Sometimes our chats on our podcast can take a number of directions. We plan the direction a podcast will take and this episode was no different. Today, I sat back and let Angela and Brad take the lead. They talked about agency work with WooCommerce, client challenges and a lot more nuggets related to building WooCommerce sites.
A Chat with Angela Bowman
In episode 62, Brad and I chat with Angela about:
How she bumped up her work in the eCommerce space after WooCommerce was released.Whether her clients are came with the mindset of WooCommerce or did she need to sell them on it.The importance of making sure that WooCommerce is the right choice for the client.Thoughts on the ease of use for entry-level users.Where maintenance comes in and how Angela conveys its importance to the client.Helping the client choose between WooCommerce, Shopify and other platforms.How to set clients expectations with a WooCommerce site.Hosting as another challenge when it comes to Woo stores.How clients deal with plugins and the different aspects of performance that must be monitored.What Angela thinks about page builders and WooCommerce and the integration of Gutenberg.Database maintenance and the challenges that come with that.How she chooses her clients and the importance of understanding your limits.
Thanks to our sponsors
Writing show notes for this talk were a challenge and there were a lot of twists and turns. So I will simply suggest that you either skim the transcript or listen to the show. There was an amazing meeting of two minds, Angela and Brad, both with tons of experience working with clients and WooCommerce. This one is really worth the listen if you do agency work or build sites for WooCommerce store owners.
Connect with Angela
On Twitter @askwpgirlOn Facebook at Ask WP GirlAskWPGirl.comOn Twitter @WomeninWPWomen In WP Podcast
Boulder WordPress MeetupBoulder Elementor Meetup
Yes, this is the transcript. But not in the traditional sense, transcribed word for word. We do not speak as we write. Often the flow of transcribed content is hard to follow. So I have taken it a few steps further by seriously editing, at times, the conversation and even using my editorial freedom to clarify some points. So enjoy.
Bob: Hey, everybody, BobWP, and we are back with Do the Woo, episode 62. I have the infamous, the one and only author of an amazing book my guest was just raving about before we even got on this show, Brad Williams.
Brad: Hey Bob, how's it going?
Bob: Good. How are you doing?
Brad: I'm well, thanks. You have a good Fourth of July? Light any big fireworks over by you?
Bob: You know it's interesting because our beach, we're in phase three... which I won't get into that. People can go down to the beach, but it's not like the beaches you see elsewhere that are packed. It's not Florida, it's the Pacific Northwest. We live right across the scrubs from the beach, so we're not that far away. I'm not a big fan, because it takes me past my bedtime, but I just sit on the couch and I have two windows to look out and there's fireworks, They're all along the beach because they just open up about 8, 10 miles of the beach and people can go down there and just put on their own show.
I mean, that's nice because I could stay in my house and watch them. I started grumbling and saying, "I want to get to sleep, people," but I did it to myself and I was in my house so nobody said anything. How about yourself, Brad?
Brad: Yeah, we had a good time up in the Poconos and we have... our son is four, so we're not staying up past your bedtime, Bob. We're doing fireworks and it's still daylight out, but we blew some things up. I still have all my fingers, so that's a win in my book.
Bob: Good, good. No strange videos coming on Twitter showing Brad had an accident.
Brad: Not yet.
Bob: All right.
Bob: Well, we are going to be diving in real soon. We have a great guest. But before we do, I'd like to thank our sponsors. WooCommerce, our community sponsor. I'm going to say 4.3 is out by the time this show comes out, but there was a delay, so it may come out sometime this week,. So, it could be there, it could not, and we'll talk about it on the next show.
Recapture.io, an abandoned cart and email marketing solution. It's really three in one because they will also send out review reminders. And you can get 60 days free with a special link that you'll hear about later in the show. Then, Mode Effect, they are your WooCommerce partner to help you with your site optimization and speed. The team over there says they will help you increase profits and I'm pretty sure they will if you let them dive into it, so check them out.
Let's go for it. Angela Bowman. We have Angela here today. How are you doing, Angela?
Angela: I'm doing great. Happy to be here.
Bob: Angela, how do you Do the Woo? It's interesting, because when I look for guests sometimes, they talk about all their WooCommerce work. Other times, I find out through osmosis or some other way that, "Oh, this person does quite a bit with the WooCommerce."
