Plugin Review: WooCommerce

The much anticipated e-commerce product from WooThemes has finally launched. It’s called WooCommerce and it aims to be the best native e-commerce solution for WordPress. The plugin is free as well as licensed under the GPL. I decided to give the plugin a try on my local server which is running a recent bleeding edge version of WordPress 3.3.

woo commerce logo

Configuration:

WooCommerce has eight tabs that are part of the initial configuration process. Most of the configuration process was pain free although I found myself sometimes hovering my mouse cursor over certain items to see if a tool tip would pop up that would provide a little extra clarification for a text box. For example, when adding a product, you have the option of specifying a price as well as a sales price. Since my unit of currency was the dollar symbol, I entered the price of $50.00 while $40.00 was the sale price.

No Tool Tips

When I checked out the product page, I discovered that the regular price as well as the sale price were $0.00. Apparently, the format in which I entered the cash values was incorrect. The correct method was to remove the dollar signs and use whole number integers such as 50 and 40. A tooltip that showed the correct method of putting in the values would have been nice but it’s not a deal breaker. It’s a small touch that adds an extra piece of finesse.

WooCommerce Backend Design
Nothing Fancy Which Is How It Should Be

WooCommerce makes extensive use of Custom Post Types but because of this, I sometimes get confused. After creating a product, I then have to publish it to the store. The publish button makes me think I’m publishing a post or a page filled with content, not a product. This bit of confusion is compounded when I see the text “View Post” once it’s published. When I view the actual product I published, it’s in fact a page with its own permalink. Since products are actually a custom post type, they have access to the categories (in this case product categories) tags, (product tags), and everything else a normal content post would have. If it weren’t for the nomenclature changes, you’d think you were simply just creating and publishing a post. This is the first time I’ve used something that makes extensive use of Custom Post Types so pardon my confusion. The similarities disappear once you reach the bottom of the page to configure the various options related to the product such as visibility, what type of product it is, and product data that controls the tax, inventory, etc.

Probably one of the most important aspects of any e-commerce store is how it looks. WooCommerce comes with it’s own set of frontend CSS styles but as I quickly found out, they don’t look good on every theme. On my version of Hybrid News called Tavern News, the shop looks terrible with and without the styles. However, on TwentyEleven the store looks great with the CSS styles while looking mediocre without them.

2011 Theme Without WooCommerce Styles
2011 With WooCommerce Styles

It’s a crap shoot on whether or not WooCommerce will look good on your site with whatever theme you’re using but if it doesn’t, you have two options. First, you can use a free WooStore theme called Wootique. Second, you can edit the WooCommerce CSS files until you get something that looks good. From what I can tell, if you choose to use a theme that is specifically for WooCommerce, that theme will end up being used for the entire website. This is great news for WooThemes but bad news for everyone else that just wants to have a seperate look for their shopping cart without the whole site looking the same. Perhaps at some point in the future, WooCommerce will have an option to allow for third party theme support. I can certainly see commercial theme authors adding WooCommerce support to their child themes as another selling point.

Actually Using WooCommerce:

Overall, WooCommerce is pretty easy to use thanks to the interface. It’s not the most exciting thing in the world to create/configure products but once it’s done, editing them afterwards is a breeze. The creation of coupons in WooCommerce is pretty cool. Instead of creating a coupon for everything, you get the option of choosing specific products that the coupon can be used for. Or, you can elect to apply the coupon to the shopping cart either whole or through a percentage. Of course, you also get your typical settings such as coupon amount, expiration date, usage limit, and whether the coupon has to be used individually or if it can be combined with others.

WooCommerce Coupon Management
Coupon I Created For My Awesome Mug

Probably one of the most important areas within WooCommerce is the Orders page. This is where all of the information regarding orders is located such as status, shipping information and notes regarding the processing of the order. From here, you can make sure everything checks out before the product is shipped. One of the coolest features of the individual order pages is the Order Actions area. This is where you can save changes to the order, reduce the stock count, restore stock count, email an invoice or move the order to the trash. When I questioned whether or not, a decrease in the amount of stock takes place automatically after an order, MikeJolley responded with: It’s automated once PayPal IPN works, it won’t locally. I’m not sure if the stock counts change automatically with a successful check payment or through direct bank transfer. Hopefully they do because I doubt store owners want to manually change stock counts after each successful order.

WooCommerc Order Actions

Conclusion:

One of the best things about the back-end of WooCommerce is that it blends in seamlessly as if it were part of WordPress all along. They did a great job of using existing elements that are supported within WordPress such as the tabs, file uploader, and my favorite little feature, the calendar. I only referred to the readme file once during configuration but that was to see if there was any information regarding themes and whether they were seperate from WordPress or not. Other than that, I was able to configure WooCommerce without any issues.

Gone are the days of using clunky E-Commerce software which seems to make every aspect of selling products harder versus easier. WooCommerce flips that trend over with beautiful execution. It’s not fancy but it shouldn’t be. It gets the job done without having me want to put my head through drywall. However, my review is based on setting up one product on my local server. To get a better sense of how this plugin really performs, it would be best to read a review from someone using it for a live store.

