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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.