First of all, how was your Fourth? Let's start with that.
Angela: Oh. It was great. We tried to find the eclipse in the telescope, and apparently, you really can't see that very well, so I thought I was seeing it, but it was really just the rim of the telescope going over! It was like, "Oh, that's not the eclipse." My son's like, "Look, we move it around and it goes away."
We hung out. We sat in the hammock. We listened to all of the blasting going on around us, and it was just a really chill day. I actually did my taxes. I got all my taxes done. I thought that was a very patriotic day thing to do for the Fourth of July.
Brad: I don't think I've ever heard of that before, but good to cross off the list.
Angela: I found a lot of relief.
How Does Angela Do the Woo
So, how I Do the Woo, yeah... I started with... wow, when did WooCommerce come out?
Angela: That's probably when I started using it, maybe 2012. So I've mostly had people come to me because they've had unique needs for their WooCommerce sites or they already have an eCommerce solution and they want to transition to Woo, so one thing that I've gotten really good at is how to customize all the WooCommerce templates, or mostly work with the hooks to make unique pages for people in their WooCommerce shops. People will install Woo, they'll look at it and they'll say, "You know, it's ugly. I need someone to make it look a lot nicer."
So, I usually work with a designer who comes up with these outrageous designs, and then I dive deep into all the hooks and documentation for making those happen, a lot of which is about customizing the tabs. People are all about wanting to customize tabs, and I don't like the plug-in for doing that because it's ... I don't know, I don't think it's that efficient and it's funky.
So, I just work with the hooks and use advanced custom fields to set up specific content areas that they need to have their different types of content show on the product pages or category pages, I work with a wide variety of clients, from non-profits to schools... I work with a mountaineering school here in Colorado... to physical products. I also work with a goat milk company in the Northwest.
Angela: So yeah, there's a wide variety there, and I do enjoy the ecosystem a lot.
Clients Looking to Use WooCommerce or Needing to Sell Them On It
Brad: I'm curious. Like you said, you've been on WooCommerce and WordPress for many years now; you've taught classes online and probably even in person in Colorado there. When people come to you, are they already sold on WooCommerce, or are they just coming to you saying, "I need help. I need to get online. I need to sell, or I need to revamp my store?"
I always like to hear people's thoughts on that, because there's a lot of options, more so today than ever, and WooCommerce certainly being one of them and a big part of the market. But there's always the argument that it's not the easiest, right, because just with WordPress, it can do anything you want, but you have to make it do certain things, right, and at some point, you might hit a wall of how far your skills can take you.
So I'm curious, with your experience and the type of people you're working with, what's their feedback? Are they all in on Woo? Do you have to sell them? Is it an educational component, or what's that look like?
Angela: I've had it go both ways. So, one of my first big WooCommerce sites was originally a Shopify site, and they had some complex discounting they wanted to do, which they couldn't do in Shopify. Woo didn't exist at the time, so they moved to a product in Colorado called OrderStorm because they were willing to customize their product to allow for this discounting, but their interface was very 1990s and really clunky and hard to work with.
When they were ready to revamp their site, I knew that WooCommerce was on the scene and it had a lot of potential, so I said, "Well, why don't we do WooCommerce with dynamic pricing plug-in," and that took care of all of their complex discounting needs.
Then, they wanted to integrate with Salesforce and Quickbooks, and I think when you have companies who have more complicated needs, Woo is really the solution because you don't ever have to say no to them about anything. You can make it all happen.
So, that was a Shopify to WooCommerce transition. Then, I just recently had the opposite, where I had a company come to me who had been on the Shoppe plug-in. Do you remember the Shoppe plug-in?
Brad: Oh yeah.
Making Sure That Woo is Right for the Client
Angela: Yeah, that was fun. I didn't really start liking eCommerce until WooCommerce came about, by the way, and there's good reason for that. I hated it, actually.
So, they came to me, they were on Shoppe, they needed to update their look. They had a really good designer in the company. He created these great designs. I coded it all in Woo. It was not an inexpensive project, and it all looked great. I mean, the site was beautiful. They were acquired by another company, and then that company was wanting to streamline things and they moved everything over to Shopify, and the Shopify site looks great, works great. At the time that they came to me, they wanted a product customizer where people could pick different components of the product and visually see it. So we used a product customizer we found on CodeCanyon that was pretty cheap and easy to set up, and that was a big selling point for them to use Woo, was some of these unique things they wanted to do.
