Turbocharge your WooCommerce store load times

Today we take a look at some of the most effective ways to speed up your WooCommerce powered store.

Let me get straight to the point. For most people, WordPress is slow. And WooCommerce is even slower. Why is that? A few reasons:

  1. Lack of caching in core – by default, WordPress reads all content from the database. Same goes for WooCommerce. You mighn’t notice this too much when you just have a small blog with a couple of posts. But throw in WooCommerce and a couple of hundred products and you’ll start to see things slow down.
  2. Underpowered, shitty shared hosting – we’re on a bit of a mission to get WooCommerce store owners to stop using shitty shared hosting providers for their WooCommerce stores. You get what you pay for – and you’ll really feel the pinch if you skimp on hosting when it comes to eCommerce.
  3. Bloated WordPress installs with tons of plugins and bloated themes – It’s not really the number of plugins that’s the problem. It’s more store owners and WordPress users in general feeling like it’s ok to just install any old plugin without realizing that it could be a complete dog, full of bugs, poorly written and causing performance bottlenecks on your website. You need to develop a really good sense for detecting if a plugin is impacting on the performance of your website. Know your average load times and know them well. When you install a new plugin see if it makes any difference to your load times. Same goes for themes. A lot of themes are not very well coded when it comes to WordPress standards and can cause significant performance issues for your website.

It’s important to remember that WordPress itself can be made to run very very fast. Heck WordPress.com gets approx. 131 MILLION unique visitors per month which makes it one of the most visited websites on the planet. The problem is that the default experience for most people is not this superfast traffic devouring machine. It’s a slow, easily broken mess. Managed WordPress hosting goes some way to helping solve this problem. Managed hosting services are putting in place hosting infrastructure similar to that used by WordPress.com so that the rest of us can enjoy the kind of speed that WordPress.com has. Speed is important for any website. But especially so for eCommerce websites.

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Speed is one of the most important aspects of a highly successful eCommerce website. Think about it. When was the last time anyone complained that placing an order on Amazon was slow? Pretty much never. In fact, if anything, it’s almost too damn easy and quick to place an Amazon order 🙂 Studies have shown that if you’re site is loading any longer than 4 seconds, you’re losing orders and lots of them. Once load times go up to 10 seconds, you’re losing well over 90% of your traffic. If you’re losing this much traffic, think about what that is doing to your conversion rate. For many, the simple act of getting a decent web host can significantly increase conversion rates, simply because you’ve made it easier and quicker for customers to complete orders! So let’s assume you sort the hosting issue, what else can you do to turbocharge your WooCommerce site?

Minify all the CSS

If you’re using one of our WooCommerce themes, we’re already minifying Javascript by default for speed optimization. But if you’re looking to shave some additional time off your page load you need to install BWP Minify. Better WordPress Minify is one of the better WordPress minification plugins available.

Configuring BWP Minify for the Captiva theme

Just to take the example of how we tune our demo speed with BWP Minify.

  • Open BWP Minify -> General Options.
  • Deselect “Minify JS files automatically” – by default Captiva minifies all js files that can be minified. If you leave JS minification active in BWP Minify this may cause your site to malfunction.
  • Select “Minify CSS files automatically?”

Here’s a screengrab of our General Options config:

bwp_settings

Click to view larger version of settings page.

 

  • Go to -> Manage enqueued files
  • Scroll down to “Managed enqueued CSS files”
  • Add a full list of CSS handlers to not be minified under the “Styles to NOT minify”
    • admin-bar
    • dashicons
    • layerslider-group-css
    • cap-captiva
    • js_composer_front
    • background-style
    • aio-tooltip
    • cap-responsive
    • ultimate-headings-style
    • stats-counter-style
    • info-box-style
    • timecircle
  • Doing so will ensure your site continues to load correctly after minification is complete.
  • And you’re DONE!

I’ve seen minification alone knock 5-6 seconds of page load speed for some websites. So go forth and minify! We’ll be back soon with more tips on how to turbocharge your WooCommerce website.

