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A Crash Course in Creating E-Commerce Websites with WordPress

WordPress is an awesome publishing platform which is utilized everywhere these days. You will find WordPress development from Harvard Gazette to Andy Roddick’s official website. In this 1st article of 1st E-Commerce week, we will learn how to create a website which has online store’s functionalities in it. In simple words we will create a fully functional electronic store. We will also talk about building e-commerce themes from a developer’s point of view.

A Crash Course in Creating E-Commerce Websites with WordPress

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Who should read this tutorial?

If you have not ever created an e-commerce website before, then this crash course is best-suited for you. I am considering that you are totally an idiot when it comes to e-commerce websites. At the end we will also talk about how a developer can integrate e-commerce features in his WordPress theme. So I will say this tutorial will take you from beginner level and at the end you can continue with creating e-commerce websites with WordPress as a developer.

What we will learn in this tutorial?

We will create a demo store using WP e-Commerce and WordPress. At the end there will be a discussion about how to develop e-commerce ready WordPress themes.

Our Main tool:  WP e-Commerce?

There are a lot of free and premium e-commerce plugins available to enhance WordPress for e-commerce functionality but we are going to use WP e-Commerce. The reasons why we have picked it out are pretty simple.

Why Use WP e-Commerce?

  • Free and open source (You are free to modify its code and to share it with others).
  • The Oldest one: Yes, WP e-Commerce is the first ever plugin created to deal with e-commerce in WordPress. So it has a lot of nice features which shows its maturity like many shipping solutions and so on.
  • Free support forums and most importantly a very friendly support team.
  • It offers template tags to integrate it in your WordPress theme and hence easy to design themes which have e-commerce functionalities in them.
  • Premium Modules: If you don’t know how to code or have less time for finalizing a client project, you can always buy some premium modules of WP e-Commerce from their store to extend and enhance some features of your e-store.

Pro Tip: Setting up the development environment

It is always the best practice to set up WordPress on localhost as it fastens the process of development. After setting it up, you have no need to use any ftp program to upload files to servers. In short, hassle free development and it increases  productivity a lot. So this is highly recommended for you. If you are on windows or Linux you can use xampp. For mac lovers, I will suggest to use mamp. Follow these short and easy tutorials on how to setup local host on your own computer.


  1. Setting Up WordPress On Your PC/Linux Using XAMPP
  2. Installing WordPress Locally on Your Mac With MAMP

Moreover I am using jQ, an awesome free theme for WordPress. How ever this tutorial should work fine with all bugs free themes.

Let’s do some real action. Fasten your seat belts as we are ready to start our development.

Installing the plugin

You can install WP e-Commerce from official plugins repository or from its official website. After activation, you will find a tab named Products below the comments tab. We will start from settings and then we will create some products to finally set up our demo store.

Settings WP e-Commerce>General

The first sub-tab under the settings tab is of general options. You can set your location, target markets and currency in which you will sell products. You can also set additional tax which will be applied on the top of your product price. For example in Pakistan, each business has to pay 15% of the total sales as general sales tax.

Settings WP e-Commerce>Presentation

The presentation tab is all about how you want to show your store. Instinct, the company behind WP e-Commerce also offers a gold cart with more options. You can say that it’s a premium version with more features so if you see some options disabled in settings, don’t worry. There is nothing wrong with your server permissions or installation method. You can only enable them after buying Gold Cart.

Most of the options in this tab are pretty self explanatory.  You can choose button types and choosing whether to show breadcrumbs, product ratings or not. Show Postage and Packaging means that you want to show the shipping charges on your product pages or not.

Product page settings allow you to customize the layout of product pages. You can select different layouts (only for gold cart) and different themes to show products. WP e-Commerce comes with three built-in themes. 3rd option is what group of products you want to show on product pages. The concept of product groups is a bit complex and we will take a look on it later. For now, just take them as categories which help you in categorizing products in different ways as well as helping your customers in finding products easily and quickly.

Shopping cart settings allows you to choose where you want to show cart. You can select different options ranging from widgets to manual insertion of template tag. Sliding cart enables your customers to maximize and minimize the shopping cart using +/- buttons and the last option has been explained already.

Before going to next section of settings, it will be good if you learn what product groups are.

What are product groups?

You can take them as categories and tags built in with WordPress. Actually WP e-Commerce uses pages for all its needs and WordPress don’t allow you to categorize pages. That’s why the plugin comes with product groups. For example if you are creating a theme store (download goodies shop) you can make product groups of WordPress, tumblr, Drupal and Joomla while you can also categorize all the themes with respect of colors or some specific features. Hopefully you got the point. Just think that you can group product of same features with help of these product groups. I will try to make this concept clearer when we will create our product groups.