But when they were acquired, the company that acquired them said, "These unique things aren't selling. This is a lot of work for not a lot of profit. Let's streamline everything. Let's make it a lot easier to maintain," and so they moved over to Shopify. I was so sad because we had spent so much time on their WooCommerce site, but it was really the right choice for them.
I had another client come to me in Boulder, the mountaineering school... they said, "We want to use WooCommerce. We want to sell courses." I went to WooConf that year and I said, "Maybe you don't want to use WooCommerce. Maybe you want to use a third party package," so I spent all this time trying to talk them out of using WooCommerce just because I wanted to make sure.
They were already sold on WooCommerce, but I needed them to prove to me that they had done their due diligence and looked at all of the other out-of-the-box packages that could meet their needs before we went into doing a bunch of customizations to create these courses, which meant that we had to create custom fields at the variation level for them to be able to track all this information and have it go to Salesforce with dates, per variation, and all these details.
I'm sorry. Is this too nerdy?
Brad: No, this is great. It's exactly what I'm thinking about, because you mentioned the simplicity of platforms like Shopify, and it's something that I struggle with when friends or family come up to me and say, "Hey, you know online. It's what you do. I want to launch a store. How should I do it?" I always say, "You get on Shopify." To start, if it's something new, and I hate to say it, but I feel like it's still the right answer.
If you're just trying to proof a concept on something new, maybe you have a hobby that you're trying to see if there's something there, especially in today's environment when people are trying different things, maybe a career switch, maybe now they're forced to work from home and they need to do some different. They're thinking about, "Oh, this hobby, maybe I can make it a legitimate business. I need to launch a store."
My concern is that they'll get so overwhelmed in the setup and integration of getting WooCommerce running that they'll actually lose focus of proving whether what they have will actually sell. So, spend the 50 bucks a month, or 30 bucks, whatever it is, for a basic Shopify; get a super-simple store online; and then prove that it works.
Then when things start to grow and you're like, "Okay, this is working, this is good," then, in my opinion, that's a great time to start exploring, "Is Shopify where we should stay for the next year, two years, forever, or should we now look at something that's going to be a little bit more robust?" I think that is a challenge that WooCommerce has today and is going to continue to have, is that entry level.
Not So Entry Level Friendly and Then There’s the Maintenance
Angela: It's not entry-level friendly. Also, just the maintenance. I have a couple very simple WooCommerce sites that would be the kind that you just install Woo, you run through the Wizard and it adds your pages, and then we maybe have a very simple flat-rate shipping so we don't have any shipping plug-ins, and they've included tax. We don't have to worry about tax tables.
But then you have the problem of templates. So, let's say you get the Woo pieces all put together and you've added your products. How does your site look? Now you've got to find a theme or have someone customize something for you. You get that all set up so it's working; then you have to maintain it and make sure that it doesn't break.
So yeah, I do the same thing. I talk people out of it all the time. I just say it's a lot of responsibility once you get into all the plug-ins you're going to need. You're going to spend a minimum of $300 to $700 a year on plug-ins, and you need to weigh and balance that, plus maintenance for someone to keep this updated and have the site not break.
WooCommerce or Shopify or….
Brad: Yeah, I mean, it's an absolutely fair point. I think just to put this in perspective a little bit, the market share of Shopify, I think, is actually bigger than most people realize. So obviously, WordPress dominates platforms out there, but in terms of websites that are running a content management system — and this is coming from W3Techs.com — but a website running a CMS, WordPress is number one at 63 percent. Shopify is number two at 4.3 percent, and it's ahead of Joomla, it's ahead of Drupal, it's ahead of these really robust platforms that aren't just eCommerce, that can do a lot more, just like WordPress can.
But it's sitting at number two, and it has passed Joomla and is ahead of Drupal, which I think is pretty astonishing that Shopify is such a large platform now,. I think that is a very big uphill battle that WooCommerce has to figure out. I do think it is important, because yes, it is that smaller market. It is the small business, mom-and-pop shops that are going in that entry level. A massive component of online sales is that S&B side, and that's where they're struggling.
