If you’d like to get involved in testing, join us now.
If you want to know more, read on or check out our post on the developer blog.
A few weeks ago at WooConf, Matt Mullenweg gave a sneak peek at a project we’ve been excitedly working on. Now, we’re ready to share it with the world.
WooCommerce Connect is a big part of our vision for the future of WooCommerce. Right now, Connect has just started alpha testing as a feature extension. If all goes well, we hope to make it part of WooCommerce core and available to everyone.
So, without further ado, let’s dive into what we’re trying to accomplish with Connect, how it all works, where the feature currently stands and how you can get involved.
The vision: a simpler way to connect anything directly in WooCommerce
Much of the power in WooCommerce lies in the ability to customize and add anything.
But with all that power comes great responsibility: to make it as simple as possible to do the basic things. Unfortunately, right now, doing basic things like adding a shipping option can be kind of complicated.
For example, here’s how adding USPS currently works:
To break it down:
- Get the extension from us and download a file. This contains the code you’re adding to your site.
- Add the API key from USPS. This tells USPS who you are and what information you’re getting from them.
- Add the subscription key from us. This tells us which subscription we should link to your site, so we can pass updates to you if you have an active subscription.
- Dig into the settings.
With Connect, we’re eliminating steps 1 through 3 – there will be no additional extensions, no API keys and no subscription keys.
Instead of downloading a file and then installing an extension on your site, you can see available features directly in WooCommerce. With Connect, adding a new option just means making use of it.
We’ve also eliminated the need to manually add API keys. Because the connection lives on our end, those keys are already in place.
Right now, the service available in Connect and those planned are all free, which is why there’s no need for subscription keys. When we add services that do require subscriptions, we aim to give you a way to connect your store to your WooThemes account, rather than requiring a key to connect to a specific subscription.
All this means setup for USPS through Connect looks like this:
Setup doesn’t end with enabling an option, so we’re also updating settings available through Connect to make them more user-friendly:
Behind the scenes: hosted services and Jetpack making it all happen
To make all of this happen, most of the code you used to have to download now lives on a secure server that we host. We’re using Jetpack to allow your site to talk to that server securely.
Hosting the bulk of the code on our end has some other perks:
- You’re less reliant on your site’s host to handle these new features, making it easier to have a fast site.
- Making new features available just means making changes on our servers, so you won’t need to update WooCommerce core for new features.
- Because you’re not having to update the code on your site as often, you should see more stable performance.
- You’re less dependent on your host’s configurations, meaning it’s more likely that your connected services have the right configuration to work.
Of course, extensions remain a critical part of WooCommerce. We’re still committed to our modular approach — a solid and flexible core product with extensions to add just the features you need — and to giving store owners and developers more freedom, not less.
That means extensions will always be an option for you. We see Connect as an easier option and plan to invest in making it great. But it’s an alternative, not a replacement.
The current state of affairs: strong foundation and one service to start
So far, we’ve built the foundation and added our first service: USPS. We chose this service because the US is one of our largest markets.
We’re starting with only one service for simplicity, going with the theme of Connect. We wanted to learn the lessons we could from building one option before moving on, but we have plans to add more shipping options next.
The alpha version of Connect supports real-time USPS shipping rates for stores based in the United States. There are some differences between what’s available through Connect and our USPS extension, so make sure to read up on these.
Also, because Connect is currently a “feature extension,” you will have to download and install it as a separate extension right now. Once it becomes a feature of WooCommerce core, all of that will be a thing of the past for Connect.
The future: to beta and beyond
While you’re alpha testing, we are already actively working on the beta, which includes:
- Canada Post support
- Integration with the WooCommerce onboarding wizard
- UI improvements to the shipping rates section
- The ability to set up boxes for shipping
- A self-help page with system status info
- More iterations on the overall look of Connect
The grand plan is to eventually roll out Connect into a future WooCommerce core release, so anyone running a WooCommerce store can easily connect the service they want to their store.
Get involved: help us test
We’ve started the alpha testing phase and would love your help building the future of WooCommerce. Fill out the form below to get started.
Thanks for joining our testing phase. An email is headed to your your inbox with next steps.
We’re excited to see how users respond to Connect and continue improving it. Ultimately, we hope this approach will let anyone start a store more easily.