The View from England

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.”

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