How do I setup an ecommerce website?

Setting up an ecommerce website is a little more involved than setting up a personal homepage. The basic domain and web hosting setup are identical, but ecommerce website requires a few additional components in order to offer credit card processing and secure checkout process. You may also use 3rd-party hosted ecommerce application, but this article discusses the procedure for creating a standalone website built from a shopping cart application.

1. Register a domain name.

In order for computers to find your website, you'll need a web address. Computers use IP address to find a website, but 32-bit IP address is not very memorable to humans. Domain name is a human readable Internet Address. Domain name is comprised of at least two parts: top level domain (TLD) and second level domain (SLD). TLD is the names that ends with .COM, .NET, .ORG, .INFO, .BIZ, and etc. Each TLD is designed for a specific purpose, so choose the one that is right for you. If you're looking to build a business website, the .COM domain name is the right choice; and for non-profit organization, family or hobby website, the .ORG domain name will work.

The domain name that you can register from a registrar, is the second level domain (SLD) name followed by TLD. The domain names starts from right to left separated by a dot, so TLD is the rightmost name, SLD is the one before that, and third level domain name is the one before SLD, also known as subdomain name. To register a domain name, you'll have to pick a name that suits your purpose. A domain name can consist of alphabet, numbers, and - (dash). The name cannot start with a dash. The is the domain name we used to publish this website. You may choose to find one that meets your personal or business needs.

2. Decide on the Shopping Cart script

In order to setup an ecommerce website, you'll need a shopping cart script. There are more than a dozen popular shopping carts to choose from, and many of those are freely available. For those interested in open source shopping carts, try evaluating OS Commerce, Zen Cart, Magento, CRE Loaded and OSC Max for your web store.

3. Setup a web hosting

Depending on the shopping cart software you've chosen, you'll need to setup a web hosting plan that can host your shopping cart application. Two most common hosting platform are Windows and Linux. Choose the one for your shopping cart. A web host provides you with storage space for your website, and also allows you to create email accounts using your domain name. Your web host delivers web contents to your visitors, and also provides email services. Since your website needs to be up 24x7 and you need uninterrupted email services, it is important that you find a reliable web host. For more information about setting up a website, please consult our sister site knowledgebase.

4. Design your website

It will cost a lot of money to bring customers to your site, so invest in your website and make it professional. The cost of building a website is a fraction as compare the the amount you'll spend on the advertisement. Try avoiding using Flash, but build a rich contents with multi-media to describe the products you'll be selling them on your website. If you're not comfortable designing your own website, an ecommerce web design company can help you design one with search engine optimization.

5. Setup a Merchant Account

Once you've built a website, you'll need to open a merchant account. Merchant account allows you to accept credit cards. Be sure to apply for one that includes MOTO (Mail Order Telephone Order), which will allow Internet transactions. A retail merchant account cannot be used for Internet transactions, unless you add MOTO service. Rates may vary, so do your research and find the one with best rates possible.

6. Setup Payment Gateway

You'll also need to apply for a payment gateway service which will perform online credit card processing for your online store. Before getting your payment gateway service, you'll need to make sure that the gateway is supported by the shopping cart you're using. Most common payment gateway services include and Verisign Payflow. Many merchant providers provide packaged bundle that includes merchant account and payment gateway service.

7. Install SSL Certificate

Once you are ready to accept credit cards online, you'll need to secure your website by installing SSL certificate. SSL is a protocol developed by Netscape for transmitting private documents via the Internet, which uses a cryptographic system to encrypt data. Without SSL, your merchant provider will not grant you permission to use your merchant account online, and your users will turn away from purchasing products from your website. With ecommerce web hosting plan, you'll need a dedicated IP address which allows you to install your own certificate on a shared server. To purchase SSL certificate, you'll need to generate a CSR (Certificate Signing Request) from the web server with Linux openssl (via ssh) or control panel.

8. Configure your website

The next step is adding your products, and setting up shipping methods. Your shopping cart will provide you with administrative control panel that you can use to easily add additional products and services, as well as setting up UPS, FedEX, USPS and other shipping methods.


Starting an online business is no different than starting a bricks-and-mortar business. Before you begin setting up your business, you'll need to put together a solid business plan that includes all the bells and whistles of your business objects including competitor analysis and marketing plans. No one will visit your site if your online store is not advertised or promoted on media. To get it exposed to search engines, it's a good idea to build your website search engine friendly from the ground up, and also place pay-per-click marketing campaign during initial debut and until your site is ranked well on some of the major search engines. To learn more about search engine optimization, please visit SEO page of our website.



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