How to Use PrestaShop for an Ecommerce Site in 6 Steps
This article is part of a larger series on Retail Management.
PrestaShop is a free, open-source ecommerce platform that allows you to customize an online store. Learning how to use PrestaShop is best for those with more technical know-how because it requires you to set it up yourself on your web host’s server. Use our step-by-step tutorial to set up your ecommerce site quickly.
It might be helpful to review what PrestaShop is and who it’s best for so you can decide whether it’s right for your ecommerce business. There’s a lot to set up before you even start creating your online store, but it could be an affordable choice in the long run because you won’t pay a monthly fee just to keep your store up and running.
If you want a system that’s easier to set up and use and are willing to compromise on a monthly fee, we recommend using Shopify. It’s our leading ecommerce platform for small businesses.
Step 1: Sign Up for Hosting & Get a Domain Name
To get started with PrestaShop, you’re going to need to sign up for hosting and register a domain name. There are plenty of affordable web hosting companies, and many of them will include a free domain name for your first year of hosting. Once you have these, you’ll need to set up your website and make sure you have a few more tools to get your online store set up.
Here’s what you need for your web server:
- Unix, Windows, or Linux operating system (PrestaShop suggests Unix)
- Suggested server: Apache HTTP Server 2.2 (or newer)
- 256MB of RAM or more
Keep in mind that whichever host you choose, it must support PHP 7.1 (or newer) because it’s the language that was used to create PrestaShop. The database that PrestaShop uses is MySQL 5.6, so you’ll want to make sure your host supports this too. PrestaShop can work with NGINX 1.0 and Microsoft IIS web server 6.0 (or newer), but these may require more technical knowledge.
Here are the tools you’ll need to set up PrestaShop:
- File Transfer Protocol (FTP) client
- Text editor
You’ll use an FTP client, such as FileZilla, to transfer files from your computer to your web server. This is how you’ll get your product photos on your online store, for example. You’ll also need a text editor, such as Sublime Text (for Windows) or Vim (for Unix and Linux), so you can edit files to change specific settings. For example, you may want to change the php.ini file or Apache module settings—and you cannot do this with a regular document editor, such as Google Docs or Word.
Step 2: Download & Extract PrestaShop Software
Now that you have everything you need to run PrestaShop for your online store, it’s time to download the files and extract them. When you click on “get started,” you’ll come to a form where you need to provide 1) the type of seller you are: merchant, freelance, agency, or technology partner; 2) when you plan to launch; and 3) your email address. Then, click on the download button and you should see a zip file in your downloads folder.
Double-click to open the zip file and then extract all files to whichever folder you want to use on your computer. Remember the folder you put these files in because you’ll need to access them again soon.
Now is a good time to download a PrestaShop theme if you’d like. PrestaShop is a bit like WordPress in that it doesn’t offer many free pre-designed themes or templates, but there are more than 2,200 themes or templates made by other designers you can purchase. Usually, these cost around $100 to $150, and support for the themes vary.
Step 3: Create a Database on Hosting Server
Most web hosts will let you set up a database using phpMyAdmin or cPanel. You’ll want to follow PrestaShop’s developer documentation on how to set up a database. There are some specifics you need to follow such as setting the collation of your database to utf8mb4_general_ci.
Step 4: Install PrestaShop & Upload Files
One of the easiest ways to install PrestaShop is to use a web host that offers one-click installation. This shortcut is common for WordPress because of its popularity, but there are some web hosts that offer it for PrestaShop such as Bluehost and 1&1 IONOS.
To install it manually, you should already have a database set up on your web server. Next, you’ll use FTP to connect to your web server. Upload the files and folders from within the PrestaShop folder you extracted earlier. It’s important you do not upload the entire folder—only its contents. Then, run the PrestaShop installation script by entering the URL where you uploaded PrestaShop (e.g., http://localhost.prestashop12/admin12345).
Follow the instructions on the page that shows the PrestaShop installation assistant to finish. The installer will let you know if you missed any PHP parameters to make sure that PrestaShop works on your server.
If you’re determined to use PrestaShop for your online store, but you’re finding it too complicated, you can hire someone to help you install and manage your shop and develop features for your store. Fiverr is a freelance marketplace with designers, developers, photographers, and content creators who offer affordable prices for all kinds of projects.
Step 5: Log In to PrestaShop
Once you successfully complete installation, use your username and password to log in to PrestaShop. You’ll get a walkthrough guide to help you get familiar with your dashboard. This is the point where PrestaShop becomes more user-friendly. Everything is labeled as you’d expect, so you’ll easily see where you can access customers, orders, payment info, and your catalog.
To add a new product, just click on Catalog in the left-hand menu, select Products, and then at the top right, click the blue button that reads “New product.” You’ll see the screen above where you can drag and drop images to the top and add a summary of what the product is, along with a description of the product. You can also adjust the number of products you have, the price, and tax rules, and put it in the catalog where it belongs.
The dashboard shows you helpful data such as the number of visitors to your store, active shopping carts, and sales. The analytics can also give you other key performance indicators (KPIs), such as conversion rate and net profit, if you’ve added your wholesale costs along with retail pricing. Plus, there are forecasts for traffic and sales, so you can plan more inventory or discount items that you need to move.
Step 6: Modify Your PrestaShop Online Store
There are a few things you can do to modify your online store with PrestaShop. You can adjust page layouts and change the theme entirely, or you can customize the theme you’re using. Modifications to a theme require coding knowledge, so this is for those who have dev experience. If you don’t, it might be a good idea to hire someone to help customize your theme.
Once you have everything in place and are ready to go live, launch your shop. Whenever you need to check on orders, adjust products or pages, or check stats, just log in to PrestaShop to find all the info you need.
There’s also a marketplace where you can add modules, or plugins, to extend the functionality of your ecommerce site. Many of the modules are free to use and created by PrestaShop, so you can build on to your site with no extra charges. Some do come at a cost though, so if you’re looking for specific tools, such as advanced filters or a product bundling app, you may need to shell out a few hundred dollars.
PrestaShop Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Is PrestaShop good for beginners?
Manually installing PrestaShop can be tricky because you have to first create a database and then install it on your web server. Some web hosts offer one-click installation for PrestaShop, which makes this much easier for beginners. Using PrestaShop isn’t difficult once it’s installed—the dashboard is intuitive and well-designed.
How do you manage PrestaShop?
To manage PrestaShop, simply log in to your PrestaShop account through your custom URL where PrestaShop was installed (it’s a good idea to bookmark this link). You can manage all elements of your ecommerce store through the dashboard, from products to orders to plugins.
Is PrestaShop better than WordPress?
Technically, WordPress is a blogging platform, while PrestaShop is an ecommerce platform. Both are free to use and open-source, but you’ll have to add modules or plugins to make each more functional—for WordPress, you’ll need an ecommerce plugin; for PrestaShop, you’ll need a blog plugin. Devs are split on which is better for creating an online store.
PrestaShop is an excellent open-source software that can help you create a beautiful, functional online store. It requires a lot more technical experience, so it isn’t exactly meant for beginners. Even if you don’t have the tech knowledge needed, you can still follow guides to set it up. After that, it’s easy to learn how to use PrestaShop to manage your online store.
You May Also Like …
- Want to turn your online store into a physical storefront? Learn how to start a retail business.
- Is PrestaShop not right for you? Consider BigCommerce vs Shopify—both are good alternatives.
- On a budget but want a simpler solution? See our other picks for the best free ecommerce platforms.
- Ecommerce shops lose a lot of money due to shopping cart abandonment. Offering free shipping is a good way to combat this.