We come across many with broken or sickly shopping cart sites using the popular WooCommerce cart extension. Most often, the business has employed a web design ‘expert’ in WordPress to build it, but it inevitably fails to meet expectations.
From my developers perspective, WooCommerce is a separate website application. The fact it’s a WordPress plugin is ‘nice’, but when fixing problems, it’s not my ‘WordPress’ knowledge I most often rely upon. It’s my understanding of shopping cart workflow and coding. Having built carts using other platforms like Magento, Shopify, CS-Cart, osCommerce and others helps too. Just knowing and being ‘expert’ in WordPress is seldom enough when it comes to sorting out tricky problems or configuring a cart site correctly. WordPress experience is useful, but not enough on its own.
Six experts in one year
We came across one new client who had been through six ‘WordPress experts’ in a year, each promising results, yet none could actually resolve the issues on his specialist cart site. Although some were NZ companies, it was clear they sub-contracted to cheap coders in India, each with dubious skills and qualifications. Many wanted to ‘start again’ or load yet another new plugin, hoping it would magically fix things…
Also, the flood of WordPress designer sites now using overly complex plugins like Revolution slider, Visual Composer, Divi and other fancy layout or effects tools doesn’t help one bit. These always makes things worse in terms of stability, speed, security and ability to upgrade without breaking stuff. More ‘bits’ means more things to go wrong and also slow the site down. Successful cart sites need to be mean and lean, focused upon speed, functionality and engagement tools, not just good looks or pretty visuals…
Knowing WordPress isn’t enough to fix a shop site
That’s right, a WordPress ‘expert’ likely knows very little about a WordPress site running the WooCommerce (or similar) shopping cart addon. Here’s a listing of some of the things we work through that are specific factors towards building a successful shop site.
- Site speed – This is the most common problem we see. Did you know that 57% of cart site visitors will click away if waiting more than 3 seconds? Most WooCommerce sites are 2-4 times this (especially those sites using a fancy theme from themeforest, envato etc). Poor speed is annoying to mobile visitors as well as Google, who will reduce you ranking. Check your speed at www.webpagetest.org (A total load time of under 4 seconds is best or speedindex under 4000)
- SEO – This needs special consideration for carts. Adding an SEO plugin isn’t enough. Migrating a shop from another cart system is a hidden nightmare too, the new WooCommerce site generating hundreds of crawl errors. Your Google ranking will plummet, taking 6 months to recover traffic – The opposite of what was expected when migrating to the Woo platform. It’s not the fault of WooCommerce, just how the designer set it up, not realising the special structure needed.
- Banking gateways – Please look beyond Paypal, which has excessive use of payment reversals that annoy sellers. And using providers like DPS is often too costly for those starting out. There are now better local options for small businesses like Paystation, eWay, Polipay or Paymate.
- Shipping – The normal shipping tools, add-ons for WooCommerce are largely designed for the big US market and of little use here. Can WooCommerce be setup to work with NZ courier providers?
- Cart invoices – The default Woocommerce system of generating and managing invoicing is very basic and far from ideal for NZ. Setting up GST, generating accountant-friendly invoices, downloadable PDF copies, packing slips etc is missing.
- Email – Notifications from the site to advise of customers and store owners of orders needs to be reliable. Spam filters have become increasingly aggressive in recent times. You can’t have site emails going into peoples spam folders! A plugin can’t fix these issues and needs expert intervention.
- Product variations – This is perhaps the weakest area of WooCommerce, compared with most other carts. It can work well, but not always easy to setup correctly.
- Wishlists, rewards, abandoned cart tracking – These are popular tools in other high-end carts. Can WooCommerce provide these options? Absolutely.
- Smart coupons, trade discounts, affiliates – Offering specials to individuals and trade pricing to resellers or affiliates is important today. With added coding, WooCommerce can generate special discounts to individuals or user groups on an individual product or category basis. This more personalised approach can provide a huge boost in sales and customer loyalty.
- SSL certificates, Site Hardening – Hacked sites, backups, lockouts. SSL certificates and security hardening and backups are the forgotten children to most eCommerce builds. A hacked WordPress site is often an easy fix, but not so an eCommerce one. Prevention is way better (and cheaper).
Most of these items are quite foreign to web designers or design agencies, be they expert in WordPress or other website platforms. Questions? Give us a call.