How to make a Shopify website in 9 steps

Shopify may be easier than other website builders, but that doesn’t exactly make it easy. Optimizing a site always takes some effort, but that goes double with ecommerce, where you have to align your sales strategies with your design choices. Even if you’ve built a Shopify website before, you may have missed some opportunities you never knew existed.

Whether or not it’s your first time making a Shopify website, it helps to start with an actionable battle plan. Below, we outline the nine steps to building a Shopify website for your ecommerce business.

1. Familiarize yourself with the Shopify website builder

First things first, you have to make sure Shopify is the right choice for you. As we mentioned in our ultimate guide to website builders, it’s best to do your own research before settling on a decision.

Explore the Shopify site, the Shopify theme library, and the Shopify app store to get a general idea of what’s involved with making a Shopify site. While you’re there, make a list of any themes and apps that catch your eye for later—don’t forget their prices, too, so you can estimate your Shopify website cost.

Luckily, Shopify offers a 14-day free trial (no credit card) so you can tell for sure whether or not you like it. Take it for a “test drive,” and pay particular attention to its usability and navigation—can you do everything you want to do and find everything you want to find? Just be aware that if you do not put money down after 14 days, you will lose all the progress you’ve made, so only start your trial when you can commit to a decision within two weeks.

2. Plan your website

Once you get a feel for how the Shopify website builder works, you can use that as a background for when you plan out your website. Shopify has more restrictions than, for example, making a website on Wix. That’s why it’s best to familiarize yourself with its system beforehand, so you don’t waste time planning anything Shopify won’t let you integrate.

It’s crucial at this time to know your sales strategies and have a good idea about your digital marketing campaigns—some of these require special apps or work better with certain themes. For example, if upselling is important to your business model, you’ll want an app that adds the Frequently Bought Together feature. The sooner you know what you need, the better—you don’t want to find out too late that you can’t implement something.


You may also need other media, such as personalized photography or branding assets like a logo. The cost of these is variable and while some assets are really important—like your logo—others are completely optional—like videos or motion graphics. But if you’d like to include them in your site, it’s best to start planning for them early.

If you’re worried about money, now is a good time to calculate your Shopify website cost. All of Shopify’s paid themes and apps list their prices outright, so you can make an accurate budget of one-time costs and recurring costs before actually spending anything. Of course, a large portion of your budget depends on your Shopify pricing plan, which brings us to Step 3…

3. Choose your pricing plan and sign up

Now’s the time to cross the threshold. Shopify offers three main pricing plans to accommodate small, medium and large businesses—although technically they offer five plans, if you include Shopify Plus for enterprises and Shopify Lite for adding products to existing sites or blogs. Most people will be interested in the main three:

  • Basic Shopify — $29/month
  • Shopify — $79/month
  • Advanced Shopify — $299/month

Each plan, even the basic, includes all the essentials: unlimited product range, access to sales channels, 24/7 support, SSL certificate, fraud analysis, Shopify Point of Sale Lite, gift cards, discount codes and abandoned cart recovery. In terms of differences, Basic Shopify does not include professional reports, and only Advanced Shopify can calculate third-party shipping rates at checkout. Also the number of staff accounts and synced storage locations increases with higher-tier plans.

So what’s the real difference between Shopify plans? Shipping and transaction fees. The percentage amount that Shopify takes per sale gets lower with higher-tier plans—the less you pay upfront, the more you pay at each sale. Shopify also charges a “penalty” fee if you use a third-party gateway instead of their native Shopify Payments, and that penalty fee also decreases at higher tiers.


Basic Shopify


Advanced Shopify

Online credit card rates

2.9% (+ 30¢)

2.6% (+ 30¢)

2.4% (+ 30¢)

In-person credit card rates

2.7% (+ 0¢)

2.5% (+ 0¢)

2.4% (+ 0¢)

Penalty for not using Shopify Payments




As you can see, your pricing plan should depend on your sales volume—how much you sell in a given time period. If your sales volume is high enough, you can conceivably save money by buying a more expensive plan, considering what you’d save per sale. Again, that’s why it’s so important to plan out your sales strategies beforehand.

It’s also worth mentioning that higher-tier plans get a greater discount on shipping when using DHL Express, UPS or USPS. Depending on how heavy your products are and how far away your main customers live, this could also impact which plan is best.


Basic Shopify


Advanced Shopify

Shipping discount

up to 64%

up to 72%

up to 74%

On the plus side, you can always upgrade or downgrade your plan at any time, so if you err in your budget, you can always correct it for the next month.

