, dropshipping in Nigeria can be a viable business opportunity, especially if you focus on serving the local market and adapting your strategies to the specific needs and preferences of Nigerian consumers.

We strongly recommend that you check out our guide on how to take advantage of AI in today’s passive income economy.

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Making a WordPress plugin extensible with PHP classes

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Making a WordPress plugin extensible with PHP classes

WordPress plugins can be extended with additional functionality, as demonstrated by popular plugins like WooCommerce and Gravity Forms. In the article “Architecting a WordPress plugin to support extensions,” we learn there are two primary ways to make a WordPress plugin extensible:

  1. By setting up hooks (actions and filters) for extension plugins to inject their own functionality
  2. By providing PHP classes that extension plugins can inherit

The first method relies more on documentation, detailing available hooks and their usage. The second method, by contrast, offers ready-to-use code for extensions, reducing the need for extensive documentation. This is advantageous because creating documentation alongside code can complicate the plugin’s management and release.

Providing PHP classes directly effectively replaces documentation with code. Instead of teaching how to implement a feature, the plugin supplies the necessary PHP code, simplifying the task for third-party developers.

Let’s explore some techniques for achieving this, with the ultimate goal of fostering an ecosystem of integrations around our WordPress plugin.

Defining base PHP classes in the WordPress plugin

The WordPress plugin will include PHP classes intended for use by extension plugins. These PHP classes might not be used by the main plugin itself but are provided specifically for others to use.

Let’s see how this is implemented in the open-source Gato GraphQL plugin.

AbstractPlugin class:

AbstractPlugin represents a plugin, both for the main Gato GraphQL plugin and its extensions:

abstract class AbstractPlugin implements PluginInterface
{
  protected string $pluginBaseName;
  protected string $pluginSlug;
  protected string $pluginName;

  public function __construct(
    protected string $pluginFile,
    protected string $pluginVersion,
    ?string $pluginName,
  ) {
    $this->pluginBaseName = plugin_basename($pluginFile);
    $this->pluginSlug = dirname($this->pluginBaseName);
    $this->pluginName = $pluginName ?? $this->pluginBaseName;
  }

  public function getPluginName(): string
  {
    return $this->pluginName;
  }

  public function getPluginBaseName(): string
  {
    return $this->pluginBaseName;
  }

  public function getPluginSlug(): string
  {
    return $this->pluginSlug;
  }

  public function getPluginFile(): string
  {
    return $this->pluginFile;
  }

  public function getPluginVersion(): string
  {
    return $this->pluginVersion;
  }

  public function getPluginDir(): string
  {
    return dirname($this->pluginFile);
  }

  public function getPluginURL(): string
  {
    return plugin_dir_url($this->pluginFile);
  }

  // ...
}

AbstractMainPlugin class:

AbstractMainPlugin extends AbstractPlugin to represent the main plugin:

abstract class AbstractMainPlugin extends AbstractPlugin implements MainPluginInterface
{
  public function __construct(
    string $pluginFile,
    string $pluginVersion,
    ?string $pluginName,
    protected MainPluginInitializationConfigurationInterface $pluginInitializationConfiguration,
  ) {
    parent::__construct(
      $pluginFile,
      $pluginVersion,
      $pluginName,
    );
  }

  // ...
}

AbstractExtension class:

Similarly, AbstractExtension extends AbstractPlugin to represent an extension plugin:

abstract class AbstractExtension extends AbstractPlugin implements ExtensionInterface
{
  public function __construct(
    string $pluginFile,
    string $pluginVersion,
    ?string $pluginName,
    protected ?ExtensionInitializationConfigurationInterface $extensionInitializationConfiguration,
  ) {
    parent::__construct(
      $pluginFile,
      $pluginVersion,
      $pluginName,
    );
  }

  // ...
}

Notice that AbstractExtension is included within the main plugin, providing functionality to register and initialize an extension. However, it is only used by extensions, not by the main plugin itself.

The AbstractPlugin class contains shared initialization code invoked at different times. These methods are defined at the ancestor level but are invoked by the inheriting classes according to their lifecycles.

The main plugin and extensions are initialized by executing the setup method on the corresponding class, invoked from within the main WordPress plugin file.

For instance, in Gato GraphQL, this is done in gatographql.php:

$pluginFile = __FILE__;
$pluginVersion = '2.4.0';
$pluginName = __('Gato GraphQL', 'gatographql');
PluginApp::getMainPluginManager()->register(new Plugin(
  $pluginFile,
  $pluginVersion,
  $pluginName
))->setup();

setup method:

At the ancestor level, setup contains the common logic between the plugin and its extensions, such as unregistering them when the plugin is deactivated. This method is not final; It can be overridden by the inheriting classes to add their functionality:

abstract class AbstractPlugin implements PluginInterface
{
  // ...

