This WooCommerce review will show you what this eCommerce plugin can do. Turn your WordPress site into an online shop. Find out all the features WooCommerce has.
Unless you’ve been hiding under a rock, you’ll know that WooCommerce is big news these days. It’s used by over a quarter of ALL e-commerce websites in the world, which is pretty incredible. This is the ultimate WooCommerce review.
And WooCommerce is here to stay. It was acquired by Automattic – the company behind WordPress – in 2015. It now has the leadership and resources to remain the leading e-commerce platform and continue gaining market share. It’s likely that WooCommerce will become available as an add-on for wordpress.com sites at some point. This will open it up to a huge new market.
So what is WooCommerce and is it worth using for your own e-commerce store? In this WooCommerce review, we’ll look at what WooCommerce is, what types of websites it’s used for and the pros and cons of WooCommerce. We’ll also look at the different options for getting a WooCommerce site designed, whatever your budget.
What Is WooCommerce?
Ok, let’s start this WooCommerce review with the basics – what actually is WooCommerce?
WooCommerce is an e-commerce WordPress plugin. Originally developed by WooThemes as an offshoot of JigoShop, it quickly became a huge WooCommerce solution in its own right. Under the new ownership, WooCommerce continues going from strength to strength.
The WooCommerce plugin lets you monetize any WordPress website by selling products online. You can use it to create different types of online stores including normal shops selling products for delivery, virtual and downloadable products and affiliate products sold on third party websites.
The core WooCommerce plugin has all the features that most e-commerce websites need. This includes multiple product types, product categories and tags, shipping options, tax rates and 5 payment gateways. Instead of listing all the features in this WooCommerce review (and there are a LOT of features!), you can see them all on WooCommerce.com.
What Does WooCommerce Cost?
The great news is that WooCommerce is 100% free of charge! You can download it on wordpress.org and get started without paying a penny.
A WooCommerce website isn’t completely free of charge because you still need to pay for web hosting and domain name registration (recommend NameCheap), as a minimum.
You will also need a WooCommerce-ready theme. This means that the theme works with WooCommerce and will look good with your e-commerce pages such as products, categories, cart, and checkout. Fortunately, some fantastic free WooCommerce themes are available such as Storefront, the official WooCommerce theme. Or if you head over to ThemeForest and search for WooCommerce themes then you can buy a huge range of designs for about $50. There are currently over 3,900 WooCommerce themes on ThemeForest!
If the extensive list of features available in WooCommerce itself meet your needs, then you won’t need any paid extensions. If you do need extra features, then you may need to buy these. Plenty of cheap WooCommerce add-ons is available from third party plugin developers. However, the official WooCommerce extensions are expensive and typically cost over $99/year. This means that the cost can add up if your store has complex requirements.
Who Is WooCommerce Suitable For?
Because of its flexibility, WooCommerce is suitable for any size of e-commerce business in any sector. It’s used by everything from sole traders to huge corporations.
You can have a WooCommerce website with just 1 product. Equally, you can add tens of thousands of products to a WooCommerce store.
In the same way, a WooCommerce website can be very simple or very complex. You can use WooCommerce exactly as it comes with a simple theme. Or you can use it as the foundation for a much more bespoke e-commerce solution with complex functionality.
What Do I Need To Run WooCommerce?
WooCommerce will work on any self-hosted WordPress website that has reasonably up to date software. Here are the specific server requirements:
- PHP 5.6 or greater
- MySQL 5.6 or greater
- WooCommerce 2.5 requires WordPress 4.1+
- WooCommerce 2.6 requires WordPress 4.4+
- WP Memory limit of 64 MB or greater (128 MB or higher is preferred)
Any good WordPress website should meet these requirements anyway, so they’re not asking for anything special.
WooCommerce works well in all modern web browsers. Like most websites and plugins, it won’t work properly in really old versions of Internet Explorer such as IE6 and IE7. I wouldn’t worry about this unless a high proportion of your audience is using these browsers. (You can tell this by checking your Google Analytics.)
So WooCommerce is suitable for any type of business and will run well on your website. But is it actually any good? Let’s get to the heart of this WooCommerce review.
What’s Good About WooCommerce?
Easy to set up
One of the best things about WooCommerce is that it’s really easy to use and set up.
When you install WooCommerce, it takes you through a simple setup wizard. This takes you through all the main steps such as choosing your currency and tax rates, setting up a payment gateway and creating the main WooCommerce pages such as your Shop, Cart, and Checkout. You can then start adding products immediately without having to look at the more detailed options pages. This is ideal for WooCommerce beginners.
This video shows you how to set up WooCommerce in 5 minutes:
Adding a WooCommerce product is just like adding a blog post in WordPress, but with a few extra options.
Adding categories and tags is also just like using categories and tags for WordPress posts. So if you’ve used WordPress before then working with WooCommerce will be familiar with no big surprises.
