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How to build your WooCommerce store to last

Written by Nicole Kohler on January 13, 2017 Blog, Build your business, Start your store.

Once you’ve made the decision to build a store with WooCommerce, you don’t want anything to slow you down.

If your store isn’t built with longevity in mind, however, you could run into trouble as time goes on. You might see product pages load slowly, extensions stop functioning, or even encounter serious issues like data loss or security breaches.

These are all issues that will ultimately lead to one thing: a decline in — or complete loss of  — paying customers.

To keep your WooCommerce store profitable, you need to build it with long-term stability, safety, and performance in mind. Let’s take a look at how you can build a WooCommerce store that will last for months, years, and beyond.

Start with — or move to — reliable, scalable hosting

As a plugin for WordPress, WooCommerce inherits the same flexibility as its parent software: you can choose the company you want to host it, install it on a new server or one you already use, and dedicate as many or as few resources to it as you want.

That kind of flexibility is a great thing, but it can also lead to some complications. Things might start out well, but go downhill as you grow and require more resources. If your store’s host is underpowered or unresponsive, you could get frustrated… and see a loss in sales.

The best way to avoid this situation is to start with, or consider moving to, a reliable website host that has the ability to grow with you. This host should offer options like:

  • 24/7 support, so you can get help with any issues you run into — bonus points for chat support or other flexible options you might value
  • À la carte upgrades, or at least flexible plans that allow you to add more hard drive space, memory, bandwidth, etc. as you need it
  • A managed hosting option for WordPress-based sites, which can give you more resources plus take some of the burden off you for critical security updates and other WordPress-specific needs

Read reviews, ask others for opinions, and contact the hosts you’re evaluating directly before making a final decision on where you want to place your site. And remember: you get what you pay for, so don’t be surprised if $1.99/month hosting doesn’t work for your busy store!

Secure your store from day one

Here’s something that might be hard to accept, but needs to be understood: if you own an online store, you are a target.

It doesn’t matter how new, how small, or how niche your store is. The fact that you are collecting customer information, taking money, and shipping products puts you, and anyone else with access to your store, right in the sights of nefarious individuals.

Securing your store won’t take much time or money — and it’ll pay off in the long run.

Fortunately, securing your WooCommerce store doesn’t take much time, and even minimal efforts can keep your data secure long-term. You might be surprised to learn that some of the best ways to stay safe are free, like:

  • Choosing secure passwords
  • Using two-factor authentication on your logins (including your email, social media, WordPress.com account, etc. — anywhere a hacker might try to access your information first to reset your other passwords)
  • Not using the default “admin” login
  • Enabling Jetpack’s security features, like Jetpack Protect, which will block malicious login attempts (plus spam comments!)

These are all one-time actions that will cost you nothing and keep you and your customers safe for as long as your store is around. You might still be a target, but the moment it becomes difficult to get to your data, hackers will give up and move on somewhere else.

There are plenty more actionable ways to secure your store — try these security tips for new stores, plus some intermediate advice anyone can use whether you’re brand new to WooCommerce or have been around for years.

Use backups to protect your data

Your store is full of important data, from customer information to product details to the content you’ve painstakingly created. What would happen if your host had a massive outage and lost all that data?

It’s scary to think about, right? But you need to think about it. Preparing for worst-case data loss scenarios is one of the best ways you can prepare your store for long-term success, because it will ensure that you never need to spend time doing manual data entry, setting up products again, or apologizing to customers.

We recommend VaultPress for WooCommerce store owners who are looking for a way to automatically generate backups, easily restore data in the event of a loss, or create manual backups that you can “roll back” to in the event of an error or mistake with an update. This affordable solution will give you peace of mind, and ensure your store is never in a position where data is suddenly lost or unrecoverable.

Learn more about backing up WooCommerce and using tools like staging sites in this post on preparing for WooCommerce updates.

Choose add-ons from reputable sources

The beauty of open source solutions like WooCommerce is, of course, their openness. If you need your store to do something it currently can’t, you only need to find the right extension. Nothing and no one will stop you from adding on to your store in any way you like.

But as they say, with great power comes great responsibility. This applies to you, of course… but even more so to the ones who develop those plugins, extensions, and add-ons.

