Sometimes you just want a simple webshop. You need it to work and that’s about it. Whether you want to add it to an existing WordPress site or configure it at the same time you set up a WordPress site, it’s all possible with WooCommerce. Let me show you how to setup a simple store with physical and virtual products, tax, and PayPal support without relying on any previous e-commerce or WordPress experience.
Installing the WordPress E-commerce Plugin
The first thing you need to do is to install WordPress. Don’t worry; it’s a straight-forward process that’s well documented here: codex.wordpress.org/Installing_WordPress.
Beyond a WordPress installation (version 3.5+), you’ll also need the following things:
- fsockopen support (for payment gateway IPN access).
- an SSL certificate if you choose to install any direct payment gateways
- cURL support (optional) – some plugins for WooCommerce require cURL.
- SOAP support (optional) – some plugins for WooCommerce require SOAP.
Once WordPress is installed, log in to the dashboard with the admin password you chose and familiarize yourself with the menu on the left. The dashboard is an important place where you’ll customize and manage your site to suit your needs.
Next you need to install WooCommerce. There’s two ways you can do this:
- The automatic installer – go to Plugins -> Add New, search for “WooCommerce”, and add the plugin. You’ll need to enter your FTP credentials if this is the first time you’re doing this.
- Manually – Download the plugin from wordpress.org/extend/plugins/woocommerce, unzip the archive, and place the folder in
After you have installed WooCommerce, go to Plugins -> Installed Plugins and activate the WooCommerce plugin.
Now that the plugin is activate, click WooCommerce in the side menu. Add WooCommerce Pages by pressing the button labeled “Install WooCommerce Pages” in the banner that comes up.
Then press the Settings button on the welcome page to reach the following page:
There’s a lot of settings on this page, but let’s focus on the ones you need to make a bookstore with PayPal as your payment provider.
The general settings speak for themselves. The only things I changed for my own setup was the country to Netherlands and the currency to Euros.
You’ll need to have a little bit of tax knowledge to run a webshop. Under the Tax tab, I clicked the small link at the top that reads “Standard” to enter standard tax rates, and added the Dutch BTW tax (which is 21%). The taxes and their amount vary per location, so be sure to check the rules that apply to you. Because tax rules are different depending on where you are, I can’t provide detailed information beyond this is where you fill in the rates.
If you’re unsure, I recommend calling your local tax office and ask how much you’re allowed to earn and what kind of tax papers you’ll need for your specific store. Setting up a webshop is easy, but dealing with taxes is harder. After all, you don’t want to be accused of committing tax fraud!
To enable customers, go back to the General tab and check the appropriate boxes in the Registration and Customer Accounts sections. For my store, I chose the options below:
To enable PayPal integration, go to the Payment Gateways tab and press the small PayPal link at the top. For the sake of this article I’ll show you how to enable the PayPal sandbox since we don’t want to deal with real money in a fake store!
Go to developer.paypal.com and login with your existing PayPal account (if you don’t have one, sign up for one). Click the site’s “Applications” menu item and then “Sandbox accounts”. It’s here where you’ll make a new test account.
Create a customer account to test purchases. Fill in the form just as you would a normal account. When it comes to entering a balance, this is all fake money so I like to enter a million here. One can dream…
Go back to your webshop site again, and in the PayPal link from earlier fill in the e-mail address of your created sandbox account.
If you’re testing locally, payments won’t fully work. They’ll start working once you have the site up and running on an actual domain.
Customizing your Store
You now have a fully functional webshop, but it doesn’t really look much like a shop. We need to add some products and select a theme.
In the side menu you’ll see a Products category. Click it, then select Add Product and fill in the information for a new product. This is a pretty straight forward process.
For the sake of example, let’s add a “PHP book” for 20 euros. Let’s also add a “PHP e-book” with a download link (check the “Virtual” and “Downloadable” boxes to make a downloadable product). You can set the product image with the Featured Image feature, and add any additional images using the Product Gallery.
Adding a Theme
There are several themes for WooCommerce at woothemes.com/product-category/themes/woocommerce, but of course you’re also free to roll your own or customize an existing theme as you please. For the purpose of this article, we want to have the shop up and running as soon as possible, so let’s use mystile, a clean free theme. You do however need to register before downloading it.
The process of adding a theme is similar to adding a plugin; to install it manually, add it to
wp-content/themes and activate it by going to Appearance -> Themes in the side menu and press “Activate” under the theme.
This theme has a selection of settings available in the side menu under Mystile, so feel free to try out the different options to make it look and feel the way you want.
If you get a PHP warning in the bottom of the new homepage, it most likely means you need to update your copy of WooFramework. You can do so by going to Mystile -> Update Framework.
Changing the Menu
We probably don’t need the checkout pages to be available in the site’s menu, so let’s change the menu by going to Appearance -> Menus and make a new menu in the Plus sign tab. Name it whatever you want; I chose to name mine “Main menu”.
Then in the Pages box select the pages you want. I added Home:Home, Cart, Shop, My Account, and every subpage under My Account. Be sure that you drag the subpages into position by having them intended under My Account. Once the menu is saved, select it under the “Theme Locations primary menu” dropdown.
Remove the sample page by going to Pages -> All Pages in the side menu and remove it from there. You may also want to remove the visible sidebar from some of the pages. You can do this by clicking the page’s Quick Edit link and setting its template to “Full Width”.
The URLs don’t look very nice, either. Instead of something like http://wordpress.dev/?post_type=product you might prefer to have something like http://wordpress.dev/products. Go to Settings -gt; Permalinks and under the Common Settings section choose “Post name”.
You may also want to change the permalinks for the specific products. Under the Product permalink base section I chose “Shop base with category” to get a nice, sharable link.
Congratulations, you’ve successfully created a webshop. If you didn’t run into any problems, this process probably took you less than an hour, maybe two hours with reading this article. That’s how easy it is to get up and running with WordPress and WooCommerce!
WooCommerce is an Open Source project, so if you feel like extending it even further, please check them out on GitHub!
Image via Fotolia
Michelle Sanver is one of the rare people out there, a female geek. Her geeky interests include Macs and programming, especially PHP which has been one of her biggest hobbies since basically forever. In 2010, Michelle created Jippey where she works as a web/iOS developer.