Added by Chris Planeta

Review of a Wordpress plugin - WooCommerce WooCommerce review

This review is based on WooCommerce v.1.2.4

There is always space for new eCommerce plugins for WordPress. It is partly because most of them simply don’t do things right. Today I’m testing WooCommerce to see if it can hold against those which do.

About the plugin

WooCommerce was released by Woo – the creators of a popular template shop WooThemes – and is a (bit controversial) fork of another ecommerce WordPress solution called JigoShop. Just like its older brother the plugin itself is free but there are some payable extensions for those not satisfied with the standard list of functions. Prices for those extensions range from $15 to $50.

WooCommerce is well documented and in case of a problem you can always ask a question on Woo’s forum.

Configuration

Configuration settings are rather standard but there are a few things that are worth mentioning.

The first thing I checked was if a plugin can be used outside the English-speaking countries. Fortunately, the developers covered it nicely. You can choose the currency you deal in and countries where you ship your products to. What is more, you can apply different tax rates to different countries and say when and where they will be added – on checkout or directly to products while viewing the offer.

Of course these option would mean nothing if the language of the shop couldn’t be changed. At the time of writing this article WooCommerce was available in English, Italian, Dutch and Swedish. If your language isn’t among them you can easily translate it yourself using po/mo files. The same method can be used to change e.g. default texts of buttons.

Unfortunately, WooCommerce is not a good choice if you want to make a multilingual site. I’ve tried it with WPML but it did not work as expected. If it is a multilingual shop you are aiming at I still haven’t tested anything better than TheCartPress.

If you want to make your visitors feel safer when making a purchase you can raise the security of your store by forcing SSL. Of course to do this you will need a certified SSL key provided by a third party company.

If you are thinking seriously about selling stuff in the internet (and you should) there is also some basic SEO you can do with this plugin. WooCommerce lets you easily enable Google Analytics and make urls of your shop more logical.

Building structure

The plugin automatically creates almost all of the usual shop pages, e.g. cart, checkout page, etc. The only one that you will have to add is a page with shop regulations.

There can’t be a good shop without a cart in the sidebar and good navigation. To output these and other elements the plugin uses various widgets. You can read more about them in “Usability and conversion rate” section.

Adding products

Products in WooCommerce have their own sectioon in the menu and are created using a separate product-creation page.

You can sell four main types of products:

  • simple – an ordinary product with no variations – can be physical, downloadable or virtual (e.g. a service),
  • grouped – a collection of many similar single products with small variations, e.g. a t-shirt with different overprint,
  • variable – like grouped products but can have different sku code, price, stock quantity etc. e.g. a laptop with different hardware,
  • external – for affiliate programs

Depending on your choice you will have to fill in different product info, e.g. dimensions, download path, stock quantity/download limit and so on. If you are thinking about selling stuff with different tax rates than you are covered. Products with many features or options can be also created with just few clicks.

The purchase

Cart in WooCommerce is very well thought. Apart from displaying its contents it is also the place where users can enter their coupon code and calculate shipping prices according to their location (useful only when you have the extension mentioned earlier).

Next, your customers will proceed to the best one-page checkout I have come across to date. Obviously, not registered users will have to enter their billing and, optionally, shipping address. However, if they are already registered they will be able to login directly from that page. If they aren’t than, also without leaving the page, they will be able to do that simply by entering their username and chosen password. Isn’t it great!?

The fields in forms are validated and remember the last entered content. Unfortunately, there is no way to add more of them if you require e.g. company tax no. etc. so you will have to inform your buyers to enter them in “order notes”. I will tell you how to do this in “Translation and internationalization” section.

Shipping and payment gateways

By default WooCommerce lets you choose from only two methods of shipping: flat rate with a fixed cost and free shipping. This is way too few for most of the shops. To have some more useful options available you need to purchase a $50 worth extension “Table rate shipping”. Thanks to it you will be able to set different shipping costs to different locations and product weights.

As for payment gateways there is no big choice here either: cheque, paypal standard and direct money transfer. To add more of them once again we need a payable extension.

After the purchase

After the purchase your customers will get an email confirmation. From that moment they will be able to check the status of the order by entering its number on an over-promising-named page “track your order”. This applies to all kinds of users – registered and not – since it is outside the user account.

