It doesn’t have to be hard to start making money with your WordPress site. Whether you have a blog, or a complete business site, it’s easy to start making money by selling products, services, letting your clients pay your invoices online, and even accepting monthly donations. One of the hurdles to starting an ecommerce site is the assumption that you need to have an ecommerce theme in order to start selling things and accepting payments. Then you start looking at all these complex ecommerce themes that are hard to learn how to use and overwhelming. Especially, if all you want to do is something simple, like accept a donation or let your clients pay their invoices. If you have thousands of products, it is probably worth your time to look into how to effectively manage and organize all of that content. Most of us, however, don’t have thousands of products. My first store only had two different products. I sold noise reducing headphones and they came in to models; a really big set of headphones that blocked out a lot of noise and a smaller, travel size set of headphones designed for blocking out noise on airplanes. You will be surprised by how easy it is to set up minimal ecommerce themes.
Ecommerce Theme Features Can Get In The Way
If you are setting a complex online store, you might have a large list of features you need. For example, when you are running a huge store, you might want to:
- Organize product into categories
- Highlight featured products
- Display photo galleries
- Sort products by price
- Filter products by category
If you have a simple store with just a few products, having features like this in a theme is not only complicated and hard to use, but it may also limit how you can display your products. If your ideas on how to organize your content and products doesn’t line up with the features in your theme, using an “ecommerce theme” can actually cause you more harm than good.
Ecommerce Themes vs Ecommerce Plugins
Another thing to think about is whether you want features in your theme or if those features are better suited for a plugin. There are big differences that are easy to overlook when setting up your online store.
Perhaps the biggest difference is if you rely on your theme for certain features like a custom post type for products then you change themes, you will lose all your product pages unless the new theme also has a custom post type with the exact same name.
Another consideration is that themes are intended for handling the presentation of your site and plugins are intended for adding functionality. Relying on a theme for functionality blurs this distinction and can often lead to trouble down the road when trying to keep your site up to date. The biggest problem being that you are locked into the theme because if you leave the theme then you also leave the features you need. It’s much more flexible to rely on a plugin for ecommerce features because plugins are portable across themes. Even custom post types are portable if it’s the plugin that is responsible for the custom post type rather than the theme.
Just Needed A Simple Ecommerce Theme
I created my first ecommerce store a little over 8 years ago. I had two young children in the house and I was working from home. I needed a way to have some quiet so that I could concentrate on coding, and running my business. I searched all over for the best noise cancelation headphones I could find. I tried all the big brands like Bose, Audio Technica, and Sennheiser. They were all really nice headphones, but the best headphones I found were made by a drummer in Missouri. I just happened to stumble upon his website way down deep in the bowels of a Google search. At the time, his website was a total mess. So, being a web developer, I reached out to him to see if we might be able to work out some sort of deal whereby I could help him out with his website in exchange for getting a discount on some headphones. This whole conversation lead to me getting a wholesale deal on these headphones and so I built my own website to sell them.
At the time there were just two different types of headphones – basically a big version and a travel size version. There were no sizes or color options. There were no product categories. It made no since to sort the products by any criteria like price or popularity. There were literally two different sizes and that was it. So I started looking around at WordPress themes and the available ecommerce plugins for WordPress. There weren’t very many choices back then. The only two available ecommerce plugins I could find were both designed for stores that had a large number of products with lots of different product categories, price groups, etc. I just wanted put a product on the page and present it really well. I needed a very simple, minimal WordPress ecommerce theme.
So, I kept looking around and soon realized that any theme, even free themes in the WordPress.org repository, could make great ecommerce themes. I said to myself, ok, let’s say I write my own WordPress plugin to handle the actual features I need like:
- Add to cart buttons
- Shipping & Taxes
- Shopping Cart
- Checkout Page
With my own plugin handling the ecommerce features, I asked myself, “What actual design elements do I need from my theme?” I came up with this little list:
- Simple, clean, minimal design
- Spacious content areas that are easy to read
- Ability to display detailed pictures of the headphones
- Easy to create blog posts for content marketing purposes
- Light weight, fast, and responsive design
- Easy to learn how to use – not a lot of crazy features all over the place
- Integrate my newsletter sign up form
With that list of requirements, I began to realize that nothing on the list was exclusive to ecommerce. In fact, the majority of what I was going to be working with on a day-to-day basis was all about content creation and marketing. I might set up some coupons, run a sale, or play around with shipping prices some, but the vast majority of what I was going to be doing was blogging and education.
There are several different types of noise reductions headphones. There are active noise cancelation headphones that require batteries, sample the ambient noise around you, and then creates an “opposite” wave in the earcups to “cancel” the noise. Then there are passive noise reduction headphones that physically block the noise from reaching your ears. There are a lot of details to how all that works and lots of content to create so people can understand what will be best for their needs. All of this is to say, that the main ecommerce theme features I thought I needed turned out to actually be marketing features when I actually started building the site.
This is how Cart66 was born. I created a plugin for myself to make it possible to sell a couple products while taking advantage of all the built-in features the WordPress gives you right out of the box.
How To Make Minimal Ecommerce Themes
Almost any theme can become an ecommerce theme simply by adding the Cart66 WordPrss plugin to your site. Cart66 handles all of the ecommerce features leaving your theme free to handle the design, branding, and layout for your site. In addition, Cart66 handles your ecommerce security needs as well by providing a hosted payment page that works with 100+ payment gateways.
Now, all you have to do is search around for a theme you like. It doesn’t have to be an “ecommerce theme” – in fact, it’s usually better if it is NOT a theme dedicated to ecommerce. Just find a theme that you like that lets you display the products you want to show in the way you want to design your site. Think about how you want to market your site. Make sure you like the way the blog is organized. Then you can simply place products on the page.
10 Free Minimal Ecommerce Themes
To give you some ideas, here is a list of 10 WordPress themes that are currently available for free in the WordPress.org repository. I created a product page selling a set of headphones and you can see how easy it is to make any theme an ecommerce theme that is fast, light weight, and easy to manage.
So there you have 10 minimal WordPress ecommerce themes that you can use right now for free. If you don’t sell headphones, you can achieve the same thing with a wide variety of other products and services – or even accept recurring donations.
Here are some other ways to start taking payments on your clean, minimal WordPress theme.