Due to the lack of experience and professional knowledge, beginners may encounter technical problems when trying to start an online store without the help of an experienced webmaster. The obstacles usually exist in the installation of eCommerce software, category building, product uploading, shipping settings, and so on.
To eliminate all troubles to make the life easier for beginners to build and start an online store, we have worked out a step-by-step guide on using PrestaShop to get a shop into use. This tutorial will guide you through, from the installation of PrestaShop to the configurations of products, which helps you start selling products and services in minutes.
If you want to start a store online, the first thing you need to consider is to buy a domain name. Domain name is the identity of you store with which people can visit your website, so you need to be careful when choosing the domain. Once you have made the decision, you can register it with a domain registrar or a web host which provides registration service. A domain name usually costs about $12/yr.
Another necessity for building an online store is a web hosting package which offers disk space and bandwidth for the site, account management tools, and 1-click installer for applications like PrestaShop. For the selection of an optimized package, you may refer to the detailed tutorial on this best Prestashop hosting page.
Note: BlueHost is set as an example in this post, so all the operations in control panel discussed below are based on the cPanel of this company.
Installing PrestaShop is quite simple with the help of 1-click installers offered by most web hosts nowadays. BlueHost provides a self-developed auto installer SimpleScripts in cPanel which can automate the installation of PrestaShop. You can access the installer by logging into the control panel and clicking on the icon saying SimpleScripts in the Website Builders section.
As SimpleScripts is now upgraded to be a part a Mojo Marketplace, you should click on the green "Install New Scripts" button on the new page.
On the Install Websites and Applications page, have a click on the eCommerce category in the left sidebar, and you can find PrestaShop with version detail (126.96.36.199 currently). Clicking on PrestaShop, you are now prompted with detailed information about the application. When you hit the green button of Install, you are guided to the installation step by step.
Once you finish the checking of domain, accomplish the confirmation of advanced options (site name, admin name, admin username and admin password), and check the box next to "I have read the terms and conditions", hit the "Install Now" button. Wait a few seconds, and you will see a congratulations page telling you PrestaShop is installed.
For this tutorial, we use the domain http://prestashop.besthostingsearch.net/ to install PrestaShop. Since the installation comes with a default shop with much information and products aiming at helping you know a real store, we get a shop like this.
Log into the New Store
When PrestaShop is installed successfully, you will get an admin URL which usually appears like http://yourdomain.com/presadmin. Clicking on the URL, you are led to the login page. Fill in your admin email and password, you can now get into your new PrestaShop website.
Configure the Basic Store Information
First of all, you need to change the basic information about your store, such as the logo, default currency, contact information and social networks, to make the shop your own. But before making changes, you have the following task to complete.
Put your store in the maintenance mode
Putting your store in the maintenance mode means to deactivate your store. Doing so stops visitors from accessing the site, which is the right option when you make large changes to your store like updating a large number of products, changing the theme or adjusting prices. It is a good habit to turn to the maintenance mode when changes are made because it prevents many troubles brought by the transition.
Here is a screenshot of part of the dashboard of PrestaShop.
In the left sidebar of the dashboard, find the category of Preferences and click on Maintenance. For the "Enable Shop" option, choose NO. To make sure that you can still access the store to check whether the changes have come into effect, you need to fill in the "Maintenance IP" of your site and "Add my IP".
Change the basic information
You have many things to do now because you need to make the following information comply with you real situation so as to transfer the store to be exclusive. As the information is displayed in the front-end of your store, you should make sure the accuracy and exclusiveness.
Shop Name. You have given the shop a name in the installation process, but if you want to make a change, go to Preferences > Store Contacts, and change the shop name in the CONTACT DETAILS part.
Shop Logo. Your shop logo displays at the top left of every page on your store, every invoice, and all emails sent out by your store. To make the store logo to be your own, go to Preferences > Themes, and upload a custom image by clicking "Add file".
Company Information. There is a block in the footer of the store page that presents the company address, call-us phone number and a link that allows visitors to send emails to you.
To customize the information, go to Modules > Modules, and search Contact information block module in the search box of "MODULES LIST". In the drop-down menu of the module, click Configure to enter the Settings. Fill in the blanks with the information about your company.
