Shopify is a an online service to help people sell products online. It has a ton of customization options available, but also makes it extremely easy to start an online store in a matter of minutes. If you've thought about building a company website with Google Sites, but wanted to incorporate an online store as well, Shopify looks like a great way to get started. I'll start off with a quick rundown of Shopify and then show you how easy it was to set up a new store from scratch.
What does (and doesn't) Shopify do
Shopify provides a way to manage an online store that allows customers to place orders, but they don't directly handle payments or shipping. They do provide easy ways to interface with other options for such things, however, including Paypal (by default), Google Checkout, and Amazon.
In addition to the core services, Shopify has tools that let you track your traffic and shoppers (with support for third party analytics tools). Shopify also lets you customize your site in a number of ways, and could reasonably serve as the entirety of your company website if you were so inclined. There are quite a few free themes, as well as a store where you can buy additional themes or plugins to enhance your store.
Shopify pricing starts at $24/month (plus a 2% transaction fee) for listing 100 products, and ranges up to $699/month (with no transaction fee) for 50,000 products. All options include a 30 day free trial, though they do require a credit card.
Setting up shop
To try out Shopfiy, I decided to set up a new shop selling a single product: a Less Annoying Blog sticker. To get started, just head to www.shopify.com and click on the "sign up now" button. I started out with the $24 plan, which sacrifices a few features but is more than enough to get started selling a few products.
The signup is pretty painless, asking you to create a name for your store (The Less Annoying Store), a subdomain where the store will be hosted (lessannoying.myshopify.com, you can also use your own domain name if you like), and some basic contact information. You also get to "choose" a payment option, but Paypal is the only one available at sign up; you can switch to other options in the settings page after setting up your store. Finally, you get to choose from 10 available themes. I just chose the default one, but there are definitely a wide variety of options during the signup, and even more available at themes.shopify.com.
After signing up, Shopify shows you two links: your public store (where people can see your products), and the administrator site. By default, your site will already have a Shopify t-shirt available and some intro text on various pages, so the first step is to change that stuff. The admin options are pretty self explanatory and the site does a pretty good job of walking you through each page with unobtrusive popups. Overall, changing the content of the pages (Blogs & Pages tab) and the products (Products tab), is quite simple.
After putting in some text for the main page and deleting the shirt, I got to creating my first product (a sticker!). Through the "add a new product" link on the products page. From there you can add a title, description, price, inventory, and tags to help organize things. I also uploaded an image of the product and added it to the "Front Page" collection. I haven't explored exactly how collections work, but they're basically a way to group your products to control how they are displayed. The Front Page category means a product will be shown on the front page of your site (shocking, I know).
After saving these details, the product will now be listed online and available for orders, and you're basically done. As I said at the beginning, Shopify has many customization options available, and can do a lot more than what I've described here, but I was mostly impressed with how easy it was to get a simple site set up. If you want to check out our intentionally overpriced store, head to lessannoying.myshopify.com.
I'll probably spend some more time playing around with Shopify over the next couple days, but if you try it out and have any questions, or find anything particularly cool, let us know in the comments.