So you’ve decided to launch a new eCommerce store. One of the first decisions facing you is which eCommerce platform to base your store on. There are many excellent eCommerce applications to choose from, including Magento, Craft Commerce, and WooCommerce, among others. Before making a choice, you should understand what the options are and how they differ.
In this article, I’m going to focus on WooCommerce, and in future articles I’ll take a look at the others.
WooCommerce Is Free
The first things to know about WooCommerce are that it is free and open source. You don’t have to pay anything to use WooCommerce, and its code can be examined and edited by anyone. You might not understand why this matters, but if you use WooCommerce for your eCommerce store, you own and control the store and its data. That’s not true of many eCommerce platforms.
WooCommerce is based on WordPress, so before we move on to talking about it, let’s take a brief WordPress refresher. WordPress is a content management system. In fact, it’s the most popular content management system in the world by a large margin. A content management system makes it easy to publish content on the web. Rather than writing code, CMS users interact with an intuitive interface. Content management systems make web publishing accessible to everyone.
WooCommerce and WordPress
One of WordPress’ most important features is its plugin system. WordPress itself provides a core set of features for managing and publishing content, including a text editor, taxonomies for organizing content, and under-the-hood systems for interacting with web servers and databases. Plugins extend that basic functionality in interesting ways. For example, the Yoast SEO Plugin adds features that help WordPress users optimize content for search engines. There are many thousands of WordPress plugins.
WooCommerce is a WordPress plugin that modifies WordPress’ behavior and adds features that transform it into a powerful eCommerce platform. WooCommerce can support eCommerce stores that range from single-product stores to stores with thousands of products. WooCommerce brings to WordPress catalogue management features, navigation interface elements suitable for eCommerce stores, integration with payment gateways, tools for managing shipping, and many other features.
WooCommerce is scalable; it’s capable of supporting very busy online retailers. It’s also mobile friendly: many shoppers make purchases on their mobile devices and mobile-friendliness helps to build great experiences for shoppers and with search engine optimization.
Just like WordPress, WooCommerce has its own plugin ecosystem, with a mixture of paid and free plugins. The plugins — or extensions as they’re called in the WooCommerce community — add features to WooCommerce, including payment gateways, analytics integrations, dynamic pricing, among others.
To use WordPress and WooCommerce, you’ll need a hosting account that supports WordPress. Performance and support are especially important where eCommerce is concerned, so you should make sure you choose a hosting provider that understands eCommerce hosting and offers performance-optimized WooCommerce hosting specifically engineered to make the most of WooCommerce.