4. Pick your theme

Once you actually begin using the Shopify website builder, your first task should be to finalize your theme. Choosing your theme is vital for all website builders, but it’s especially important with Shopify—Shopify doesn’t let you change much about your appearance and layout, so which theme you choose determines a lot of your design decisions.

You’ll still be able to customize your images and text no matter which theme you choose, but where those images go and what fonts your text uses are fixed by theme. Definitely take advantage of the search filters at the left side of the theme store: you can search for only themes with the features you want, or use ones built specifically for your industry.

Of course, all Shopify themes suffer from the same drawback: stores run a high risk of looking generic. On top of that, other stores can use the same exact theme as you, making it difficult to set yourself apart, especially if you’re using a free theme.

One workaround to get a unique and personalized Shopify site is to hire a 99designs designer to customize a theme specifically to fit your needs. We even have designers who specialize in Shopify in particular—here are our top 9 Shopify designers.

5. Install your apps

Next, you want to install all your apps so they’re in place when you begin customizing your site. You can find everything you need at the Shopify app store, and if you already planned out which ones you need, this step should be a breeze.

Just like with the theme store, you want to take full advantage of the filters for more efficient searching. For apps, your best bet is to search by category—design apps, marketing apps, shipping apps, etc.

And don’t worry about getting all your apps at once—you can always come back and add new ones or replace old ones later. Knowing which apps to use can give you a head-start at the beginning when you launch, but if you miss something or make a mistake you can correct it at any time.

6. Personalize your store

Finally, we come to the big step: personalizing your Shopify website to make it your own. As we mentioned before, Shopify makes this process easy and convenient—it’s more or less filling in the blanks after choosing your theme and apps.

Most of the customization options can be found in Sales Channels > Online Store in the left navigation menu. Each of these options (Themes, Pages, Domains, etc.) offers a new set of customizations options, so we recommend going down the list one-by-one.

Editing your Theme is the big one, where you can personalize your homepage. Click on Theme on the left and then on the Customize button to bring up the editor.

All the areas you can change are listed on the left of the screen, with a real-time preview of your Shopify website on the right. In the upper-right corner, there’s an icon where you can switch between the desktop and mobile versions of the preview, ensuring both look how you want them to.

Just go through each entry on the left and enter your custom text or upload the images you want. You’ll see clearly labelled fields for each area, along with other options like text alignment. Again, it comes in handy to prefer these assets beforehand. Although they offer free images, you want to keep the shared assets you use to a minimum in order to mitigate the “generic” look of your Shopify website.

Before you start populating your site with your products—our next step—there’s also more customization options in the Settings section at the bottom of the left menu. These are the more technical details of your business, often the behind-the-scene areas, including:

  • General preferences (currency, location, business address, etc.)
  • Payment providers
  • Shipping and delivery
  • Store languages
  • Billing
  • Taxes

… and many more areas. Although many of these options are minor choices, they can have a major impact on your business, especially payment and shipping. Be sure to take the time to go through each one and customize them based on your personal site goals.

7. Add your products

Now you can add all of your products into your Shopify website, but depending on how many products you offer, this might now be good news. Each product must be entered individually, one-by-one, so this step could take awhile.

To enter a new product, go to the Products section of the left menu, and then click on the Add product button.

The next step is simply filling in the template. You have fields for everything you need:

  • Title
  • Description
  • Availability
  • Organization (product type and brand name)
  • Media
  • Pricing (including a separate section for “Compare at price”)
  • SKU and Barcode
  • Quantity
  • Shipping information (including weight, shipment origin and HS code)
  • Variants (like Size or Color)
  • SEO tool
  • Tags

You also have the option here to place products in custom Collections, which are groupings of items you can use for a variety of different sales methods. Collections can be made manually or automatically.

8. Buy and set your domain name

There’s tons of areas you can customize before you launch, but there’s one that’s practically a necessity we haven’t talked about yet: your domain.

Your URL, or domain name, can be a powerful branding tool and help with recognition as long as you use an original one. While Shopify by default provides you with one of their domains (, if you’re serious about your ecommerce business, we recommend investing in your own domain name. Luckily, that’s a service they provide as well.

To buy and set your Shopify website domain, go to the Sales Channel > Online Store > Domain in the left menu. You can type in the URL you’re looking for, and they’ll search to see if it’s available and how much it will cost. They’ll also display alternate options (.net, .org, etc.) in case there’s too much competition.

You can both buy and apply your new domain in this section, so this step might not take that long… unless your top choices are fiercely competitive.

