Shopify Guide For Beginners: Features, Pricing, And Getting Started With Your Online Shop

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There’s no better way to sell online than Shopify. It’s one of the safest online selling platforms and it comes with an easy-to-use administration panel.

Over 400,000 merchants use Shopify for their stores with estimates of total sales exceeding $1.5 billion. This is by far the best platform to launch any small online shop or even a larger ecommerce brand.

This guide will cover all the basics of Shopify’s features including what you get with Shopify, how it works, and how you can launch a new store online with no technical knowledge.

How Shopify Works

When you sign up with Shopify you get a lot of features pre-baked and ready to go. Normally to create a website you need to buy a domain, then buy hosting, then point the domain DNS settings towards your new hosting provider.

Shopify can do all of this under one account so you don’t need to worry about any setup.

Plus with Shopify, you get a free SSL cert which uses 256-bit encryption technology that gives you and your customers a security guarantee that sensitive data is protected. For any other website, this would cost possibly hundreds of dollars extra, but Shopify is just good like that.

shopify dashboard

Every new Shopify account has a main dashboard with access to everything. You can track orders, payments, and find new orders that need to be shipped. You can also browse Shopify reports which can track total visitors, total sales, and related metrics.

And every store can use Google Analytics for higher-level tracking right in the dashboard.

Every customer has access to Shopify Support with options for support over email, live IM chat, or telephone. Chat & phone calls average 5-10 minute wait times which are reasonable numbers considering the size of Shopify’s customer base.

But ideally you’d only need support for emergencies or major problems that you just can’t solve. Once you get into your account dashboard you can look up FAQs/help articles to figure out how the system works.

And really, from the dashboard you can pretty much do everything. Add new products, add discounts/sales, adjust inventory numbers, contact customers, and install extra features called apps which I’ll cover later.

These are only some of the great features you get with a Shopify store:

  • Hosting + SSL security included
  • Easy to register domain without technical knowledge
  • Supports many credit card gateways including its own Shopify Payments
  • Also supports PayPal for online payments
  • Full dashboard with metrics, customer info, shipping details, and inventory management
  • Easy to import/export customer data
  • Works with all products both digital & physical
  • Includes support for blogging
  • Offers a library of themes & apps for extra functionality

If you know exactly what you’re selling and how you’ll take payments then Shopify makes it easy to choose whether it’s right for you or not.

With Shopify you can actually sell products in person, through an online store, and even through networks like Facebook. You have complete control over how your products are sold and which payment gateways you accept.

You can also manage your shop’s theme and add extra features like email newsletter signups, coupon codes, and social media integration. But I’ll cover this stuff a bit later.

If you have specific questions I recommend skimming their FAQ page. You can also find more detailed guides in their help center made for newcomers who want to learn more about Shopify.

The Shopify Pricing Model

All Shopify websites come pre-hosted on their platform which includes security. This means you’re paying for the entire platform and the hosting setup, along with guaranteed security for your store.

This seems more than reasonable considering Shopify also comes with unlimited storage space & unlimited traffic(also called bandwidth).

Their monthly pricing breaks down into these plans:

  • Basic Shopify: $29/mo for unlimited products, 24/7 support, and a free SSL cert
  • Shopify: $79/mo for all the original features + extra features like gift cards and abandoned cart emails
  • Advanced Shopify: $299/mo for all prior features + advanced reporting for enterprise users

There’s also the Shopify Lite plan which only charges $9/mo with very limited features. But if you’re serious about selling online I’d recommend starting with the Basic plan as a bare minimum.

One thing you need to consider with pricing is the transaction fee applied to every sale. Shopify charges a transaction fee on top of their monthly pricing. This fee covers the software & technology needed to support payment gateways.

The fee is fairly small and differs based on your plan. So Basic Shopify charges 2% per sale, regular Shopify charges 1% per sale, and the Advanced Shopify plan charges 0.5% per sale.

However you can avoid this fee entirely by going with Shopify payments, their internal system for handling digital payments.

This may seem a bit convoluted but this is proof that Shopify’s pricing is transparent and honest. You can estimate your fees by running the numbers yourself on your gross profits, estimating your monthly fees with Shopify, and determining if they’re the right platform for your business.

Many other ecommerce platforms have clandestine fees that they hide from new customers. Shopify is one of the few honest ones out there and it shows in their pricing model.

The Setup Process

You can start a Shopify store with a 14-day free trial before deciding on any payment plan. This is a great way to test the waters since you can close the account any time.

So first visit Shopify and get started with an e-mail address + password. Go through the signup screens including your contact details & if you have any specific products to sell. There is an option for “just playing around” so you can select that.

This should lead you to a welcome screen on the dashboard.

Welcome screen

From this screen you should see a button to “create an online store”. Click this and then select any theme for your store.

You can always change themes anytime so pick one that looks good. Once it’s installed you can visit the “theme manager” which lets you customize the look & style of your theme.

This theme editor comes with a lot of features so you’ll want to spend plenty of time in here. You can change different theme styles and even customize images or theme styles directly with code (although not necessary!)

If you move back to the dashboard and click on Settings -> Payments you can change the payment methods and how your store accepts payments.