  public function setup(): void
  {
    register_deactivation_hook(
      $this->getPluginFile(),
      $this->deactivate(...)
    );
  }

  public function deactivate(): void
  {
    $this->removePluginVersion();
  }

  private function removePluginVersion(): void
  {
    $pluginVersions = get_option('gatographql-plugin-versions', []);
    unset($pluginVersions[$this->pluginBaseName]);
    update_option('gatographql-plugin-versions', $pluginVersions);
  }
}

Main plugin’s setup method:

The main plugin’s setup method initializes the application’s lifecycle. It executes the main plugin’s functionality through methods like initialize, configureComponents, configure, and boot, and triggers corresponding action hooks for extensions:

abstract class AbstractMainPlugin extends AbstractPlugin implements MainPluginInterface
{
  public function setup(): void
  {
    parent::setup();

    add_action('plugins_loaded', function (): void
    {
      // 1. Initialize main plugin
      $this->initialize();

      // 2. Initialize extensions
      do_action('gatographql:initializeExtension');

      // 3. Configure main plugin components
      $this->configureComponents();

      // 4. Configure extension components
      do_action('gatographql:configureExtensionComponents');

      // 5. Configure main plugin
      $this->configure();

      // 6. Configure extension
      do_action('gatographql:configureExtension');

      // 7. Boot main plugin
      $this->boot();

      // 8. Boot extension
      do_action('gatographql:bootExtension');
    }

    // ...
  }
  
  // ...
}



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A Small Business Guide to Building An E-Commerce Website | CO

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A Small Business Guide to Building An E-Commerce Website | CO

Besides costs, consider other equally significant elements, like integrations with other tech, payment acceptance, the level of skill required to use the software, and security. — Getty Images/Valeriy G

Creating an e-commerce website is a daunting task. Yet, it’s a project you can tackle with a solid strategy, an understanding of the best practices, and a step-by-step guide. More importantly, starting with the right online site builder and e-commerce platform prevents future obstacles, like realizing the software is above your skill level or isn’t built for your revenue model.

We put together a comprehensive guide that walks you through building an e-commerce website from scratch, starting with selecting hosting or e-commerce providers. Then, we will dive into the user experience (UX) and the nitty-gritty details of site navigation, product pages, and related features. Let’s begin with the basics and go from there.

Registering a domain and choosing a hosting provider

You need a domain and web hosting to build an e-commerce site. Each component (the domain, web hosting, and e-commerce functionality) can be purchased through different vendors or a single provider. You should decide whether to bundle or keep these services separate.

Just like brick-and-mortar stores have a physical address, e-commerce shops have domains. You essentially rent an “address” for one to 10 years at a time. Some e-commerce and web hosting services provide a complimentary domain name for the first year when you buy an annual subscription and pay upfront. The renewal fees may be higher, though, than going through a third party.

Free e-commerce stores include a subdomain that isn’t search engine optimized or user-friendly. The URL looks like this: myshop.providername.com. While the URL may not be your first preference, it’ll do for side hustles and startups testing the market or a vendor’s e-commerce platform.

Hosting services power your site and store files, images, and information. Most also offer website builders and themes or templates. Select a provider to meet your security and performance specifications, then add your preferred e-commerce plug-ins, such as WooCommerce.

Alternatively, a web host like Bluehost has an online store package. It comes with the content management system (CMS) WordPress and the e-commerce plug-in WooCommerce preinstalled.

E-commerce platforms like Wix and Shopify supply web hosting with all the subscriptions. These all-in-one systems include site-building tools, page templates, storage, payment processing, and everything needed to start an online shop.

[Read more: Setting Up an E-Commerce Business: A Comprehensive Guide]

Key takeaways for selecting an e-commerce platform

Every experience hinges on your initial technology decision, from how you build your e-commerce website to what credit card processing fees you pay. Not all vendors make it easy to migrate to a new service if you’re unsatisfied, and it’s a resource-intensive job.

Review our guide to choosing the best e-commerce platform and consider the following tips when picking services:

  • Functionality: Ensure the software meets each business requirement by testing its capabilities fully.
  • Integrations: Check for customer relationship management, email marketing, and business phone integrations to see how they work.
  • Skill level: Decide who will access the e-commerce site to build pages, add blog posts, or update pricing. Consider the administrative user interface and site tools.
  • Payment acceptance: Weigh the pros and cons of using an all-in-one service with integrated flat-rate fees versus connecting a gateway from a processing provider.
  • Scalability: Compare step-up plans to understand the value for the money and estimate when you’d need that level. Think in terms of site traffic, storage, and team size.
  • Costs: Besides monthly or annual subscription fees, account for overlooked e-commerce business expenses, like hidden fees for domain privacy or email accounts.
  • Security: Learn how the e-commerce provider protects customer privacy and your online shop from threats. If the vendor manages payment processing, inquire about payment card industry compliance.

Many excellent options exist, so narrowing down your choices is challenging. Fortunately, most vendors offer demos or free trials.

E-commerce software providers

Many excellent options exist, so narrowing down your choices is challenging. Fortunately, most vendors offer demos or free trials.

