eShop WordPress plugin review
EShop is designed with the small business in mind. By what we can learn on the plugin’s WordPress page it:
- Utilises WordPress pages or posts and is compatible with custom post types for creating products
- Customers can sign up to your site (settable option)
- Various methods available for listing products
- Products can have multiple options
- Upload downloadable products
- Basic Statistics
- Download sales data
- Various shipping options, including by weight
- Admin has access to an Order handling section
- Automatic emails on successful purchase
- User configurable email templates
- Configurable Out of Stock message
- Basic Stock Control
- Google Based Data creation
- Uninstall available within the plugin
- Various discount options
- WPMU, Multisite compatible
- Merchant gateways: Authorize.net, Paypal, Payson, eProcessingNetwork, Webtopay, iDEAL and Cash/Cheque!
- Now compatible with WP Affiliate for affiliates
- able to be used as a product catalogue with no sales
On the eShop homepage you can find documentation along with a forum about the plugin. Unfortunately, the documentation is very simple and not up-to-date. You can view screencasts showing you how to set up your basic shop, but they are not very detailed and don’t cover many things that I found unclear while working with the plugin. Unfortunately there is no other, more detailed tutorial than that.
Building the shop
We can add vital for an internet shop elements like: cart, product search etc. using widgets (image with eShop widgets). This solution doesn’t require any knowledge of coding and can really quicken the process of setting the shop up.
We can create products using either posts or pages – eShop adds to them input fields that can be used to, for example, set the price, weight, SKU code, etc. You can build product categories – here called departments – using either categories, pages (hierarchy is determined by parent-child relation) or tags. Unfortunately, none of these options are perfect.
To create departments using pages you need to add to them shortcodes. Departments produced in this way can display standard product lists as well as special ones, such as ‘latest’, ‘featured’, ‘random products’, etc. All of them list product teasers with price tags and add-to-cart buttons. Unfortunately, by choosing pages as the base you won’t be able to assign products to more than one standard department.
As opposed to pages, categories let us create whatever departments we want and add to them whatever products we want. Unfortunately, they don’t recognize shortcodes making the product list display only standard WordPress blog list elements like name, excerpt and image of a product. To have prices and add-to-cart button displayed next to your post you should go to eShop settings > General and tick “Show add to cart forms on WordPress post listings”. Unfortunately, they are visible only if in your loop the content of a post is displayed using “the_content()” instead of “the_excerpt()”.
Before we can start adding products we have to set our currency, tax rates and product options, which we would like to be visible on the product page. All of it can be done in eShop settings section.
Due to the fact that the default currency is dollars, the currency tag is always displayed before the numerical value. While it can be changed with a bit of code I consider the lack of the appropriate option in the admin panel a nuisance for less tech savvy users.
The way taxing is handled was – in my view – designed with US customers and international sellers in mind and is the most frustrating element of the whole plugin. The amount of tax depends on shipping zones and is not added to the purchase until checkout. While this is nothing new in the US, adding tax on checkout isn’t practised in other countries and might be considered a cheat. It cannot be changed even if we deal in one zone only and can even make customers pull back from purchase.
If you want to sell internationally or in the US you can assign different tax rates (here called tax bands) to the different zones (states or countries) that you deal in. Unfortunately, on the product creation page tax rates are still referred to as “tax bands” giving us no insight as to what value they represent.
This gets even more confusing for our customers who instead of nicely displayed tax rates see something like that on the product page.
The only way customers can check what tax they would have to pay (before going to checkout) is to go to the special “tax rates” page and look for the appropriate information in the table. Unluckily, even here tax rates are ordered according to ‘zones’. To make the table understandable we need to write a legend explaining which ‘zone’ represents each country.
Adding and viewing products
When creating a product the number of options at hand is on par with some of the more serious e-commerce solutions. Thanks to additional input fields in posts and pages we can enter product’s SKU code, price, weight, set product variations, stock quantity as well as choose a file to download (we can sell two kinds of products – normal and downloadable). If we want some of this data to be invisible to the customer we can hide them using one of the options in eShop settings. Additionally, each product can be marked as “featured” or “on sale” which automatically adds it to a given department (applies only to hierarchy build on pages). There is only one thing that can be confusing. When I first saw my newly created product I was a bit puzzled – the add-to-cart button was nowhere to be found. Soon I found out that if you don’t check your stock as availabile in the product’s admin panel your customers won’t see the add-to-cart button even if the product is in stock.
Apart from this small stumble (and tax handling as explained in the previous section) creating products can be fast and easy.
Cart and Checkout
Cart displays all the important information we would expect to find in a cart. It allows us to change the quantity of given items or completely delete them from the cart. If we are happy with our choices we go to checkout.
Eshop uses a one page checkout in which we can leave our address, choose shipping and payment method, enter discount coupon as well as register (more on that later). Fields are validated. If the form validation finds errors in our data and the page reloads we won’t have to write everything from scratch – fields remember the last entered text.
On the less positive side, there is no way we can add new fields to the checkout forms. We can only hide existing ones using a few different techniques. This, in some cases, can be a crucial element when picking an e-commerce solution. I don’t know about other countries but when selling goods in Poland you need to give more company info on the invoice. Lack of fields to enter them renders the plugin useless for polish users. Before using this plugin in your WordPress installation I would advise you to take a look at input fields in the eShop checkout form.
In the same checkout we can also choose payment gateways. Apart from the usual paypal, money transfer and cash, we can use Payson, iDeal lite, eProcessing Network, WebToPay, Authorize.net and Ogone. There is no possibility to add other gateways.
I liked the nice user registration method. Instead of making the user register before making the purchase eShop lets users fill in all the shipping data and register by checking a checkbox at its end. If the user confirms the order an email with all the necessary login information is sent to his inbox. I consider this nifty feature very usable and can only hope others will utilize this solution. Nevertheless, my review stumbles here, since due to problems with emails I couldn’t check how user accounts work.
Present and past purchases can be reviewed in the “Orders” section of the admin panel. We also get a quick peek at the most important information considering orders in the WordPress dashboard.
Adjustments and modification
Eshop adds one CSS file to the header of the document. The stylesheet can be used to adjust the look and feel of the shop to the rest of the site. Plugin’s author gave us quite a few classes and ids to make this job easier. Unfortunately there is no way to modify the HTML. Those who don’t like unnecessary markup will have to bite the bullet. On the positive side, if you chose pages to build your site you will be able to modify shortcodes using attribuites.
Eshop doesn’t maybe aspire to be the most feature-rich e-commerce plugin, but it offers all the elements that one might need for a simple internet shop. Regrettably, some of these elements (taxes, changing currencies and adding fields to checkout) need rethinking. On top of that, there are no proper tutorials; or well developed, updated documentation that could aid confused users.
All in all I can recommend this plugin only to small-scale merchandisers who deal in the US and who don’t need any more fields in the checkout. There is a potential here, but at this stage of development it is really difficult to create a shop that won’t make customers confused (tax bands, lack of fields in checkout) or even leave the shop (taxes added during checkout).