You can also find other settings in the side menu for updating the checkout process, the shipping process, and how taxes are handled.

Shopify payments

There’s really no way to screw up your account and once you’re in the dashboard you pretty much have free rein to try everything. It’s the perfect way to dive into Shopify to learn how it works and to test the workflow.

Adding Features With Apps

Every website builder has a way for adding features into your site. WordPress uses “plugins” for their add-ons.

Shopify uses “apps” and they have an entire store dedicated to Shopify apps.

These apps are mostly created by 3rd party developers who offer much-needed functionality like sizing charts for clothes or Quickbooks integration for taxes & bookkeeping.

shopify app store

The biggest difference between WordPress plugins and Shopify apps is their premium pricing.

Both offer free plugins/apps that you can install at no charge. These are great and work best for newer shops. But while premium WordPress plugins only cost a one-time fee, most premium Shopify apps come with monthly fees.

For example, this invoicing app starts at $19 per month for every month it’s on your site. This is, in my opinion, one of the biggest downsides to Shopify’s app system. It works on a pay-as-you-go setup which can add up over time.

If you want to run Shopify then you’ll probably find yourself in the app store at some point. It’s definitely a valuable resource so it shouldn’t be written off based on premium apps.

You can still find plenty of free Shopify apps that offer great functionality and won’t cost you a dime. And they’re easy to install right from your dashboard with the “apps” link.

Find something you want to install from the store and click the green “get” button. It’ll ask you to authorize the install which basically allows the app to connect into your store via Shopify’s API.

All data is fully secured and apps are vetted through Shopify first before being allowed in the store. This is one of the biggest benefits to Shopify’s apps because they’re more secure than alternative systems like WooCommerce.

Theming Your Store

Your store’s design is much more important than apps. Not every Shopify store needs apps but every store needs a theme.

Shopify offers both free & premium themes but their premium themes only charge a one-time fee. This is obviously preferable to the monthly charges for premium apps, plus many premium themes come with default functionality that let you skip the apps entirely.

Shopify themes

From your dashboard you can click the “themes” link to browse the Shopify theme store. Installing a theme really is just a few clicks away.

But installing a theme is the easy part.

Customizing that theme to look exactly how you want is the tough part.

Once you get a theme installed you’ll find a blue button labeled “customize theme” in the top-right corner. Click that to get a full page editor with options to change many page features:

  • Logo size & placement
  • Header photos & slideshow content
  • Page colors
  • Typography
  • Homepage layout style
  • Footer contents
  • Social media links
  • And so much more!

The more you play with these features the more you’ll understand about Shopify and how it works. All Shopify themes both free & premium have these customizable options, so it’s possible to edit your theme without writing a single line of code.

But I know some people like to have more control over their theme, and that’s where coding is really valuable.

Shopify has their own internal templating language called Liquid which builds on top of HTML and CSS. This means if you want to edit a template or create your own then you’ll need to learn Liquid.


Thankfully this is not necessary and you can edit many themes without ever touching a line of code. But if you are curious to learn more check out this guide to Liquid made for newbies.

shopify theme editpr

Otherwise you might just want to use Shopify’s many visual editing features that come attached with every theme.

Shopify’s theme editor is one of the best and it offers more control over theme styles than WordPress. So you can pick almost any theme for your store and have complete control over the layout, homepage style, colors, text, and many similar features.

To get you started here are some of the best free & paid themes to consider for a new shop.

See our collections of the best free Shopify themes and the best premium Shopify themes for plenty of options.

Shopify Benefits For E-commerce Shops

If you want to launch a shop online you’ll probably find many options like BigCommerce, WooCommerce, and of course Shopify.

So what exactly are the benefits of Shopify? Why is it worth the pricing and the hassle of learning their system?

Every new Shopify account comes with three very important features bundled together:

  • Fast web hosting
  • Domain registration
  • SSL security

Usually these 3 things need to come from different companies, and it’d be your job to connect them all together.

But with Shopify the hosting & SSL security cert is rolled into the price. And even though you need to pay for the domain yourself, Shopify will automatically connect it to your store hassle-free.

You can manage everything from one dashboard including inventory, pricing, shipping, taxes, discounts, and full metrics for your shop’s sales & visits.

You’ll have full control over the design of your site and you can even switch themes anytime with ease. Shopify regularly adds new themes so you can always browse for other designs you like.

The biggest hang-up for most people is pricing. Shopify’s transaction fees can be a deterrent, however most ecommerce platforms do have fees like this for payment gateways. And the Shopify Payments system is free to setup which lets you completely removes those transaction fees.

So if you like Shopify’s features and their pricing fits in your budget then you can see plenty of success running a shop through the Shopify system. And remember they offer a 14-day free trial so you can verify all these features for yourself no strings attached.

Moving Forward

If you have products to sell online then Shopify is the easiest option. It’s a trustworthy platform with 24/7 support and it comes with a huge library of themes to pick from.

This guide is merely an introduction to the detailed world of Shopify. This post won’t make you an expert, although I hope this guide can at least answer some common questions and offer a starting point for anyone seriously interested in Shopify.

If you’re interested you can sign up for free and start toying with features to see why so many people adore Shopify for online sales.

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