Key discussion points:
- Where does WooCommerce sit in the ecommerce vendor market?
- What types of business does it suit & why?
- What are the pros and cons of the platform?
- Out the box, how good is the core performance?
- What do your developers like and dislike about Woo?
James Gurd [00:00:05] Hello and welcome to Episode 28 of the Replatform podcast. Thanks, as always for listening in. It’s myself, James. I’m joined, as always by co-host Paul Rogers. How’s it going tonight?
Paul Rogers [00:00:16] Yeah, good. Thank you. No bit tired, a little bit more tired than usual. How about you?
James Gurd [00:00:22] Lockdown fatigue, is it? I’m the opposite. I feel even better now. Which is amazing. Nice cycle ride this morning to wake myself up. So we got another interesting episode today. It’s on a platform that I personally haven’t had any experience implementing. I know about it, but I don’t know enough. That’s why we speakings to the specialists. So we talk about WooCommerce. What is it? Where’s it fit in the market? What’s good about it? What are some of the challenges? We’re joined by two people who know this in detail. So first of all, we’re joined by Kim Leary, who’s the CEO of Birmingham based Squibble and the chair of Birmingham Tech Week. Kim, how are you doing?
Kim Leary [00:01:05] Hi, very good thank you. Looking forward to it and to see what we uncover.
James Gurd [00:01:14] And then also with Kim, we’ve got Luke Carthy, who’s an e-commerce growth consultant, specializing in strategy, conversion and search. I think I’ll add to that and his comments just before we started this was it could go absolutely well or make no sense. I’m totally intrigued Luke as to what you’re going to talk about today.
Luke Carthy [00:01:37] Hiya, interesting intro. So, yeah, it could go anywhere.
Luke Carthy [00:01:45] Equally, I am also exhausted. Up to half 1 messing around with stuff online. That sounds terrible. But it was genuinely, professional.
James Gurd [00:02:00] Yeah, I’m fine. So this is gonna be really interesting because having different perspectives, I mean from agency and delivering projects and managing clients, and having you who’s worked across different types of businesses from consultancy in-house. I think those perspectives are going to really be useful. So let’s let’s crack on let’s start asking you annoying questions. So the first one for me and I guess people listening who haven’t come across or used WooCommerce for is let’s do the basics.
What is WooCommerce? So how do you describe it as a platform? What type of platform? Where does it sit in the vendor marketplace?
Kim Leary [00:02:36] So WooCommerce is a plugin essentially for WordPress. WordPress and WooCommerce are both open-source, built on PHP. Really easy to integrate. WordPress is famous for its five-minute install. And it’s been going since 2011.
Kim Leary [00:03:04] It’s free to use. And generally, it’s kind of billed on being easy.
Kim Leary [00:03:13] It’s always the thing isn’t it, easy for some people and not for others?
James Gurd [00:03:16] Look, I love the web. I guess the open source is an important differentiation here. And the PHP side. So, Paul, I know you wanted to probe a bit more on what types of business users.
Paul Rogers [00:03:28] I guess from your perspective, which types of businesses are kind of suitable for WooCommerce? Are there any really obvious ones. Or any that you think might not be suitable for WooCommerce?
Kim Leary [00:03:41] WooCommerce powers around 33 percent of the world’s online stores. So it is a massive contender. I did have a little Google to see who some of the big companies were that use it. And I don’t know if you’ve heard of the All Blacks rugby team? They sell all their merchandise through WooCommerce.
Kim Leary [00:04:02] Obviously, they’re huge. But I think it’s it’s probably favored by mainly small to medium businesses, really. It’s more cost-effective to set up and it’s good as a kind of MVP, you can test the market, test the products and see how you can interact with it and how you can build on it within the of e-commerce world. But generally and certainly from our point of view, it does tend to be small to medium companies that favour it.
Paul Rogers [00:04:34]
Do you find that most e-commerce sites are built by agencies or do you find people build them in-house as well?
Kim Leary [00:04:44] It’s a really good question. I think it’s probably a 50/50 split, I think there will be people who start in WooCommerce and they try and do it themselves and then they get really annoyed and frustrated and then they come to an agency and say, look, I’ve done this. I’ve built it. It’s working. But what can I do to make it better? On the flip side, I mean, us as an agency, we love WooCommerce because once it’s built and once you’ve got more of a bespoke design attached to it, it really feels quite unique. It doesn’t feel like an out of the box solution. So from that point of view, I think it can be quite powerful.