Angela: Well, and it's also like this big company. I mean, this is a big company with manufacturing that transitioned to Shopify because they just realized it was more efficient for them all around. They didn't have to maintain a site and hosting and all of that. Shopify scales, and I think companies like SkyVerge and those people who are developing add-ons for Shopify, and also WooCommerce, they've been able to provide a lot of stuff for Shopify that makes it a highly competitive product.
Thanks to our sponsor: This episode is brought to you by Recapture Abandoned Cart Recovery and email marketing for WooCommerce.
Anyone who runs a Woo shop knows how frustrating abandoned carts are. And getting them back with Recapture is easy and setup takes less than 5 minutes. With their ready-to-use emails you can take them out of the box and start working for you right away. You’ll save time having to start from scratch.
Abandoned cart emails are managed for you automatically as the email service runs outside of your store ensuring the best delivery to your customers. The easy to ready analytics reports will help you to monitor your cart recover. And what’s really cool is you can watch what is happening live on your store with Recaptures Live Cart Feed.
The plugin is highly optimized so don’t worry about it slowing down your site. And their guarantee of email delivery, traffic increase loads and support make it a valuable investment compared to the free plugins out there.
From what I hear, if you sign up you will be joining thousands of merchants who have already recovered over $115,000,000.
Make sure and check them out and as a listener, get 60 days free with Recapture. Just go to Recapture.io/dothewoo-special
And now, back to our conversation.
Brad: I like what you mentioned, where you made the client prove that they had done their due diligence. I think that's a really respectful thing that you did, because I don't think that's common. I think most people would say, "Great, you want to use the platform that I can set you up with. Awesome."
I look at WooCommerce, and I've said this on the show before, but I really look at all these things as different tools, right? There's a lot of options out there, whether it's WooCommerce or Shopify or even BigCommerce, which is growing, and a number of other ones, Wix, even, that are a potential fit for what the person is looking to do. So, we sit down and really analyze, like, "All right, what are you looking to do? Let's work backwards from your goals and make sure that we're putting together the best plan to hit your goals, for you to be successful, and maybe that's WooCommerce, maybe it's not." Maybe it's really tight Gutenberg integration; maybe it's not.
I think you're doing a really good service for your clients by having those conversations, even if it might mean you're potentially losing some work, because if you're putting them on a platform that, ultimately, you're just shoving them in where they may not fit, then at some point, it's going to end up coming back on you and blowing up in your face because you didn't do right by your clients or by whoever you're trying to help by not actually figuring out what they need and going from there. You're just forcing a solution on them.
I mean, I'm a big fan of WooCommerce. Obviously, we do a podcast about it, but I don't think it's the right fit for absolutely everything. I don't think anything is the right fit for everything in terms of online, right, even WordPress, believe it or not.
Helping the Client Choose the Platform
Angela: Especially if you know their competitors are using other products. What I did is I created a pretty big spreadsheet of every one of their competitors, every platform those competitors were using, the pluses and minuses of those platforms, and made them look at that with me.
Brad: It would be a pretty interesting analysis. What are the competitors all using, if you remember or can even talk about it? Were they all using the same platforms or were they all different?
Angela: There were a few. There was a handful of platforms that they were using. One was even using Gravity Forms. That was fascinating. I love Gravity Forms. You can rock the world with Gravity Forms.
No, they were pretty sophisticated platforms, and I felt they were really viable, but this client said, "I have this one specific thing that we really want to do, and we don't believe that we can do it in these other platforms." They were actually coming off a platform that was costing them a lot of money every month, and they wanted to just run it themselves, and I was very honest with them about, "Well, this is going to cost a lot of money. You're going to pay me a lot of money. You're going to have a lot of things come up." They've been happy so far, and we even hired a team in India to do a few of the customizations for them.
We did some customizations that they ended up realizing they didn't really need, and we didn't use. Clients can come up with lots of complicated problems that sometimes they don't really need to solve. I think that's been my biggest learning experience with WooCommerce, is clients want it because they can. They are making things more complicated than they need to be.
Brad: I know exactly what you're talking about. Yeah, that's the problem, sometimes they over-complicate things, and I think a lot of it is just because they're not understanding the effort that goes into doing something. Again, I'm generalizing a little bit, but I see this a lot of requests without understanding the effort it takes to do something. There's an assumption like, "Okay, well, we want to do this," but they don't realize the ask is a hundred-hour custom integration because there's no other option.
