Getting started

I’ve worked on putting the basic pieces in place for the Woocommerce site all day.  I am not going to detail how to do this, just give you high level comments as to how everything went.

Obviously it was pretty simple getting my client’s nifty domain hack URL to point to Siteground’s servers (Siteground sends you a nice email detailing the required name server parameters).  In addition, the process of buying and installing WP through Siteground per the plan I chose was a breeze.  Watching my new configuration of the DNSs on Namecheap activate correctly within minutes was a beautiful thing: no 24 to 48 hour propagation lag time any more.

Of course I have to preface this by saying I am fairly experienced with systems, so if a naive user had to do this, it might getting pretty confusing pretty quickly.  Probably the most confusing thing for a non tech user would be having to deal with different id / password combos:  the Siteground one, the WP.org one, the administrator one for the site itself, and then Woocommerce to set up an account there to download your plug ins — not to mention of course your registrar account.  So that is 5 id/pwd combinations, and Siteground disables the Firefox and Chrome remember this password feature.

Once I had the basic software downloaded, I had to configure the system.  It is this bit that IMHO is completely beyond the scope of an average store owner.  In my experience, they would have no idea how to deal with things like Jetpack, or server cache tweaking, etc.  — it would simply be too baffling.

Then came the time to deal with Storefront itself.

At first, it too was pretty confusing.

Even though I had downloaded Woocommerce and Storefront (which is free), I could not figure out where the actual theme was.

What I ended up doing was stripping out all the preloaded posts, and stripped everything else down to its barest minimum — ie cleaned out the sidebar and anywhere else that had widgets.

Basically I ended up with a site with nothing going on.

Then the light bulb went off, and I realized that if I created a static front page, I could start to make the darn thing look like a store.  Sure enough, it all fell into place pretty quickly after that:  menu bar, menu bar options, all worked the standard WP way — and I think the Shop menu option automatically went into the static front page bucket (unless I put it there myself, I was clicking all over the place pretty rapidly to get things done).

It was odd that the Stats were the same old fairly limited if not useless WP.com stats, but I was assured earlier by Siteground that I could do IP-based analytics through the cpanel (which turned out to be true:  finally the IP address of visitors is now visible to the WP blogger!), and I am leaving that for later, as there is no traffic to analyze yet.

Once I had this really spare skeleton of a shop in place, I was ready to call it a day, and looked for a way to make the entire site private.  No such luck, just like in WP.com, you have to do this page by post, individually.  And when it experimented with making the Shop page Private… well, it didn’t work.  Sucked, that.

I think there are plugins that help in this regard, but there should really be a button somewhere to make the entire site invisible as you build it, in order to to cloak it from the prying eyes of my client’s competition. (Note:  I soon found and started using the Jonradio Private Site for this purpose.  Just be careful and take precautions not to lock yourself out of your own site by accident.)

And not only that, but there is of course no staging area, until you upgrade and pay mega bucks to Siteground for the privilege of having a testing / system migration scenario.  Again, this is something beyond the comprehension of the average unsophisticated technically shop owner, but I shudder to think what could go wrong when changing things to a live site after a change request.

Despite all this, I was pretty much able to do everything without having to read manuals or watch YouTube tutorials, which I have no patience for.  I will say this, however:  if you do not already know WP.com, and know it pretty well, you will be pretty stumped at first — most likely — wondering how to put a store up using Storefront, without reading the documentation.  But then again, who does that?

All in all, I would say it was all pretty easy, once I got a static front page to help me put together the various Woocommerce pieces.

Next, plugins.

Then of course will come the really hard (ie boring) part, which is load the catalog with merchandise, and making sure all the attributes such as price etc are correct.  Of course this is going to be an area of particular interest, as I am going to try to get a grasp of the underlying db schema.

Judging by today, I would say it would take a week to 2 weeks minimum to put up a store from scratch that had, say 500 products, and you have never used Woocommerce.  Then again, I have not dealt with the plug ins yet, in particular PCI assessment for STRIPE, so perhaps I ought to extend that to 3 – 4 weeks, just to be on the safe side.