Building Your AreaGuides.com On-Line Store

The following step-by-step instructions are designed to help those interested in creating a successful on-line store to do so as efficiently as possible. If questions come up feel free to contact your AreaGuides.com representative or call customer service at 800-221-8048.

The following instructions also apply to those interested in using this technology for informational websites. If you select the E-Inventory and donít enter prices for each "product" there will be no order blank for items and prices will not appear.

Using this option you can display any sort of information you like. You can even customize your on-line presence by using html coding. See http://FrederickChurches.com for an example of an informational website using our e-inventory option. For now, weíll deal with the basics. To precede you must have a reliable Internet connection and preferably Microsoft Internet Explorer as your Internet browser.

Important Prep Work ~ As prep work you might want to start a MS Word document to generate the text that will appear in your store. This way you'll benefit from the built-in spell checker and you'll have your text organized in one convenient location. On the word document you should have the following;

1) The store introduction. This should be a paragraph introducing your store.

2) The sales policy. This is a few sentences outlining your policy including returns, guarantees, etc.

3) The categories you would like to use and a short description for each. You can add more categories later but it helps if you can create the categories before you start adding products. Each product will be assigned a category when you add them.

4) List all products to be added to the store. For each product you'll need the following information:

a) Product ID Number (must be unique for each product)

b) Product Name (must also be unique for each product)

c) Product Description (a sentence or two about the product)

d) Product Details (optional): This can be a long description providing more details.

e) Product Price

f)  Key words (optional)

Special Note: I left justify the proceeding information with each of the items a through f on their own line. This makes it easy to copy and paste the info into the on-line store interface later.

Take a few minutes to prepare a Word document with all the information as outlined in the steps above.

Note Regarding Digital Photos of Products: When you photograph products for your store try to photograph them in the same order as your product list in the Word document. This way it will be easy to name the images later in the proper order. Also, try to take the photos so the product fills the frame thus eliminating the necessity of cropping. This will facilitate rapid batch processing and greater accuracy when renaming the images.


So, letís build your on-line showcase:

1) Log onto the Internet and then go to AreaGuidesMall.com and click on the link that reads, "Click here to learn about how to include your business in the Area Guides Mall!" Then click on "Sign Up Now" to access the E-Commerce Signup form. Then complete the form. Be sure to select E-Inventory if you simply want to display products or information. If you want to actually sell products through your website choose the E-Commerce Standard option which includes a shopping cart on our secure server.

2) After you fill in the form youíll need to include the authorization code: AG12345 and MAKE SURE you make a note of the User ID and Password you choose!

3) Then, click on the gray button "Sign Up Now".

4) You should now be brought to a page congratulating you on your new store and offering a link for you to log into your store. Before you log into your store letís do some planning. Bookmark the E-Commerce Login page so you can find it later.

5) First, think about the categories you would like to have in your store. Try to stay with 20 or less categories. If you need more than 20 you might need to setup sub-categories in order to organize things.

Make a list of these categories including the category name and a category description for each. Use a Microsoft Word document so you can copy and paste later into your store.

Keep in mind your store's index page will balance best if the category titles and descriptions are about the same length and if the descriptions are long enough to fill the space allowed for each category. Not to worry, you can edit all text at any time!
6) Next, make a product list also on a Word document. This list should include the product number, product name, short description, long description and price. If youíre planning on having photos for the product list the file names of the photos to go with each product. You can have up to 7 photos for each product. I recommend using the same name as the product number for the images e. g. if the product number is A1234 than the product images would be A1234a.jpg, A1234b.jpg and so on. This way if you know the product number you'll also remember the image file names that are associated with the product. The product number and name should be unique for each product. You can use our Product Checklist to log your products as you take your photos so you can keep things organized and match the photos with the products after you download the photos to your computer. After I download my images I batch size them (see the photo prep section below) and then I use the thumbnail view and rename them following along on the product checklist. This keeps things in order.

7) Next prep you photos. The size should be about 350 pixels wide and they should be in .jpg format. The key is to be consistent as far as the size and shape of the photos. The file size for images should be 40kb or smaller per image (using XAT compression the file sizes should be 25k or smaller.) I usually create a new folder on my hard drive and put all the images in that folder. I also have a program that sizes all the images as a batch. This saves a lot of time when sizing a large number of photos.

8) Now, the fun starts. First, log into your store interface. You do this by going to the login page that you book marked earlier and entering your User ID and password. These are case sensitive so take your time entering them.