A lot of it is just educational, like you said,. To say, "Hey, is that really going to be worth the effort or the cost or the time? Are you really going to see a return on that?" We're always coaching clients or working with clients who say, "Where's the biggest bang for your buck? You're investing in us. We want you to be successful, because if you're successful, then we're successful, and that means there's also more work, so it's a win-win." So, rather than focus on this crazy feature that maybe nobody will use, let's focus on the areas that we know they're going to love and prove worth resources. So yeah, it's a lot of just education with your clients.
Angela: You can even educate them, and they still insist that they need and must have this thing. I'd say using WooCommerce has humbled me. It's humbled me in terms of selling people on it and realizing I don't want to sell them on it. It's humbled me in terms of just the effort it takes to keep it going and not having things break, but mostly in those feature requests. They all insist on doing it, and I feel like now, in the future, I've had enough experience where I would probably push back even harder on not making the money and convincing them not to do something that they think that they must do.
I might even push more people toward Shopify, honestly, even if they have hundreds of thousands of dollars of income coming in through their site. Yeah, I'd have to find out what the break point would be, price-wise, for using Shopify versus Woo.
Brad: I think a fair comparison is when you look at an eCommerce setup and at the hosting. I think there's a fair comparison between a managed hosts, somebody like a WPEngine or a Pagely, where they do it all for you, right? They handle the servers. You know high-level specs, but you don't need to know all the minute details of how everything is set up. They just handle it for you, but there's a greater cost for that versus going with Amazon, AWS. It's super cheap to spin up very powerful servers, but generally speaking, you're going to have to pay a system administrator or someone that knows what they're doing to do that and to continue to maintain it.
So, I look at AWS like the WooCommerce setup. It could be cheaper, it's endlessly flexible, but you have to pay someone or have a team that could manage that ongoing, so there's that cost on top of it. Or you go with something that's managed like a Shopify, and they take all the headaches out. There's no updates. They have a whole support team and staff to make sure your shop is running and working and online. It's not on you to necessarily manage that.
You need to compare those. Do you want to pay more for that managed part? Maybe, but then there are also going to be some guard rails and some walls you're going to hit, like you mentioned, where you might want to do something that you can't do because it's just not possible on that platform.
It's really give and take. Like you said, I think the smart move is to really look at a couple different platforms, weigh out pros and cons, map out what's important to that person in terms of their store and their features, and what are absolutely must-haves versus a wish list. Make that fair comparison and then really see where everything lands to help you make that decision, because it is a big decision. It doesn't mean you can't move off it, but again, you get a very established store migrating to a different platform. It turns into a pretty large undertaking.
Plugins and Performance
Angela: Yeah, and I think it's good that you mentioned the hosting environments, because that's the other thing that that has made this a very humbling experience. I've had to move a lot of people off of different hosts, including some hosts that we really do love and I've cherished for years, because WooCommerce just runs slow on their end. A lot of sites that I end up working with become resource-intensive because people can do so much with their WooCommerce site . They can run all these plug-ins and use all of this customer engagement plug-ins, and different things that grind their site to a halt. And if they don't have the right hosting resources behind it, enough memory and CPU being thrown at it, it's going to be slow.
So, I've moved people over to a web host where the host doesn't have fixed pricing. They just charge per the usage of what they're using on Amazon. So, if they need more CPU, they need more memory, they're going to get it, but they're going to pay for it.
I think that's the biggest education thing with clients. Just because you can install a plug-in doesn't mean you should, and just because you think you need that plug-in doesn't mean you really need it. How to talk people back from that and get them to understand the performance that that's going to take. It's mind-blowing to me, and I don't really have a good answer for it. I'd say, right now, my biggest pain point with WooCommerce is performance, because of those things.
Brad: That's something we hear a lot about, and it's fair, because it's doing a lot. There's a lot going on in a eCommerce site versus just a standard content site. It's transactional, there's payments, there's inventory, there's products, there's all sorts of stuff. Performance definitely an area that people need to be aware of upfront to make sure that their setup is going to scale, at least initially, before they decide to make a bigger investment.
