WooCommerce is the most popular e-commerce plugin that I know of in WordPress.org repository. As of this post it has over 1 million installations online using it.
Currently WooCommerce has gone through a lot of changes in it’s development, mostly because of it’s acquisition by Automattic earlier in the year of WooCommerce.
Here are the stats on it’s current download history as of December 2016:
The products page is pretty straight forward and resembles your average post/page admin throughout WordPress. It’s seamless integration is what makes it a favorite. Each single product page is setup like you would see on a post, with some major modifications for selling online products to ship or digital downloads.
At the bottom of the content area is a metabox to set how the product is sold and variations. It’s pretty intuitive and clean, only when you start making changes to the settings in the plugin do you become potentially overwhelmed.
The Settings Page
This page has numerous options that will send any newbie into decision shock. Many people have said that it’s a matter of just installing and using, but the reality of this monster is it’s not that simple. No two online stores are the same or their shoppers.
Moreover, there is a little less known fact that is not screaming at new folks to WordPress and plugins of this site and that is, making the theme ready.
Your online store is only as good as your theme.
With WooCommerce there are many themes that Woo has build specifically for selling online. But as I’ve stated before, no two stores are alike and have similar needs. So finding that all in one solution will just land you back to a custom theme.
For themes that are not WooCommerce ready, WooCommerce gladly tells you after walking you through a brief setup that it isn’t. However, unless you’re comfortable with PHP and familiar with your themes function file I extremely urge caution.
Then go to https://docs.woocommerce.com/document/woocommerce-theme-developer-handbook/ and copy and paste in after the <?php the snippet in the link (screenshot below).
This is the only way for compatibility to make the plugin work. Without it, you have no online shop.
One other catch
Your shop has no dedicated sidebar and content shows up in the same sidebar as your posts sidebar content. The best way to do so is get a theme that is ready and has a shop sidebar built in when the plugin gets activated. I know that is terrible advice, but fast and sound.
Every theme has a sidebar for the blog that displays content along with single posts and the main blog page. However, with WooCommerce it’s pretty selfish as it does not install a sidebar on a theme dedicated to the shop and product pages. For that you’ll need to create one.
Install, you bet, another WooCommerce plugin.
It makes sense, but again, for the novice not something that everyone knows. For a theme that you are using that is pretty basic, like TwentyTwelve or other default, you’ll need to download WooSidebars plugin. Get it here and see instruction on configuration here.
Once installed you’ll need to configure it so that the content placed in the sidebar via the admin shows up on the proper store pages.
Want a more custom solution without another plugin?
Hold on and get ready for more PHP and touching of your page templates. I’m not going to get in depth and this is not a tutorial because again, each case is unique and depending on the theme author, one of the solutions above should suffice.
But if you are really interested in touching code, here’s a recommended tutorial here.
Beware Plugin Extensions
I our experience, plugins are awesome, but with online stores, we find that customers want over time as their store grows, more functionality. The problem then becomes instability of the site because WooCommerce extensions are not from Woo but third party sources that are building extensions (other plugins) that basically sits on top of WooCommerce.
The result is a Frankenstein of a monster that no one really sees but the site admin or developer. Over time the problem becomes exacerbated and eventually leads to failure of one or all of the functions that you need to stay online or retain shoppers. Here’s a video to watch if you’re new to WooCommerce to see an overview of features and what it can do.
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