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Before we can dive into listing and selling our products, we first need to install the WP e-Commerce plugin and then address a few cosmetic and functionality issues. Right out-of-the-box, a default installation of WordPress works great as a typical blogging platform, but the needs for an e-commerce site are different. Let's begin work on converting WordPress from a blog-centric platform to a business-focused platform.
This article by Brian Bondari, author of WordPress 2.9 E-Commerce, will cover:
- Installing the WP e-Commerce plugin
- Installing third-party themes
- Enabling and disabling comments
Installing the WP e-Commerce plugin
At this point, you should already have WordPress installed. If you do not, please visit http://wordpress.org/download/ to grab the latest version. Some web hosts also offer a one-click install of WordPress via cPanel or another control panel.
Installing the WP e-Commerce plugin is no different than installing other WordPress plugins. There are two ways to do so:
- Directly from the WordPress Dashboard
- Manually using your favorite FTP program
Installing from the WordPress Dashboard
This is by far the easiest and most convenient way to install new plugins for WordPress. All you need to do is log in to your Dashboard, expand the Plugins menu in the left-hand side column, and click on Add New, as shown in the following screenshot:
In the Search box that displays on the resulting page, ensure that Term is selected as your search option, and perform a search for e-commerce. The WP e-Commerce plugin should be one of the top results. The following screenshot shows the Search Plugins option:
All that's left is to click on the Install button, and WordPress will handle the rest of the installation for you. The following screenshot shows the search results with the WP e-Commerce plugin on top:
If you prefer the tried-and-true method of installing plugins manually, that's also an option. First, download the latest version from:
or use the alternate download site:
Next, decompress the downloaded ZIP archive with the tool of your choice. We should now have a folder called wp-e-commerce, as shown in the following screenshot:
Using your preferred FTP/SFTP program, we need to upload that entire folder to the wp-content/plugins directory on your server. See the following screenshot to view the wp-e-commerce folder properly uploaded next to a few other plugins:
The full path to the wp-e-commerce directory should be: <your WordPress install>/wp-content/plugins/wp-e-commerce/.
Now that we have successfully uploaded the plugin, let's activate it. Open your web browser and log in to your WordPress Dashboard. Under the Plugins section, you should now see an inactive plugin called WP Shopping Cart, as shown in the following screenshot:
Click on the Activate button to enable the plugin. On the left-hand side of the WordPress Dashboard, we now have a new section called Products, as shown in the following screenshot:
Congratulations! You have now taken the first crucial step in building an e-commerce site. Let's now continue paving the way for our shop by addressing some functional and cosmetic issues within WordPress.
Installing third-party themes
One of the major strengths of WordPress is how easy it is to customize and alter. This is especially true with regard to themes. If you have the knowledge, experience, and patience to build a theme for your site completely from scratch, you are more than welcome to do so. For the rest of us, it's easy to install and tweak a pre-built third-party theme.
The official site for previewing and downloading WordPress themes is: http://wordpress.org/extend/themes/. As of this writing, there are well over 1,000 themes available. Most third-party themes are free, though a number of so-called "premium" themes are also available at varying price levels.
For our upcoming music shop, let's select a free theme. One popular and appropriate option is the Crafty Cart theme (http://bit.ly/crafty-cart). This theme just happens to be designed with the e-Commerce plugin for WordPress in mind, making it a solid starting point for our shop. Another nice feature is that it's completely free to use for both personal and commercial purposes.
No matter which theme you choose, all third-party themes can be installed in one of the following two ways:
- Through the WordPress Dashboard
- Manually via FTP
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Installing themes through the WordPress Dashboard
Since the debut of WordPress 2.8, new themes can be downloaded and installed directly through the WordPress Dashboard, just like plugins! The first step is to browse to your Dashboard and expand the Appearance menu. Click on the Add New Themes link, as shown in the following screenshot:
The resulting Install Themes page that loads has a plethora of options for finding and adding new themes. For instance, if you want to view the Crafty Cart theme, just perform a search for crafty cart, as shown in the following screenshot:
You can preview and install themes, browse new or featured releases, or filter search results by color, features, or other options. You don't even need to leave your Dashboard if you don't want, which is a welcome improvement over previous versions of WordPress.
Uploading themes via FTP
Of course, the older method of uploading new themes via FTP is still available. To do so, first download the ZIP archive that contains your chosen theme. Go ahead and extract the data within the archive. In our case, the archive for the Crafty Cart theme contains a folder called CrafyCart. If a theme comes with any custom installation instructions, they are usually mentioned in a ReadMe file.
Next, launch the FTP/SFTP program of your choice and log into your server. Inside your WordPress installation folder, go to the wp-content/themes directory. We now need to upload the extracted folder for our theme to the server. See the following screenshot to view the CraftyCart folder which has been properly uploaded and nested on the server:
The full path to any third-party themes that you upload should be: <your WordPress install>/wp-content/themes/<name of theme>/.
