How To Set Up Your Shopify Site From Scratch In Under An Hour


One of the best things about Shopify is that it doesn’t take very long to get set up and find out if the platform is right for your business. In fact, you can be ready to sell in one hour.


This post came about because I recently came across another post where someone claimed that Shopify was so easy and quick to set up, you could literally do it in five minutes. That person apparently does not know what “literally” means.

However, I recently set-up a demo store, The Blank Sheet, to see just how long it really does take, and the good news is, it is totally possible to go from zero to fully functioning store within an hour – just follow along below to see how I did it.

(Of course, if you want to save yourself some time, I offer a limited number of basic setups absolutely free each month – you can apply here if interested. As a bonus, you’ll get to skip the 14-day trial limitation, so you can take as long as you need to explore the system for your needs.)

Preparation and planning

Before we get started on the actual Shopify setup, you should first prepare your content for the website: all the text and images you’re going to need for things like your Product pages, Homepage, and FAQs.

I’d also recommend taking a look at the theme store and deciding which template you’re going to start with to design your site. As you’ll see, the theme is the last thing we’ll set up, but knowing what theme you’re going to use can actually help you prepare your content by giving you a template to follow.

Once that’s done, it’s time to head over to Shopify and sign up for their 14-day free trial.

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Set up your products

Once you’ve filled in a few details like your store name and address, you’ll be taken to your new Shopify dashboard (or admin panel, however you like to call it).

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While I know it can be tempting to start diving into the fun stuff right away (namely, setting up your store design), I recommend leaving this part until last.

As I’ve discussed before, it’s much easier to work on the design of your website when the content is already in place; in addition, some parts of your store will be controlled by your overall store settings rather than your theme (like how prices and weights are displayed) so it’s a good idea to get everything set up how you want it first.

How you do this will depend on the number of products you plan on launching with, but for most of you, the batch uploader will probably be the most time-efficient. (Although for stores with a very small range of products, manually is probably easier).

This consists of a spreadsheet where you will map your product data to specific columns of information, before uploading to your store admin under Products > Import.

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Shopify has detailed instructions on how to do this here, and to try and make things even easier, I’ve created a sample Google spreadsheet with comments and tips for each column.

Set up your collections

With your products in place, it’s time to start organising them, so visitors can find what they’re looking for as easily as possible. The way to do that in Shopify is to set up collections for your products.

First, you’ll need to decide whether you want your collection to be automated (i.e. products are automatically added based on conditions you specify) or manual (i.e. you add or remove specific products as needed).

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Once you’ve added a title, and hit “Save”, you will also have the option to specify a Sort Order for your collection – choose “Manual” if you want to control exactly in which order products will display in a given category, then simply drag and drop products into place.

Finally, if the theme you’ve been considering shows banners on its collection pages, you may also want to upload a collection image.

Set up your pages

With the “Shop” part of your website in place, it’s time to start adding the other pages visitors will be looking for. Setting up simple text and image pages in Shopify is very easy and straightforward, however, your formatting options will be limited unless your theme comes with additional custom page templates for you to work with, or you hire someone to code these for you.

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The one page you won’t set up through the “Pages” admin in Shopify is your homepage – that will be managed through your theme settings. However, all other pages will be set up here, including things like:

  • An About page, so visitors can understand what your brand is all about
     
  • A FAQs page, breaking down key information for visitors about product care and quality, shipping prices and duration, your returns policy, etc. If any of these points are hard to answer concisely, you can always create a separate page to answer in more detail and link to this from your FAQs.
     
  • Your legally required pages. The rules for these differ from region to region, but in general, most sites will require a Privacy Policy and Terms of Service page. Shopify can actually help you with this by auto-generating sample pages for you. You can edit these if required to comply with the rules in your country.
     
  • A contact page (all Shopify themes come with a special page template that includes a contact form – click here to learn more about setting this up).

Set up your blog (optional, but recommended)

“Why you need a blog” is a topic for another day, but there’s a whole host of reasons (including SEO and content marketing benefits) why I recommend all business websites set up a blog, even if you only post on it once a month.