I have read WooCommerce reviews where the reviewer found it hard to get the hand of WooCommerce because it’s so similar to other parts of WordPress. I completely disagree with this view. It’s a good thing that WooCommerce embraces WordPress and closely integrates with it. This creates a consistent user experience and makes it easy to get up and running with WooCommerce.
Extra options for intermediate users and developers
WooCommerce has more in-depth options available if you choose to use them. The settings pages are comprehensive and self-explanatory – perfect for intermediate or advanced WooCommerce users. They let you control most aspects of your WooCommerce store without writing any code.
And for WooCommerce power users, you can get down and dirty with writing your own code to customize WooCommerce. While you should never modify the core WooCommerce plugin, there are plenty of hooks and a REST API for developers to use for their own customizations.
This means that you can use WooCommerce in a very simple way that a beginner can set up – right through to advanced usages for experienced developers.
Choice of payment gateways
Out of the box, WooCommerce comes with a choice of 5 payment gateways. You can easily activate one or more of these for your e-commerce website:
- Direct Bank Transfer
- Check Payment
- Cash on Delivery
- Simplify Commerce (The United States only)
I think that PayPal Payments Standard is by far the easiest online payment method and suitable for most WooCommerce sites.
If you want to add different payment processors, then there are plenty of WooCommerce extensions to make this easier. My favorites include Stripe and PayMill. These are both easy to set up and are a professional way to accept credit/debit card payments.
You can also use other providers such as Worldpay and Sagepay. While the WooCommerce extensions are fine, some payment providers make you jump through a lot of hoops so getting them set up is an onerous process. However, this is the fault of the payment providers, so it doesn’t affect my WooCommerce review.
Here’s a full list of the available WooCommerce payment gateways.
Extend your store with tens of thousands of WooCommerce plugins
As you can see, the core WooCommerce plugin has enough features to suit most online stores. If its off-the-shelf features don’t quite suit your requirements, you can choose from literally thousands of WooCommerce add-on plugins. These add extra features.
As I said earlier in this WooCommerce review, WordPress developers can extend WooCommerce by writing bespoke plugins of their own. However, before you do that, it’s worth looking at what’s available off-the-shelf.
Official WooCommerce extensions
As a starting point, I always recommend looking for an official WooCommerce extension. These are developed by the company behind WordPress and WooCommerce, so you get guaranteed support and compatibility. The choice is endless but here are some of the most popular official WooCommerce extensions:
- Woo Subscriptions – Sell subscriptions with recurring payments, e.g., an annual membership fee.
- WooCommerce Bookings – Sell bookable products, for example, appointment times from a calendar.
- Product Add-Ons – Collect extra information about your products or provide extra options for customers to choose from. Ideal for personalized products.
- Table Rate Shipping – Add more sophisticated shipping options such as WooCommerce weight-based shipping.
- Dynamic Pricing – Create advanced pricing strategies such as quantity-based discounts or different prices depending on user role.
Free WooCommerce plugins
While plenty of official WooCommerce extensions are available, there are lots of gaps. It’s quite likely that you’ll want a feature which isn’t available on woocommerce.com.
To find a third party WooCommerce plugin, you can look for free plugins by searching for WooCommerce plugins on wordpress.org. With over 1,000 free plugins available, you’re likely to find something suitable! Always look at the number of installs, plugin rating and when the plugin was last updated to make sure you’re installing a reputable plugin.
Here are some examples of popular free WooCommerce plugins:
- WooCommerce Image Zoom – Adds a fancy zoom effect to your WooCommerce product images.
- WooCommerce Order Address Print – The easy way to automatically print orders from your WooCommerce website.
- WooCommerce Stock Manager – Improves on the built-in WooCommerce stock management.
Premium WooCommerce plugin extensions
If no official free WooCommerce plugin is available, use Google to search for a plugin with the exact features you’re looking for. There are many WooCommerce plugins available from third party developers. Some of them are excellent and just as good (or better) than the official plugins. If you know what to look for, you can find high-quality plugins that are cheaper than the official extensions.
Here are some examples of popular premium WooCommerce extensions that add functionality you can’t get elsewhere:
- WooCommerce Product Table – Automatically displays your WooCommerce products in a searchable and sortable table view. This offers a handy space-saving alternative to the standard WooCommerce category layout and is good to product directories, bulk order forms and wholesale sites. I wrote about it here.
- The Events Calendar – A suite of plugins from Modern Tribe, covering all aspects of creating an Events Website. Includes a ticketing plugin which integrates with WooCommerce to sell event places online.
- YITH WooCommerce Email Templates – While WooCommerce lets you tweak the colors and logo on your order confirmation emails, this is quite basic. The YITH plugin lets you create much more professional-looking emails for your WooCommerce orders.