Plugins and extensions are an often overlooked source of issues. If a WooCommerce extension isn’t updated or maintained, it could have a big impact on the way your store performs, especially if you use the extension a lot. Now multiply that by ten, twenty, or a hundred, and you can see how this could be seriously detrimental to your longevity.

Using plugins and extensions from known developers will keep your store’s code clean and performing at a high level.

When you’re choosing a plugin or extension to use with your WooCommerce store, look for the following qualities:

  • Compatibility with the current version of WordPress and WooCommerce
  • A reasonable amount of updates to keep that compatibility, fix bugs, and so on — not a good sign if there haven’t been updates in many months or over a year
  • Quality support — if the plugin is free, are the questions on its WordPress.org page answered in a reasonable period of time? If it’s paid or simply provided elsewhere, are you able to read opinions of their response time, level of support, and ability to resolve issues?

We definitely recommend evaluating the provider of any given plugin or extension the same way you would evaluate the capabilities of that add-on itself. If your extensions stop working properly with your store after it’s been updated, and the developer doesn’t show any interest in resolving the issue, you could potentially run into major issues.

For example: if you used a third party extension to enable a new product type on your store, but a major WordPress update broke that extension, you might not be able to sell that type of product until the issue was fixed. Choosing extensions from reputable developers means that this is less likely to happen, because they’ll probably be testing against these major updates before they happen.

Last but not least: make maintenance a priority

One final way to ensure that your store lasts a long time is to keep it maintained. By this we mean keeping up with WordPress and WooCommerce updates, keeping your plugins and extensions all up-to-date, and performing any recommended security updates or adjustments to ensure ongoing compatibility with every solution you utilize.

We suggest setting aside a dedicated amount of time to maintain your store, whether that means taking care of updates once per week or utilizing a staging site that, once per month, is pushed live after extensive testing and extension reviews. How much time you dedicate all depends on the size of your store and the number of add-ons you use.

Like we suggested in this post, it might even make sense to create a monthly appointment for your maintenance and updates:

If you need to, set a recurring calendar appointment for your updates. The occurrence and length of these update periods should be based on the amount of extensions you have and when updating is most convenient for you.

While it might seem a little strange to make a process for something like this, you’ll quickly fall into a routine, and regular maintenance will no longer interrupt your regular work schedule.

Setting time aside for updates will make them a priority, and that, in turn, will keep your store healthy in the months and years ahead.

WooCommerce gives you the foundation — it’s up to you to maintain it

When you choose to build a store with WooCommerce, we give you a solid foundation to start with — a free, flexible platform that you can change and add on to as much as you like.

But it’s up to you to make the store you build last. Only by keeping current with updates, maintaining the integrity of your store’s data, and working with trusted partners can you create something that remains dependable beyond launch. Still, we hope that we’re able to help guide you along the way, and ensure you have a store that’s reliable… and (most importantly) profitable.

Have any questions about what you should be doing to make your WooCommerce store stand the test of time? Leave a comment below and we’ll be happy to help.

21 Responses

  1. Dupe
    January 13, 2017 at 9:11 pm #

    Thanks for this

    • jorgemed
      January 14, 2017 at 9:31 am #

      hi woocommerce people, so I had to reinstall the Bazar Theme with runs with woo commerce, I am using Stripe for credit card processing which was running great till I had to reinstall everything into a new hosting provider, setup hosting in wordpress cpanel and install theme, so when I do a test order the payment section/page shows the credit logos in the size of :30′ wide x 18″ high same with all other cc logos on that page, is it possible for you guys to fix the plugin for Stripe? I really want to continue to use my theme, I really like it , thank you

      • Nicole Kohler
        January 17, 2017 at 7:38 pm #

        Hi there, please contact support if you haven’t already — our blog isn’t a great place for troubleshooting since we’re unable to access your store or configuration. Thanks 🙂

  2. Bradley Griffin
    January 13, 2017 at 11:44 pm #

    “Choose add-ons from reputable sources”

    …In other words folks, stop downloading unchecked, unauthentic, non-licensed, pirated, not updated, found-in-a-canyon, nulled, (or otherwise) plugins & themes.

    Your store should be a Lightning Fast, Rock Solid, Dependable, Profitable Store.

    …..not a duct-taped, hodge-podge, pile-of-pieces. ????

    Nicole is trying to steer you in the right direction. Heed, share, & listen to what she’s saying in this post!