 

 

 

 

 

WooCommerce most popular eCommerce platform in October 2014

You can see some pretty interesting eCommerce data with builtwith.com regarding platforms and their level of growth, month by month.

I’ve graphed WooCommerce and compared with Magento and Shopify as of October the 6th, 2014:

builtwith-oct6

In just 6 months, from March 2014, another 121,801 WooCommerce sites have been indexed which is a staggering number. This is no doubt fuelled by the popularity of WordPress which is believed to power more than 12 million sites worldwide.

The global list of eCommerce platforms looks like this:

builtwith-top-oct6

 

Where to find the best WooCommerce extensions

The core WooCommerce plugin is pretty awesome as a kick ass eCommerce platform for most store owners. But chances are you’ll find it lacking something you need sooner rather than later. Today we take a look at the best places to find the best WooCommerce extensions for your online store.

WooThemes Extension directory

It’s no surprise that the absolute best place to find a vast collection of WooCommerce extensions is over at WooThemes.

As of October 3rd 2014, WooThemes has approximately 313 extensions available! In addition to cranking out their own extensions on a regular basis, the Woo folks also partner with some of the best WooCommerce developers to release tons of new extensions for seemingly every possible use case. What I also like most about this official extension ecosystem is that every extension has been well tested with the latest and greatest versions of WooCommerce and every extension goes through extensive testing by the WooThemes team before being released.

Codecanyon WooCommerce Listing

The second most popular source of WooCommerce extensions has to be the Codecanyon WooCommerce category. Codecanyon reports that there are over 420 plugins available at the time of writing. Some of the plugins available on Codecanyon are amongst the most popular WooCommerce extensions on the market including:

Table Rate Shipping for WooCommerce

WooCommerce Amazon Affiliates

Fancy Product Designer

While Codecanyon houses more WooCommerce extensions, quality and support can sometimes be a concern. My recommendation to any store owner would be to carefully research any prospective purchase on Codecanyon to ensure the plugin author is active, provides support and keeps the plugin up to date with the latest versions of WooCommerce.

WordPress plugin directory

Last but not least if the official WordPress plugin directory. A simple search for WooCommerce reveals over 1,000 plugins report some form of compatibility with WooCommerce. While this doesn’t translate directly to WooCommerce specific extensions it’s an indication of the breadth of plugins available via the official WordPress plugin repository for WooCommerce.

 

WooCommerce 2.2 Feature – Automatic Refunds

The latest version of WooCommerce, version 2.2 mostly changed things under the hood – feature-wise there wasn’t a whole lot added. One interesting new addition though is the option to provide automatic refunds.

Patrick Rauland, a developer who works on WooCommerce explains how it works here:

Quick Tutorial: Translating Captiva

With eCommerce truly global it goes without saying that there is increasing demand for online shopping in your own language.

It’s a question we get asked a lot – “How do I go about translating Captiva?”. This is a quick run through of the steps to take.

1. Add a Language Pack to WordPress

WPMU Dev have done a terrific job in summarizing this step so check out the process!

2. Translate Captiva’s English strings

Now that WordPress is running in your language you’ll need to translate the English strings in Captiva to your own language.

This is done using the included ‘.po’ file within wp-content/themes/captiva/languages

  1. Install Poedit.
  2. Download the captivalang.po file from wp-content/themes/captiva/languages
  3. Open in Poedit and save as nl_NL.po (in this example – Dutch). Your language file name needs to match one on this list. Updatethis is an easier place to find your language code
  4. Translate your strings.
  5. Save your new nl_NL.po AND nl_NL.mo file and upload them to the /captiva/languages folder
  6. Add this to wp-config.php:
    define (‘WPLANG’, ‘nl_NL);
    The name MUST match your .mo file precisely (including being case sensitive)

3. Video Tutorial

You could also check out this excellent tutorial by AJ Clarke on the translation process.

Remember you can purchase our WooCommerce theme Captiva today over on ThemeForest. If you’re a WooCommerce newbie we also provide a free installation service to get you up and running with your own WordPress powered online shop in no time!

Common WooCommerce mistakes

Today we take a look at some of the most common mistakes we see store owners make with WooCommerce time and time again.