9. Launch and sell!

With your domain name in place, everything is ready for launch! And by “everything,” we mean the bare minimum!!

Let’s be clear: your work is far from over. Even if you followed this guide to the letter and went through every customizable section, there’s still all the external areas that are crucial to ecommerce success, like marketing, customer profiling and promotions. Many of these areas you can’t even start until you’ve made your first sale.

Shopify makes these areas as easy as possible, allowing you to connect your campaigns to your store and offer a variety of different promotion types. And if Shopify’s native features aren’t enough, their app store adds even more options. You’ll get a clearer idea of what you need once you begin selling, but at this point you can still look around to see exactly what you can do in the future.

However, one thing you want to do as soon as possible is test out a sample order. By that we mean, order a product from your store just like a normal customer and see if any problems arise. If there’s a mistake or something was overlooked, it’s better if you catch it instead of your very first customer!

Is Shopify too easy?

Shopify is a particular niche for site builders—it’s designed to be easy and user-friendly, at the cost of customization options. While that’s the perfect fit for a large number of online retailers, it’s not for everyone.

If you want more customization options and don’t mind putting more effort into building your site, check out our comparison guide of the 10 best ecommerce platforms. We go through the most popular choices for building an online store, explaining what makes them different and whom each is recommended for.

About the Author!

Matt Ellis is a freelance content writer, specializing in web design and ecommerce. For over a decade he’s been sharing his industry knowledge through ebooks, website copy, and blog articles just like this one. You can learn more about his career and writing services at

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8 Rules to optimize for homepage conversions from top Shopify websites

The homepage plays a crucial role in the customer’s buying journey. If you have created an effective home page, visitors are less likely to bounce. Once they click on a product, they are more likely to buy. Imagine walking up to a restaurant, you’re more likely to go in and check out the menu if the restaurant looks inviting. Perhaps it’s bustling or shows you appealing dishes on a handwritten board outside. The restaurant’s exterior and façade is like the homepage of any ecommerce business. The homepage doesn’t convert visitors to buyers on its own. Instead, the objective is to get visitors to click or view a product or category page to bring them ‘in’ to your store.

To optimize the homepage, you have to understand the psychology of your visitors and potential customers. The purchase intent of a visitor who lands on your product page is usually higher. So the goal of any homepage is to encourage the visitor to view a category or product page.

In general, there are two main challenges to solve with homepage design:

  • Many different products means different customer segments. How can a homepage appeal to different customers given its limited real estate?
  • The chance of closing the sale for visitors who have clicked/viewed at least one product is much higher. How could we create a homepage that encourages as many visitors to click on a product?

Let’s look at some successful Shopify stores and look at how they solve it.

To start, we’ll review the most important elements that a high-converting homepage has.

1. Clear unique value proposition

What makes you different? To attract first timers and build loyalty with repeat visitors, you need to make this clear. Why should someone buy from you? Are your products unique? more affordable? Or do you have the fastest delivery? a unique style?

Communicate this clearly on your homepage to make the most impact once visitors land on your site.

A great example is Allbirds, Once you go to their homepage, the first message that pops out is “Light on your feet, Easy on the planet”. So you are aware that they have high-quality shoes that are good for the environment. This immediately draws attention and invites visitors to click on a product.

Figure 1 Allbirds has a very clear value proposition front and center on their homepage

2. Add category images for clear navigation

In any given e-commerce website, the more products you have, the more diverse your customers and what they look for. Humans process visuals much faster than text. When the visitors land on your homepage, they may not have a clear idea of what they want to buy. For this reason, relying on them to navigate your menu bar or search function to discover products they might like could lead to lost sales opportunities.

A better way is to showcase your popular categories on the homepage. Remember the goal of your homepage is to get every visitor to take an action, to view a category or product page. Therefore every element on your homepage should help you achieve this. Start by thinking about different customers that you have and if you can put them in different buckets. If you’re running a furniture store, it could be a different style they are after (Nordic, vintage, minimalist etc.) or occasions if you have a fashion store (party, wedding, job interview etc.).

Figure 2 Fashionnova shows bright and attractive images of their main categories on the homepage to get visitors to view the category page

If you’re already doing this, the next step is to show different images to each visitor based on their interest.

Using an app like DataCue, you can upload all your category banner images in one place. The app will then automatically show different images on your homepage to each visitor based on their browsing history.

Figure 3 Inspirations Dancewear shows each visitor different images based on their last category and product views and purchases.

