You’re ready to build your eCommerce website. You heard that WordPress is free. you also heard that there is this eCommerce plugin that is free too…what’s that called again?..WooCommerce.
It’s easy, right? Install both WordPress and WooCommerce, upload your products, and boom! You’re ready to sell, and make a profit.
Yeah, well, that’s the theory anyway.
WooCommerce Website Roadblock
In real life (as always), it’s more complicated, and it depends.
For example, what will your WooCommerce website look like? How will you take payment?
Suddenly its starting to look a lot more involving than it was a few minutes ago, right?
This roadblock is actually more common than you think. Two free plugins don’t make an eCommerce store, and there’s obviously more to setting up a WooCommerce website than just “plug and play”.
So, the question now is:
“How do I get my eCommerce site going? I was told WordPress and WooCommerce are free, and that I could use a free theme and be off to the races. Why is it now so hard?”
If you’ve been asking those type of questions, you’ve probably decided at some point, to just get a WooCommerce developer. They’re the geeks. They can sort this out, right?
The thing though is, after looking for a “developer”, it turns out you now have to spend at least $500 or more, to buy add-ins and plugins. Unless you prefer to spend $5000 or more for a custom WooCommerce website.
Time to stop and take stock. The problem is not the cost of the plugins, or the over priced WooCommerce developer.
More likely, the problem is that you, as a store owner, have not yet planned your eCommerce store. You’re unprepared.
In reality, there are several considerations that you need to be make, before you even start building a WooCommerce website.
Not to be prescriptive, or anything (I’m pretty easy going); But, I always advice that store owners take some time and consider why and how they intend to setup their WooCommerce website.
In fact, this should all be written down. In a list.
That is why for this post, I’ll be offering 5 WooCommerce website considerations to help you get started.
Just 5? Aren’t there like hundreds? Well, yes, there are (might be).
These 5 considerations are some of the most common things that I see new store owners completely miss out, or ignore.
I know it’s easy to get excited about your new online store but…
Take some time and consider these 5 WooCommerce website considerations first:
5 WooCommerce Website Considerations
1. Payment Gateway
At the end of the day, your primary objective is to sell stuff; and make a profit. There’s no point in starting out, if you don’t plan on selling things.
So how do you intend to get the cash, when customers hit the checkout button?
Depending on your business setup, one payment gateway will make more sense than another.
For most sites, Paypal is the way to go; the ready option. It’s easy; its ubiquitous. It will probably work for your site with little fuss.
However, with every payment gateway that you choose, configuration will be required.
You should plan to test purchases before you open for business. This could mean setting up a Paypal Sandbox Account (if you plan to use Paypal).
A sandbox account is like a “test” account, and will allow you to dry run the payment process, test refunds, etc.
If you plan for all this setup and testing early on, you’ll have lower risk of payment issues, when you launch your WooCommerce website.
2. WooCommerce Website Site Design
Quite important. It may not seem critical, but it absolutely is.
Customers are people; and people buy stuff based on how they feel.
If they feel frustrated by your online store, they wont buy. They’ll just go somewhere else.If they’re happy, they’ll buy from you and tell their mates.
Simple human behaviour, right? So what makes people buy stuff?
In my opinion, design and function turns visitors into paying customers, as far as websites are concerned.
Unconsciously, your customers are always asking themselves:
Does this website look good?
Does it work as expected?
Is it intuitive?
What about the images on the site, how do they look?
Also, what about the text (typography)? or the colors?
Does the color combination make me feel happy, or sad?
Does it make me want to buy now?
Ever wondered why Amazon uses its particular color scheme?
Their choice of layout and colors certainly draws me in
(but I’m shallow..like your customers)
Yes, I know you’re not a designer, or coder, etc., you just want your website to work..like, now..today.
But keep my advice in mind, when you go looking for a WordPress theme for your WooCommerce website.
If you’re not a designer or coder, you may be better served by choosing a theme that comes close to your preferred design, layout or color scheme; something to get you started.
Meaning that you won’t have to do much custom work, and you can launch your store faster.
However, design, fancy colors, or animations are not enough.
The other thing that customers (like me) hate are slow websites. A fast website will lead to more sales, and happier customers.
The speed of your WooCommerce websites will be influenced by your choice of WordPress theme. What I mean is that some WooCommerce themes may look beautiful, but they run very slow.
You want to avoid those if you can.
Because the quicker your customer gets to the “Checkout” button, the quicker you can start to build a relationship with them. If they wait around for your site to load a slider,…well..they’ll get frustrated and go elsewhere.
This means that you should be careful when you select a theme for your WooCommerce website. Don’t be misled by flashy animations and parallax.
Some of those effects look really good, but unless they are helping you communicate your eCommerce offering (i.e. your products), you should avoid them.
On your eCommerce site, you want things to be elegant, functional and fast..yes, very fast.
So, how can you tell if a WooCommerce theme will perform well?
You can start by using Google PageSpeed to test a theme’s performance. A score lower than 75 is not so good. This is because you will likely be adding plugins and such, which will also affect page speed.
What if you’re stuck, and you’re not sure where to get a good WooCommerce theme?
