Setting up a Shopping Cart: WooCommerce

The last few weeks, I have been helping a Website HELP Wednesday client set up WooCommerce. I was surprised to find how many places that process has some unneeded confusions due to bad UI (user interface) design. So, I thought I would install WooComerce on my own site and detail the process. For my case study, I will set up a shopping cart where people can purchase hours of web development time.

Shopping Cart Background

I have been setting up e-commerce sites since about 2002. In those days,  Miva Merchant was one of the quality options. I was quite surprised to find that Miva Merchant is still available now. In the last 90s and early 2000s quite a few website owners had homegrown shopping cart systems, developed by their website programmer. In those days, security wasn’t much of a consideration.

Today, Miva Merchant has significant competition, which means a site owner has many options. Some of them are online in their own system, such as Shopify. These are called web services or SaaS (software as a service). Others are software packages you can add to your website pretty much wherever it is hosted, such as WooCommerce added as a plugin to WordPress. Both methods (SaaS and installed software) have their benefits and drawbacks.

Even in the last few years, I have seen more than one shopping site that still has one of those old, home-grown systems. In those cases, most any choice probably has better security than what you have. Whatever the system you choose, you will find features that impress and others that frustrate. Some of the frustration points are UX (user experience) mistakes on the part of the software creators.

Here, we will look at the process and bug-a-boo’s in WooCommerce, a free shopping cart plugin for WordPress.

Installing WooCommerce

Plugin writers can change their plugins any time they want to. Since I have worked in WooCommerce before, I was surprised to find the Wizard pop up immediately on install (1). I curbed my annoyance and took a look.

Address Fields: If you have a home-based business, just your address can be a problem. To protect your privacy, I suggest getting a PO Box. But, I have an office in an office building in Missoula, and yet I use a PO Box. That’s because walk-in traffic is a problem for my workflow. When I don’t have appointments, I’m working on someone’s website. Walk-in traffic disrupts both my workflow and my schedule.

Type of Product Field: One of the problems with many forms is when you are forced to make a choice, but your choice does not exist. My product is time. If I choose physical, shipping information will be part of the product information. If I choose digital, a download will be part of the product information. In my case, a schedule would be more appropriate.

In Person Sales Field: This field does not show in the screenshot because it is covered by the dropdown, but you can check whether items will be sold in person. This is important in that it affects your inventory. If your site says that there are 5 items in stock, but someone sells one in person, someone could order an item that is not available.


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