Activating third-party themes
Once you have added some themes, it's time to activate them. In your Dashboard, scroll down to the Appearance section and click on the Themes link, as shown in the following screenshot:
You should now see a list of Available Themes that you have uploaded, plus your currently active theme. Clicking on an available theme will show a preview of your site using that theme. In our case, we will go ahead and click on the Crafty Cart theme. The available themes, including the Crafty Cart theme, are shown in the following screenshot:
Clicking on the screenshot of the theme will yield a fully functional preview. When you're ready to commit to a theme, click on the Activate button in the top right-hand corner of the preview window. Naturally, some themes are better suited for an e-commerce site than others. Feel free to upload as many different themes as you like, as switching between them literally takes only a few clicks. The following screenshot shows the preview of the theme and the Activate "Crafty Cart" option:
Enabling and disabling comments
While the ability to leave comments and interact with readers is integral to the way a standard blog works, it's not nearly as important for an e-commerce site. Unless you have a specific need for comments on your site (such as a business blog), you can disable them entirely. The following instructions will cover how to disable and remove all traces of comments from your site, but you're free to follow only as much as you need, depending on how much customer interaction and feedback you wish to allow. For instance, you may wish to disable comments on WordPress pages, but not on posts, therefore leaving room for comments on a business blog. The choice is up to you.
Disabling comments globally
If you wish to disable comments globally, first enter your WordPress admin panel, scroll down to the Settings option within the Dashboard, and click on the Discussion link, as shown in the following screenshot:
Once the Discussion Settings page loads, look at the top of the page for the Default article settings. Deselect all of the check boxes that allow people to post comments, pingbacks, and trackbacks, and be sure to click on the Save Changes button at the bottom of the page. The Default article settings options are shown in the following screenshot:
Disabling comments on individual posts and pages
If you decide to leave comments enabled globally, you can still decide to disable them on individual posts and pages. After all, when we create our "Contact" page, how much sense does it make to leave comments enabled on that page? Not much.
To disable comments on individual posts and pages, look for the Discussion options when creating the desired post or page. The following screenshot shows the Discussion options:
Deselect the checkboxes Allow Comments and Allow Pings. Remember that this procedure must be done on a per-post or per-page basis.
Removing comment traces from your theme
Though comments are now disabled, you may notice that your theme still contains references to comments by each post. For instance, our Crafty Cart theme still displays the option to Write Comment above each post. The Hello world! page is shown in the following screenshot:
You may also see lingering traces such as No Comments or Comments Off, depending upon your activated theme.
The following steps require the use of a built-in WordPress text editor. You can also connect via FTP and use your favorite full-featured text editor to achieve the same results. Two excellent and free text editors are Notepad++ (Windows) and Smultron (Mac OS X).
No problem. These traces are all easy to remove, though the instructions may differ slightly depending on your theme. First, navigate back to Appearance in your WordPress Dashboard and click on the Editor link, as shown in the following screenshot:
Next, look on the right-hand side of the Dashboard under Theme Files for the files contained within the theme Templates. The file that we need to edit is called Single Post (single.php). The following screenshot shows the different Theme Files present in WordPress:
Please make a backup of your theme files before you edit them in case you make a mistake and wish to revert back to the unedited version later.
The first thing we should do is remove the Write Comment link from any post using the Crafty Cart theme. Within the Single Post file for Crafty Cart, look for this passage of code:
<span class="post-date"><?php the_time('F jS, Y'); ?></span>
<span class="post-comments"><a href="<?php com-ments_link();
?>" title="See comments for this post">
<?php comments_number('Write Comment','1 Comment',
'% Comments'); ?></a></span>
<span class="post-category"><?php the_category(' · ');
<?php the_tags('<br/><span class="post-tags">Tags: ', ', ',
This code displays the Date, the Write Comment link, and the post category underneath the title of every post, just like in the previous Hello World. Notice that there are three items that are each contained within a span class: one for post-date, one for post-comments, and one for post-category.
If you delete the entire span class for the post-comments element (as highlighted in the code), you will remove the Write Comment link from all your posts.
Depending upon your theme, you may also need to repeat the above instructions on the Main Index Template (index.php).
Before you leave the Single Post page, also look for and delete the following little snippet of code:
<?php comments_template(); ?>
Deleting this code snippet will remove any traces of Comments Off or No Comments that appear in your theme. If your theme also has a Page Template (page.php), look for and delete that same bit of code there as well. By doing so, you will remove all traces of comments on any pages that you create within WordPress.
If you successfully followed these instructions, all traces of comments should now be erased from your theme.
If you decide at any point to switch themes, you will need to repeat these steps for the newly activated theme.
Congratulations! You have now completed some of the basic prerequisites needed to prepare your WordPress site for use as an e-commerce platform. In this article, we covered:
- Installing and activating the WP e-Commerce plugin
- How to install and activate third-party themes
- Instructions for disabling comments on posts and pages, both on an individual and a global basis
In the next article we will cover the rest of the basic prerequisites like setting a static front page, adding widgets, including tools for spam protection, SEO, database backup, adding a contact form and a business blog.
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About the Author :
Brian Bondari is a musician, composer, and teacher with equal loves for both music and technology. His hobbies include reading, hiking, composing music, and playing with his pet rabbit. He also spends an exorbitant amount of time lying on the floor grading papers.
Brian earned his doctorate from the University of Kansas in 2009 and is currently an Assistant Professor of Music Theory and Composition at the University of Texas at Tyler. When he is not writing music or grading papers, he serves as Senior Editor for the multi-author technology blog, http://www.TipsFor.us.
You can also visit him at http://www.bondari.com.