Customer Service Information. There is a "Contact us" link in the header of the store that requires your phone number and email address for customer support. To change the information, search contact block module and configure it with your phone number and email.
Default Currency. You need to set a default currency to display the price of your products. To manage currency, go Localization > Localization > Configuration to change the default language, country, currency and time zone.
Social Networks. RSS feeds and social icons are displayed in the footer of the homepage, too. Find the Social networking block module in modules, and in the settings, type the URLs of your Facebook, Twitter, RSS, Youtube, Google Plus and Pinterest. If some of the options are left blank, they will not appear in the footer.
Custom Blocks. Before the footer, there is 2 custom blocks on the homepage which can be customized as you like. To manage the blocks, you need to find the Custom CMS information block module in MODULES to edit or delete them. Adding new custom blocks is also allowed.
Top Menu. Many themes use menus on the top of stores to make categories clearer and navigation easier. You can customize the menu according to your own needs by accessing Top horizontal menu module. In the settings page, you can add and remove any item in the top menu, and adjust the order. The search bar enables a search box on storefront from which visitors can search through the whole site for products, services and information.
Create New Products
Adding a new product on your store is simple but a little bit time-consuming because you have much information to fill in. When you go to Catalog > Products, you can find a product list containing all the products in your shop. The information includes ID number, product name and photo, category, price, quantity and status. The "Filter by category" option allows you to browse products by categories.
Fill in product information
By clicking on either button for adding new products, you are led to a page with a dozen of options for the products. The first part is Information that requires you to add basic information for the new product. You have to choose from 3 product types (standard product, virtual product and pack), add the product name, an internal reference code, and the barcode of the product.
Below the part is some options related to the product. If you choose NO to Enabled, your product will not be displayed on the front-end of your store. For Visibility, you can choose to make the product visible anywhere, for catalog only, for search only or nowhere (which means that it can be accessed by using its unique URL only).
For Options, just keep the default value. When "Available for order" is unchecked, people cannot add the product to cart. Finally, you can select a condition for the product according to the real situation.
Then it comes to the descriptions and tags. The short description is limited to 400 characters, displaying in search engines and category description. And the description does not limit the length of content, so you can add detailed information about the product. In the description, you can insert images and links to enrich the content. Tags are customizable, so you may add several to help visitors understand the product better.
Once all these are done, click "Save and stay" to add this product and continue the following operations.
Add images to a new product
In the options menu, click on Images to upload images for the product. Hit the "Add files" button, select as many images as you need on the local computer, and then upload the files. Remember to add a caption to each image to make sure that visitors know what they are browsing even if the images fail to display. When the photos are uploaded successfully, they will be listed orderly.
Configure product price
When you edit the information of a product, you can see a Prices tab on the left sidebar of the information page. The price configuration consists of 3 parts, the first of which is the regular product price. You need to set up the wholesale price, retail price, and choose the tax rule to decide the final price of the product.
Create a discount
Below the general price information is a "specific prices" section which allows you to create discounts for the product. Clicking on the "Create new specific price" button, you get a form with details about the discount. The setup process is simple. For example, if there is a plan to discount 50% off for a product on Christmas Day and the discount applies to all customers located in the US, the discount should be like this. People buying at least one piece of this product can get the 50% discount.
Create a Category
Categories help you group products for easier management and better experience of visitors. Also, people can compare the products in the same category before making a decision. Therefore, you need to create different categories for different kinds of products. To get this task done, you need manage categories under Catalog.
The Categories page presents all details about your categories and lists all the available categories. You can adjust the positions, choose whether to display them or not, edit the details about them, and delete any one. To create a new one, click on the "Add new category" button.
On the new page, give a name to the new category, choose the parent category of the new category (for example, if you have already had a category of Women Dress, then it should the parent category of a new category named Women Skirts), add a description to the category, and follow all other steps listed on the page. When you create a category, a clean and search engine friendly URL will be generated automatically, which is an appreciated feature of PrestaShop. Click Save after all information is done.
To set up the category of a product, edit the product's Associations and select the targeted category in the "Associated categories".