Luke Carthy [00:05:43] Yeah, it’s a good point. Yeah, it’s approachable, right. It’s a platform that you can make mistakes on. It’s not necessarily, you know, it’s technically free. At the end of the day, you can install WooCommerce without investing a single penny to get the basics. I mean, it can be a playground. It can just be anyone that kind of starts and says, look, I want to, you know, the cliche I want to dropship stuff or I want to start selling T-shirts online or I’ve got a stamp collection that I just love and I wanted to see if I could build a business there. Right the way through to. Hey, look, I’ve got ten grand or something to go and spend with an agency to go build a WooCommerce store, for example. Can you help me? So it’s kind of your bedroom businesses right to what Kim said your SME’s. But then, you know, equally, there’s some enterprise businesses, that lean on it as well But I think the reason, you know, this is just personal thinking rather than any kind of data or intel I’ve got on this. But I’ve personally said the thing that kind of holds WooCommerce back is it’s kind of like this ego, this brand. Right, which is WordPress, WooCommerce, open-source, cheap unapproachable. It’s not enterprise. And they absolutely can be. It’s just as a brand. It seems to fit the SME audience better than say something like Magento or even maybe something Big Commerce, which is a little bit more towards the middle of both. But it’s hugely powerful, hugely flexible that we can, within reason, do whatever the heck you want with it.
Paul Rogers [00:07:15] You talk about Big Commerce, I guess that there’s been over the last four years, there’s been a lot of growth in SaaS platforms for SMBs. What’s it like from your perspective Kim?
How have you seen the trajectory of WooCommerce? Have you found that there’s been a lot more competition from Shopify or WooCommerce?
Kim Leary [00:07:36] Yes, it’s a good question there has been. Shopify is obviously is growing. And I can see lots more shops that are powered by Shopify and Big Commerce. But I think that WooCommerce has got the advantage in the fact that it’s older. I think more people are aware of it. Which means that it tends to be more popular. On the flip side, it means that because e-commerce has got this longer history, people are more aware of what’s gone wrong with it in the past and perhaps security issues. And I think because it is billed as free, it does devalue it. And I think people think that if it’s free, I can do it myself. Therefore, I don’t necessarily need to pay somebody. But as we all know, WooCommerce, yes, it’s out of the box. But actually, I think there still needs to be an expert that knows what they’re doing, knows how consumers interact with eCom platforms, which is obviously very different from a standard brochure website.
Kim Leary [00:08:41] And I think that’s definitely a value that agencies and developers bring, that it’s always up to the agency to really sell that value and make people aware that there is so much more to just switching on.
James Gurd [00:08:57] The key question I’ve got comes back to a point you made earlier about basic extension into WordPress. So I’ve always understood it is that WooCommerce is used off the back of WordPress sites?
James Gurd [00:09:09] Is does that underplay what it is?
Is WooCommerce used independently of WordPress and quite extensively? Or not at all?
Kim Leary [00:09:18] I’ve never seen WooCommerce operate on anything other than WordPress because it’s a plugin it hooks straight into the WordPress platform. I don’t know. I don’t know if it’s possible. I think it would be, but it’s certainly not something I’ve ever come across unless you’ve experienced something different?
Luke Carthy [00:09:36] It’s a tricky one because I guess if you look at it technically or holistically. Right. So I’m with Kim in the sense that, yes, you absolutely need WordPress in order to run WooCommerce. But I don’t want people to think of WooCOmmerce as like, say, an SEO plugin, for example, where someone is just kind of got a website and they’ve decided, say, a year down the line to have e-commerce. And then they’ve just gone away and installed WooCommerce as a plugin. It’s almost like an afterthought. Although you need WordPress to build WooCommerce on, there is absolutely stores out there where the only purpose of that web site is purely e-commerce. So it’s yes, it’s a plugin. And I guess maybe that’s as a theory and as a what it is it adds a connotation that it’s an afterthought or a bolt-on or something else, but it is a holy living, independent product and it can work both ways. You can have it as a bolt-on to an existing web site. We could make it all about an e-commerce environment. But what people have done and what I’ve seen in the past is, you know, people go down the route of headless commerce, which is a whole nother topic and a whole other subject altogether. But it gives you that flexibility. I’ve been able to use a completely separate front end to an administration panel. So it is what it is you want to be. And I think sometimes when a platform is so massively flexible, it makes it difficult to understand what it is, just like a development language or something like that. It can make it as broad or as narrow as whatever you need it to be.
Paul Rogers [00:11:19] So you talked about kind of potentially doing a headless project with WooCommerce and just generally on top of some of the things you talked about, how does WooCommerce scale, like in terms of things potentially going headless? So, I mean, what kind of API is available from WooCommerce? And also in terms of things like international and kind of big product catalog, have you seen many examples of WooCommerce in a multi-store environment? And kind of just handling large catalogs. How have you found it?
