E-Commerce in WordPress

WordPress is still not ready to be Amazon when it comes to selling things, but in the past few years it’s come a lot closer. Installing a shopping cart plugin and adding products is not that hard. Getting all the assets and information you need to make it work from your client and getting it to look like you want can be much more of a challenge. We’ll be looking at sites built with Cart66 and WooCommerce and discuss the pros and cons of each. 

I don’t know if I consider myself an expert in this subject, but I’ve done enough e-commerce sites at this point, that I have a clue. When someone asks for a ballpark price on an e-commerce site – or how to charge for it; my first reaction is to say “double it”. Whatever price the base site is, by the time you add the cart, the products and all their variations, get the images together and most importantly, gotten the information you need from the client to actually make the cart work: you’ve spent at least twice the time you would to build a “regular” site.

Interview twice, code once

A lot of clients who want to sell things on the web have a pretty vague idea of how it will work. It’s the developer’s job to ask all the right questions so that the process and the technical details are crystal clear. I use a questionnaire for new clients; when they want to sell things I hand them a second one and then sit down and talk it through. You need to get these questions answered BEFORE you settle on a cart plugin.

  • E-commerce in WordPressShipping – believe or not, this can be one of the most difficult things to settle on. If all you’re doing is digital downloads, congratulations. Flat rate or variable? UPS, USPS, FedEx? Special rates for a certain price point? Handling charges? Is there a distribution center involved or are they shipping out of their kitchen? Who needs to be notified when there’s a new sale? Different cart plugins handle this very differently and the research can be difficult. 
  • Payment Gateway – All the developer needs for this is the API number and to know that whatever gateway is being used will work with whatever cart. If the client already has this setup, then you need to make sure you can make it work in the cart of choice. If not, you may have some say on the choice. The client needs to do the hard work here: find a banker that knows what they’re talking about and find a gateway account that suits their needs and doesn’t cost too much. AND they need to know how to login and find that API number.
  • SSL Certificate – Do your homework, the process for getting this installed varies by host and for your sanity, should be done before you install WP and start developing if possible. This is more work for the client as well, they need to order and pay for it.
  • Product Information – How many makes a difference, if there are a lot and you want to upload in a batch – do more research on the cart. This information has to come from the client as well: do they have a spreadsheet ready? SKU numbers, exact weight & dimensions, descriptions, variations all need to be provided in a hopefully consistent manner.
  • Images – Most carts benefit from a consistent grid layout – consistent image sizes are an important part of achieving that. If what the client has for product images is all over the board in terms of size and orientation – be sure to factor the time to fix that that into your cost.
  • Design/layout – Some carts like Woocommerce come with a pre-baked layout. With some work, you can style it to your needs, but there are some things you can’t change. If that works for you, terrific. If customizing the layout is important, a simpler “just add the button” plugin like Cart66 may be better.
  • End Use – Considering your client’s technical abilities and how often things need updating are important too. Woocommerce keeps all the product stuff in one place. With Cart66, you may have a database entry, a custom post type and a separate Gravity form to update.

I’ve only mentioned 2 cart plugins here, because those are the devils I know personally. I cannot emphasize the need for research, experimentation and the need for complete information from the client enough. The more you know ahead of time, the better decision you will make and the easier the project will be.