Angela: Yeah, and you could go to a VPS and still not get the performance that you need. It's such a huge discussion, and I'd say in terms of doing WooCommerce, it's become the one area that's made me not want to have to do it. You can get deep into New Relic and start proving to them, "Hey, this one plug-in you're using is the problem". You have to a pretty extensive background to dive into some of that stuff.
Brad: Yeah, I mean, I look at plug-ins like it's technical debt. If you launch a site with 50 plug-ins, they're doing 50 different things. The longer the site is running and growing, the more features that are potentially embedded. Which means they're potentially harder to get rid of. Now, to your point, you're stuck supporting those. You're stuck updating them. There's a potential that any one of them, or multiple plug-ins, can have performance or security issues.
It's just more stuff you have to monitor. We build very complex sites, and people are usually surprised, and we'll have eight or 10 plug-ins, and they're really big sites. But we take a lot of the stuff that you might use a plug-in for and we don't use a plug-in. Social sharing buttons, you don't really need a plug-in for that if you know what you're doing, and then there's one less thing you have to worry about. Is this going to break when we update it? Are all Facebook Like buttons or whatever going to stop working when I click update? We just take that away. We take that potential away and we just hard code it, because it is what it is, and if it changes, we'll just change the code, but it doesn't change often.
So, I would say, it's just technical debt. Everything you add into your site, every piece of code, every plug-in, your theme, everything... there is a cost, and the more complex it gets, the higher up that cost is going to go, so try to keep it as simple as you can.
Thanks to our sponsor:This episode is brought to you by Mode Effect, an eCommerce agency that specializes in WooCommerce.
Cody and the team at Mode Effect not only provide design and development of WooCommerce sites, but they are your partner to help you with site optimization and speed. We all know the importance of a fast loading shop. Whether it’s your customers who will likely leave a slow loading site or your customer services reps spending too much time on admin pages loading slow.
At Mode Effect, they help eCommerce stores get where they need to be by optimizing for speed and increased profits. So if you tired of losing money and time, I would recommend you visit ModeEffect.com and have the professionals there get you the high profits and increased speed that you and your WooCommerce site deserve. That’s Mode Effect.com.
Now let’s head on back to the show.
Page Builders and WooCommerce
Bob: How do you feel about... earlier, you talked about hooks and templates. That seems to be what you really enjoy getting into, so how do you feel about people integrating page-builders into WooCommerce sites, or what has been your experience?
Angela: I've just started to be the organizer for the Elementor Boulder meet-up, and just started using Elementor in December. I've used page builders because I teach classes to people who want to build sites for clients, and they don't necessarily want to have to learn how to do PHP. I tried teaching people how to do templating. I tried teaching Brad Williams' book to people. In a class of 10 people, I might have one person who could run with that.
I get a lot of designers and a lot of people in mid-life career transition who are very good at marketing, design, who really want to build sites for clients, and the page builders are the way to go. Personally, with my WooCommerce templates, I haven't done much with the templates at all. Because of the hooks, you don't really have to touch the templates a lot. You can do a ton of stuff with advanced custom fields and the functions file, and CSS. You don't necessarily have to be modifying the WooCommerce templates a lot.
So, in terms of Elementor, that will be a new thing that I'll be getting into teaching and showing people how to use Elementor to create a custom WooCommerce product page, an archive page. But I honestly don't know how I feel about that yet.
Bob: Okay, we'll look to have you back, then.
Angela: Yeah! I want people to know the hook system. I want people to work with hooks, but I want people to know a lot of things that they don't want to know, so I don't know what to say about that.
Gutenberg and Core
Bob: What about Gutenberg and how WooCommerce is working into that? Any thoughts?
Angela: I'd say that's the direction to go. I guess my general want of direction for everyone is to do things the WordPress way. So whatever WordPress is doing, that's what we should be doing, because then it's going to be maintained. It's going to go that direction more and more and you won't have to have these additional plug-ins. So, if you can rely on WordPress Core without having to layer a third party plug-in's templates on top of that, I'd say I'd want that to be the case. But I haven't gotten deep into that, either.
Bob: It's all futuristic.
Angela: Yeah. So far it's been just a lot of PHP, and I'm just so happy to stay right in that and not have that crux of the template builder, though I've been building a lot of really complex templates with Elementor lately and using some plug-ins that will allow you to do all those same conditionals on your fields with your advanced custom fields in Elementor. I'm doing it, and I'm scared at the same time. I'm like, "Should I be doing this? Should I have just coded this?" I don't know.