Luke Carthy [00:11:54] Had to drop the API bomb, huh? Right. Okay. So API is our interest and I don’t have an answer unless Kim you do in terms of the APIs available. But in the second question, in terms of how scalable is it? Well, WooCOmmerce essentially just builds off WordPress’ structure in terms of posts, pages, and database entries. So just like how are any international global huge WordPress site with millions of pages exists, then it can be exactly the same with WooCommerce. Of course, there’s other things to consider rather than just inventory, there’s speed, performance, hookups. What kind of ERP you need to integrate it to and backend integrations, all that sort of good stuff, which is where I guess you start to maybe think about more enterprise-level solutions in those sorts of spaces. But in terms of pure raw scalability, of how many products, how many categories, et cetera, then as far as I’m aware, there’s no actual upper limit or there’s no positioning, which says you can only go to this many products before it starts to fall apart. It all runs off of WordPress’ pages and posts logic really, and how the database works.
Kim Leary [00:13:04] We get asked this quite a lot. Generally, I think it’s it comes down to how sensibly the platform is set up. So if you’ve got 20, 30 different plugins then of course it’s going to be slow if you use a theme that’s got loads of redundant CSS styling code that you don’t need, then yeah. It will slow it down. And I think these are kind of the issues that WordPress and WooCommerce, in particular, get kind of tarnished with that largely comes down to, dare I say, inexperienced people setting up and just getting a bit trigger happy, installing loads of different things and then going “ahh it’s really slow” or using a cheap server, cheap hosting. It just really can’t perform at its best. We definitely see lots of cases where people have installed to 20 upwards plugins and they’re just reloading so many scripts and they’re not necessary, particularly when the scripts are fairly simple pieces of code that don’t need to be as a plugin. But it it often comes down to its ease of use. It’s easy to install a plugin and get things running through the plugin without having the technical know-how. Obviously it can hinder and I think that that’s one of the downsides that WooCommerce as a brand sees, but is is largely unavoidable.
James Gurd [00:14:34] Yeah, that was a key question I had around performance because I completely agreed on it. WordPress is often perceived as a really slow solution, but it’s pretty much down to implementation most of the time. I know I’ve implemented WordPress sites and I’m not a technical person. I just put a content site together. But I’m not fine tuning it. Therefore, it’s slow and developers come in and improve it for me, which is how it should be.
James Gurd [00:14:57] The thing I’m interested in is so basically as an agency, if you’re building a Woo site or something, you’re taking the module, plugin, but your managing and hosting all that code Woo aren’t providing in SaaS based stuff are they? It’s your taking it and install it on servers somewhere.
Kim Leary [00:15:16] Yes, that’s right.
James Gurd [00:15:17] So yeah. Then that makes sense. And so the quality of the hosting environment that you set up and the servers that you’re using and all the infrastructure is going to determine to a large part its performance.
Kim Leary [00:15:29] Yeah, it does, absolutely. I think it’s with any site. Obviously you want it to run as fast as possible. And to do that, we need to have a fairly decent server that’s not got thousands and thousands of other websites on.
Luke Carthy [00:15:44] Yeah. Yeah, for sure. And as we know, of course, you know, there’s no doubt that there’s a direct relationship between the speed of a site and the performance of it in terms of sales, check-out performance, you know, customer expectations, so on. But what I guess what I would say to that is natively, if you install Woo-Commerce, if you have no other plugins on the site and you install WooCommerce, that doesn’t make it quick. Like, I guess the one thing that’s a little bit frustrating about it is the sense that it’s not quick out of the box. You have to configure it to make it. So you have to think about database caching. As you know, Kim has already alluded to the whole thing about stripping back your CSS, if it’s unused and so on and so on. And so. I don’t want people to believe that even if they just use bare minimum plugins, it’s going to be automatically fast. It’s one of those things where you have to know what you’re doing. But equally, you can still set up an e-commerce store without knowing what you’re doing. I think that’s the danger. So it’s hugely available to many people of any different expertise. You know, if you’re not a developer, but you can install the basic install of WordPress or you’ve got a friend that can do that for you, you can absolutely go away, download the WooCommerce plugin, install it add a couple of products and before you know it, you’re selling stuff, collecting payment via PayPal. But if you want to do this properly and you have a proper business and you want to take this seriously, then this is probably where you either are a developer and you have those skills, those know how, or you want to work with an agency where they can help you to implement the correct things, the right plugins, or build it for you bespoke and make it fast, make it as fast, as quick and as clean as possible. So, yeah, I think anything goes, but it has the ability to be really fast. But out of the box, typically it’s not always the case.
Paul Rogers [00:17:33] So on to security, so I guess one of the big kind of things that people associate with WordPress is security. Potential security issues.
How good can WooCommerce be from a security perspective? What are some of the best practices that you should have in place to prevent any kind of issues of vulnerability?
Kim Leary [00:17:52] So the biggest thing for me is that the plugins and the themes and WordPress core itself need to be updated. That’s often, if I’ve ever seen a website that’s been hacked a WordPress site, it’s always because the theme or the plugins are outdated. Because it’s open-source, obviously, it means that everybody has access to it. Everybody’s got copies so they can find a back door, which is why regular patches are released. I do find that WooCommerce and WordPress are both very secure. The only time that it gets let down is when that maintenance isn’t done. But saying that I mean, I’ve seen sites that are six years old and have never been hacked. But have also never been updated. It’s still a very secure platform. But like anything, it needs to be kept up to date. Web sites are living, breathing entities that exist with lots of moving parts and they need some TLC, just like my hair at the moment, which is getting ever bigger.
