One of my existing clients sells their products online. Ok it’s only 3 products but it doesn’t matter. The point is that people can order and pay for these products via the website and have them delivered. When I first met the ladies running the business they were already selling online via their basic html site, that had Paypal cart functionality cobbled onto it, but it was a much more manual setup and they had to constantly make sure the payments had gone through, that the store was online and so on.
As part of improving their website and their customer’s experience I moved the entire thing to a Content Management System (CMS) – in this case WordPress. As the ladies are already avid bloggers the easy blogging interface on WordPress really suited them. And so it made sense to integrate the e-commerce functionality into the CMS as well. So I went on a hunt for an e-commerce plugin, with not too much idea of how different the options I found would be, and even less idea of the features I would end up needing.
My first pick was WP E-Commerce (v3.894) which I installed last year March (2012) with the Evolve child theme. All worked fine for a time, but when I updated Evolve last month it completely bombed out my child theme (which is another story) which prompted me to change themes altogether. At this point I also decided to move away from WP E-Commerce as it had too many template files and the shipping was not doing what I needed (in fact it had never been a perfect fit). As I had already purchased and installed MarketPress on another site I decided to try that. The import from WP E-Commerce onto MarketPress was quick and easy. However the front-end was a disaster. I ended up with multiple menu items called “Order Status” that I could not get rid of until I disabled the plugin. Also my header would not show on the plugin generated pages no matter what I did.
In desperation I looked for an alternative, and I found WooCommerce’s plugin for WordPress. I am now using this one with no issues to report at this stage. And in fact I have replaced Marketpress on the original site I bought it for with WooCommerce1.
Items that I had to consider:
- Being based in the UAE we have a high percentage of expats in the population; a lot of these people have Paypal accounts registered in their home countries but want to ship locally. We needed to be able to lock down shipping without affecting the ability of people to pay with Paypal.
- Ability to update the theme or even WordPress itself without bombing out the way the store pages looked or behaved.
- Customisability of the product and cart pages (template files, CSS etc).
- Order status reporting.
- Plugin support and documentation.
A summary of MY findings and experience below:
|Split Shipping and Billing Address; only pass Billing Address to Payment Gateway (Paypal in this case)||yes||no4||yes|
|Allow Billing Country to be anywhere but lock Shipping to Local||no||no4||yes|
|Plugin uses its own template files||yes2||no||no|
|Plugin creates each store page (shop, cart, my account) which can then be edited easily via WordPress Dashboard||no||no5||yes|
|Plugin integrates with the site’s CSS with minimal fuss; customisability overall is easy||no||no||yes|
|Order Status and Reporting||yes||untested||yes6|
|Multiple Payment gateways supported||yes||yes||yes|
|Emails to Clients are easy to theme or change||no||untested||yes|
|Support and Documentation||poor||good||good|
|TOTAL (out of 10)||5||6||8|
1 → I actually cloned my installation / site (using the BRILLIANT Duplicator plugin) to first test if a migration was possible from MarketPress to Woocommerce (I did not want to re-enter all those products). Happily both plugins make use of WordPress Posts for the products, with some small differences in implementation. The majority of the information (image, description) was retained after I deactivated MarketPress, installed WooCommerce and then removed MarketPress. The information that did not “port” was the SKU, any product variations, price and category. However these were easy to add back.
What has been left behind by MarketPress are some fields starting with “mp” in the Post Meta table that aren’t used by WooCommerce, but they don’t seem to be causing any problem at this stage. I will clean them up though in the next few days (on my dummy site first I think).
2 → WP E-Commerce has its own template files which can be copied to your child theme (good) but modifying the way it looks is still tricky and needs coding experience, so this isn’t necessarily a good thing.
3 → I have had two small configuration issues with WooCommerce on the aesthetics side but these answers been easily obtained online and all working beautifully now.
4 → Didn’t actually get this far so untested.
5 → Only one of the pages is created and can be edited (Store) whilst the others are based on the default page in the theme. Customising these can be done by copying and renaming the page.php file, but I did not have much luck with this.
6 → WP E-commerce also allows you to export order history to an excel file which is very useful. Woocommerce does not.