We got a call yesterday from a potential client telling us that he wants to create an E-Commerce website and he heard that he can easily do that with Joomla. He wanted to do the job by himself and so he asked us if we can explain for him the process from scratch. And so we did…
Here’s a step-by-step easy-to-read guide on how to create an E-Commerce website from scratch (and for free!) in Joomla:
Step 0 – Purchase a domain name
A domain name is your brand on the Internet. A domain name is something like google.com, joomla.org, itoctopus.com, etc…
The domain name must be indicative of your business, especially if you’re not a big company. For example, if you’re selling canes in Florida, then your domain name must be something like floridacanes.com. A good domain name will help you a long way in your SEO.
In our opinion (and in the opinion of many) the cheapest place and the best place to buy domains is GoDaddy.com . To buy your domain name, just point your browser to GoDaddy.com, search for your domain name (to see if it’s available or not – if it’s not available then don’t despair, try to think of another name until you find one that it’s available), and then purchase it.
Congratulations, now you own a domain name! The very first step in creating your online store with Joomla!
Step 1 – Purchase a hosting package
As humans, we need homes to live in. Think about the hosting as the home of your website, where all your data (files and database) is located. Hosting is a separate service that need to be purchased. We do offer hosting at itoctopus, but only for our clients. If you’re not one of our clients and you do not intend to be, then you can search for hosting packages on Google (just google hosting packages). Be very careful with choosing your hosting company as there are many bad hosting companies out there that only care about your money, and not your business. A word of advice: Don’t go for a hosting plan that might sound too good to be true. (very cheap, unlimited everything, etc…)
Once you purchase a hosting company, you will need to go back to GoDaddy to the domain management tool, and change the name servers of your domain to point to your new hosting company. Usually your hosting company will send you the name servers in your welcome email. Keep in mind that name servers will take some time to propagate, sometimes up to 48 hours. (Note: GoDaddy support will be able to help you change your name servers – failing that you can always call us!)
Step 2 – Download Joomla
At the time of writing this article, the latest version of Joomla is 2.5.2 (which was a security fix that was released today). You can download it by going to http://www.joomla.org/download.html and then by clicking on the ZIP link next to Full Package (the first Full Package entry from the top).
Step 3 – Upload Joomla
Now that you have downloaded Joomla, you have to upload it to your hosting account. You do this by extracting Joomla locally and then FTPing the Joomla source files to your hosting account. If this is your only website with that hosting company then you should FTP it to public_html. Alternatively, a faster way of doing this is by going to the cPanel of your hosting account, and then going to File Manager, and then uploading the Joomla zip file, and then extracting it under the public_html directory.
Step 4 – Create the database
Once you have uploaded Joomla to the server, you will need to create the database where all of your website’s data will be stored. You can create the database by going to the cPanel of your hosting account again, and then by clicking on the MySQL Database Wizard under Databases, and then following the instructions. Store the database name, the username, and the password in a safe place. You will need them later.
Step 5 – Configure Joomla
Now point your browser to the URL of your website (which is http://www.floridacanes.com). You will be asked to configure Joomla. We have described this whole process here. Please note that you should leave localhost as host name in case you’re not using GoDaddy as your hosting provider.
Step 6 – Download a template
Congratulations, you now have a working website! Now all you need to do is to find a suitable template and download it. A simple search on Google for “joomla cane templates” for our cane website example will most likely reveal templates directly aimed at businesses selling canes (well, realistically it won’t, as this is a very small niche, so you might need to hire a designer or modify one of the existing templates to match your theme). You might find free and paid templates – paid Joomla templates are very cheap: most likely they will cost you less than $100. It’s also not hard to find a free Joomla template that is suitable for your business.
Once you find a suitable template, download it to your machine.
Step 7 – Install the template
If you’re using Joomla 2.5.x, then you can install the template the following way:
- Login to your Joomla control panel using “admin” as username and the passwrod you have entered in Step 5.
- Click on Extensions -> Extension Manager.
- Browse to locate the template that you have downloaded in the previous step, and then click on Upload & Install.
Now that the template is installed, you can make some changes to the main banner and to other components of the template. Make sure you read the manual that came with your Joomla template to know which extensions you need to download to make it look like the one in the demo. If you have any problem with your template, then see “My Joomla Template Is Not Working!“.
Once the template is properly installed, you should make it the default template by going to Extensions -> Template Manager, clicking on the name of the template, choosing All next to Default, and finally clicking on Save on the top right.
Step 8 – Create the basic pages
In this step, you create the basic pages such as the homepage, the about us page, the contact us page, etc… The creation of these pages is simple and straightforward. If you need help in that area you can always call us!
Step 9 – Download VirtueMart
At this point, you have a fully working website, but you still don’t have a store. You need to create a store, and the best way to do it is to download and install VirtueMart. VirtueMart is a Joomla extension and can be downloaded for free at http://virtuemart.net/downloads. The current VirtueMart version is 2.0.2 and it’s compatible with the latest version of Joomla.
Step 10 – Install VirtueMart
VirtueMart can be installed the same way that you have installed the template. You just go to the Extensions Manager, locate the VirtueMart download on your machine, and then upload it. Once you upload it, VirtueMart will be installed automatically.
Step 11 – Configure your store
Now you have a store, but you just don’t have any products in your store. Go to Components -> VirtueMart in your Joomla control panel, and setup your store. You need to do the following:
- Create the main settings of your store: Payment options (you can easily create a PayPal account and make the store point to your PayPal account, so when people purchase from you, they will send money to your PayPal account), shipping options, notifications, etc…
Create the categories: The categories encapsulate your products. For example, in our canes example, we might have a category called Accessories.
Add your products: Now you need to add your products. You should add the name, the description, and the price of your products. In case of downloadable content, you need to upload the files that will be downloaded by your customers.
Step 12 – Link to your store
Create a menu item that will link to your VirtueMart store. Just go to Menus -> Main Menu (in your Joomla control panel) and click on New on the top right to add a new menu item, and then in Menu Item Type, choose VirtueMart.
Step 13 – Your store is now open!
Congratulations, your store is now open for business! You can now sell your products or services online!
We understand that the above can be a bit intimidating, and that’s why we’re here to help. We can help you create your online store from scratch, just let us know the nature of your business and we’ll take care of the rest. This will take us about 2-3 days (16-24 hours) of work (see our very reasonable rates to calculate how much it’ll cost you).