Paul Rogers [00:19:04] That makes sense. I think that’s very similar to magenta. It can be totally secure but needs to be maintained properly. And then on to SEO, as well so moving around a little bit.
How strong can WooCOmmerce be from an SEO perspective? What’s the native set-up like, from a technical perspective?
Paul Rogers [00:19:25] What are some of the things that need to be optimized around?
Luke Carthy [00:19:29] It kind of falls into that same horrible cliche. It depends. Right. So what I will definitely say is as a barebones products, WooCommerce from an SEO point of view makes me very happy. So if a client comes to me and says, look, I’ve got a WooCommerce store, and I need some SEO help, then I’m like, awesome. I can absolutely help you. And I really don’t worry about limitations to the platform. So just like with the design, the speed, the security, anything goes you can access and tweak and can amend, add anything that you want to within WordPress’s core. So robots.txt, for example. Nice and easy to manipulate if you want to build rules around your faceted url or internal search queries, whatever. But the point is, it is entirely in your remit to make it as good or as or as bad as possible. But it’s great in the sense that it plays really nicely with some of the world’s largest WordPress, SEO plugins. So Yoast being one, all in one SEO another, you can really build some nice proper category URLS and get a really good internal structure together. Yeah, I really, really enjoy using it from an SEO point of view. And it’s easy to use, it’s easy to manipulate and it can, from SEO point of view, be hugely scalable as well. But what I will say is again out of the box, it’s not necessarily as clean as what it could be. And there’s things you absolutely need to do to prevent your SEO kind of going awol from day dot. So it’s brilliant. And I mean, if we compare it to, say, Shopify, for example, it was gonna happen. We’re on a WooCommerce Podcast, it’s like the number one most compared platform.
Luke Carthy [00:21:09] But it’s if someone comes to me and says, hey, I’ve got a Shopify site, can you help whether that’s regular Shopify or Shopify plus? And someone else said to me, hey, I’ve got a WooCommerce site. Can you help? Then my bias is to absolutely go towards WooCommerce because the answer is yes, I can help. I haven’t got any limitations. I can do whatever the heck I want in regards to making sure that the client gets the growth that they need. And Shopify is a whole other topic, but it’s so much more difficult to make those changes. And I think that’s the real big difference between those two platforms.
James Gurd [00:21:43] One interesting area to help clarify for people who are not used to this SEO at a more technical level is I find URL schemas is usually a good way to clarify this. What have you found that benefits with Woo in terms of how you can structure different types of URLs like product list pages, product details pages control how they build, how they look, how they index. So, I mean, is that an area where WooCommerce gives you that flexibility you’re talking about?
Luke Carthy [00:22:09] Yeah. Yeah. And if they’re really easy to change as well, which is kind of good and dangerous, because, of course, if you if you’ve got an existing website which has, you know, a couple of thousand products on it, start doing well in search engines. It’s got a couple of thousand backlinks and then you go away and change one setting. It could completely ruin your week. Right. Like it’s going to destroy things. But again, think about it from the opposite way. It means it’s simple. It’s easy for me to go and deliver change for clients. That means it’s more cost-effective. More people are likely to say yes. Yeah. It’s kind of specifically answer your question. If you wanted a URL structure that had, for products, didn’t have the category URL or had a product name slash products ID, for example. Absolutely. You can do whatever the heck you want if you wanted certain things to be included and excluded in parameters. Adding filters allowing filters to be selected multiply. How you want your search URLs to look and behave and be indexed or not? All of this stuff is completely down to the user to do whatever the platform is. And I guess to finally add, if there’s something you can’t do either through a plugin with WooCommerce itself, then you can guarantee there’s gonna be a developer out there who’s built the solution. And worst cases, there’s gonna be a developer out there who can build what it is that you’re looking for really easily. So it talks about that whole WordPress network of almost like infinite developers. Right. Whatever you need. There’s probably someone out there who can build it for us.
James Gurd [00:23:40] So this leads me on to another question around features. Coming back to the point we made at the start of this episode about no platforms ever 100% perfect. It sounds like some of the areas where you get like the SEO flexibility and capability. What do you find on the other side that features that e-commerce teams want from an e-commerce platform that Woo doesn’t have natively and requires third-party apps or integrations? What are those key areas that aren’t there yet?