The Challenges of Maintenance and Databases
It's a different world than it was in 2008. There's things that are just too easy to do and too tempting to do, and I don't know. I think I'm more curious these days in terms of WooCommerce and maintenance. What are the best practices for maintaining a WooCommerce site? Should you ever purge old clients from your users' list? Should you ever archive old orders? If you have a site that's been running on WooCommerce since 2012 and you have these tables in your database that have grown just exponentially, should we look at archiving some of that old data and purging it?
Brad: Yeah, that's an interesting point. I haven't really thought about it, but it does go back to that performance concern, right? That's an area we see in WordPress. Sites that have a ton of content and have been around for a long time. There's essentially two tables, the post and the post-meta table, that just get massive, especially the post-meta table, because for every entry, there's 10 entries at minimum, and most sites have way more than that.
It's actually not a bad thought. You need to be able to get to that data. You don't want to delete it because you might need it. If somebody comes back five years later and you're trying to figure out what they ordered and how you can help them, but it doesn't necessarily need to be in your primary tables. There's probably a market for that if WooCommerce isn't interested, like a third party to build something that helps you offload that, put it somewhere else where you can get to it but it's not right in your face to help with performance.
Angela: Yeah. I had a client with 7,000 coupons in their WooCommerce database, and when we updated WooCommerce subscriptions and WooCommerce points and rewards plug-in, something about their existing coupons made the coupons page throw a fatal error. So we did a rollback with the points and reward plug-in and got them to delete a bunch of coupons just because I was looking at them like, "You have a lot of coupons going back six years. I think we can get rid of them now. They're all expired." Then, we didn't have the crash happen any more because it was just a few coupons in there that that was causing the problem.
I do feel like when these WooCommerce sites are in the hands of business owners, they don't know anything about how to keep their sites clean. A lot of my hand-holding these days is with sites after they're set up and I didn't necessarily set it up. Maybe I re-skinned it, but now, instead of just being the themer person, I'm now their support person, their technical support person for everything that I know very little about. But I'm the only one they have to go to to figure this out. It's a lot of demand and a lot of stress on people to support a WooCommerce site, I have to say.
It's very, very fun to build, very fun to theme and to set up, but a pain in the butt moving forward, particularly if you have clients who have a lot of stuff and a lot of legacy stuff. If you're going to take on Woo, you're taking on a lot of responsibility, so you want to have that real sense of partnership with who you work with and trust, and that you're on the same page with how you're going to manage the site going forward.
Because anything they mess up is going to come back to you to help them with. I only have the bandwidth to maintain a certain number of WooCommerce sites, and with certain types of clients so that I know that I'm not going to have my days interrupted frequently with problems happening with the WooCommerce site. Not because anything wrong is with WooCommerce, but it's all these other plug-ins.
I don't know how you feel about that, Brad, but those relationships last a long time with your clients.
Choosing Your Clients. Knowing Your Limits.
Brad: Yeah, it goes back to making the right recommendations, finding the right fit, not just for them, but for you. I think a lot of people forget that. I understand it's business and we're in it to make money, but if you're setting yourself up in a position to fail, you probably will, so it doesn't make sense to take on a project you're uncomfortable with, or to build out a site that you know is not going to work well in WooCommerce just because they want it. It's just going to end up in a very bad spot.
You want to get good clients. You don't want the needy clients that don't respect the boundaries that you set. I understand there's emergencies that happen, and we have contingencies for that and plans for that, but all too often, you hear, "Well, we don't really need that SLA," or, "We don't need that 24/7 support." Okay, but then, when they do need it, and it's at 10:00 at night and they're wondering why we're not hopping on the line to help, well, we've had those conversations.
You want to just make sure everything is very clear up front. They understand what services you're providing, especially on the support side, because there is going to be that expectation if something goes wrong at night. Are they going to call you? Is there an expectation that you're going to fix it? If there is, make sure it's written down, and make sure you're getting paid for it.
Angela: Yeah, that's why I don't think I'll re-skin sites anymore, because the sites that I've helped people build from the ground up, I've chosen all the plug-ins, I've advised them on the plug-ins. They don't install a bunch of stuff. I feel comfortable in that space. I'm great. The clients who really do install all their own plug-ins... things are a little bit more out of control.
