Launching Your Site
Episode #3 of the course How to start an online store by Patrick Rauland
We’ve covered some of the hardest parts of the course: picking a product and platform. That means you can actually launch your site (even if it’s not 100% ready). Let’s get that site live so we’re one step closer to making money.
Get a Domain
The first thing is to get a domain. You might already have a domain. But if you don’t, you can register through a number of domain providers, like GoDaddy, Namecheap, or my personal favorite, Hover. I’ve used several domain providers in the past, and this one is the most clear.
When it comes to picking a domain, I have a cautionary tale. A few years ago, I bought Speakinginbytes.com—bytes like computer bytes, which is clever, right? No, it’s a huge pain. I constantly have to explain the domain to people.
So, always pick being clear over clever. When you have to explain your website to someone at a meetup or on a podcast interview, that means it’s too clever.
Go for short domains. If your full business name is Patrick’s Boardgame Emporium, and PatsBoardGames.com is available, you should go for that. You can still keep your full business name, but the domain can be short and memorable.
We’ve talked about hosting before. If you have a hosted solution like Shopify or BigCommerce, your plan includes hosting. If you have a self-hosted solution (WooCommerce or Magento), you’ll have to buy hosting. It’s usually $10/mo, although for good hosting, it might go up to $30/mo for a brand-new store. Not too expensive.
When it comes to hosting, the two most important aspects are good support and daily backups. Issues will eventually pop up, and you want to work with a company that answers their support email or live chat quickly. If they have 99.9% uptime, but they never answer their phones, you’ll have eight hours a year where your website is down and you can’t get any help.
There are a couple of really well-respected hosts: Pressable, Siteground, and Pantheon. I personally use WP Engine, and over the last five years, I’ve probably had 30 chats with their support team.
Start with a Simple Design
We could spend a whole course on picking a design for your site. But what’s really cool about a site design is that they can be swapped out in seconds. Virtually every e-commerce platform has a robust theme system, so if you don’t like the design for your store, you can get another one and swap it in.
I recommend that you start with something simple and gradually add features and sections to your site as you need them. In particular, on the homepage of your site, you’re going to want a theme that focuses on the products. And if you have many products, you’ll want to show featured products (which should be the ones most profitable to you). When talking about the individual product pages, make sure there’s space for a nice product photo, a description, and social proof at the bottom (we’ll dive into more details on this in the next lesson).
If you’re just getting started, don’t pay someone for a custom design. You don’t yet know what you need on your site. I recommend the default themes or free themes for the first couple months until you know what you need. For example, for WooCommerce, I love Storefront.
Once you have hosting, a domain, and a theme, it’s time to launch.
Key takeaway: For domains and hosting, use a company with good support. For your site design, start with something simple and gradually add components.
How I Built a Million Dollar Online Store From $600: Your step-by-step guide to building financial freedom through E-commerce Entrepreneurship by Ellen Lin
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