Practical Ecommerce

From Magento to WooCommerce, part 2

In “part 1” of this series, I addressed my desire to simplify our company’s ecommerce platform, to move away from Magento. I had decided to test WooCommerce, the WordPress plugin that is suppose to be easy to use and powerful.  In this post, I’ll address my initial findings with WooCommerce.

The first milestone I wanted to achieve is a framework of a decent ecommerce store. By this I mean the creation of a professional-looking store with a few actual products. It has to have a certain quality look and feel — with site navigation and search, and footer links to essential pages, such as “About Us,” “Contact Us,” and “Terms of Use.”

If I could achieve this milestone by myself, it would demonstrate to me how easy (or not) it is to install a WooCommerce store. By getting my hands dirty in this way, I could be more confident in my ability to maintain and improve the store.

This first step was not test in whether to use WooCommerce. After all, when you fit out a brick-and-mortar store, you would presumably use professionals to help. Likewise, to fully set up an ecommerce store, I could consider using a professional. But I prefer to do the initial exploration and setup myself. So that’s what I did.

For starters, I am impatient. I storm ahead and never bother reading manuals. I do, however, keep a log of all my steps and changes, so when it goes horribly wrong I know what I did and can, perhaps, fix it. With Magento, when something goes horribly wrong I inevitably abandon a build, and start again. Such a haphazard approach has forced me to learn how to troubleshoot and how to find Magento resources and forums that help fix the problems I fell into. I do not recommended that approach, however — especially with Magento.

So far WooCommerce has been more forgiving than Magento. WooCommerce has, in fact, been very easy.

I purchased cheap shared hosting at $5 per month. It is cloud based with a cPanel dashboard. As such, installing WordPress was a simple press of a button, and adding WooCommerce just as easy. Then I went to ThemeForest.net and selected a template near to what I wanted my shop to look like. In selecting the template, I ignored the colors and just concentrated on what elements it displayed and where. After all, changing colors is simple.

Having learned from Magento to avoid adding too many extensions, I decided to see if I could avoid them (or many of them) with WooCommerce. I was surprisingly pleased at how inexpensive the theme was, especially when it came bundled with a few extensions anyway.

After a few hiccups — because I was new to WordPress and did not read any documentation — I managed to set up a decent framework. I then decided to import a few products. Anyone who has imported products into Magento presumably knows what a difficult process this is. Not so with WooCommerce.

The free “WP All Import” plugin, together with its free WooCommerce add-on, is a joy to use. It takes any CSV file, and leads you through importing it. It even imported the images, with no trouble whatsoever. It took me less than an hour to populate a spreadsheet, and load it. This would have taken a day or so (and much frustration and failures) with Magento.

So I am happy to say that creating a simple store using WooCommerce is easy, much simpler than Magento. That said, the real test is to come. How easy is it to maintain the store? How easy is it to create new products? Will my customers like it or will the bounce rate increase? Will it convert well? What is the search engine optimization like? Will it integrate with the rest of my systems? After all, there is no point creating a store that does not earn money.

So the big test is to come.  I’ll address it in my next post.

See “From Magento to WooCommerce, part 3.”

email-news-env

Sign up for our email newsletter

Comments ( 19 )

  1. Elizabeth Ball February 20, 2015 Reply

    I found this a fascinating and timely post, Richard. I’m shortly going to launch my new website and like you, have to do it from scratch.
    I visited your new site and wondered if WooCommerce lets you name your filters (ie Alien currently shows as “film=211” in the browser), and whether it’s hard-coded/compulsory to list how many products you have in a category?

    • Richard Stubbings February 20, 2015 Reply

      It’s not my new site. That’s the old one dying in Magento. Sorry.

  2. Leo February 20, 2015 Reply

    Great stuff Richard :) Looking forward for part 3. I also run my online store on WooCommerce, and while some say we’re crazy to do so, it seems that we’re being proven correct as days go by

  3. Prashant Telang February 21, 2015 Reply

    Magento is complex but much more secure. We regularly get at least one case a week to rescue hacked Woocommerce site. Woocommerce wordpress site. Why Woocommerce sites get get hacked and how to prevent it is another subject to discuss. Secondly Woocommerce is based on WP which is essentially not built to do ecommerce. If one finds Magento too complex I would suggest Opencart

    • Richard Stubbings February 21, 2015 Reply

      Why does everyone insist that being built on WP is a bad thing? Why is a cart like Magento or Opencart “better”? Are you suggesting that Woo is not designed and built as a cart?

      The thing is that the one thing that WP is much much better at than any cart is blogging and building a social interactive following.

      In the end what is required in an ecommerce solution is a tool that attracts visitors, converts many into customers and takes money off them, keeps engaging them and keeps them coming back. Personally I dont care what you call it whether a cart or a blog with a buy now button. What matters is what customers think and do and I bet that none of them care what engine is being used.

    • Richard Stubbings February 21, 2015 Reply

      Your comment about security is of course much more important. It definitely needs to be looked at. I would suggest that Magento, in the hands of inexperienced people, can be much less secure than Woo. This is because WP and Woo are frequently updated and the updates are easy and SAFE to apply. For Magento however updates are few and far between and most owners do not apply them except as a last resort because sites get broken when you update.
      That said I will look into security as you quite rightly point out it is essential.