3. Use personal history for personalized recommendations

Your e-commerce website sits on valuable insights about your visitors, namely what they are interested in and their preferences. Done right, you can mine this information and use it to show each visitor only products they would be interested in.

After all, 45% of visitors are more likely to buy from an ecommerce website that offers personalized recommendations. The benefit of personalization extends beyond improving conversion. It’s a great way to improve customer loyalty as they feel that you understand their needs and they’ll remember you when they’re ready to buy again.

Figure 3 Personalized product recommendations improve conversion and average order value

If you’re not using any personalization solution at the moment, you can easily get started by featuring trending or the newest products. While this is not the best example of personalization, it shows your visitors what your best products are and gives them an idea of what to buy.

Most e-commerce websites offer some sort of product carousels on their homepage. However, we’ve found that the best practice for high converting product carousels includes the following:

  • If you’re selling fashion items, the product visuals should be of someone using or wearing it. This kind of image helps your customers imagine how the product could look on them.
  • Consider increasing whitespace between the products and completely eliminate borders to reduce noise and keep everything clean
  • Add price, an add to cart button and reviews

Figure 4 Colourpop’s product carousel includes price, add to cart buttons and customer ratings

A Shopify app like DataCue allows you to achieve exactly this. It’s a no-frill personalization tool that personalizes content on every page including the homepage for every visitor. The tool changes banners and product recommendations automatically based on who’s looking.

4. Personalization via localization

Personalization is not only based on specific browsing history. It can also be other general observations such as location, currency, season and time. If your customers are from different countries, you can adjust the currency and time to deliver automatically.

Doing this will reduce friction for your visitors to convert the price and shipping time on their own.

5. Drop the banner slider

Banners are great, sliders are not. While they might be useful at giving you more opportunities to show more offers and products, the benefits stop there. Carousels are distracting, slow to load and worst of all, they are not mobile friendly.

John Stutt from VaporFi ran an experiment by swapping the slider with static images. He found that the static images led to 12% revenue increase per session. Time on page also dropped significantly which is a good sign that visitors spent a short amount of time deciding which products or categories to view next.

A similar experiment found that after swapping carousels for static images, the click rate went up to 40.53% compared to 2%.

6. Design for mobile first

Transactions through mobile will reach 73% of all ecommerce sales in 2021. It makes sense to prioritize and keep mobile UX in mind when you make any changes to the homepage.

Take a look at this example on mobile. Notice a very prominent search bar that’s integrated with the latest Instagram posts as well as the top CTA for a 10% student discount.

And this is their desktop version.

There’s no doubt Tony Bianco has designed their homepage experience with a ‘mobile first’ attitude. And it makes perfect sense when their customer base are young women who are constantly on the go and always checking their phones.

Other things to keep in mind when designing for mobile include:

  • Big and friendly CTA
  • Hamburger menu
  • Make search bar prominent
  • Design for a finger tap (i.e Design big, avoid pinch and zoom at all cost)
  • Easy to navigate

7. Keep it simple

Online retailers have traditionally tried to communicate everything on their homepage and its products. Many A/B studies have shown that having competing messages is too hard to process. What do visitors do when they get confused? They leave.

This is related to Point 1 which is a clear value proposition. Decide what it is and make sure that your homepage screams the DNA of your brand. Make sure that it’s consistent and easy to follow. Your homepage needs to offer a clear flow for visitors to do next, whether using a search bar, clicking on the product recommendations or viewing the category pages.

8. Create urgency

Most visitors will not buy in the same session. They will browse around, compare prices and might come back to your website once they decide to buy. While they’re making the decision, you want to stay on top of their minds. The way you do this is through relevant communications through different channels such as:

  • Desktop notifications to remind them of your brand
  • Countdown SMS to create a fear of missing out
  • Seasonal and promotional SMS to bring visitors back

Pura Vida Bracelets customers subscribe to push notifications via a message on their website, they then receive a welcome message

And when they come back to your website, you can impress them with relevant notifications which show you that you understand their needs and what they look for.

A tool like Firepush allows brands and merchants to automate push notifications without the hassle. Customers automatically receive different push notifications at different stages of their purchase journeys.


The Homepage is the most prominent page of any ecommerce website. Yet, it receives less attention that it deserves. The goal of any ecommerce homepage is to get visitors to click on an image or product on the homepage and bring them ‘in’ to your store. Personalization and creating urgency are two great ways to optimize the webpage to ensure high conversion. A high converting homepage is easy to navigate, helps visitors discover products they like and brings visitors back again and again.