Talking about user accounts it has to be noted that unlike most of other WordPress solutions in WooCommerce it is not based on the admin panel. Instead, it is built in the shop and can also be accessed directly from there. I don’t need to tell you what advantages it brings.

Usability and conversion rate

The influence of faceted navigation on usability has long been proven thus I was really happy to find product filtering widgets. These filters let users narrow down the number of displayed products to only those with similar attributes and which are within a specified price range.They greatly aid users in finding products which otherwise could have gone unnoticed.

I liked the idea of a separate search form only for shop items. This keeps your visitors on track – not flooding them with useless search results from the blog.

Alternatively, for those of your visitors not interested in buying but rather reading the blog the authors also prepared something special. By using shortcodes you will be able to display product “teasers” directly on blog pages thus possibly converting some of them into buyers.

Product page in WooCommerce lacks originality but thanks to it it’s very usable. Thanks to tabbed content area and various Javascript implementations it is not cluttered and easy to navigate. Oh! And have I mentioned that you are also getting a lightbox gallery?

A bulk of customers tend to leave the shop even on checkout pages if they are too long or not very well thought. As you have already read it is not the case here. One-page checkout not only holds all the important elements but also lets users register or login without leaving it.

Adjusting and styling

WooCommerce lets you adjust its looks in many ways – from basic CSS editing to changing template files. Normally I would describe the whole process but fortunately authors did good job and wrote a great tutorial that covers it all. What I like is the fact that when you do everything the way you should then your styles/templates won’t get overwritten during the update.

Conclusion

WooCommerce is definitely a great, well-thought ecommerce plugin for WordPress. It manages to combine richness of functions with ease of configuration. A commendable usability and attention to details may have a positive impact on conversion rate.

Unlike many other plugins, it can be actually used “out-of-the-box” at the same time being flexible and adjustable for more tech savvy users. Thanks to easy translations and many currency and tax settings it can be used in almost any country.

On less positive side multilingual sites cannot be created with it. Also, for many people the plugin will be free only in theory. Basic shipping options and few payment options may in many cases not be enough and require costly extensions.

13 discussion entries

  • Chris, thanks for all of your extremely helpful reviews of various eCommerce Plugins! WooCommerce looks like a very attractive solution for a WordPress blog that I’m developing, but the Woo website makes it seem as if you need a WooTheme to be able to support WooCommerce. I’ve spent a lot of time customizing my current Weaver theme and, it’s really not an option for me at this juncture to select an eCommerce solution that’s not compatible. Do you have any idea where I can go to check if WooCommerce will work with my current WordPress theme? Thank you!

    • Blase, did you find anything out about this? I just finished changing my blog to a different template, so I of course want to use the one I’ve just set up.

    • ChrisPlaneta

      You don’t really need a WooTheme to make WooCommerce run. The shop can be set up on almost any theme and the only requirement is having the latest version of WordPress. Of course to make things look good you always need to make small adjustments but what I liked about WooCommerce is the fact that it works and looks pretty good out-of-the-box.

    • Kanon

      It’s very important that, for anyone who is thinking about using WooCommerce, they go with an out-of-the-box WooCommerce compatible theme. Otherwise, it becomes an uphill climb. Some years back I purchased a membership with WP theme developer, ElegantThemes.com and just recently they released an e-commerce theme built around the WooCommerce plugin. I haven’t worked with the this particular theme yet, but I’m planning on doing so soon. My biggest reservation with wordpress e-commerce is security, but it sounds like W00Commerce took the extra steps to be audited by internet security experts at Sucuri.

  • Tim

    Thanks for the reviews Chris. Some very good insights and helpful to those of us who are planning their first store.

  • Zoc

    I’m very glad I’ve found your reviews, as I’m trying to decide on an e-commerce WP solution for myself. I particularly liked when you were providing insights on the underlying technology – whether or not a plugin utilizes custom post types, taxonomies and other custom meta-data, or implements its own data management entirely separate from the WP API.

