Please recommend a very simple online store.
February 7, 2010 6:09 AM   Subscribe

I need recommendations from people experienced with setting up a dead-simple online store.

I have created a very popular product and I have over a few hundred preorders. This product comes in two forms, and people would like to be able to order one or both in various quantities.

Is there some kind of wonderfully simple online payment system that:

1. Lets customers pay with PayPal. (including, possibly, a credit card via PayPal).

2. Makes customers enter shipping information, and perhaps one custom field too?

3. Feeds me this information in a form convenient for printing.

4. Tracks inventory.

5. Is not eBay or etsy.

6. Can be implemented on my server. (dreamhost)

This store could be as simple as a button that I put in a custom-made page with product images, videos, etc.

A broad range of answers is acceptable -- maybe you just know a better way of using PayPal than I do. However, if you've never set up an online store and just want to Google it for me, please just hang tight. I haven't been able to find good information myself and so I am looking for personal experiences and edification from people who have done this.
posted by fake to Shopping (10 answers total) 36 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: You could use google checkout instead of paypal. They allow you to make a quick online store and they accept all major credit cards. I use them for my t-shirt business and it's just as reliable & intuitive as all of their other services.
posted by pwally at 6:14 AM on February 7, 2010

Best answer: I'd recommend not hosting it on your server, and instead using a system like or bigcommerce. It'll cost around $30 / month to do what you're describing above, and it far outclasses what you can pull off on a typical dreamhost setup.
posted by jenkinsEar at 6:36 AM on February 7, 2010

Best answer: Yeah, don't use paypal now that there are real alternatives like google checkout and Amazon's payment system.

Magento is pretty modern and works with google checkout, and there's also OSCommerce which is older.
posted by delmoi at 6:40 AM on February 7, 2010

Response by poster: Alright -- I'll drop the self-hosting idea.

Does Google Checkout or Shopify have any problem with international customers?
posted by fake at 6:46 AM on February 7, 2010

Best answer: PayPal's shopping cart button may do most of what you want -- it is just a chunk of form fields, and requires nothing special set up on PayPal - it even keeps track of what they've added in the past, so they can add something, get back to your site, add something else, and then check out. You can configure pretty much everything in HTML on your side, and when somebody adds something to their cart it passes the form to PayPal who keeps track of the cart and the checkout process. If you want to play with it, you can use PayPal's Sandbox for testing. You get the usual PayPal notices when somebody buys from you, and if you have the button HTML set up properly the PayPal notice will include what was bought. There's a way to configure PayPal to automatically figure shipping, too, but that's on the PayPal side (you set up flat shipping in the HTML if you want).

Inventory control is the problem - since PayPal doesn't know what products you have until they're added to the cart, they can't keep track of inventory. It sounds like you want something which has a database of your products and counts down as things sell, and the PayPal button won't do that. Unless you're selling a lot every day, manually going in and removing the HTML button when you sell out of something isn't as large an effort as managing an inventory database might be, depending on how many products and sales you expect. If you use some other cart software, there will probably be a monthly fee, and I don't have any experience to recommend those - but PayPal does have a list of approved 3rd party carts.

If you're PHP savvy, PayPal does have more developer tools for integrating into any custom cart website -- instructions on integrating with something you create yourself are here. I rolled my own online store, and the payment processing was trivial compared to writing the cart itself (what if they add the same product twice? How do I let them change the quantities in their cart? How do I check that they've put valid information in their address blanks? How do I verify that they actually paid after the cart says they checked out, and at what point to I decrement the inventory? How do I keep track of the fact that this cart is their cart?) Again, if you don't have a lot of products and sales are infrequent enough that removing the HTML button manually isn't a big issue, having inventory control handled by the website may be more work than it's worth.
posted by AzraelBrown at 6:48 AM on February 7, 2010

Best answer: Shopify is about as simple as it gets, and it meets your criteria except for #6. It really is dead dimple and so much easier than many other solutions.
posted by avex at 7:11 AM on February 7, 2010

Response by poster: I know there are some real objections to using PayPal but most of my customers are asking for it, and I'm not sure I want to make them sign up for Google accounts in addition to their PayPal accounts.

Right now, I'm either going to go with:

1. AzraelBrown's Paypal button approach (it was my first instinct, too).


2. Shopify + paypal as a gateway. (leaning toward this approach).

Other than the generous and informative discussion you guys have already given the topic here, are there any caveats to using either one of these setups? As for inventory control, since I'm really only selling two things and making them to order, it's not a real big deal.
posted by fake at 8:10 AM on February 7, 2010

Foxycart is super simple too.
posted by backwards guitar at 10:20 AM on February 7, 2010

Best answer: If I didn't have to chops to host and roll out my own ecommerce setup quickly, I'd use Shopify. In fact, I'm so keen to use it I keep hoping a client will turn up for whom it is the perfect solution. Unfortunately, none of my clients ever want the very simple option.

So yeah, Shopify. It works very well, looks good out of the box, is easy to use, and does all the fiddley bits for you.
posted by DarlingBri at 3:08 PM on February 7, 2010 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Well, I have my store set up with Shopify, and it has been everything I wanted and a fair amount that I now want but didn't even know I couldn't live without.

For gawd's sake, I was even able to repeatedly talk to knowledgeable people on the telephone when I ran into little snags (mostly due to the fact that I know fuck-all about online selling).

I highly recommend Shopify, their service is excellent. If they'd just integrate a bit better with Endicia, they'd be perfect.
posted by fake at 3:16 PM on February 11, 2010

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