  4. Danny February 23, 2015 Reply

    Hi, great topic, never the less, I have 2 years working with Magento and always have see WooCommerce like a simple plugin, BUT I have not tried it yet, because of time

    It would be interesting to see how they handle configurable products

    Looking forward for part 3 :)

    • Richard Stubbings February 24, 2015 Reply

      One of the reasons I decided to try Woo is because I only have simple products. So I am sorry to say I will not be looking at configurable products as I have no real world experience with them.

  5. Uri Foox February 25, 2015 Reply

    Hi Richard,

    Great article! I was curious if you had tried Pixafy – a SaaS platform built from Magento Community specifically designed for merchants. It alleviates a lot of the issues you run into with Magento such as heavy development knowledge, server infrastructure, plugin comparability, speed and more.

    Full disclaimer, I am the Founder but wanted to get your input as it seems applicable to your journey so far.

    Feel free to reach out – happy to chat!

    Thanks,
    Uri

    • Richard Stubbings February 26, 2015 Reply

      If you had read the comments on Part 1 you would have noticed that I have already replied to this question about SaaS. If you look at my post Magento Go, going going gone you will see my opinion on SaaS

  6. Isaiah Bollinger March 2, 2015 Reply

    If you want a really simple store WooCommerce is not a bad option. However if you want to build a very successful eCommerce store that sells millions of dollars a year online, Magento is most likely a better option.

    If you are looking for simplicity than Shopify might be your best option because you do not have to worry about upgrading the software like you will with WooCommerce or Magento.

    Magento is certainly the most complex small business option but it is also the most powerful and scalable of all the options.

    • Richard Stubbings March 3, 2015 Reply

      Why can’t a simple store sell millions? Shoppers do not care what drives a site. What matters is look and feel. Then prompt delivery. What tools are used for this is immaterial.

      • Paul Peterson March 4, 2015 Reply

        Well, if your hammer is made of ice it might not hold up in the long run :)

        But seriously, which tools you use to run your website may not matter to the shopper, but they will make a difference to the business on the back end. All depends on what your business needs are.

        • Richard Stubbings March 18, 2015

          I agree, the tool you use depends on your business needs, not the value of sales themselves. Magento should not be a default choice JUST because the store takes a lot of money. A Woocommerce store can just as easily take a lot of money. It can also be scaled up with decent CDN set up. So the choice of tool should depend on the business needs and not the amount of sales.

  7. Ray March 20, 2015 Reply

    You mention a free “WP All Import” plugin, together with its free WooCommerce add-on. I’ve only found a $139 “pro” version with the Woo add-on. Is there something I am missing?

    • Richard Stubbings March 31, 2015 Reply

      Yes, if you look closer they have a free version that does most of what the pro version does. The pro version is there for people who will want to schedule regular imports or keep using the import and need the additional features.

    • Richard Stubbings March 31, 2015 Reply

      The free wp import can be found on the wordpress.org site https://wordpress.org/plugins/wp-all-import/
      the extension for woo can likewise be found there.

      • Brian s August 24, 2015 Reply

        Richard, great post. Thanks for the information on the import plugin as I was searching for such a plugin to go from my ooencart to woocommerce. I had initially set up my own site many years ago using WordPress with a shopping cart. I had a lot of visitors per month but just a few sales so I switched to opencart. Opencart, while I liked the back end and how easy it was to put in new items, it was hard to customize any of the html and such to get a better visually appealing store. I also noticed my visitor count drop by half and sales drop over a half.

        That being said I whole heartedly agree with you on the social aspect of the site. Customers want to engage in the process and give their two cents in regards of their likes and dislikes. Especially in regards to my business which is cell phones. With a WordPress site the customers hang out and discuss plans as well as pricing then purchase a phone and/or airtime.

        Having a visually appealing site backed by a blog and a forum is both great for seo as well as customer/business interaction. Any other ecommerce engine if you want to call it that I suppose would be good if your products are something that takes no extra part on the customers mind set in regards to the purchase for example a bus pass or something simple that just needs to be acquired quickly. However a site with a blog/forum will do better when the customer can read up on the pros and cons etc and be able to purchase after reading. Thanks again and good luck

  8. Jed March 2, 2017 Reply

    Hi Richard, great to see your article. As a developer with twenty years experience, eight on WordPress and the same on Magento, I can safely say you’re doing absolutely the right thing.

    Magento’s may be okay if you can afford to employ a team of developers permanently to nurse it along. If you turnover a few million it might be worth the hassle, though arguably it’s better to build bespoke at that level, with the right team. I’m not sure why you would choose to put up with a chronically cumbersome system with little to no support. Updates are uniquely badly handled. The text editor makes me cry with laughter.

    Woocommerce is at the other end of the scale. Simple yet powerful, well thought through, easy to manage, highly intuitive with superb levels of support. There’s really nothing you can do in Magento that you can’t do for half the price in a quarter of the time in Woocommerce.

    Ultimately it’s customer experience that counts. Magento sites tend to lack something compared to Woocommerce because dealing with Magento’s obscenely obscure architecture will always soak up a developer’s resources better spent elsewhere.