    To me, it is crucial that a complex plugin like an e-commerce type relies on standard WP API, because that’s the only way to ensure interoperability with other useful plugins. Regard this I was a bit surprised to read

    Talking about user accounts it has to be noted that unlike most of other WordPress solutions in WooCommerce it is not based on the admin panel. Instead, it is built in the shop and can also be accessed directly from there. I don’t need to tell you what advantages it brings.

    This sounds as if WooCommerce has its own user management separate from that of WordPress. Hence the WP API’s for user management do not apply, and it can’t be combined w/ plugins who utilize that API in beneficial ways. If so, I don’t see an advantage there. Care to elaobrate?

    The same is true for custom post types and taxonomies vs separately managed product data and categories. Do you have insights to these aspects of WooCommerce?

    Thanks, and thank for a great post.

    • Chris Planeta

      Wow, that’s a great response. I will try to be as prolific:)

      Normally, when you enable user registration they log-in using a standard wp-admin form and are redirected to the admin panel (with fewer visible elements etc.) The thing is that this panel is difficult to redesign to mach your website’s graphics, it has a ton of unuseful elements, e.g. choosing the color of the panel, etc.

      In WooCommerce developers took a much simpler way that doesn’t confuse visitors. Here, they aren’t made to use a different panel and they only get the things they really want and need. By displaying they account info directly on site you don’t need to go through the hassle of adjusting the looks of it to match your layout, etc.

      I’m not saying that custom post types/taxonomies aren’t good. Quite the contrary in fact. I’m just saying that in the case of user account the path chosen by the plugin’s authors was much simpler and more hassel-free than using standard WP solutions.

  • ang

    Hey, I’m still new to this whole WordPress thing. But I have a question. If I use WooCommerce, and down the road I want to switch to something else, would I be able to easily transfer everything over? Like customer contact info, and perhaps their store login info to prevent everyone from have to re-register. And basically any other information I would need such as products, inventory, etc.? Thanks in advance!
    -Ang

  • Mikey

    Thanks for a great review. You changed my mind and I didn’t go for WP eCommerce. I chose Woo and totally satisfied with it!
    PS: I also liked this article about Woo. I think it can also be helpful.

  • Brilliant review Chris. Really helpful and clear. We already have an eCommerce site, but need something that is going to progress as clearly this Woo plugin has.

    I guess I will find out when I install, but two things concern me. One is speed when getting to around a 1,000 product plus ongoing blog posts. The other is SEO. It seems like Woo add “product” in the URL to every entry (?).

    • ChrisPlaneta

      Hi there,

      Thank you for the comment. As for your question:
      1. The best way would be to ask Woothmese directly. I personally don’t know how it would handle so many products.
      2. Well… to tell you the truth I wrote the review almost a year ago and now I simply don’t remember how It all looked from the SEO standpoint. Again, ask Woothemes.

      Nevertheless, when you told me about 1k products my first thought was “Hey, why doesn’t he want a fully fledged ecommerce solution?”. It would handle everything you’re talking about much better than a WP extension. If it’s the blog you’re after and don’t want to invest in 2 systems I suppose that WP will be fine but not for very long.

  • CJ

    I went with Woocommerce ecommerce cart and plugins for payment gateways and fedex shipping. The payment gateway module had to be “updated” by Woocommerce for it to actually work as well as the fed ex shipping plugin. But since it was first operable, I have had nothing but trouble with the fed ex shipping module. It quits working on my website and I can’t sell anything because the woocommerce shipping plugin won’t calculate shipping every few days and I have to go in and delete the shipping options and clear the cache and wait and hold my breath. But this last week it went down and it is still not working and Woocommerce has yet to respond to my complaint ticket. Since I first purchased the Woocommerce plugins, their complaint system has gone from a public system available online to a private system that you can only see if you are logged in and you can’t sort complaints by date to see what malfunctions other users are currently experiencing. I think they did this because of the high volume of complaints. Something to be very aware of is that Woocommerce only responds to issues by submitting a complaint and waiting days for an online response. No telephone number to call, no chat, no live interaction ever. I recommend an ecommerce solution that has a more rapid and interactive response to your issues. Does anyone have any suggestions for an ecommerce solution that will work with First Data payment gateway and with fed ex shipping?