- WooCommerce Password Protected Categories – A simple but effective plugin to create private or protected areas of your WooCommerce store. For example, you might want to hide a whole WooCommerce store or create a private area for your wholesale users, separate from your public e-commerce shop.
- Aelia Internationalisation Plugins – Aelia provide a suite of WooCommerce plugins designed to internationalize your store. This includes currency specific pricing, country specific postage and more. The plugins integrate with the main official WooCommerce extensions such as WooCommerce Subscriptions. They have been well designed for compatibility, making them a safe option.
Whatever you want to do with your WooCommerce store, try Googling for a solution, and you’ll probably find a plugin for it!
With third party WooCommerce plugins – either from wordpress.org or independent websites – you need to check the quality first. Read about the company behind the plugin and look for online reviews of the plugin. I actually wrote this post on choosing a WordPress plugin. This will help you to find high-quality plugins that will work well with your website.
Solid code base with good performance
Under the covers, WooCommerce is robust and well coded – a delight for WordPress developers to work with.
WooCommerce is also fast to load, with excellent performance. If your WooCommerce store is running slowly, it’s not the fault of WooCommerce itself. This will be because your site is being weighed down by a bad theme or badly coded extensions. A straightforward WooCommerce website on a good host with the Storefront theme and no extra extensions will be lightweight and fast to load.
If you have a good host and keep your website software up to date, WooCommerce is also very secure.
Expert documentation and support from the team behind WooCommerce
WooCommerce comes with in-depth documentation for every aspect of the e-commerce plugin and its official extensions. I find this to be a really useful resource for finding out what’s possible with WooCommerce and how to achieve different things. They also provide instruction videos, plus a forum for people who buy their paid extensions.
A couple of years ago, I would have said that the team behind WooCommerce was slow to respond and quite negative and defensive to work with. However, things have improved since WooCommerce was taken over by Automattic.
You can now get support from the WooCommerce team within about 1 working day via their support ticketing system. They provide support with the free WooCommerce plugin and the official extensions. I find their support to be positive and helpful. They often go above and beyond to help me fix problems with a WooCommerce website.
WooCommerce Is Hugely Flexible
The best thing about WooCommerce is probably its flexibility. I covered the basics of this in the introductory sections of this WooCommerce review. However, it’s worth noting this in the ‘Pros of WooCommerce’ section too.
I love the fact that you can add so many different types of products. The multiple payment and shipping options are great. It’s so easy to structure your WooCommerce store to create very simple structures with 1 or 2 products, right up to huge stores with many categories and 1000’s of products.
It’s also great that WooCommerce has extras such as user accounts, guest checkout, product variations, product attributes and coupon codes built in as standard. All of these features work seamlessly together, even without the need for WooCommerce add-on plugins.
What’s Wrong With WooCommerce?
So as you can see, WooCommerce has a lot going for it. But it’s definitely not perfect. In this section of the WooCommerce review, I’ll give you a rundown of the worst things about WooCommerce.
Shipping & Variations Too Complicated
As I said, it’s nice to see so many features built into the core WooCommerce plugin. However, a couple of these features are a bit too tricky for beginners.
The worst culprits are shipping options and variations, so let’s look at these one at a time.
In 2016, WooCommerce introduced shipping zones into its core plugin. This lets you charge different postage rates depending on postcode, county, country, etc. You can also add multiple shipping options.
The shipping options are nice and flexible, and meet the need of many more WooCommerce stores without needing extra plugins. However, they’re quite tricky to set up and test, and it’s easy to make mistakes.
Product variations are great but quite tricky to set up. First, you have to add product attributes and make them available for variations. You then have to create a variation for every possible combination. For example, if you’re selling chocolates in 2 box sizes with a choice of 3 ribbon colors then you need 6 variations! Add a few options, and you quickly end up with dozens of variations.
Setting up variations requires a lot of clicks, including clicking on some very tiny arrows that are close to the delete button. (Never a good idea!) It would be good if you could group variations that are the same price instead of having to add each price individually. Overall, the user experience could be improved for WooCommerce variations.
The complexity of WooCommerce shipping options and variations isn’t the end of the world. This is because you can keep it simple and not use these more advanced options. However, if you want to add a few more options, I feel that this could be made simpler.
Can Be Used Irresponsibly
You can use WooCommerce to create a fantastic e-commerce website or a really terrible one!
In the wrong hands, it’s easy to get WooCommerce very wrong. If you make these mistakes, you can end up with a brittle website that breaks when you update it and takes many seconds to load:
- Poor quality third party extensions
- Out of date software
- Too many plugins
- Conflicts between WooCommerce plugins not designed to work together
So many people make these mistakes that I have to include it in the ‘Cons’ section of my WooCommerce review. However, these aren’t actually problems with WooCommerce itself. Instead, they’re problems with how people use WooCommerce. Used correctly, WooCommerce is a stable, robust platform and the foundation of many excellent WordPress websites.