Brad: They know enough to be dangerous, right?
Angela: It's not like they're all horrible plug-ins. Sometimes they are and sometimes they're not, but it's like, "Wow, I just can't support you in the way that you need support," because there's too many variables here that I don't work with in my other WooCommerce projects. I only hear about them when they need new features, and I only hear about you when your site is not working properly, and that's not my fault. I'm your themer. But now, I'm going to remove myself from that role. If I can't fully support them on their site completely, I'm not even going to agree to be the person to re-skin it.
It's an interesting role when you're a solopreneur. You end up wearing maybe more hats than you want to wear. So, there's a learning curve, a lot of responsibility with WooCommerce, and I think we could all be very conscious of that responsibility we're putting on ourselves and on our clients.
Bob: Yeah, well, perfect words of wisdom to round out the show with, and especially since I won't ask either of you for support for my site, which has, I won't tell you how many plug-ins, but we'll just leave it at that. I'll deal with my plug-ins and moan and groan to myself if I have issues.
Any announcements? I was going to say WooCommerce 4.3 may or may not be out by the time the show comes out. We'll see. Angela, anything you have going on, either personally or professionally, you want to share?
Angela: Well, I am, again, the co-organizer of the Elementor Boulder meet-up. We meet the first Tuesday of every month, and that's at noon Mountain Daylight Time. You can find us on meetup.com, Elementor Boulder. We will be talking about WooCommerce templates at some point in the near future.
I'm also the co-organizer for the Boulder WordPress meet-up, which is the third Tuesday of every month at 6:00 PM, and again, on meetup.com, Boulder WordPress. These are all via Zoom, and it's been great to have people from around the country participating in these. I'm teaching a class July 13th and 15th at Boulder Digital Arts on SEO. Part of the class is just basics of SEO, the rest of the class is setup in Yoast and understanding anything and everything you need to know about Yoast. So, I'm excited to be doing that.
Bob: Excellent. Brad, anything? Another book coming out or anything like that?
Brad: No. Well, who knows, but nothing on the horizon, so check out Professional WordPress Plug-in Development, Second Edition, it's out on Amazon. Give that a shot. It just came out just a few weeks ago, actually. So, that's all.
Angela: Highly recommend.
Brad: Angela is a big fan of our WordPress series, so we might be talking about the fourth edition of the other book, the original. We'll see. Nothing official yet, but we'll see. I don't know, after hearing everything you've got going on, Angela, I feel like I need more on my plate, but I don't really have much, It's summer time. Just trying to get in the sun and float in water somewhere.
Bob: All righty, well, Brad, do you want to close it out for us?
Brad: Absolutely. So, Angela, why don't you tell everyone where they can find you online? Website, social media, any places they could reach out and say hi?
Angela: AskWPGirl.com, and then AskWPGirl everywhere,Twitter, Instagram, Facebook. I'm also a co-host of the Women in WordPress podcast, so we'd love for you to tune into that as well. That's WomeninWP.com, and on Twitter, WomeninWP.
Brad: Check it out. We always love when we have fellow podcasters on the show, because then, Bob and I don't have to talk as much, which is great. This was a really good show.
I want to thank our sponsors before we wrap up here. Recapture.io, they've been a sponsor for a number of episodes now, but just like the tagline says, in five minutes, you can get rid of your abandoned cart problem and boost your store's revenue by 10 percent. I don't know why you wouldn't take them up on that. So, if you're not doing any abandoned cart setup or integration, you should be, so check out Recapture.io.
WooCommerce is always our community sponsor, and Mode Effect... Cody L., one of my buddies. If you're looking for some WooCommerce support, build-outs, anything like that, you can check out Mode Effect.com, and Cody L. will take care of you over there.
What did I forget, Bob, anything?
Bob: No, I think that's it. I think we're good to go.
Again, thanks, Angela, it was great having you on and hearing about your Woo-ness.
Angela: Thank you.
Brad: So until next time, I'm Brad and he's Bob, and we'll see you on the next Do the Woo.
Scroll back to top
Sign up to receive email updates
Enter your name and email address below and I'll send you periodic updates about the podcast.