Kim Leary [00:24:09] I think Yoast that Luke’s already mentioned, I think most sites are installed with that now. The two things that we find the most common is having an extended search. Inherently, the WooCommerce search is not always great. Same as the WordPress search. So having a proper search function, I see is definitely something that we would always advocate extending. And the other thing, and this is probably just based on recent experiences, but we’re getting more and more inquiries for WooCommerce platforms to have trade prices for B2B. The ability for users to display different prices. We tend to find that that’s becoming more popular and that people wish to use WooCommerce as a trade platform as well so that they can sell at obviously reduced rates once the user is logged in. I think that that probably takes it perhaps a step too far for where WooCommerce is intended for. But at the moment, that’s certainly a lot of the inquiries that we’re getting.
Luke Carthy [00:25:19] Yeah, that’s actually really interesting because that’s roughly the same sort of level of inquiry with price levels. Right. So you’ve kind of got your list price, if you like. And then different tiers of trade. And weirdly enough, from what I’ve just noticed and again, I could be wrong. I haven’t looked at it in any detail. WooCommerce has just released a plugin precisely for that. So you can have different user permissions with different prices. Whether that price is fixed in terms of just the numeric value or a percentage increase or decrease, depending on the user access you’ve been given or how you register or whatever, but it looks to be one huge plugin. It’s not cheap. I think it’s close to a couple hundred quid. But, you know, that is that might be something that’s native to say, something like Magento or something much broader, much Shopify plus maybe. But of course, you then talk in the monetary wise, you know, 200 quid versus a Magento paid subscription or, you know, a Shopify plus subscription. That’s normally typically six figures a year or something like that. So to get that level of flexibility is brilliant. But I think other examples, I think that aren’t necessarily there, or at least the last time I jumped into the platform, I was asked this question. It’s been able to bridge the gap between bricks and mortar stores selling online. So Shopify had this out of the box with the Shopify POS products, which is just literally something you pay for on a retainer. But I guess loads of businesses have, especially right now. They want to get online to try to kind of fill that gap in highstreet sales that they’re losing out on. But they also have an inventory elsewhere as well that they may sell through. So even if it’s like eBay and Amazon and then a retail store, so I’ve not personally come across in a while, a really solid, almost official plugin that works and plays really nicely with WooCommerce in that sense. But there’s many other products and I guess e-commerce, CMSs that do that. As I said, Shopify does Magenta does, of course, and so on and so forth. So that’s where I think things start to get a little bit clouded. But it’s always improving, right?
James Gurd [00:27:28] Yeah, I think that’s a reality. No platform can ever cover everything because they go for a particular market focus and then they pivot and adapt as the market expands. But yeah, I think that’s really interesting to hear that because this is the whole point is to try to get across transparent to people where things are great and where there might be gaps based on their business model.
Paul Rogers [00:27:48] I also think there’s a lot of benefit in not having too much in the platform.
Paul Rogers [00:27:52] So that’s a good example. Like even like with Shopify and Magento. I’ve never really seen it work amazingly well when you’re managing that market place orders and products and everything else from the eCom platforms. And one of the things I like about WooCommerce and we’ve got a client and I was really surprised about how well it scaled for them. And they’ve got kind of multiple stores. They do multi-currency with some of the stores, fixed price lists. They do a lot of complex promotions and things like that, but it’s really lightweight. And then they’ve got a lot of stuff that they’ve essentially just taken out of the platform and actually works really well. And I think that’s quite a good approach sometimes.
Paul Rogers [00:28:40] So in terms of the ecosystem around WooCommerce so outside of agencies so more on the technology partners, and you talked a bit now about some plugins like one of the things with Shopify and Magento, I guess, in particular is the ecosystem and all of the third parties around the platforms that you talk about, search is a good example.
Paul Rogers [00:29:04]
Are there third parties like different SaaS providers or different plugin developers to improve different areas? And how does that look? And then also how is that kind of developing?
Kim Leary [00:29:19] So I don’t think that WooCommerce or WordPress really offer paid partnership programmes the same as Shopify.
Kim Leary [00:29:26] But certainly there are definitely developers that you can trust and that, you know, will provide a plugin that that works and is tested and is well supported. I think from WordPresses point of view Automatic was a development company and they developed jetpack. Automatic is now owned by WordPress. With WooCommerce actually, a lot of the plugins, if we use a plugin, we purchase directly from WooCommerce because they’re tried and tested the quality of work is good. And obviously, as we said, it’s open source so anybody can develop anything for it. And I think that where it opens up security issues for a start. You don’t know who’s developed it. You don’t know how good their coding skills are, particularly if it’s a free plugin. I think that’s where I would always look to work with application that has got loads of really good reviews and has built a brand around what they’ve produced. Yoast is a classic example of that. The way that it has it is grown it offers different tiers of subscriptions. Obviously the free version is really good. You can pay for an updgraded version as well, which offers even further tools and options. But it always comes down to what experience anybody else has had with plugins and whether or not you trust them. And I think that’s probably another hole for people who are kind of new to the platform that they don’t know what to trust or use.
