WooCommerce is an open-source plugin owned by Automatic and is excellent for small and large-sized online businesses. WooCommerce is becoming more popular than its competitors, such as Shopify, Magento, and Miva.
Before choosing WooCommerce as an online store, you need to know several important things first; such as WooCommerce is not ready to use out of the box, it’s not compatible with most FSE (Full Site Editing) themes, and you may need a fair amount of additional CSS to correct your store layout.
Furthermore, advanced WooCommerce plug-ins are expensive; they often require additional CSS coding (for text and menu alignment). While other plug-ins are frustrating to set up, i.e., plug-ins for stores that sell products based on weight, design, colour, dimensions, etc.
WooCommerce is not straightforward to organise; for example, if your company sells hundreds of individual products with several variations (per product) and has no staff to help, inputting that data into your WooCommerce database will take weeks, if not months, to complete depending on what you’re trading.
Several WooCommerce plug-ins can also slow your site down, for example, Woo Facebook, Woo TikTok, Genesis for Woo, Klarna for Woo, Woo Amazon Pay and Woo PayPal.
As mentioned, WooCommerce is not compatible with most WordPress FSE themes. For instance, you may find important WooCommerce components such as the “Cart” missing from the header.
While a missing cart may seem insignificant, without it online, shoppers would have no way of choosing items and paying for them. With that said, if you’re competent in CSS coding, you can create the cart icon and link it to your site header. However, if you’re not, you can always connect the word “Cart” to the header menu without the cart icon and prey on customers that don’t speak English will recognise it.
WooCommerce is also known for plug-in conflicts that can slow your store’s speed or temporarily wipe it offline. While plugin conflicts and breaks can occur on any WordPress site, they are particularly problematic on E-Commerce sites where downtime directly translates into sales losses and customers going elsewhere.
WooCommerce is also known for caching issues; browser caching helps store some web files locally on a user’s browser, reducing the number of server requests when a page is loaded.
However, while caching can help to speed up load times, it can also lead to other compilations. For instance, a common WooCommerce issue is that certain pages must be excluded from caching.
The password reset process for customers will stop working if you haven’t excluded the login pages from the caching system. If these pages continue to be cached, the user often won’t be able to reset their password, and a boatload of customers will reach out to request help for login errors.
This situation can arise if you’ve made significant development changes and forgotten to clear the cache on the server level; therefore, you must reset the cache after every redesign or theme change.
WooCommerce is not designed for companies wishing to sell complex goods online. While there are plug-ins in the WordPress repository to help create the store you want, you will find it expensive, frustrating and, at times, pointless.
That said, if you’re competent in coding, you will find tonnes of code in forums online that can assist you in building the store you want; obviously, that’s easier said than done.
However, despite the mentioned issues, I’m still with WooCommerce because the learning curve is cheaper than competitors such as Shopify. If you do your planning correctly before diving right in, you’ll find that most problems you encounter are caused by you and not WooCommerce.
So, what are the the advantages of using WooCommerece?
- WooCommerce is cheaper than its competitors, i.e. Shopify. Shopify’s basic plan starts at $24 a month, while the primary WooCommerce store is free; however, as mentioned, you may need to purchase additional plug-ins, and you’ll need to buy your own domain and hosting.
- WooCommerce supports an unlimited number of products compared to its rivals.
- WooCommerce’s payment fees depend on which payment processors you add, while Woo’s rivals, such as Shopify, charge specific fees for all your payments.
- WooCommerce has hundreds of valuable extensions, most free from the WordPress repository.
- WooCommerce comes with various tech support options depending on your setup. For example, if you choose a premium, business, E-Commerce or Enterprise plan with Automatic, you’ll qualify for 24/7 live tech chat and email support.
- WooCommerce has a high scalability and low shop costs compared to other shop systems.
- The basic setup is accessible via the WooCommerce wizard, knowledge of HTML, PHP, and CSS is usually unnecessary.
- With WordPress, you have the use of a full-fledged content management system (CMS).
- Unlike Shopify, WooCommerce allows stores on its server that trade CBD, alcohol, firearms, boudoir photography etc.
- WooCommerce is open source and can be modified to the code (no limitations).
- You can create coupons for any of the products in your WooCommerce store. Whereas with Shopify, you’re limited to the number of coupons you can create per product.
- Currently, there are 80 payment gateways available via the WooCommerce store.
- WooCommerce is designed for businesses that require complex coding, while Shopify is aimed more at the general public.
- WooCommerce’s dashboard is easy to navigate and add products to, but it’s not a subscription-based platform, so you need to do some integration yourself before starting.
- WooCommerce has hundreds of free themes to choose from unlike Shopify that has only 70 free themes.
- Depending on how you mix and match your third-party apps for WooCommerce, you can create a website for a reasonably low cost.
- WooCommerce’s open platform allows anyone to integrate add-ons. Unfortunately, this means their support team can’t have a solution for every lodged issue.
- WooCommerce is integrated into WordPress, which is a blogging platform. It also allows users to alter body content, URLs, meta descriptions, alt tags and other on-page elements with fantastic SEO tools. This means that WooCommerece is better for those looking to rank well on Google.
- WooCommerce allows you to browse hundreds of vendor options and decide what you need. So, if you’re looking for a customised delivery solution for your company, I’d recommend WooCommerece.
- WooCommerce is for you if you already have a WordPress website or are planning on creating one and want to take on more control of your online store or have the time to dedicate to the design details on this platform. It’s highly adaptable, serves better SEO purposes and can be scaled up enormously.
Does WooCommerece cater for photographers?