    It’s for your own good!????????????

    • Nicole Kohler
      January 14, 2017 at 6:35 am #

      Hey Brad — I’m seeing a lot of question marks in your comment, not sure if the encoding ate some emoji or if I’m missing something here?

      To clarify, neither I nor anyone at Woo are calling out any specific sites, developers, sources, etc. to avoid. What I was getting at was actually more the free plugins you see on wordpress.org that haven’t been updated in months or years, or those that are very popular but never receive any support from their developers.

      And really, kind of the beauty of WooCommerce is that you can grab solutions from anywhere you want, so long as they meet your needs. What we’re advising is that you do your research before you pick something, because if it’s unsupported or never updated it could (not always, but could) seriously impact how long your site stays stable.

      There’s plenty of good stuff on third party sites. Keep in mind, before we joined Automattic, we were one of them. 😉

      Again, not sure if I’m reading into your comment too much but it probably doesn’t hurt to clarify!

      • thebrandstore
        January 25, 2017 at 4:15 pm #

        i installed woocommerce theme named mystile on http://www.thebrandstore.pk
        I created the categories but i cant see the categories on home page

  3. Josh
    January 14, 2017 at 8:31 pm #

    Thanks for clearifying Brad’s comments, i wasnt sure what he was saying… Also thanks for the nice write up.. keep it up

  4. Gerd Neumann
    January 16, 2017 at 11:07 am #

    Good writeup! Unfornately, WooCommerce maintenance is more complicated than it needs to be. It is very hard following https://docs.woocommerce.com/document/how-to-update-your-site/ because WooCommerce only sells one license (single website license, that is) and this license does not work for the live and the test server, but only for one of them. So in the end it is not easy to update with testing beforehand. In the end people cannot do, although they would like.

    And no, I would not like to buy two licenses just for testing 😉

  5. Cedcommerce
    January 18, 2017 at 8:25 am #

    Yeah, certainly. Being the development company itself, we are witnessing the surge in the woocommerce sore users. And it’s is amazing to see that Woocommerce dominates other shopping cart platforms in the developing nations. Once example is Djibouti. More than 50% of the ecommerce store owners are using Woocommerce. Great Work Guys. Keep up!

  6. Pat
    January 18, 2017 at 4:59 pm #

    We’re trying to use WooCart, but are running into issues on IE and Safari.
    Our Cart always shows Empty.

    What are we missing? What stores are using this so we can see how theirs’ works?

    • Nicole Kohler
      January 19, 2017 at 1:28 am #

      Hi Pat — the best course of action here would be to contact our support team for assistance. They can dig into the issue more deeply 🙂

  7. Tom
    January 20, 2017 at 11:24 am #

    Great tips, thank you.

  8. Gaurav Tiwari
    January 20, 2017 at 1:55 pm #

    Good write-up. Helps a lot.

  9. Jamie Leben
    January 31, 2017 at 7:43 pm #

    “Start with — or move to — reliable, scalable hosting … If your store’s host is underpowered or unresponsive, you could get frustrated… and see a loss in sales …. Read reviews, ask others for opinions, and contact the hosts you’re evaluating directly before making a final decision on where you want to place your site.”
    Yes, strongly agree, learn from our mistake! We started with Godaddy WP hosting, which was moderately slow from the beginning, but workable. I made several calls to try to GD support to try to improve speed. During the 2016 holidays, our site became critically unusably slow. Repeated calls to GD support were unable to resolve it costing us “cancelled” sales in the tens of thousands of dollars in a short period. The last straw was GD support disabling all plugins- including Woocommerce?!?! Yes, that’s right, GD support took my store from slow, to completely offline!
    We switched to WPEngine (very easy by the way, their plugin automated it all, should have done it months ago!), and WPEngine hosting has resolved all the performance issues- it’s a full backup and migration of the site, so GoDaddy WP hosting was the failure point here.

  10. Morgan
    February 1, 2017 at 10:29 am #

    Thank you guys for the good work with WooCommerce.

    I was able to get my plugins to work with it and now all my websites are profitable.

    I am looking forward to creating more sites and am planning on using WooCommerce.
    Thanks a log

    • Nicole Kohler
      February 1, 2017 at 6:32 pm #

      That’s so great to hear, Morgan! Thanks for letting us know 🙂

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