Get A Great Design For Your Store – Create A Profitable Online Store Part 5

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This is part 5 of a 5 part series on how to create a profitable online store. If you’ve followed steps 1-4, you should now have a webhost and domain, products to sell, an online shopping cart and a way to process credit cards online.

It’s now time to put on the finishing touches to your online storefront.

As you may have noticed, the default installation of your online shopping cart is plain, bland and boring. If you stick with the out of the box look, you aren’t going to be attracting many customers let alone selling any product.

The lack of graphic design skills often discourages would be online shop owners. In fact, most people look at the out of the box template and think to themselves, “Man, I’m not a web designer, how am I going to create a professional looking store front?”.

The good news is that you don’t really have to be a designer to obtain a great looking store or website.

The Template System

The look and feel of all of the free open source shopping carts I recommended can easily be changed by modifying the store template.

The nuts and bolts of your shopping cart remain the same, except the skin changes to suit the look that you are trying to create for your online store.

One of the main criteria for my shopping cart recommendations in part 3 was the availability of 3rd party templates. Because the shopping carts I’ve recommended have become very popular, many talented web designers have already created many beautiful looking store templates for sale at very reasonable prices.

For example, both Template Monster and Themeforest.net carry a large variety of store templates for OpenCart across a wide range of categories.

All of their templates are of very high quality and they offer 24/7 support on any template that you purchase. Furthermore, they are all fully tested and guaranteed to work on the platform that you choose.

Should I Try And Design My Own Template?

Even if you are tech saavy and familiar with HTML/CSS, I would still recommend getting a pre-made template. With our online store, I spent 3 straight weekends designing my storefront when I could have just paid 100 dollars, but I was too cheap.

If you work out the number of hours I devoted to tinkering with my store, I was effectively working for 2-3 dollars an hour and it’s debatable whether I did a better job.

The time I used up working on aesthetics could have been better utilized working on our core business which has nothing to do with web design.

That’s not even counting the number of hours I devoted to testing my changes to make sure that there were no bugs. Not worth it I tell you!

I Got My Template, What’s Left To Do?

Once you have purchased your template, you still have to tinker with the following things

  • You have to create your own unique store header
  • You have to play around with the colors to suit your style

Your store header is just a banner that goes across the top of your store. You will have to use Photoshop or any popular image editing software to create your own unique brand.

All of the professional templates offer the ability to tweak the store colors via the CSS stylesheet. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, it’s very straightforward.

Basically, there is one single file that outlines the fonts and colors used for various parts of the store. Tweaking your color scheme is just a matter of editing the file and loading up your webpage to see the difference.

It takes a bit of time to get things right, but it’s not difficult at all. In many cases, the default color scheme is more than adequate.

Conclusion

So there you have it, 5 easy steps to create your own online store. If you tally up all of the costs involved…

You can realistically get started for only $65 with a recurring cost of only $4.95 a month. This is just a fraction of the cost of running a traditional brick and mortar store and you don’t even need anyone to run the cash register.

I hope that you found this tutorial useful! If anyone has any further questions, feel free to drop me a line anytime and I will do my best to answer.

If you would like to know more on what it’s like to run an online store, please checkout my online store tutorials

Next Up…More Online Store Tutorials

Ready To Get Serious About Starting An Online Business?


If you are really considering starting your own online business, then you have to check out my free mini course on How To Create A Niche Online Store In 5 Easy Steps.

In this 6 day mini course, I reveal the steps that my wife and I took to earn 100 thousand dollars in the span of just a year. Best of all, it's absolutely free!

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20 thoughts on “Get A Great Design For Your Store – Create A Profitable Online Store Part 5”

  1. Great series. Your site has helped me to create my own online store and as I read through this series, it also corresponds to a lot of what I went through.

    One point I would add is that if anyone is really serious about creating an online store, to save on the headache of upgrading and transferring sites later on, it would be best to just start out with a very good host.