Luke Carthy [00:31:14] Because of course, Yoast, I dunno if anyone’s heard it in the recent news. Well, what I will say is they had a bit of a woops moment not so long ago, which is, you know, a plugin that’s trusted by millions of WordPress sites. Had a weird bug where it just magically started de-indexing many people’s website. I think it readjusted the robots.text file. So even the enterprise, even the really kind of big the good guys can get it wrong sometimes. But that is the world of open source. I think as long as you’ve got a contingency. But as long as you’ve got your checks in place, you know, you’ve got to make sure that if you’ve been attacked by brute force, you’ve got something in your dashboards to let you know that these things are happening. Like just building it and leaving it is dangerous. But I guess what’s kind of happened, too. We spoke about site search a little while ago, and it’s something I’m hugely passionate about. And just like in the world of FinTech, where everything’s kind of gone, awol in the sense that all the banks have just kind of gone right. We need to go and compete. You’ve got Monzo, you’ve got Starling, you’ve got all these kind of new, cool, super shiny banks coming out, the same sort of thing as almost happened with sites search a few years ago. So it used to be a huge monopoly between the likes of SLI and these big enterprise. Really good. But these big enterprises, e-commerce site search engines. But now we’ve got people like dofinder and fact finder who are just popping up and offering these really powerful enterprise esq site searches. A couple hundred quid a month. And they have, WordPress plugins. So dofinder is something that I believe costs about a hundred pounds a month. It’s got product recommendations. It’s got your suggestions, personalization, your AI. Everything that you’d expect from a really powerful site search system. That you can just go away have a subscription for just bolt it into your WordPress site. So no longer you’re in a situation where you need to go in and sign eye watering checks and contracts to get that level of experience. And that’s what I think is really quite powerful about WordPress. It’s one of those things, isn’t it? If you install WooCommerce and leave it, yes, you can sell online, but the chances are that’s just not good enough. And I guess the analogy I like to use, the kind of help people to visualize the differences is I believe that. WordPress and WooCommerce is just like a load of Lego bricks. So someone’s giving you a certain tool to go away and build whatever the heck you want. Shopify is more of a pre-defined kit. So, yeah, you’ve got your Lego set you’ve got your wheels and everything else. But you can only build the thing theyve asked you to build. WooCommerce be whatever you want and that goes either way. It can be terrible or it can be absolutely fantastic. The choice is yours. But the thing that I love about it is it doesn’t necessarily mean that you have to go and spend the big bucks to get a really good web site. And that’s what I think I absolutely love about WooCommerce.
Paul Rogers [00:34:11] Yeah, that makes sense. And some really good points. And I guess following on from that. Why, from a developers perspective, this might be one for you Kim, but also for you Luke but why do developers like working with Woo, and what do you think makes it stand out to your developers instead of some of the other platforms on the market?
Kim Leary [00:34:32] So I think that it’s because it’s fairly well structured.
Kim Leary [00:34:36] So it means that it’s easier to build plugins in the framework that exists, particularly with Gutenberg. It’s easy to create the blocks you can style and create content in any way that you want. It’s stable and it’s PHP, which is obviously a favorite among most developers. Obviously, the downside of that is that PHP is a really easy languages to learn. But I think, yeah, generally it’s the ease at which you can build and extend and then obviously kind of go through debug issues. I think it’s enjoyable because you can see things taking shape fairly quickly when they’re developing onto it.
Luke Carthy [00:35:28] Yeah, yeah, I like that. And a poignant example as to why it’s adored by so many people. I think it just goes back to some of the earlier points you’ve made. It’s open source. You will never be without development resource. There’s going to be a bunch of people who are good that can go away and build what you need. But I guess one thing we’ve certainly spoken about so far, and maybe it’s just my cognitive bias at the minute, but we spoke very much about physical products. Right. So people kind of go into your WooCommerce store ordering something. And it’s been delivered from a warehouse. But WooCommerce is also really good at digital products as well as nontangible items. So if you’re selling license keys, you know, contracts, certificates, whatever it is, then it’s really easy to go away and sell these things with just a couple of clicks, a plug and spend some money, get it in and configure it and it’s good to go. So yeah, it’s ridiculously powerful. Whatever you need, however bespoke it is, there’s probably someone who can build it for you.
James Gurd [00:36:35] It definitely comes across as flexibility, which I think suits a lot of businesses, rather than being locked into a specific way of doing things. What about the other side of it? What’s frustrated developers or businesses that are working with Woo? What are the areas where people think, I wish you could do this a bit better. And are there plans in there to address some of these areas?
Kim Leary [00:37:01] I think it’s a check out, the check out can be quite slow and cumbersome, there can be lots of fields and from user experience point of view, it’s quite daunting. So we tend to do more work on the checkout pages than in the template that WooCommerce comes with. I think, you know, when you compare Shopify to ecommerce, I think that’s where Shopify got it right.