Theme Updates When Overriding Templates
WooCommerce comes with some styling to make it work with most themes. However, in practice, it’s best to use a WooCommerce-ready theme (as I discussed earlier in this review). This is because your store pages will have been properly designed to look good with your theme. They will look more professional and be better tested.
When a theme includes styling for WooCommerce pages, it does this by overriding the template files that come within WooCommerce itself. This works well but can cause problems when you do a software update. (And you should ALWAYS keep your software up to date…)
If WooCommerce itself has been updated, but your theme developer hasn’t updated their template files, this can cause problems. It can also cause problems if you have customized your WooCommerce templates via a child theme.
The safest way around this problem is to use a WooCommerce-compatible theme that is regularly updated. You can then update the theme and WooCommerce together to ensure compatibility. But if you end up customizing your WooCommerce templates, you may need to redo the customizations in future after an update which can get expensive.
Where Can I Get A WooCommerce Website Designed?
Given its popularity, it’s no surprise that there are 100’s of WooCommerce web design companies to choose from. While you’ll find agencies specializing in WooCommerce from all over the globe, it’s not essential to use a local company. This is because web design is usually carried out remotely and you don’t have to meet your web designer. Instead, choose a company that thoroughly understands WooCommerce and meets your price range.
Next, I’ll give you some tips for choosing a suitable WooCommerce web design agency and doing it yourself. Let’s start with lower budgets and work our way up.
DIY WooCommerce websites – Free!
If you’re an intermediate WordPress user or above, then it doesn’t hurt to set up WooCommerce yourself. Set up a WordPress.org website, install WooCommerce and the Storefront theme, and you’re ready to go!
Depending on your level of experience, you might be able to experiment with other themes and WooCommerce extensions. But the stakes are high as you want a well designed WooCommerce site that will maximize your income. The safest option is therefore to find a WooCommerce expert.
Affordable WooCommerce websites under $1,000
If you need a really cheap WooCommerce website, then it’s best to use a template-based solution. Any web designer who will develop a WooCommerce website for such a low budget is unlikely to be very good! In contrast, template-based WooCommerce sites are cheap because they’re efficient to develop, while still being good quality and well coded. This makes your WooCommerce website more affordable.
For example, UK WordPress agency Barn2 Media offers an affordable web design service called MySimpleSite. This comes with a WooCommerce option. They have created MySimpleSite by combining everything that goes into a good WooCommerce website to provide a template-based solution. The designs are clean and modern and meet the needs of most e-commerce online stores. But because they’re not building each site from scratch, you can get a WooCommerce website for a much lower and more affordable price.
Mid-range WooCommerce Websites From $1,000 – $10,000
Most WooCommerce companies charge between $1,000 – $10,000 to design a basic WooCommerce website. Where a website falls within this price range depends on the level of complexity.
If your budget is at the lower end of the price range, then you’re likely to get a theme-based website using a fairly standard WooCommerce setup. In the middle of the budget, you can get some extra features and extensions. Towards the upper range, you might get a bespoke design and/or some complex functionality.
Here are some companies providing flexible WooCommerce solutions for mid-range budgets:
- Pragmatic – One of the UK’s leading WordPress agencies.
- FirstTracks – US WooCommerce specialist agency.
- Inpsyde GmbH – German WooCommerce specialists.
- Barn2 Media – UK-based WordPress and WooCommerce Agency, est. 2009.
High-end WooCommerce Websites For Corporate Clients
At the higher end of the scale, the world is your oyster – if you have the budget for it! Here are some very reputable WordPress companies who develop bespoke WooCommerce websites for larger organizations:
- Human Made – Global company, specializing in large scale WordPress installations including WooCommerce.
- Modern Tribe – Global company that designs websites and software for Fortune 500 companies, governments, educational institutions and well-funded startups.
- WebDevStudios – Big name WordPress company building cutting edge solutions for WordPress and WooCommerce.
WooCommerce Review – In Conclusion
To conclude my WooCommerce review, I think that WooCommerce is easily the best e-commerce platform around. Its sheer popularity is a huge plus point as there are so many good themes, plugins, and WooCommerce agencies available.
It’s fantastic that the free WooCommerce plugin has so many features built in as standard, and on the whole is easy to use. It’s beginner-friendly as well as developer-friendly and can be used to build literally any type of e-commerce website.
As with anything, WooCommerce has a few downsides. Most of these relate to improper use instead of problems with the WooCommerce plugin itself. As a result, my review of WooCommerce is incredibly positive, and I would recommend it to anyone who needs an e-commerce website. Just make sure you build your website properly and responsibly, and you can create a robust WooCommerce website that will earn you money for many years.