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How to set up shop online: getting started with your e-commerce site 

Colourful credit card for making an online purchase

It’s one thing to tempt customers to your door – and another to make them want to spend their time (and money) with you. Here we explore the basics of creating an e-commerce site that turns your visitors into customers.

Step 1: picking a platform

Rather than build a system from scratch (complicated and costly), startup businesses tend to use a ready-to-go e-commerce platform. This lets you set up an online store and immediately start trading: selling your products, taking payments and handling shipping. To help you pick the best platform for your business, here are some pros and cons of popular e-commerce sites…


Shopify was purpose-built to be an e-commerce platform for entrepreneurs – so it’s easy to set up, get to grips with and to add new products as you go along. On the downside, it has five main themes that are easily recognisable – so if you want a more unique-looking site, it might be worth having one built by a developer.


Squarespace is easy to set up, but was made to be a blogging platform, so its e-commerce function isn’t as smooth as Shopify’s.


WordPress is easy to use and gives you great flexibility to easily adapt and expand your site. However, it’s harder to run – as you have to maintain the codebase yourself.

Step 2 – setting up your e-store

Our top tip for this is: don’t spend thousands on a design or developer agency – instead, use a freelancer who will typically charge you between £2,000 and £5,000 for this. (A small agency would charge between £10,000 and £30,000 and a large agency would charge between £50,000 and £100,000.)

In the early days of building your business, it’s far better to spend your budget on some quality lifestyle and product photography – and video, if your budget stretches this far. Good photography makes you stand out as a brand and helps potential customers imagine themselves using your products.

Step 3 – creating a winning site

A good e-commerce website design should attract potential customers, provide a great user experience and of course, sell your product. Here’s a simple formula to help you get this right:

 The four pillars for creating a successful e-commerce site:

1. Trust – convince people that your business will do what it says it will. And help them feel safe enough to trust you with their information.

2. Desire – immediately grab customers’ attention with something that creates a desire for your product (great photography can do this).

3. Ease of purchase – include all the information about your offering and delivery on the product page and use a big, prominent Add To Cart button.

  • Your checkout should be as slick and frictionless as possible, ideally with a Buy Now option.

4. Stickiness – make customers want to come back. Most visitors won’t buy on their first visit, so you need to tempt them with:

  • A device such as a popup offering a discount to newsletter subscribers.
  • Enticing social media profiles so that people want to follow you.
  • Segmented emails to target specific groups of customers.


This How-to guide was inspired by one of our Zoom Dives with Alex O’Byrne, co-founder of We Make Websites. 

A Zoom Dive is a deep-delving discussion between our founder, Carolyn Dailey and a handpicked business expert from the creative world. You can listen to Carolyn and Alex’s full discussion here. Fancy catching our next Zoom Dive, live? See our Events calendar and sign up for free. 

Want to learn more about getting started with selling online? Feel free to plunder our Knowledge bank.