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Smashing Wordpress

Smashing Wordpress

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Published by Maria Vasii

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Published by: Maria Vasii on Jun 26, 2011
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It goes without saying that WordPress can be used to sell stuf. In its simplest form you’ll run a blog
or traditional site with WordPress as the backend, and use your reach to sell products. You can add
af liate links, which basically means that whenever you link to Amazon using your af liate URL
and someone buys something, you’ll get a provision. In fact, if you bought this book by following a
link from any of my sites, I made a little extra. Tanks!

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Chapter 10: Uncommon WordPress Usage

205

However, when most of us are thinking e-commerce we’ve got bigger things than af liate links in
mind. Shopping carts, digital distribution, payment received via PayPal accounts, that sort of thing.

You can have all this for sure, and in Chapter 11 there’s even a bunch of ideas that can make such
things easier to implement, from simple integrations to full shopping carts.

Running a Web Shop on WordPress

You may be wondering if you can run a Web shop on WordPress. In short, the answer is yes; you
could if you wanted to, and if you didn’t have too many products.

Te long version: probably not, but don’t let that stop you since there’s really no reason why it shouldn’t
work perfectly well if you’re prepared to extend WordPress with plugins, work with custom felds, and
then fgure out how to connect your shopping cart with PayPal and other payment solutions.

Kind of disheartening isn’t it? Relax, it’s not as bad as it sounds: there are plugins out there that do
most of the work for you. Ting is, compared to the other e-commerce systems out there the avail-
able plugins are kind of bleak. Tere used to be a time when open source e-commerce meant tables
and no SEO, ugly links and bulky admins. Tat was then, this is now, and with that in mind it is
hard to truly recommend WordPress for e-commerce other than for hobby businesses or if you’re
selling a small number of products.

Tat being said, there’s nothing that’s stopping you from attaching any of the various shopping cart
scripts out there right into your theme. Most will probably work with minor hassle, and that would
only leave you with the discomfort of fguring out how to charge for your merchandise. Luckily
companies like PayPal (and many others, I should add) have made that easy, so you can certainly
monetize your blog or WordPress-powered site with a shop selling your goods if you want to.

Just make sure you know what you’re getting yourself into. Tis is sales, afer all, and not the content
business anymore.

Selling Digital Products

Digital merchandise such as e-books are a completely diferent matter altogether. Absolutely noth-
ing is stopping you from implementing a payment solution for a digital fle, and when paid, you
serve the fle. In fact, it has almost nothing at all to do with WordPress since it is all about verify-
ing that you got paid, and then directing the customer to the fle in question. Adding that sort of
solution to your blog is really easy if you rely on a third-party service (which will take a chunk of
your processed money at the very least) to both manage payment and delivery of the fles, such as
E-junkie (www.e-junkie.com), for example. It’s just a matter of setting up a link, and then your
provider will handle the rest; much like an af liate program, but with the beneft of you getting a
larger chunk of the money, it being your product and all.

You can do the same on your own as well with the necessary plugins or scripts. However, it is really
hard to sidestep the fact that you need to actually charge for your products, which means handling
payments. You can, theoretically, handle payments yourself as well. I advise against it, if for nothing

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206

Part IV: Beyond the Blog

else but the fact that people feel more secure when they recognize the party handling their money.
Better to have someone else worrying about that stuf, but again, it is entirely up to you.

Digital products ft any site perfectly. While WordPress may be no Magento when it comes to
e-commerce, it is perfectly well suited for selling e-books, MP3s, design fles, or whatever you want
to make money on.

Building for E-Commerce

So you’ve decided to use WordPress as a basis to sell products—big or small, a lot or a few, doesn’t
matter. Now you need to fgure out how you can set it up to make it as powerful as possible, and
easy to manage at that.

Tere are really two premises here. Either you expect a lot of products, which means there would
be a point to having a post per product and relying on categories, or you expect to have a smaller
amount, which points to the use of Pages. If you think you’ll have a steady stream of new products
on, say, a weekly basis then it sounds to me like using posts would be best, but if you won’t be add-
ing new products more than a couple of times per year, you can probably do just as well with Pages.
Remember, there’s no real reason why you shouldn’t have numerous Pages in a WordPress install,
it’s more a matter of what you can do with them and how you can output that.

Posts do have the advantage of being easily put into categories and then tagged, and you can even
add custom taxonomies to add separate tag sets and such to them. Pages, on the other hand, ofer
Page templates, which give you extra control, and you can tackle the lack of categories with hier-
archical Pages. Which way you go is up to you and how you want to manage your products; these
days both have support for your premiere weapon of choice: custom felds.

Tere are hundreds of ways to set up an e-commerce site using WordPress. Te easiest way is prob-
ably to dedicate a post or Page to a product, add a buy link, and then charge your customers. If you
use a plugin you’ll end up getting these decisions made for you, which can be a good thing, espe-
cially since any decent e-commerce plugin would have a shopping cart and a checkout sequence,
and possibly even a payment scheme sorted out.

However, when it comes to product presentation the whole thing is in your hands. Tat means
that you’ll want to style image galleries properly and add product shots as custom felds so you can
display them in nice listings.

I think that is the key for most WordPress-powered Web shops: putting custom felds to good use.
You’ll want at least one product shot saved in a custom feld because you can call on it in listings, but
you may also want a larger one to use in presentations, or perhaps one of those oversized product
headers that are all the buzz on promo Web sites nowadays.

Here’s a quick recap:

Should products be in posts or in Pages?

Do I need categories or tags? Ten it’s posts!

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Chapter 10: Uncommon WordPress Usage

207

Do I need custom control on a per-product basis? Ten it’s probably Pages!

What custom felds do I need? Figure it out!

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