WooCommerce 4.0 Lands with New Admin Interface and Updated Onboarding Experience

Yesterday, Automattic launched version 4.0 of its WooCommerce plugin. Except for the new admin interface, which has been in testing for over a year, the development of this update began in January 2020. The update also includes an updated onboarding experience for new users.

Version 4.0 is a major release of the plugin. Users should create a database backup before upgrading. The WooCommerce team suggests testing on a staging site before upgrading on a live site to make sure everything runs smoothly.

The new version is not completely backward compatible with previous versions of WooCommerce. Reading the How to Update WooCommerce documentation before clicking the update button is recommended.

Developers and end-users should take note of the changes to the Action Scheduler library, which is the background job runner bundled in WooCommerce. In the past, it stored data as a custom post type, which has now been switched to a custom database table. The change should make background processes more performant with large amounts of data. It also has the potential to break custom code that does not interface directly with the API, but this should not be an issue for most users.

WooCommerce Admin Project Merged into the Core Plugin

Screenshot of the WooCommerce 4.0 admin dashboard.
Customizable dashboard stats and charts.

With well over a year of developer and user feedback, the WooCommerce team decided it was time to merge its new admin interface into the core plugin. Originally, the interface was developed as a separate plugin named WooCommerce Admin. The project began alpha testing in October 2018 and was later released publicly in February 2019.

WooCommerce Admin is a JavaScript-driven experience, which allows loading certain data while remaining on the same screen. It is indicative of the direction we will likely see more of in the future. The plugin currently has over one million active installs and a three-star rating. For many reviewers, they either loved or hated the plugin version, with most of the ratings either coming in one or five stars.

The new admin interface features a customizable dashboard. End-users can choose which stats to display in the performance section, select the charts they want to appear, and customize their leaderboard output.

Reports are much improved over previous iterations. The updated interface allows better filtering and comparisons. It should provide merchants with more useful insights into how well their shop is performing.

Plugin developers should take note that admin notices may not appear on all WooCommerce screens. This seems to be limited to custom screens created by WooCommerce. Notices appear on WordPress-generated pages (e.g., products, orders, coupons). While this may be a welcome sight for third-party notices that are sometimes plastered across the admin, it could present an issue for plugins that are specifically attempting to display a notice related to WooCommerce.

My biggest dislike is the inclusion of a sticky header and menu on all WooCommerce admin screens. I have been vocal in the past about my dislike of sticky headers while viewing sites from my laptop. If their height is small enough, it is a non-issue. However, when a sticky header uses enough screen real estate, it triggers a gut-wrenching claustrophobia that is hard for me to shake. WooCommerce’s new sticky header would be enough for me to look elsewhere if starting a shop, or at least push me to write some custom code to change it. I know this is a personal hangup, but I hope it is something that gets dropped from a future release.

Updated Onboarding Process

Screnshot of the theme selection process during WooCommerce onboarding.
Selecting a theme during the final onboarding step.

The onboarding process was spot on. For someone who rarely sets up online shops, each step was easy and helped me get off the ground running. This type of experience for larger plugins should be the standard rather than the exception. Far too often with these types of plugins, users can feel like they have been tossed into the wilderness with no compass after plugin activation. This was one of the nicer onboarding experiences I have had with a WordPress plugin.

Users have the option of selecting the old setup wizard if they are already familiar with it. The new one is worth a spin.

The first step primarily points users to Jetpack and other Automattic services, but many of those will be useful for shop owners. There are also options for connecting with Facebook and Mailchimp. The final step of the wizard offers a selection of free and paid themes, which is a useful part of setting up a shop for many first-time store owners.


22 responses to “WooCommerce 4.0 Lands with New Admin Interface and Updated Onboarding Experience”

  1. What I don’t understand is the following: 6 days ago WooCommerce Admin had an update and today WooCommerce is officially out.

    I run the upgrade and everything went as expected; I run the tests locally for now.

    Would not it made more sense to uninstall WooCommerce Admin right after successful WooCommerce upgraded with success, assuming the necessary data have not been deleted from WC Admin?

    • I tested this directly against the 4.0 available on the WordPress plugin directory. With certain screens, such as the WooCommerce dashboard, custom admin notices did not appear.

      To be sure, I spun up a fresh copy and added a custom, admin-wide notice as shown in the following image. It is a comparison of the Products and Dashboard screens.

      Comparison of the output of an admin notice on the WooCommerce products and dashboard screens

      • Ah, I see what you mean, you’re right. Sorry for the inaccuracy!

        In beta and RC versions, all the WP notices have been rolled up into the WordPress Notices menu in the Action Panel on all WC screens (i.e. also Orders, Products, Coupons, etc).
        We’ve removed that and instead just keep the screen clean on Analytics screens and the Dashboard which have a lot of charts and in general data to be displayed.

  2. hello, thanks for this topic
    and would you mind to answer my really dumb question below, im totaly blind in english so please forgive me can not make conclusion to your artikel.

    “WooCommerce Admin Project Merged into the Core Plugin”
    –> does this means we don’t need to install wc admin plugin anymore ?

  3. If you have a long order history and a somewhat decent amount of customers, this update will cause issues, because in order to show those fancy statistics, it will create thousands upon thousands of “pending actions” which take up a lot of processing power and write operations and may at some point be blocked or throttled by your webhoster. The people at woocommerce must have no idea about running a webshop, otherwise they would not force this “piece of s…oftware” down people’s throat. I really don’t like the way wordpress is going these days.

  4. This update is quite horrible. This should nI updated it on my own agency site. The update went OK as I have a relatively small number of of transactions. My CRM takes care of 99% of invoicing.

    I had to wait on other plug-ins to catch up to 4.0 compatibility so I only just updated a client with a small number of transaction. The update took so long that that the server went 500. OK… The dashboard would not populate. The front-end was super slow. I was forced to roll back to 3.9.3.

    The server meets the Woo requirements. This should not have happened. I’m reluctant to “upgrade” any other clients as they are are all much larger.

    I discovered that there is now a plug-in to disable the WooCommerce Admin bloatware. This is reminiscent of Classic Editor vs. Gutenturd. I’ll give the plug-in a try but really, we shouldn’t have to.

    I’ve been developing WP sites since Kubrick. Things started going downhill with Jetpack. Gutenberg was a pant load, now this.

  5. I got delays too if i open the Woocommerce in admin. The frontpage works fast and great, and the other Dashboard of Wpress too. This in a VPS 2 core and 4GB and 256MB for WordPress set with php 7.2 and Apache
    I checked it with query monitor and in ssh and it sends really a lot requests and seconds after again…i see the same requests (POST) …and then again…This dont happens always. I used the disable admin plugin and now all is great.
    I dont know why this happens and why dont always. Maybe a bug or some bad code or a compatibility issue. I am Dev and sysadmin but no time to search more. Time is money ¨:) The plugin solution was great for me….


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