Add New Employees for Your Store
Adding new employees is necessary if you have other people managing your store. For those people, you need to create an employee account for each of them to see their recent actions and give them different access to the administration of the store in the case that you do not want some of them to access the orders, statistics, etc.
To create a new employee account, go to Administration > Employees. The Employees page lists all current employees with information about ID, Name, email address and profile. You can deactivate any employee by unchecking the box under Active, and edit employees with the "Edit" button. Now click "Add new employee" to start the progress.
Now you can create a new employee by giving the required information. Note that for the default page, you can give the employee a default location when he/she enters the back-end according to the part he/she is responsible for. Besides, the permission profile falls into 4 types that you can grant the new employee the role of SuperAdmin, Logistician, Translator or Salesman.
For the permissions included in each profile, you can make your own customization by visiting Administration > Permissions. Choose any profile (except SuperAdmin) in the list, edit it, and change the permissions as you want.
Configure Payment Gateways
You are meant to earn money from the online store, so you should now configure at least one payment method to accept payments. There are some pre-installed payment modules in PrestaShop which usually include Bank wire and payment by check. If you want some other gateways like PayPal and Authorize.NET, you can access Modules, find Payments and Gateways in the modules list and 1-click install them.
If you still want other gateways that are not listed in the screenshot above, you can download and install many options in PrestaShop add-on marketplace.
Configure Shipping Options
When you deal with the shipping options, the first thing you have to do is to configure the carriers who will deliver your products to your customers unless you only sell downloadable services. Using third-party delivery requires you to add the carriers' details to your database, so that consumers can make a choice depending on individual needs.
On the Shipping > Carriers page, you can enable or deactivate any carrier available, and change the details about it. "Add new carrier" will guide you to set up a new carrier manually. This process is a little bit complicated, so we recommend you using modules if you want some popular carriers like UPS and Fedex. Just search and install them in Modules.
After configuring the carriers, the second task you have to complete is to set the shipping options. As the shipping fee is calculated by either total price or product weight of an order, you need to configure the shipping information about each product first, which will help the calculation of the total price and weight, as well as the final shipping fee.
As soon as you enter the shipping configuration of a product, you can customize the package width, height, depth and weight, and decide whether addition shipping fee will be charged for this product. In addition, you are able to select certain carriers for the product's delivery.
You have done most tasks, and the last one is to handle the shipping preferences. If you want to offer free shipping when an order exceeds your standard on total price or weight, you only need to deal with Handling in Shipping > Preferences.
Choose Your Theme
The default design can fully meet basic needs, but you will need a more professional and premium PrestaShop theme to separate your store from numerous other shops online. There are thousands of choices on large marketplaces like ThemeForest, so you can choose one that will surely surprise your visitors and make them stay.
When using a new theme, read the documentation carefully to make sure not to miss the most significant features so as to make the most out of it. With a good theme, you are allowed to customize the header, image slider and many other aspects with more choices. More importantly, a responsive theme makes your store mobile-friendly.
Modules help extend the functionality of your store and easy the management. PrestaShop itself comes with more than 100 modules in the installation package, and what's better, there are numerous other choices in PrestaShop marketplace and many other third-party marketplaces.
Based on your real-time need, you can search on the web for the modules you demand to manage dashboard, checkout process, stats, advertising, marketing, merchandising, emailing, SEO, and many more. You are free to install PrestaShop modules as you like, but too many modules can harm website performance, so you'd better deactivate or even uninstall the unused modules. Besides, as a badly coded module may cause problems and even take down your site, remember to test any module and read reviews before using it.
Best Web Hosts for Hosting PrestaShop Websites
When selecting a web hosting package, you should choose one from a reliable and reputed company which provides you with sufficient resources, and is able to keep your website staying online and running fast all the time. It would be better if the company also offers a free domain name and some marketing credits.
If you are not a professional in web design and development, make sure that the web hosting package you choose includes security features like suPHP, shared SSL, password protected directories and OpenPGP/GPG encryption, which will help you maintain the security of your website.
There are thousands of web hosts supporting PrestaShop, but only a few of them are able to meet the requirements mentioned above. If you have not decided which web host to go yet, you can take a look at the following recommendations to see whether there is one company providing what you need. All the web hosts listed below provide not only all of the features needed, but also a money-back guarantee.