Here are five web hosting and e-commerce solutions:

  • Wix: This versatile all-in-one platform supports multiple revenue models and industries. Wix provides a complete e-commerce store with abandoned cart recovery and shipping tools. It also includes online booking, ticketing, and virtual services capabilities.
  • Bluehost: A fast-growing business wanting managed WordPress and WooCommerce hosting might consider Bluehost. It could be cheaper to scale for higher traffic and storage needs.
  • Square Online: This solution is for brick-and-mortar businesses that are adding an online store. It connects to other free and paid products, like its point-of-sale system, and it has native payment processing. Square Online caters to the restaurant, retail, and service sectors.
  • WordPress.com: If your e-commerce revenue model prioritizes digital content, subscriptions, or memberships but also wants online store functionality, WordPress.com could be suitable. It’s a fantastic blogging space and ideal for those monetizing their blog.
  • IONOS: This vendor offers online store and website builders for retailers, digital content marketers, and wholesalers. Alternatively, you can configure IONOS servers for Magento, WooCommerce, or PrestaShop hosting.

[Read more: Top Retail and Commerce Trends for 2024 and Beyond]

Choose your e-commerce website builder

Depending on your platform, you will have several options when building your e-commerce site. Generally speaking, most web hosts and e-commerce vendors provide no-code website builders. You drag and drop design elements onto page templates, and the system’s limitations prevent you from making errors that could break the site.

Conversely, artificial intelligence (AI) can handle some or most of the process. After you answer a few questions, an AI site builder creates a multipage e-commerce site. Then, you can customize it and use AI for additional assistance.

Lastly, web developers and designers may prefer to customize elements or create an e-commerce site from scratch using code. This functionality varies by vendor and subscription tier.

E-commerce website design considerations

Have your e-commerce brand elements and assets ready before starting your site build. Decide on a site color scheme, choose a few fonts, and design your logo. When choosing prebuilt templates and themes, look closely at how layouts differ for visual elements. Imagine your buyer’s journey when clicking through the pages.

[Read more: How to Improve the User Experience]

Online store site structure checklist

Use your time efficiently by planning your site on paper. This step helps you avoid site structure and navigation errors that damage user experiences and search engine optimization (SEO). It’s much easier to erase and rework a penciled plan than it is to rename URLs and change menus. Compile tasks into stages, starting with must-have website pages.

Here’s an example of various e-commerce website elements:

  • A homepage welcoming visitors to your e-commerce site.
  • Clearly defined and labeled product categories and subgroups.
  • About and contact pages to earn customer trust.
  • An online store page with a search bar and filter options.
  • Individual product or service pages with images and descriptions.
  • Menu and navigation bars for accessing site content.
  • A footer section to house additional information, like your privacy policy.
  • Frequently-asked-question pages for site visitors and SEO.
  • An email sign-up form for email marketing lists.
  • Testimonials or case studies to demonstrate social proof.
  • Customer account portals for viewing order information.
  • Industry-related features for subscriptions, online bookings, or e-courses.

Best practices for making an e-commerce website

E-commerce site design affects UX and sales. The best thing you can do is learn how to use your CMS or online store platform inside and out. Watch videos, read tutorials, and devise a high-converting website strategy.

When crafting your online store, consider these tips:

  • Stick with your font and color palette throughout your site. Buttons shouldn’t look different on every page, and text shouldn’t resemble cheesy third-party ads.
  • In a world of AI-generated stock images, differentiate your company by producing great product photos. Keep them consistent and show various angles of items.
  • Allow shoppers to check out as guests. Forcing humans to give you personal data isn’t a great way to start a relationship.
  • Enable item previews, save to a wishlist, and product recommendations functionalities when possible. These features are simple ways to increase conversions.
  • Review every page, delete placeholder text, and test all links and forms. Don’t forget to check how the online store functions on all devices.
  • Add meta descriptions to pages and images. Write alt text for photos and only include keywords when doing so improves the user experience.

Shipping products

Order management, inventory tools, and shipping integrations streamline e-commerce operations. Many online platforms centralize administration through dashboards. You can configure shipping rules before or after publishing your site. These let you pick shipping regions, offer local pick up, or apply discounts or free shipping coupons.

[Read more: AI and E-commerce: Simplifying the Sales Process]

Choosing a payment gateway

E-commerce services like Wix and Shopify have built-in payment acceptance capabilities powered by Stripe, a company known for its fraud detection and prevention tools. However, companies with a large global customer base may want to add PayPal, as it works well worldwide for consumers without credit cards.

Buy now, pay later and gift card options appeal to shoppers around the holidays. The former has steep fees, whereas the latter may be an add-on service. Regardless of your chosen methods, the checkout flow must remain frictionless. Limit the number of clicks and keep it to a single page when possible.

Once you connect to a payment processor, your e-commerce website is ready. Then, you can begin the forever process of refining your masterpiece.

CO— aims to bring you inspiration from leading respected experts. However, before making any business decision, you should consult a professional who can advise you based on your individual situation.

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