    I was on a host paying $4.95 but since my blogs were building up some good traffic, they informed me that I was getting kicked off.

    Self hosting really is the most reliable and efficient way. Initial costs are expensive but well worth it.

    I now have full control with 100% uptime to date.

  2. I am not here to make the rich feel guilty about there wealth,that is not my motto

  3. I am so glad I didnt try the DIY route for my web store. Since I am not that tech savvy, it would have been a nightmare and eventually expensive to have someone else create something 100% custom. Great post!

  4. Hey Steve,

    Did you finally end up using a template system on your OSC cart or did you just use the out of the box version? I know you said before that you would recommend OSCMAX but I still am a bit leary.

    I am thinking about taking the OSC out of the box and just adding the extras I need and want. The one thing I looked at was the BTS template addon that OSCMAX uses as well.

    Once again, the problem is now BTS is changing the entire structure of the underlying code for OSC. Maybe other addons won’t work, maybe things would break?

    There are so many books and guides for the straight OSC that I hate messing with the code so much that these guides are useless.

    Just looking to hear your point of view.

    By the way, I currently have a home brewed cart that is working fine but lacks a bunch of features that I am not sure I want to waste my time adding in when I could just change to something tried and true…

    1. Hi Phil,

      I don’t currently use BTS or any template system right now. My personal opinion of OSC is that the plugins and addons are somewhat of a mess and the less you have to deal with by hand the better. The real question is why you need a template system in the first place. While in theory a template system will allow you to upgrade to the latest shopping cart version easier, in reality no shopping cart upgrade I’ve ever done has ever gone smoothly.

      Even the template structures undergo changes all of the time so there really is no such thing as a completely future proof solution. Given that premise, it’s best to go with an out of the box solution that is well maintained. As soon as you start adding things on your own, your shopping cart will no longer be a standard install and any new upgrades will be difficult to make no matter what.

  5. That is so true, once you add your own stuff then upgrading is always a nightmare unless you keep track of every mod you did and where you did it. I have a good program that compares two PHP files so I can see what changed between them.

    My thoughts are along the same lines, I took a look at BTS and it does look sweet. You can change your template colors/layout anytime very easily but is the overhead of the template system worth it? Will all your other add-ons work with it? There is one thing that is nice, the BTS system is totally CSS no more tables :)

    For now I think I will try the OScommerce right out of the box and add only the extras I need.

    Thanks again,
    Phil

  6. anna says:

    hey…. :) thank you for the advice, it really was helpful…. but i have a question what if i get a template from free websites maker like wix.com. is that ok?

    1. In general, you don’t want to use flash on your site. Not only is it not indexable but it won’t work on iPads either. Wix.com as far as I know is a free flash building site. What I advocate for an online store is to get your own hosting and use an open source cart.

  7. I’m a website designer, and I almost always use themeforest.net for finding good templates. Their templates are a fraction of the cost of template monster and the like, and in my opinion are far better looking in terms of design and eye candy.

    They’ve got templates for many of the ecommerce carts that you listed. I think my favorite feature is that it is actually a part of the “Envato” network which is a network of online marketplaces that individually offer different digital goods such as website templates, graphic design (print media) templates, code scripts, stock audio and video files, and even a large collection of well written tutorials on all thing online.

    I’m not an affiliate or anything, just a very satisfied customer who has used their services for years.

    1. @Jeremy
      I like themeforest.net as well mainly because they are significantly less expensive than everyone else. But for me at least, I tend to like the like and feel of Algozone’s themes better in general. Just a matter of personal taste.

  8. Emily says:

    Hi Steve,
    Thank you very much for this tutorial. I am trying to start a boutique in Southern CA and I would like to have an online store to go with it. What is your opinion on the Square reader – it says that I can create an online store as well. Would it be better to start the website as per your tutorial and add on a card reader seperately, or go through Square? Or should I go through a program like Shopify? I would like all my invertory to be tracked together – both online and in-store.

    I hope that makes sense.

    Emily

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