Kim Leary [00:37:27] I think that their checkout is much smoother. It’s handled better on mobile versions. My personal opinion. But I think that for us, that’s always one of the first things that we will look at is trying to make sure that the checkout is as user-friendly as possible and that there isn’t loads of field inputs and data entry. I think that’s probably our first port of call.
Luke Carthy [00:38:00] Yeah. I’m with you a hundred percent. That’s kind of the first thing in the back of my mind is the checkout. It hasn’t changed in ages. It’s like the Porcha’s version of a checkout, but it just doesn’t change. They tweak it a little bit and themes can change colors and so on. But yeah. Hundred percent aligned with Kim in that sense that it’s not great, it’s multi step. You can’t tweak it so much. I’m not again, I’m not a developer, so I haven’t had too much experience in terms of completely destroying and rebuilding a WooCommerce checkout and how possible that is. But I think that’s definitely the most important part of any of any e-commerce model is the checkout and how easy that is. But I think one thing that can certainly help just to kind of jump back on a question we spoke about a little while ago, so we spoke about, you know, technology partners and stuff like that. I guess what’s really powerful stuff like this is you can go away putting things like hugely popular e-mail systems in place, what with MailChimp and all these kind of popular things are absolutely possible with WooCommerce and often have extensions ready, built and ready-made. But yes, some of the things I certainly don’t like. I think once you a customer. So if you register for an account, you go to that my account area to review your orders. Again, that stale, it always looks the same. You know you’re on a WooCommerce site. And in some ways it’s also the same for Shopify, although the checkout is cleaner and it’s more attractive and yes, it’s easier to use on mobile. You always know you’re going to shopify because they always look the same. So having this creative freedom or allow me to go and build what you want, I think is what’s missing from these platforms. And I think that’s part of the missing link. Whenever that happens, however, that happens all the time. But I’d love to think some creative flair happening there.
Kim Leary [00:39:56] Yeah, no, definitely out of the box you can’t do a huge amount to the WooCommerce template to check out. It’s always gonna be a developer’s responsibility.
James Gurd [00:40:06] This leads you onto the better, I call it. This is about I can’t get my head around. It is probably because I’m just a bit slow generally.
James Gurd [00:40:13] But you talked about it earlier. I think both you referenced it the headless side, but my understanding of it is it’s a kind of essentially like a module that plugs into WordPress. How does that work? So if it’s truly headless, would not mean that you don’t need to use WordPress, or do you have to use WordPress and a headless set-off? But I’m trying to get my head round in terms of how that part works, that flexibility.
Kim Leary [00:40:37] Yeah. So technically it is possible, you can decouple part of the application. But it’s not easy and it’s not easy because sometimes the themes are older tech. And so I think that’s where the issues will lie so you could attach a different front end and use WooCommerce for the back end. But it’s about making sure the technology is on the same level. And some of the WordPress and WooCommece themes can be quite old.
Kim Leary [00:41:12] I think that’s where the discrepancy lie.
James Gurd [00:41:14]
Is anyone doing it really smartly through headless at the moment? Or is this just a new capability that Woo’s released that hasn’t yet got traction?
Kim Leary [00:41:26] There are people doing. I mean, we were contacted by a company whose site we have just rebuilt on WooCommerce, but they’ve got quite a convoluted setup as they were using WordPress and Shopify. So they managed to create it. But, yeah, I think I think it would probably depend on whether or not you wanted to create a completely bespoke, unique Front-End experience.
Luke Carthy [00:41:57] I’ve never seen it done myself in the wild in a truly kind of headless application with a almost like a, you know, an entirely detachable face of a WooCommercial installation. I would imagine it’s possible just because I’ve never really seen anyone say no. It’s though what we can most can do. But maybe it’s a case of it’s just not sufficient to do so, or in the sense that, you know, if you think about how WordPress works or WooCommerce works, it is essentially a plugin. So my thinking here is if you built a headless, properly headless front end and you had, you know, a bunch of plugins, Yoast, WooCommerce, play VEO, etc, etc, then, you know, how would that work in regards to headless? Can they spit out the API and the Json output well enough for you to justify doing it? The answer is I don’t know. But I guess what I’ll try and do is find something. And if we can put something in the show notes, then. Yeah, but I’ve no idea. But I’d love to see it done.
Paul Rogers [00:43:01] Just going back to the checkout. So that client that I mentioned used Klarna checkout. With their WooCommerce implementation and as much as that has its own issues. It worked quite well and it supported multiple currencies and everything else. Do many people use third party checkout? So does that concept exist? I know that’s kind of a bit of a trend to Magento.
Paul Rogers [00:43:21] People are going down almost like the headless checkout route at the moment, building different solutions around it. And so that’s kind of different providers in that space as well. But is that is that kind of a thing with WooCommerce?
