Using WooCommerce: A Beginner’s Guide

Interested in setting up an online shop? Using WooCommerce might just be your best bet.

But before committing to a platform, you probably want to get some questions answered. You might be wondering: How exactly does WooCommerce work, anyway?

Using WooCommerce for Your Online Store

In this blog post, I’ll give you a brief overview of WooCommerce and how it works in relation to:

  • Development
  • Design & Customization
  • Maintenance
  • Security
  • Support
  • Blogging

So…ready to get started?

Development

WooCommerce is an open-source software, which means that the source code is made publicly available, so anyone is able to review and edit the software’s code base; report issues; and fix bugs.

But don’t worry—only the good changes are made. Any changes that are made are first reviewed by WooCommerce’s lead development team before they are implemented.

Think of it like a refined web development version of Wikipedia.

Bottom line? Because WooCommerce is open-source, you generally have more control over the design and functionality. Which brings me to my next point…

Design & Customization

WooCommerce offers one theme, called Storefront. Storefront, which is a “parent theme,” has several “child themes,” which let you customize.

If Storefront doesn’t suit your fancy, there are also themes available from outside developers. If you go with a theme from an outside developer and you want to customize that theme, you can then choose a child theme that the developer has created or create your own.

Why customize through a child theme, anyway? Why not just customize the code directly? When building your site with a premade theme, it’s important to use a child theme so that changes are not lost when the parent theme is updated. In other words, it’s the safe way of implementing customizations.

And of course, if you hire a team of developers to build your site for you, then you don’t have to choose from any premade themes. Instead, you’ll get to have your own custom theme designed specifically for your business. If we build a custom theme at eScale, then we don’t use child themes, since we don’t have to worry about wide-scale theme updates losing our customizations.

On top of all of that, you can also add extensions (a.k.a. plugins or add-ons) to your site, which allow for additional functionality and customizations.

Maintenance

Once it’s set up, using WooCommerce still requires a bit of technical maintenance. The good news is that, since WooCommerce is open-source, you’ll be able to fix many bugs and issues yourself…but the bad news is that this also means you’ll be responsible for more of the maintenance (unless you hire a team of developers to take care of it for you!).

You’ll have to update WooCommerce Core when updates become available and also update your plugins on a regular basis.

We recommend updating your plugins one at a time; that way, if an issue arises while you are updating, you will know what plugin is causing the issue (whereas if you are updating many plugins at once, you won’t know).

Security

WooCommerce code is audited regularly to make sure that the code and functionality is secure and appropriate for the core software.

And there are a number of things that you can (and should) do to keep your site secure. First and foremost, choose a good host, like WP Engine or LiquidWeb. Also, make sure that you set strong passwords and use two-factor authentication, like Google Authenticator.

Finally, don’t put off updates. Updates are there for a reason, and part of that reason is to make your site more secure. Make sure that you set aside a chunk of time each week (or even each day) updating plugins. At eScale, we devote about 30 minutes each day to plugin updates; that way, we never fall behind.

Support

WooCommerce has a more hands-off approach to support. There’s a Help Desk, where you can ask questions in case you’re facing any issues with your site. You can also search in the various forums or the WooCommerce Slack group.

Blogging

WooCommerce is built through WordPress, one of the most popular content management systems in the world. Which means that you don’t have to manage your blog from a different platform than your eCommerce store. Woo hoo (no pun intended there)! Life becomes just a little bit easier.

Conclusion

From development to blogging, there sure is a lot to know about WooCommerce. But hopefully this post helped to clarify things a bit.

But if you still have some questions or concerns about using WooCommerce—or if you’ve decided that you want to go with WooCommerce, but want someone else (like us!) to build your store and take care of it for you, get in touch! We’d love to help you grow your shop.

Want to know more about WooCommerce? Learn more in our comprehensive Beginner’s Guide: How to Use WooCommerce.

Mary Blackiston

Mary is the Content Marketing Specialist for eScale. In her free time, she enjoys yoga, rock climbing, blogging, traveling, and soaking up as much eCommerce knowledge as she can.