Let’s get back to Settings of our E-Store

While creating a product group you can give description and thumbnail of that group. In Product Group settings you can choose which parameters to show on product pages.

Thumbnails are pretty self explanatory. You can also choose pagination. If enabled, it will divide your products into different pages just like WordPress pagination. You can also choose whether to use IntenseDebate or not.

Settings WP e-Commerce>Admin

Here you can setup your digital goodies store. You can set how much time a user can download a specific file. You can also lock downloads to that specific ip from which orders has been placed. You can also set default email addresses for sending different notifications to customer and for your own record.

You can also write custom messages here which will be sent out to your customers on different events and also to the admin of e-store. At the end of this setting page you can give link to different pages. You will have to set page links after changing permalink structure.

Settings WP e-Commerce>Shipping

You can setup all the shipping options here. You can choose different shipping schemes like flat rate and weight rate. The plugin will automatically calculate the shipping charges and will add these charges on top of your product price. WP e-Commerce has built in support for ShipWire which is an order fulfillment company for online vendors. You can create some kind of conditions/layers. For example you can set rate if product’s weight is greater than 4 pounds. Remember you don’t need these options if you are going to set up a digital products store.

Settings WP e-Commerce>Payments Options

The most important part of an e-commerce store is payment gateways. WP e-commerce comes bundled with 2 Payment Gateways, paypal and google checkout. You can also select Manual Payment/Test Gateway if you want to receive payments using money orders or online transactions to your bank account.

Using import tab you can import data of your previously made products from a csv file.

Settings WP e-Commerce>Checkout

This is last step in setting up WP e-Commerce is setting up the checkout form. You can implement the restriction of registration before checking out. Remember that it will only work if you will check “Any one can register” box in WordPress general website settings.

So we are done with our settings. Let’s create some product groups and products so that we can have a functional e-store.

Creating Product Groups and Categories

We are going to create a t-shirt store from where people can buy t-shirts. So we are getting into t-shirt business.:) Just think how you can group t-shirts? You can group them by size, by brand, by color and also by sex. Then we can have sub groups under these parameters to organize things more professionally. I have come up with following groups to set up demo store.


  • Color
    • Black
    • Blue
  • Brand
    • Nike
    • Adidas

Let’s start adding them. Go to Products>Categories. First of all add a new group there and after that you can create categories in it. This is as simple as creating categories for WordPress. Take products as categories and “categories” as sub-categories.

After this step you will be able to select t-shirts from drop down menu. Select then edit it and add sub-categories to it.

The concept of adding categories can confuse you a bit. Best way to understand it to play with it as long as you become a master. Don’t forget to delete two dummy categories “brands” and “categories”. This is what I have after adding all the categories.

So we are done with categories. Let’s move towards products.

Creating your first Product with WordPress and WP e-Commerce

Go to Products>Products. You can add new products here. You will see a WYSIWYG editor just like WordPress post editor where you can fill all the details. Some things which are important to define are given below

SKU: is abbreviation of Stock Keeping Unit. It’s a general term used in our everyday life. In store it is an identifier of specific product just like each post in WordPress has unique id. I am showing you process of adding one t-shirt. You can add others products with some method.

You can also choose inventory to keep track of your store. Moreover you will have to upload product image here. After adding two products, this is how my product dashboard looks like.

After finalizing products, its time to add widgets to your WordPress theme. Go to Appearance> Widgets. Add shopping cart widget and product groups widget to sidebar. It will give an awesome look to your e-store.

You can now see how our store looks like.

Single Product Page 


You can also use products page as home page by going to WordPress reading settings if you don’t want a blog at all. Another tip is to utilize wp-hide-post for hiding some pages so that no one can access shopping cart page and order pages directly.

Short Codes:

You can use short codes for showing specific products and product groups inside posts and pages. You can get a short code by editing the category. Just see the following screenshot for better understanding.  Same is the case for products.

Integrating WP e-Commerce in your WordPress theme

Another great feature of WP e-Commerce is its template tags which make the job of integrating e-Commerce functionalities in a WordPress theme very easier.

You can use following template tags to include different functionalities in your WordPress theme.

<?php echo nzshpcrt_shopping_basket(); ?>// Show Shopping Carts
<?php nzshpcrt_latest_product(); ?>// Show Display Latest Products
<?php show_cats_brands(); ?>// Show all Categories
<?php echo wpsc_buy_now_button(1); ?>//Show Buy Now Button
<?php echo wpsc_add_to_cart_button(1); ?>// Display Add to Cart Button

Extending WP e-Commerce

Because of its reputation, there are lots of premium and community plugins available to extend the functionality of WordPress. You can take a look on this page for the plugins and themes available to extend WP e-Commerce.

I am sure that you enjoyed this crash course in building e-commerce websites with WordPress. Feel free to leave your questions and thoughts about the article.

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