I started my ecommerce journey in the year 2000, with a notepad file and a PayPal account. Well, that and some free web hosting given to me by a friend.

In the year 2000 there wasn’t much you could do if you wanted to start an online ecommerce store. You basically needed to either hire a team of developers or code your website all yourself.

Luckily, another friend showed me that PayPal had these things called “Buy Now” buttons, where you could slap some special PayPal HTML code on your site and start selling anything you wanted – pretty darn easily.

So, I went ahead and built an entire online skateboard shop using PayPal Buy Now buttons. And it totally worked! Before I knew it, I was selling boards to customers around the world. I was in complete control of the site and I didn’t have to rely on any help from anyone to operate it. It was a beautiful thing.

Fast-forward to 2016, and you can still build an entire ecommerce store with some simple HTML files and PayPal buttons. As a matter of fact, it’s one of the easiest ways to get started. Now there are other options out there, but the beauty of this method is the following:

  • It’s relatively inexpensive. All you have to do is pay for web hosting and a domain name. And these days, that can be less than $10 a month.
  • Simple HTML websites are very SEO friendly. Very little gets in the way of letting search engines index a basic HTML website. Content management systems and selling platforms can be difficult to SEO sometimes.
  • You can build them very quickly. In the video tutorial above, I’ll show you how quickly you can add images and Buy Now buttons to your site. I’ve included all the files you need to build a simple HTML ecommerce site at the end of this post! And a video to walk you through it :).
  • They’re better for branding. Since you’re going to buy your domain name, you’re in control of your online branding. You don’t need to be running off another platform with their domain appended to it (of course some platforms will allow you to use your own domain name for a fee).
  • PayPal is trusted. Since PayPal is the oldest online payment solution, it has established trust with just about everyone. People know that if a transaction goes sour, they will be able to get their money back.
  • There is little clutter. This framework might be great for your conversions simply because of its minimalist design.

My main intention for building this framework was to help people who want to “MVP” an ecommerce business idea.

What’s an MVP?

MVP stands for “Minimal Viable Product”. This acronym gets thrown around the startup community a lot. It means the most basic thing you can get away with to validate your business idea.

Let’s say you invented a really cool gadget or crafty invention in your garage. And before you went out to find investors, sign an office lease and hire an entire team of employees – you just wanted to see if the thing could sell.

Now you could sign up for a Shopify or Etsy account, but what if you wanted a little more flexibility or felt that those platforms were too restrictive? Well, this framework is uncluttered, clean and quick to implement. Best of all – you’re free to take it any direction. The sky is the limit.

What You’ll Need

  • Domain Name – You know something like myawesomewebsite.com. You can get a domain name at Godaddy or any domain name registrar.
  • Web Hosting – This is where the files that make up your website are stored. I prefer Media Temple, but there are thousands of webhosting companies out there.
  • Text Editor – I like to use Sublime Text, but on Mac you can use TextEdit and on Windows you can use Notepad. Both of those programs come with your operating system.
  • FTP Application – I use Filezilla. I’m not sure if it’s the best, but it works.
  • PayPal Account (for Business) – Finally, in order to create your Buy Now buttons you’ll need a PayPal Business account. They have a section for businesses where you can build shopping cart buttons and paste the code into your website.

And of course, you’ll need the framework files. You can stop by my website and download them here.

About the Author: Sean Work is the VP of Inbound Marketing at Crazy Egg. Learn what is on his mind at seanvwork.com/blog.