Getting Started

Creating an e-commerce web site takes a significant amount of consideration and planning. Here is an outline of the various areas that will need to be addressed to launch your Modern Merchant powered web site:

Quality Web Hosting

E-Commerce web sites place demands on a hosting service. Modern Merchant requires PHP 5.1 and MySQL 3.2. Many hosting companies say they provide these technologies, but often those features come with a hidden cost. One well-known company made us jump through hoops to install PHP 5, after we discovered that PHP 5 wasn't there as advertised, and the MySQL service was partially broken, costing us hours to work around the broken parts. Remember the consumers' adage, "You get what you pay for". Spend the extra money to get a web host that will provide quality service. Expect to pay $8-15 per month for web hosting, plus a few more dollars to make your site SSL-capable. Also, smaller hosts are usually better than big ones.

When shopping for a hosting company, look for the ones who proudly feature PHP 5.

Here's another thing to look for, but is difficult to find: For an e-commerce web site, or a web site that handles sensitive information from its users, you want a degree of isolation from your hosting company's other customers. Ideally, you want the web server to run under your account when it's serving your site. Traditionally, the web server runs under a dedicated account. More and more, however, web hosts are able to serve your site using your own account. Once the web server is running under your account, you're free to remove access to your password files to anyone who isn't running your account. This in turn blocks unauthorized access your database.

Another feature that can make life easier when managing your site (including installing Modern Merchant), is having SSH access to your site. Normally, web hosts give you FTP access to your site, so you can upload files. SSH provides a way to remotely and securely open a command shell session to your server. It provides much more than that a command shell. It opens a whole range of possibilities for maintaining your site that FTP can't provide. If you're going to hire a professional web developer to manage your site, this is going to make their life easier (and their fees smaller). Usually, it's only the smaller hosting companies that offer SSH.

SSL Certificate

Another technology you'll probably need is an SSL certificate. Watch out for over-priced certificates with the big providers. Instead of offering stand-alone SSL certificates, the big providers offer packages that include a bunch of things you don't need. Expect to spend about $80 to $150 per year on a certificate.

Web Design

Most merchants what to brand their site with a color theme, logos, images, and an overall design. If this is the case you will need to integrate your design into Modern Merchant. The Web Design Guide will help a web designer or HTML author integrate an existing design into Modern Merchant. Take note: this kind of work requires knowledge of HTML and CSS, and passing familiarity with PHP.

Product Descriptions

Maybe you already have an idea of how you will describe your products. Often, the most difficult part is creating a system for photographing your products. It requires a camera, lights, an enclosure, and probably more, depending on your needs.

Installing Modern Merchant

This should be the easiest part in starting an e-commerce web site. Follow the installation directions here.