WooCommerce is free which is a price you can’t beat. There are already 9 extensions along with 6 compatible themes with more of both on the way. I think the WooThemes crew is going about this the right way by providing a stellar e-commerce product at a free price while offering pay for add-ons to increase the functionality. It’s pretty much the same model as WP E-Commerce although WP E-Commerce certainly has time on their side as they’ve been around for years. From a business perspective, WordPress end users now have two great free choices to serve their e-commerce needs. On the other side of the fence, Shopp Plugin has a price for single-site use along with add-ons that can be purchased for additional functionality. I’m very interested to see how the inclusion of WooCommerce along side WP E-Commerce messes with Shopps market share. Users now have two good e-commerce systems to choose from before even considering Shopp. However, the WordPress user base is huge and I don’t think WP E-Commerce or WooCommerce can cater to them all.

I can definitely recommend using WooCommerce for your e-commerce needs and since the plugin was audited by the great Mark Jaquith, you can be sure that it’s secure.

22 Comments


  1. With all due respect Jeffro,

    This is not a review of the WooCommerce plug-in as a review of your first time using a Custom Post Type (a feature made public on 17th June last year). You’ve given us a review of an e-commerce application , without reviewing the actual e-commerce bit.

    – Did it use PayPal? What other providers were given? What about googleCheckout or Authorize.net? Could you order from a Credit / Debit card ? How about the Non-US options?
    – What was the error handling like?
    – What sort of notification did the shop owner receive?
    – What sort of notification did the purchaser receive?
    – Did a user have to be registered to order?
    – Was there an option for registered users to save some of their data (shipping address)?
    – Is there an option for users to track their order? And therefore for the store owner to update its status?
    – Can users see previous completed orders?

    It feels to me that this review really lacks the end-to-end nature of an actual e-commerce transaction.

    P.S. “View Post” means they didn’t change “Post” to “Product” in the view button name option for registering custom post types. It’s a quick typo to change.

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  2. @Kevinjohn Gallagher – Yeah, I get your point which is why this text is part of the review:

    However, my review is based on setting up one product on my local server. To get a better sense of how this plugin really performs, it would be best to read a review from someone using it for a live store.

    I’m not going to set up a live store and do the transactions and provide every little detail as to what is going on. The plugin is free and if someone writes up a detailed review of it used on a live site complete with all that jazz you want to know about, I’d love to link to it.

    Or, I could install the plugin on WPTavern.com. I setup a product, you pay me money and then I write about the experience. No refunds though :/

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  3. I would be interested to know if the code base differs much from Jigoshop now that it has been audited by Mark. ;)

    Will also be interesting to see how the two projects evolve/diverge over the next 12 months.

    We are looking to do an e-commerce theme in the near future (isn’t everyone!), and it’s a bit overwhelming to know which Plugin to choose from. I think taking a look at WooCommerce will be a good starting point though.

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  4. WooCommerce is free which is a price you can’t beat. There are already 9 extensions along with 6 compatible themes with more of both on the way. I think the WooThemes crew is going about this the right way by providing a stellar e-commerce product at a free price while offering pay for add-ons to increase the functionality.

    Free is only a gimmick if you cannot realistically run a store without having to buy the add-ons.

    I haven’t had a chance to look at Woocommerce, I might well use it, but users should always look past the marketing bullshit and investigate the real, long-term costs before investing time into any plugin. Woo have an established reputation, managing to make it into the final 32 Theme companies by popular vote in WPCandy’s Theme Madness competition earlier this year, but they tend to be expensive and their prices will be rising in January.

    On a related note, I would love to see a review of how easy or complicated it is to keep all these add-ons updated. Splitting off functionality into add-ons is a commercial/marketing decision – one also taken by Shopp and WP E-commerce among others – but I wonder if that makes automatic updating trickier. Having to update all those add-ons on a bunch of different sites could chew up a lot of your time.

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  5. Jeffro,

    You could easily set up a store that takes transactions, either using PayPal in Sandbox mode, or choosing one of the other options for direct bank transfer or cheque payment.

    Maybe you’ve given me a great idea here. Regardless, thanks for posting this review, it gets people more interested, that’s for sure.

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  6. Jeff, you have your comment spam filter set way too high – I spent time writing a comment and now it is stuck in your moderation queue because I tried to include a link. I tried to remove the link but was not allowed to submit the edit … because the comment was now considered to be spam!

    I notice that a lot of the discussions here become disjointed because important comments appear, in order of their original posting time, much later. The WordUp Edinburgh discussion is a good example, where the organizer had to email you personally in order for her comment, which clarified a lot of important details, to appear a day after she posted it.

    This is the number one thing that puts me off making comments here, the fact that I don’t know what will later appear higher up in the discussion, changing the entire context.

    I do understand that moderating these discussions is a lot of work and, of course, I appreciate you providing this space for discussion.

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  7. Jeff,

    Glad to see this plugin getting some play on your site. Seems to be a bit of venom in the posts here, but I was glad to see you posting about it.