Shopify makes setting up a blog (or multiple blogs, if you’re so inclined) super easy – in fact, if you navigate to Online Store > Blog posts you’ll see your dashboard comes with one already created for you, called “News”.

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You can edit the blog title and start adding posts to this straight away, or you can create a whole new blog if you choose.

Set up your navigation

Now that your content is all in place, it’s time to set up your menus for website navigation. Just like with the blog, Shopify does some of the work for you. Head over to Online Store > Navigation in the admin panel and you’ll find two menus already created: the Main Menu and the Footer menu.

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You can add or remove links to these menus, and drag and drop them into whatever order you like. You can also create drop-down menus by following these instructions from Shopify.

Configure your settings

There’s one more thing we have to do before we start setting up our theme and store design, and that is to configure the settings for the store. If you navigate to Settings in your Shopify admin, you’ll see this is helpfully broken down for you into several different categories:

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You can skip about half of these for now since we’re just going to focus on the details you absolutely have to set up before you launch your store.

GENERAL SETTINGS
This is where you’ll set up things like your store name and contact details, as well as setting the overall weight and currency formats for your store, and the timezone.

SHIPPING
It’s a good idea to set up your shipping next because Shopify will use the shipping zones you specify to create some default tax rates for you. First, you’ll need to define your shipping zones (i.e. locations you’ll be shipping to), then you’ll need to set up the rates you want to charge for each zone.

As you can imagine, while you can technically get this set up within the overall time limit of one hour, some stores are naturally going to have much more complex shipping setups than others! I highly recommend reading Shopify’s guide to shipping and logistics if you’re not sure how best to set this up for your business.

TAXES
As I mentioned, Shopify will create some default tax rates for you, but it’s very much recommended that you go and check these. You can also specify whether or not you want your product prices displayed inclusive or exclusive of tax, and whether taxes should be charged for shipping or not.

PAYMENTS
Choose which payment methods you want to offer customers here (such as Paypal, credit card, or bank transfer, for example), and integrate any third-party accounts that are required.

For example, if you want customers to be able to pay by credit card, and your store is not eligible for Shopify Payments (Shopify’s built-in credit card processor), then you’ll need to set up an account with what is known as a credit card gateway or payment provider.

The gateways available can vary from country to country, so make sure to check out this list from Shopify that details all the payment gateways available, broken down by country.

CHECKOUT
This is where you’ll find the (limited) customisation options for your store’s checkout, along with settings like whether or not visitors have to create accounts at checkout, and the checkout language.

This is the one setting you might want to leave until after you have set up your theme design, to keep everything looking as consistent as possible.

Set up your theme

At this stage, your store will probably look something like this:

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Which is pretty good going given we haven’t actually done any design work yet – it’s basically a fully-functional store already, and it’s taken all of 45 minutes to get to this point.

However, while the default theme is a perfectly acceptable choice, most of you will probably want to go for something a little less basic, with a design that reflects your brand and is more targeted to your audience.

So it’s now time to set up your theme – if you go to Online Store in your admin panel you’ll see the Themes page by default. Scroll down and you’ll find two options: “Explore Free Themes” and “Visit Theme Store”.

The great thing about the Shopify theme store is that whatever you choose, you can fully preview in your store – and by “fully” I mean you can actually access all of a theme’s settings (and even code if you wanted to!) before purchasing.

And this is a definite plus because the differences between themes can be vast, even with Shopify’s rigorous quality control policies in place. I’ve come across some paid themes with so few options I mistakenly assumed were free, and vice versa.

Plus if you’re not sure where to start, you can always check out my Shopify theme roundups for recommendations.

Launch your store

Congratulations! You’ve done it – zero to fully functioning store. However, before you remove your coming soon page, there are some additional options you may want to consider:

Apart from installing Google Analytics, which I’d argue is pretty essential for all websites, the rest of these options will really depend on your type of business and also which Shopify plan you have signed up for.

I hope you’ve found this article helpful – I’ve done my best to include every single point you’d need, but of course, if you think I’ve missed anything out feel free to comment on Facebook or Twitter. In the meantime, happy selling!