Kim Leary [00:43:39] I know from personal experience. No, I think that the payment gateway is always going to connect to WooCommerce.
[00:43:47] I mean, you might be transferred to a different site, PayPal, sage pay, but it’s always going to come back into WooCommerce.
Luke Carthy [00:43:58] No, I haven’t. I think because it already has the checkout there. And in order for the WooCommerce Admin, if you like to register the transaction, I imagine it needs to go through their checkout and send their ping back and everything else. It doesn’t mean it’s impossible, but I again, I haven’t really seen it done. Besides, as Kim said, the PayPal pop ups and then going off, they’re coming back. But actually on the point of checkout. So this is slightly, totally unrelated. There’s a whole new concept to check out that I really kind of like the look of at the moment. And I’m looking to see how that works with Commerce and everybody else. It’s called Fast Checkout. And I think the idea of it is it’s like PayPal. You haven’t got to go through all the faff of logging in every single time. You just log in once. Almost like kind of Google Pay or Apple Pay. You register the you read your card. And then you go to a verified fast merchant and you just press one button and you pay. Which I think is really quite powerful. And I’d love to see how that develops. But to answer your question specifically on an alternative checkout for commerce, not I’ve not seen that been done before, I guess that far.
Paul Rogers [00:45:09] I was looking at that fast checkout the guys at Shopify isn’t there. Now it seems to be quite similar to shop pay. Yeah. I mean, the totem was the example. It was used as a third party checkout as you are now looking at. Awesome.
Kim Leary [00:45:26] I think on the fast track out is fascinating, and I think we’re very led by Amazon. One-click checkout, which is dangerous after a night out.
[00:45:41] Yes. Or even more dangerous. Locked-down where everyone’s. Yeah.
Luke Carthy [00:45:48] I’m literally sitting on my wallet. I’ve got through a new level of laziness and I think I’m sitting on my wallet and I’m thinking I actually can’t be arsed to move my body off the chair. Forget it. I’d rather just go through Amazon and pay £4 more. I know it’s ridiculous. Maybe that’s just me. Maybe I’m a mess and I just need to go outside.
James Gurd [00:46:05] No comment. Well, we’ll save that for when we can get back in the park. I’ve got one final question.
James Gurd [00:46:14] I’d like to ask it. It’s the killer final question. It’s around total cost of ownership because you say that it’s open-source. It’s a license free, which obviously is really appealing sameway that Magento, is open source it’s massively appealing compared to the commerce licensing. But what are the costs businesses face or what are the costs that typically come into the project? Most people need to think about when you’ve got platform isn’t, say a SaaS, like Shopify, which has more stuff built into the application.
Kim Leary [00:46:43] So I think it’s for me mainly going to be on the maintenance and the upkeep afterward because that is the key to security. So making sure that you’ve got a good maintenance package as a team of specialist developers who are there ready to support if something goes wrong or an update causes a problem. You know, a lot of the time the e-commerce platform is a source of income. So if it goes it goes down. You want to make sure you’ve got the support there afterwards. I think that’s for me, probably one of the most important things. The other aspects of it is the development side and making sure that there is budget or scope to keep developing and keep building. We use a brilliant piece of tech called Full Story. And it’s free to download. You can watch people. It’s a bit stalkerish, but you can watch people on your web site. And it means that you can track how they’re navigating around the web site. What pages are they using? How far they’re scrolling with all of that data, you can really build the bigger picture of how people are interacting. And then it’s a process of analyzing and iterating and just continually improving. The biggest misconception is that just because you’ve built a website doesn’t mean to say that everybody’s going to come. It takes a lot of work to keep improving. And also to drive the traffic. I think the other aspect is, is being able to drive traffic and keep feeding that.
James Gurd [00:48:29] Yeah, the age-old misconception that build it and they will come as opposed to build it and give them a bloody good reason to come, otherwise, there’s a million other options. Exactly. Unless you happen to have the most unique products in the world when nobody else sells it. Which would be marvelous.
James Gurd [00:49:10] Amazing. So. Thanks so much for listening. Thanks. Luke and Kim for joining us. Really appreciate it. If people want to get a hold of you and ask more questions or find a bit more about what you do, what’s the best way to get hold of you?
Luke Carthy [00:49:29] Luke Carthy. Google me. Unique name. There’s not too many of me about. So I think it’s me and one twelve year old who are fighting for that top spot on Google. But we should be okay. So yeah.
James Gurd [00:49:46] Ok thank you. How about you Kim.
Kim Leary [00:49:53] The company name is Squibble. If anybody does want any support then I’m more than happy to offer free 30 minute consultation call. At this point, happy to help anybody with any questions or if anybody wants to bounce ideas around more than happy to support and help them.
James Gurd [00:50:20] That’s incredibly kind of you. Thanks. It’s been a pleasure. I’ve really enjoyed it. I’ve learned loads of stuff as well. And so enjoy the rest of your day.