Affiliate Disclosure: By buying the products we recommend, you help keep the lights on at MakeUseOf. Read more.
There are several nice online store builder services out there such as Goodsie. In general, these services are convenient and allow anybody to build a store with ease. But users are relying so heavily on the service that they don’t have full control over their store.
There’s another alternative though. We can utilize WordPress as the basic framework to build an e-commerce site. All you need is help from a specified plugin (and theme).
The E-Commerce Plugin
I am always amazed at the flexibility of WordPress. It has grown so far beyond just blogging. With the right plugin(s) and theme, you can change it into whatever kind of site you can imagine. Our project today requires a plugin called – I think you’ve guessed it – WP e-commerce.
With the latest generation of WordPress, you can find and install it directly from within your admin area. No FTP required.
The popularity of this plugin has made other people create additional e-commerce plugins to complement the original. You can find a whole bunch of them by searching using “WP e-commerce” as the search string.
After installing the plugin, you can manage various aspects of your store from the “Store” menu at the sidebar.
For example, you can view a list of your available products from the “Products” tab under the store menu.
Another thing that you can do from this menu is add products. The process itself is similar to writing a blog post with additional fields like available units and price.
The best way to learn how to build the store is to familiarize yourself with the plugin and do some experiments.
After setting up the plugin, you can continue with your store front by complementing the plugin with a matching theme. There are actually WordPress themes specifically designed to accommodate WordPress e-commerce sites that use the WP e-commerce plugin.
You are not likely to find these kind of themes inside the WordPress.org theme gallery (I tried to search but could only find one), so you can’t install the themes using the search and install function of the WordPress admin area.
You can however search for them using a search engine, download them to your hard drive, then upload and install them to your WordPress via the admin area using the “Upload” menu. It’s more steps involved, compared to the plugin installation, but still no FTP required.
Here are four of several alternatives of WordPress e-commerce themes that you can try. The first three come from one developer, so they have more or less similar looks and tastes. The fourth one is one that I found from searching inside the admin area.
This theme has a minimalistic look and design. The interface is fairly easy to navigate so its easy to turn your future customers into real customers.
This theme is the dark version of AppCloud. I think the round corners and side menu makes it more elegant.
This theme is designed to sell music-related items, but it’s also applicable for general use.
4. Crafty Cart
A retro shop theme designed for the WP e-commerce plugin. As the name suggests, the theme is perfect for those who wants to sell hand-made crafts.
The plugin and themes that I mentioned above are just one of the many alternatives that you can use to turn WordPress into an e-commerce website. If you know more plugins and/or themes, please feel free to share them using the comments below.