WooCommerce is so easy to get setup and running that it’s easy to assume that all you need to do is install the plugin, configure your store, add your products and you’re done. Simples right. Well kinda – but not quite. Let’s make something clear – WooCommerce is just a tool, admittedly a very good tool, but still just a tool, designed to help you sell online. As a store owner you have a responsibility both to yourself as the business owner and to your customers to ensure your store is a well oiled machine that keeps ticking over. Installing the plugin is not enough. Here are some of the biggest mistakes we see time and time again in helping WooCommerce store owners get the most out of WooCommerce.

1.) Running out of date copies of WooCommerce.

WooCommerce has a very active release cycle and is updated very regularly. If you’re running and old version of WooCommerce you should really slap yourself on the wrist and update as soon as possible. Security should be very high up your list of priorities when running an eCommerce business. If you’re running old versions of WooCommerce (and WordPress for that matter) you’re leaving yourself and your store vulnerable to all sorts of attacks. A bad security incident may kill your business overnight. There are some legitimate reasons for running old versions of WooCommerce – particularly when it comes to the use of third party plugins and themes. But here’s the thing – if a theme or plugin developer doesn’t update their software to support the latest WooCommerce versions and ensure compatibility with major releases within a short time after release, chances are you don’t want to be using that WooCommerce theme or plugin anyway. The best WooCommerce developers will normally be compatible with major releases even before they are officially released. So if you’re holding off on a big WooCommerce update because your plugins aren’t supported you’ve probably got bigger problems. If you’re just too afraid to make the update read on for more.

2.) Updating WooCommerce on your live store without testing on staging

WordPress fosters a culture of real time updates to plugins via the very easy to use Plugin management system. It’s almost too easy to update plugins in a live environment. But let’s remind ourselves again – you’re using WordPress and WooCommerce to support a business – not a blog or a simple brochure based website. Never, ever update major WooCommerce releases on your live site before first testing thoroughly on a staging site. Yes, this means more work. Yes this will take longer. I know. It’s a royal pain in the ass. But if you’re serious about eCommerce it needs to be done. I’ve seen too many people update WooCommerce in real time and then lose thousands in orders because they didn’t test on staging first. Trust me if you don’t do this chances are high that at some point you will regret it.

3.) Not running a staging site

Closely related to number 2, a staging site has saved my ass so many times it’s not even funny. I wouldn’t contemplate building any eCommerce business without a minimum of 1 staging instance. (and many times a second instance for development tests). WordPress unfortunately doesn’t provide us with a method for creating staging sites out of the box but as WordPress has matured over the past few years many tools have emerged to make it pretty straightforward to do this.

The DIY way – an excellent post from WPBeginner.

WPEngine comes with staging builtin.

The powerhouse of WordPress staging platforms – RAMP.

My personal favourite for most WooCommerce store owners operating small eCommerce stores is to host your store on Siteground and use their staging platform.

4.) Not testing new plugins on staging first

So what’s the benefit of this staging version of your site? Well now you get to dive in and start doing all those updates you’ve been putting off on a near live copy of your store with real data and products. Treat the update process as if it was your live site and give it a seriously good test after every update – both to WordPress itself, WooCommerce and all your plugins. Once you’re 100% happy that your staging site is working correctly go ahead and apply your updates to live. The benefit of having your staging site is that if everything is NOT working correctly, you can now take the time to resolve your issues in a controlled and calm manner, rather than running around like a headless chicken trying to figure out what the hell has gone wrong.

5.) Not running backups

This one is unforgivable. If you’re running an eCommerce business security and backups MUST be top of your list of operational procedures. I don’t care how do you ’em but you should be backing up daily and retaining backups for at least 7 days. Too many people still run WordPress and WooCommerce without backups and they’re running successful stores with thousands of customers. All it takes is one bad security incident to wipe out a business like that. That’s frightening. You’ll find tons of WordPress backup options online but the only one I recommend to customers is VaultPress. It’s an Automattic product that works at scale and works all the time. Plans start at $5 per month which is a steal for what you get.