Chris Lema offers some useful advice that will help you out. In his post, titled: “Where can I buy trustworthy WordPress themes?”, Chris recommends 3 sources for good WordPress themes. Those same theme shops also have eCommerce themes that work great for a WooCommerce website.
Check out Chris’s post, and his recommendations.
Where can I buy trustworthy WordPress themes?
Over the next few weeks, I plan to do a deep dive on a selection of WooCommerce themes from various theme shops; just to help you make a choice.
Do you have any WooCommerce themes that you would like me to deep dive?
Good, leave a line in the comments.
On the other hand, if you’re still looking for a theme for your WooCommerce website, definitely check out WooThemes.
These are the same guys who made WooCommerce.
You can select a theme from their range of WooCommerce themes, and you’ll be sure that it works right.
Connect With Me, and I’ll help you choose a WooCommerce website theme.
3. Shipping Rates for WooCommerce Websites
This one can be a problem, because it is often overlooked or treated like an after thought; that is, until a customer tries to buy something from your site, then phones you up, asking if you ship to Kathmandoo (or anywhere else, for that matter).
Well, do you?
Did you tell them so on the checkout page?
You should define your shipping rates before you start building your site. Take into consideration the geographical areas you plan to ship to. Also, consider who your carrier will be.
In addition, you should think about the weight of your products. Your carrier may have different rates based on weight; sometimes in addition to destination rates.
After you’ve determined carrier costs, work out your shipping rates and margins.
Then document it all, i.e. write it down. This documentation will be useful if you need a WooCommerce site builder to configure Shipping Rates for you.
You want to have a comprehensive Shipping Rates table. It might be helpful to use Google Sheets, Excel, or similar, to help you record your shipping rates.
WooCommerce provides it’s own (simple) shipping module. If you only have a small store, this built in shipping module will do the job for you.
You will still have to configure it, though. If you need to understand how to configure simple Shipping Rates, Michael Firnkes over at MarketPress, has a good introductory tutorial that can step you through the configuration process:
In some cases, a more comprehensive Shipping Rates solution is required.
Translate that into: plugin!
There are many 3rd party Shipping Rate plugins available, and most of them work quite well. Personally, I like “straightforward”, so I always recommend the Woothemes Table Rate Shipping plugin.
Some store owners try to justify the price. No need for that.
This comes down to my earlier point: if you come prepared, and you’ve planned everything out, the price of this plugin will not be a surprise. Instead, consider the number of hours that it will save you.
Essentially, the plugin does all the heavy lifting when it comes to setting up shipping rates on your WooCommerce website.
4. SSL certificates for WooCommerce Websites
The SSL part means Secure Socket Layer.
What this does is to protect (encrypt) any information that is transmitted to or from your WooCommerce website.
To cut a long story short, you should use SSL, if you’re selling anything online.
I’ve read arguments in some places, where store owners ask if SSL is needed. Maybe they’re using Paypal to process payments, etc., and feel that having a certificate on their site is an added cost.
But ask yourself…do customers enter their address details on your Checkout page?
Then you need an SSL certificate.
Do you plan to allow customers to create accounts on your site?
Do you want them to be able to login and see their recent orders?
Then, SSL is a must.
Bottom line is: plan for SSL
There’s no reason not to have it, even if your payment gateway is Paypal, or another 3rd party system.
SSL may not be the easiest thing to configure properly. There are lots of WordPress plugins that claim to make it easy to do; with the click of one button.
The problem is that it’s hard to tell if many of those plugins actually work or not.
In my opinion the SSL setup process is more important than using a plugin; especially from an SEO perspective.
To be fair, and in all likelihood, if you’re a store owner, you will need to call in a site builder, who has experience with SSL. They can help you configure it correctly on your WooCommerce website.
However, if you’re ready for some SSL fun, Yoast has a brilliant post that explains what you need to do…step by step.
A properly setup SSL configuration will help the credibility of your WooCommerce website.
5. Product Variations on WooCommerce Websites
Product variations simply means products that have different types; all of which are available for sale on your WooCommerce website. For example, multiple shoe sizes, different colors of t-shirts, etc.
It’s important to have variations setup correctly on your site. For this to happen, planning is essential.
Planning ahead will help you configure your product attributes, and have them link into the correct price point. Say you sell t-shirts, will an XL size t-shirt cost more than a M size one? Just like with shipping table rates, it is useful to write these down. The documentation will help you, if things need to change a few months down the line.
At least you have a record.
The main consideration to make here is to determine if a variation will affect the final product price, or not. Variable products, i.e. products with variations, are handled sightly differently by WooCommerce, and it can be a bit more complicated to make changes to product variation setup, after the site has gone live.
Product variations are the “easy to miss, (sometimes) hard to configure” areas for WooCommerce website stores, and a lot of store owners have challenges with this aspect of store setup.
If you’re having difficulty understanding product variations, Bob Dunn has a brilliant introductory tutorial, which might be helpful to you:
His tutorial describes how to set up product variations on your WooCommerce website.
However, you still need to do your own planning ahead of that.
So there we have it. 5 things to consider, before setting up a WooCommerce website.
Of course, those are not the only things to keep in mind, as you start building your ecommerece store using WordPress. My advice is to document everything. Have a written note of what you’re setting up, and why. This will help you if you decide to engage a WooCommerce implementer, or if changes happen to your site in the future.