E-commerce step 1 of 4: Setting up a PayPal account

Adding e-commerce to your Web site with PayPal!In my last post, I mentioned some simple ways you could add interactivity into your own Web site. For many people, the principle element they want to add to their site is e-commerce. Whether you started your Web site to support your home-based business, or are just looking for a hobby, online sales can be a simple way to put your Web site to work for you. Over the next few weeks, I will show you how to set up a very simple e-commerce solution for your site. And the best part is, it won’t cost you a penny to start selling your products or services online.

Do a quick Web search for e-commerce, and you will find countless services available to set up an e-commerce solution for you for a price. Many of these will charge you a set-up fee and a monthly hosting fee to use their services/solutions. These fees are quite legitimate, although they vary widely and you need to be careful about choosing the right solution for you. But if you’re reading this blog, chances are you can’t afford to purchase someone else’s e-commerce solution. In addition, many of these purchased solutions require you to have some sort of SQL server available on your Web site to manage your shopping cart. If you’ve followed along with this blog and set up your own free personal or business Web site using Microsoft Office Live Basics, however, you will not have the option to use many of these high-priced solutions.
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Building interactivity into your Web site

070722-finalThe final design and content of your Web site will, quite naturally, depend on your purpose and your audience. While it is fine for many Web sites to be composed primarily of written content and photographs or images, modern Web surfers prefer to interact with your site in some way, especially if they find your site useful or interesting. A few weeks ago, I discussed ways for you to create an RSS feed for your site. This is a quick and easy way to provide a very basic level of interaction for your visitors. By subscribing to your feed, they can stay up to date with the latest news or information about the site. You can even expand on this by using a service such as Feedburner to allow users to subscribe to your feed via e-mail. This is a great way to help your visitors stay informed about your site, but it is, by nature, a one-sided method of interaction. You push out your content, but you can’t get much back from your visitors. The best you can hope for is to get some basic statistics about how many subscribers you have (If you use a service like Feedburner).
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Embedding external content into your Web site

Now that you’ve created your own Web site and possibly your own Blog or RSS feed, it’s time to make the most of your new online presence. If you are an expert Web designer, and like to do your own coding, you are free to start building your site as you see fit. However, most of us probably don’t want to take the time to build everything from scratch, so many people are tempted to turn to pre-created content that can be embedded directly into their Web sites in the form of widgets or gadgets – little snippets of HTML codes that can add customizable Web modules or enhanced functionality to the site. You have to be willing to make changes to the HTML codes of your pages to add any of these little widgets, so if you aren’t familiar with writing HTML codes or aren’t willing to experiment, this post may not really be for you.

There are a nearly unlimited number of widgets and gadgets that can be embedded into your site to quickly turn your blank page into a rich, eye-catching, content-filled page for your visitors. Most of these widgets will provide you with the necessary instructions for inserting the appropriate codes into your Web page, so I won’t go into the details here. Although it might seem intimidating at first, there are some ways to make it easier. If you are using Microsoft Office Live Basics, you can use the Page Editor to add small snippets of HTML codes anywhere you want to on your page quite easily. Please note, however, that if the widget code you are trying to embed should contain the “<iframe>” code to work on your site. If it contains a “<script>” tag in it, it probably will not work. I’ll discuss this in a little more detail at the end of today’s post, and provide a possible workaround if you really need to use a particular script-based widget.
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Expanding your reach

Now that you have successfully created your own personal Web site for your self, your family, or your small business, it is time to expand your reach. If you are using Microsoft Office Live Basics to create and maintain your site free of charge, you will quickly realize that there are certain key Web features that are not really offered through this free service. Two of the most important of these key features are the ability to create a blog or other RSS feed, and the ability to restrict access to certain portions of your site.

RSS feeds: Keep your visitors coming back for more
One of the most common ways to expand the reach of your Web site is to offer an RSS feed. This can be in the form of a blog, such as this one, in which you share your ideas, thoughts, opinions, etc. Alternatively, it could be in the form of an update about your site. For example, you can create an RSS feed to notify subscribers about new products you offer, news about your site or your services, or other content modifications related to your site. People can subscribe to your feed to keep informed about what’s happening with your site, or your latest thoughts and ideas.
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