After two days of playing around with Storefront and Siteground, with some support chat, quick Help reads, and some poking around the product, I have a site up and running.
Instead of getting into some long-winded step by step guide (which I do not have the time for or inclination to do) here are my thoughts as to usability from a non-technical user perspective (ie, from the POV of a store owner trying to make this work), as well as some high-level conclusions:
- I would say the average store owner would need help installing and configuring this product, particularly if she or he has no WP experience.
- It is safe to say that buying the Storefront Design product is of limited value. It is expensive for what it does, which is not much.
- Storefront seems to take a real performance hit if large images are uploaded to the header. I actually timed it: a 750kb image took 3 seconds to load, on a front page with basically no other content.
- After a chat with Siteground, it turns out you have to activate Cloudflare from your cpanel.
- It’s also important to optimize PNGs. I put them through GIMP with Posterize set at 40 per cent and that really helped. I didn’t use the WP tinyPNG plug because you have to pay after the first 100 image optimizations.
- It might be slightly confusing at first to know how to install the Woocommerce products (especially if you read the WP.org intimidating documentation about having to find or create special directories on the server etc), until it dawns on you that all you have to really do is go to the Woo site, choose the product, pay (Paypal or CC), download a zipped file to your desktop, then go to the plugins menu option in the WP sidebar and find where it says upload.
- Don’t forget to activate the Woohelper, which allows you to enter the product key that you get via email.
- Don’t waste your time with Storefront. It is too generic a look (at least in my opinion). Use a Storefront child theme from somewhere. I went with Boutique. It’s free, and it looks cool.
- Boutique does not work with the Woocommerce site designer product.
- The Parallax extension is a winner.
I have a site up and running now for $20 (the cost of the Parallax slider) and of course the $100 in advance you have to pay for the middle tier plan for Siteground.
With the Stripe plugin, and the USPS shipping calculation one, and maybe some other goodies, one can definitely get a store up and running for around $200 to $300 — assuming you have a decent camera.
You have to size your pics (see chart above) such that you don’t get blurry images when, say, thumbnail-sized pics are blown up to twice their normal size by Storefront or whatever child theme you are using.
In my case, I made sure that all my product images were at least 600px, either h or w, and Boutique took care of the rest.
Don’t forget to activate in Siteground the second level caching.
Finding a good theme and casting your lot with sandboxed iterative development is the key to all known forms of virtual happiness.