The Trouble with Woo


I am an experienced Woocommerce end user.

After 3 years of slave labor to support my wife’s e-commerce web site (yes:  my wife!) the light bulb finally went off and I decided to get in the game and try my hand at improving a few small things about how I’m using and interacting with the Woo beast.

Without getting into too much technical detail, it’s safe to say that Woo can be both daunting and frustrating to the average shop owner.  There is far too much technology that he or she has to contend with.  And it is too time-consuming to do so.

Moreover, for a variety of reasons that I shall elaborate on in no doubt excruciating technical detail in future posts, there are some significant hurdles that you have to deal with, if you work with Woo as your e-commerce backend.

For example, if you put all your product data in the Woo database, which, right off the bat is an extremely time consuming and error prone process, you will eventually find out that it is a nightmare to get your data OUT of the WooCommerce DB, in a form that you can easily deal with in say, an Excel spreadsheet, or migrate it to another platform, or even change things in bulk mode.

When you listen to WooCommerce specialists talk, they will tend to focus on mysterious things like REST APIs, JSON, AJAX, data serialization, Apache, PHP, MySQL, Javascript, HTML, CSS and Plugins, or talk down to you via gleeful intermediaries known as so-called “Happiness Engineers.”

As your eyes glaze over, and you contemplate the meaning of your life, you might notice that what they will NOT talk to you about is how to easily access, modify and extend your data in a way that can help you control and manage your business to success.

It will gradually dawn on you that your data is trapped:  you have become a data hostage to WP/Woocommerce, kinda like the old roach motel ads, bugs get in, but never get out!

Moreover, if you want to change something about the way your Woostore operates. even something that is apparently trivial, good luck.

I am not talking here about look and feel, which is the purview of themes, which you can easily customize with CSS.

I am talking about changing how you look at your data, as you attempt to change the way it is presented to you in some customized and more useful way that fits your business.

You will hear that it that this is nearly impossible, unless you create baroque taxonomies with Categories and Tags and Custom fields, which you will soon find are fairly limited in important ways.

You will be told that you need the help of very expensive PHP specialist (this is the language that Wooheads all talk in) to change something that appears on the surface to be mundane, but turns out to be a long drawn out story involving a lot of technical detail that you — as a store owner — could give a rat’s ass about.

The kicker for me was when my wife me asked to do something very simple to her catalog:  have new items age out after 60 days.  I turned to WooCommerce Support, who told me that have no plug-in for that, but referred me to their user forums.

When I went there, I found them sparsely populated by a few individuals who seemed to know a great deal less about how WooCommerce works than I had hoped.

That did it, for me.

So after being retired, yes, retired from the app dev game for a significant period of time, I decided to roll up my sleeves, get under the hood, and try to fix a few things that have bothered me over the last three years about WooCommerce.

Instead of grousing about this or that, I will try my best (and mind you I am doing this by myself at the moment, although that may change over time) to improve the situation from the POV of a store owner who is simply not interested in the technical underpinning of this platform — but who requires what I will call data flexibility, in order to accomplish mission-critical things that are important to his or her business easily and fast.

To this end, I plan to release a series of plugins that may help store owners out in this regard.  Each will focus on one small aspect of solving the OVERALL BIG PROBLEM I am trying to solve.

My hope is these plugins will usefully work together in some consistent fashion, and eventually offer an alternative to store owners who wish to be in control over their retail data, and not remain beholden to the invisible WooCommerce data overlords.

Let the fun begin!


ps I have brought back from the WP mausoleum a few of the archived posts I wrote way back in 2015 when I first started using this product.  I smile at the naivety of these posts today, but do see that even then, I was starting to think of the Widgeteria idea… though I had not named it yet.