WooCommerce caters for most photographers that sell prints. WooCommerce has developed a dedicated photography plugin called WooCommerce Photography for $79.99 (excl VAT) per year.
WooCommerce Photography assists professional photographers with managing and selling their images for events or as artwork. From the uploading and setup of photographs to the sale and customer purchase experience, WooCommerce Photography streamlines this entire process and gets you set up in the blink of an eye.
However, as with all plug-ins and extensions, WooCommerece Photography has its disadvantages too, such as:
- WooCommerce Photography may slow your site speed down.
- You may need additional CSS coding to customise the plug-in layout on your old theme or if you change themes.
- WooCommerce Photography does not come with proofing. However, the developers have assured me that proofing will be rolled out this summer (2023).
- Customers cannot preview and download their prints without a watermark, meaning the photographer must manually email the non-watermarked image to their client.
- WooCommerce Photography does not allow an “add to cart” button under each image. While irrelevant in most scenarios, it does make for a more effortless customer shopping experience. That said, the developers have assured me the add to cart button under each image is in the planning.
- There are limited options to bulk upload images; therefore, if you’re new to WooCommerce Photography and have thousands of images to upload, you may need to manually upload each image to the media library.
- WooCommerce Photography does not allow users to automatically categorise their images on upload. All photos are uploaded as un-categorized, meaning the user will have to manually add a category to each photo, i.e. landscape, portrait, cityscape etc.
- WooCommerce Photography does not allow for price variations, meaning customers do not have the choice to add, say, 3 file sizes with three individual prices. However, developers have assured me this is in the planning, and will be a great selling point for photographers selling stock photos in various sizes.
As mentioned, the developers of WooCommerce Photography, Themesquad, have assured me that changes to WooCommerce Photography will occur this year (2023) and early next year (2024).
Useful WooCommerce Plug-ins and extensions for photographers.
One of the biggest hurdles I encountered with WooCommerce when establishing my store was very little information online about WooCommerce and photography stores. And while WooCommerce Photography is a great extension, it is not for me.
For instance, I sell a variety of fine art prints, photographic prints, frames with and without glaze in various sizes, photo albums, portrait services, stock photos, shower curtains etc. Therefore, I needed to create my store from scratch.
Establishing an E-commerce store on WordPress from scratch without help was frustrating and a major headache because I did not know where to start, what “trusted plug-ins” to use, and design-wise, WooCommerce sucked.
Fortunately, after weeks of homework, asking questions and coding, I eventually established the main layout for my store and the services I wanted to sell online. Below I’ve highlighted several useful plug-ins for your store which I use, from SEO, bookings and appointments, composite products, and more.
Yoast SEO is a free plug-in with a premium service and is the best SEO plug-in on the market. Simple and practical, the plug-in effortlessly guides you through image, blog, post, page, product and media setup.
Price: $8.00 a month (premuim).
WooCommerce Bookings allows customers to book reservations, appointments or rentals independently – no phone calls are required.
Woo-bookings plug-in is somewhat frustrating to set up; however, once it’s in place, customers can book and pay for blocked portrait sessions on the days and times you’ve set.
Price: $249 a year.
WooCommerce Product Add-Ons
With Product Add-Ons, you can offer unique options to your customers in a snap. I use Product Add-Ons for stock photography downloads and to provide extra personal touches to prints, such as borders.
Price: $49.00 a year.
WooCommerce Composite Products
WooCommerce Composite Products is a must-have if you’re looking at selling complex products with several variations. For example, if you’re selling three styles of frames in various sizes and colours, mounts, frame glazes etc., you will need this plug-in for customers to pick which frame they want, its size, colour, mount and glazing options. This type of service would only be possible with the plug-in.
Price: $99.00 a year.
WooCommerce Product Bundles
WooCommerce Product Bundles is a beautifully-crafted WooCommerce plugin that covers almost every bundle need under the sun — from creating discount print and frame packages to selling custom frames, photo albums, downloads, and even personalised products!
Price: $49.00 a year.
WooCommerce Live Chat
WooCommerce Live Chat is not an essential plugin. However, it is useful when customers need to speak to you about a product rather than email and wait for a reply. 84% of customers are put off by emailing and waiting for an answer and will bounce off of your website and onto someone else’s due to a lack of direct contact options. LiveChat is a customer service platform that helps engage more visitors, grow sales, and increase customer satisfaction across several channels.
I’ve installed the above plug-ins into my store, thus making my life and job more manageable. That said, you may only need a portion of these plug-ins if, for example, you’re selling simple products with a few variations. However, if you’re aim is to create a working photography store that offers multiple unique products and services, then by all means, please do look into these plug-ins.
WooCommerce is a powerful and essential open-source plugin aimed at startups and new or old businesses wanting to be noticed. However, WooCommerce is not designed for individual sole traders that sell a few random products here and there.
WooCommerce can be frustrating to set up, depending on your chosen theme and the products and services you’re trading. Furthermore, if you’ve little time to create each product, fill out databases, input prices, weights, dimensions, product descriptions, images, SEO data etc., then WooCommerece is not for you.
As mentioned, WooCommerce is not ready to use out of the box. Therefore, if you don’t understand CSS, HTML, PHP coding, web design, etc., you will find setting up WooCommerce tedious.
Despite the numerous disadvantages regarding WooCommerce, if you pick the right plan with Automatic, you’ll always have 24/7 live chat a click away to guide you. Furthermore, there are numerous online help groups for WooCommerce users packed with tons of information, developers, and coders that can assist you.
Thank you for reading.
Norfolk Prints & Frames
J. J. Williamson is a professional photographer specializing in prints, frames, stock images and portrait services with 15 years of experiencing in the photographic industry.