About the author Ann Pichestapong

Ann is the co-founder and CEO of DataCue. Her unique background as a data scientist and an ex-management consultant helps her use technology to solve real business problems for ecommerce. Her passion is to open up the power of personalization to everyone.


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Magento vs Shopify vs WooCommerce Platform Comparison Infographic

Magento, Shopify, and WooCommerce power the majority of all top 100,000 eCommerce websites, and the majority of all eCommerce sites on the Internet. WooCommerce has millions of active websites, Shopify has surpassed 500,000 customers, and Magento has consistently had 250,000+ websites for a long time now. Many companies have either been on one of these platforms or are considering these platforms for their eCommerce website and business. This infographic is designed to give you some high-level information about the three platforms to help in your decision making.

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User Base: Shopify now has over 500,000 users, a massive increase from a few years ago. Magento has stagnated a bit at a total of 250,000 or so for a few years now because their platform has more of an enterprise focus and less of a universal SMB focus. WooCommerce has grown the most to millions of users, mostly because it is so easy to spin up a cheap WordPress / WooComerce site. What’s critical to note here, though, is that of this user base is very different for the top sites. Magento holds the largest number of top 10,000 sites, followed by WooCommerce, and then Shopify.

Magento: Magento is pushing forward full-steam with their new Magento 2 platform. They now have both cloud and an on-premise enterprise solution as well as their widely used open source version. Magento is still by far the most powerful solution of the 3 here and is best for complex B2B or international websites.

Shopify: Shopify is the leading SaaS eCommerce platform with a massive user base. They stock has exploded in the past few years and they continue to grow their leadership position. Shopify is great for business to consumer eCommerce and is starting to generate more and more interest from larger brands. The ease of use of SaaS makes it the most cost-effective option in most cases.

WooCommerce: WooCommerce is really just a plugin to WordPress, so in a sense, it is not really its own platform but just an add-on. WordPress has become the go-to CMS around the world, making WooCommerce the most convenient eCommerce platform because it can simply be added to any normal WordPress site. WooCommerce is great for businesses that have light eCommerce and heavy content needs.

Leading Brands: All of the platforms boast some large brands, however, they rarely power the main flagship brand website. They are often used to power separate stores or other parts of a website for some of the leading brands listed. Magento is used by a larger number of eCommerce flagship sites, powering the most top IR and B2B sites of the three platforms.

Generated Revenue: Magento definitely leads this number, but Shopify is quickly growing here. Its possible WooCommerce is higher than we think here but it’s not documented anywhere. Most WooCommerce sites are smaller so its hard to envision this number higher than Shopify and Magento.

Advantages: Each platform has many advantages. WooCommerce has the benefit of being part of WordPress, the most used CMS and platform in the world. Magento has the most eCommerce functionality out of the box of all platforms. Shopify is far ahead of the other platforms for ease of use for an eCommerce platform and has no maintenance costs being a SaaS platform.

Disadvantages: Magento is a complicated platform that can require a hefty development budget to execute properly. This can lead to the platform being more costly than many companies expect. Shopify is a SaaS platform that requires paid monthly apps and is also limiting in terms of core functionality. You may run out of things it can do and have to customize it which can get really costly because you will need to build a custom independent app in this case. WooCommerce is limited in that it’s just a plugin to WordPress and not an eCommerce first platform, making it very weak for scaling to a large number of sales and complexity.

Platform Versions: Shopify is a Software as a service with multiple tiers and a Shopify Plus enterprise version. Magento is an open source platform that has both a platform as a service hosted version and an on-premise platform. WooCommerce just has one free version with many add-on plugins that you can use.

Strongest Industries: Shopify has become strong in the retail and high-end consumer industries like Jewelry, accessories, etc… Magento is strong in Fashion, B2B, auto parts, and food & beverage. WooCommerce does well with publishers and companies that require a lot of content but a little eCommerce. Life Sciences also does well with WooCommerce because of their content heavy focus.

Theming: Theming is often one of the largest costs of any implementation of an eCommerce platform. All three platforms have many themes available. Shopify does a good job of maintaining and vetting themes through their app store. WooCommerce has the most theme options, followed by Magento and then Shopify. A number of themes, however, doesn’t really matter, the quality of the themes is much more important.

Rankings: Shopify is certainly the easiest platform to learn and get used to because you don’t need to host it or deal with maintenance like updating plugins etc. It also has great support an ecosystem of easy to install apps. Magento is the hardest to use but also has the most flexibility and built-in functionality. WooCommerce is somewhere in the middle between the complexity of Magento and Shopify.

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