    @donnacha of WordSkill, I think free is free in this case. You could run a simple shop with paypal and have everything you need. I think the plugins are reasonable if you are going to make money with something, it’s worth spending a bit. We’re not talking about a typical wordpress plugin that gives you pretty galleries here.

    I have used the shopp plugin for a few years now and loathe it. It went from slightly buggy with mediocre to poor support to buggy with dismal support as they expanded. Every support request get’s labeled with “not covered in support try the forums”. The forums are USELESS as well.

    I can’t wait to try the Woo plugin as I have a customer using shopp that needs a redesign in the next few months. I’ve been using woo for about a year and look forward to the experience. Since I was planning on paying $200 for it (like some of the other premium themes there) I couldn’t be happier with the way they’ve rolled it out. Though I’m not a subscription member, so my view might be quite different from theirs.

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  8. @donnacha of WordSkill – There is no switch that determines how sensitive or open Akismet wants to act. This is how I have the commenting system set up.

    Before a comment appears: Comment author must have a previously approved comment
    Hold a comment in the queue if it contains 5 or more links.

    That’s pretty much it. Not sure why your comment was held in moderation since it didn’t have 5 or more links. I try to moderate comments as soon as possible but I can’t moderate them in my sleep. The one that gets the most people is the fact that they need to have a previously approved comment which both of the WordUp folks didn’t have.

    What do you suggest I do, turn off Akismet or change those two settings regarding comments?

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  9. @Jeffro – I agree that “5 or more links” sounds like a fair setting but I wonder why just one link is triggering it?

    Yes, I appreciate that you can hang around waiting to approve comments, I appreciate that you are doing this at all and, yes, I understood that the two WordUp Edinburgh organizers got caught by the previously approved comment rules, it was just unfortunate.

    I wonder if, for a site as popular as this, it might not be a better idea to use some sort of flagging by users? Allow all comments to appear but put them into moderation if they are flagged by one of your readers. I would certainly be happy to zap any spam comments that got through.

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  10. @rgregory – Yes, I agree that this type of plugin is something you use to make money and, therefore, is not as price-sensitive as plugins in other categories. It would still, however, be a good idea for potential users to look past the FREE and acquaint themselves with the ultimate cost – for instance, realistically, even the simplest online store serving the European market is going to need the VAT Exemption add-on.

    The importance of fully acquainting yourself with pricing structures before investing your time applies to any complex product.

    With regard to support, I noted in the discussion on the Woo blog about pricing, that the cost of providing support was a major consideration in their decision to break from their previous “all-you-can-eat” approach. This suggests that they intend to do a good job of supporting Woocommerce users.

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  11. @donnacha of WordSkill – I think in your case, you used [URL] to try and make certain text a link instead of the Anchor tag. That’s the only thing I can think of since the [URL] didn’t work, I edited your comment so that the correct code was used for the link.

    Know of any plugins off hand that does what you suggest that I can try on the site?

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  12. @Jeffro – It was actually my first time trying to add a link during an edit, when the usual “link” button isn’t present and I couldn’t remember whether your comments use bbcode or HTML. Sorry about that. Go ahead and delete my comments on this subject if they are distracting from the intended discussion.

    Off the top of my head, I don’t know of any comment flagging plugins but it would certainly be a pretty sweet addition to Ajax Edit Comments.

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  13. Too bad no one commented on the WPTavern mug I was offering for sale!

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  14. I love that the plugin is free but I can’t stand when forums are behind paywalls. I like to ask questions before a I drop money on a theme.

    Just testing the shop locally has me really excited. The one thing I can’t figure out is how to edit the single product image output to not hard crop and leave the original image aspect ratio intact.

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  15. @Matt – The documentation for Woocommerce is available for free after you sign up to the WooThemes forum. No payments needed.

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  16. I created an account by downloading the free wootique theme which allowed me access to the codex. However, you need to purchase something before accessing individual threads within the forum.

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  17. @Matt – The support forums are restricted to paying users but there should a publicly accessible forum for pre-purchase questions.

    If there is no forum for pre-purchase questions just email them but I doubt they will tell you how to avoid hard-cropping, that would be a support request not a sales enquiry.

    I’m not sure but I suspect you could probably get access to the support forums if you buy just one add-on and the cheapest is $15 – I’m just guessing but you could ask if that is the case. Realistically, you’re probably going to need to buy some add-ons anyway if you want to run a real online store.

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  18. Hi,
    Interesting review, although I’m a little disapointed Jigoshop didn’t get a mentioned alongside WP eCommerce and Shopp as a free eCommerce solution which also has a number of compatible themes and extensions available…

    @David – When it comes to security, obviously it’s a priority for all of us, and I’m happy to chat more about what security features we might be implementng etc in the future.

    @Matt – We’ve got all our documentation publicly available if that helps :)

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  19. I found so far that WooCommerce is very intuitive, installing it and having the store basically ready to show right away is big. Next up, editing the product pages/photos to NOT look like crap.

    I tried a few themes and the one I am going with seems to look okay, but it needs some polishing. Hopefully I don’t hit any snags/dealbreakers with this plugin after I start investing time/money into it.

    The fact it is brand new makes me nervous, have any big issues crept up within the plugin that needed to be fixed?

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