9) After you log into your store interface youíll see the general information page. Notice across the top of the page there are links to other pages in the interface. Each page performs different tasks on your website. Also near the top is a store link, which allows you to view your on-line store by opening a new window in your browser. This allows you to check your progress as you go along (instant gratification).

10) Most good writers will tell you writing is rewriting so as you enter the text in your store keep in mind nothing is cast in stone. You can change and fine-tune things anytime you want. So, for now just start filling in the blanks and remember you can edit later.

11) Going from top to bottom complete the following: a) Mall Store Name = This is how your store will be listed in the AreaGuidesMall. b) The check box to the right should be checked after you finish building your store and itís ready to appear in the mall. c) Store name (Header Text) = This text will appear at the top of all major pages in your website. After you finish the basics we can pretty up the header with some HTML code.

12) Header Image = This image will show to the left of your header text. A company logo or photo looks good here. This image should be smaller than your product photos. 250 pixels wide and 200 high looks good but you can experiment with different sizes until you get the look you want. We can help you with this too. Weíll talk more about images later including uploading.

13) Footer Text = For the footer I usually recommend using the same text as the header but with no footer image. We usually center the footer text.

14) Home URL = This is your existing website address.

15) Storefront Intro = This is a paragraph introducing your on-line store. Again, you can change this anytime.

16) Sales policy = Sale terms and conditions, etc.

17) The User ID & Password section is used to change your password if necessary. The rest of the info on the page allows us to contact you if necessary.

18) The "Submit Changes" button at the bottom of the page is used to execute changes. Use this to make changes on the page take effect. Donít wait too long to click on the button because your session may time out if you wait too long.

19) Now, after youíve entered the data on this page we should upload your images so we have them available for your store. To do this you must first have the images cropped and sized and saved on your computerís hard drive. I would setup a subdirectory folder on your hard drive to store the images. I have a folder on my "C" drive called AA and then inside that folder I make new folders as needed to store images. We can help you set this system up if youíre not familiar with setting up folders.

20) Now, weíll assume you have cropped, sized, named and saved your store images into a folder on your hard drive. Remember, consistent image sizes tend to provide a cleaner finished look. Also, the photos youíre using for the categories should be sized to match and should represent the category in question.

21) Next, we upload the images. Click on the "Image Upload" link at the top of your store interface page. If your session has timed out your get a screen that will ask you to log in again. Just log in and then click on the "Image Upload" screen. Now, click in the white box and then click on the "Browse" button. Find the folder holding the images and select the image to upload then click "Open". This will enter the path of the image into the image upload blank. There are two blanks so you can upload two images at once if you like. After the images are in the blanks click on the "Upload Images" button. Depending on the speed of your Internet connection itíll take up to a minute to upload the images. The screen will tell you when the images are successfully uploaded.

22) You can repeat this process until youíve uploaded your images. If youíre not sure of the sizes youíre using start with uploading just a few and then come back to this page later to upload the balance of the images. Remember, you can do this anytime so there is no rush.

23) Now, that you have some images uploaded we need to create your categories. Since each "Product" must be assigned a category some thought should go into your store categories as this is a key element in your store organization. For now, weíll assume you are not using sub-categories.

24) In your store interface click on the "Categories" link at the top of the page. Now fill in the Category Name, Description, and Image File Name fields. Then, click on the "Add New Category" button. Important Note: Make sure the image file name matches a file you uploaded earlier. You donít need the path, just the file name: e. g. glassware.jpg

25) Just add a few categories for now until you make sure you like the size and shape of the category image and the general layout of your store.

26) Now, letís add a product. Click on the "Products" link at the top of the Interface page. Click on the "Add New Product" button. Now, fill in all blanks. If you donít want a price to appear just leave that field blank. If your product will use attributes contact us, as we will not cover attributes here. Also, make sure each product has a unique "Product ID" and that youíve selected the correct category from the pull-down window. After completing all fields click on the "Add New Product" button.

27) Now, click on the store link at the top of the page to view your progress. Itís probably a good idea to call us so we can review your progress and help you fine-tune your setup before you go too far. If you feel like youíre on the right track you can setup your Taxes and Shipping sections and add more products. When youíre happy with your store go back to your General Info page and check the box to add it to the Mall!

28) Having fun yet??

Tips regarding images for your store and Product Checklist.