All About WooCommerce

WooCommerce is software that you add to a website that enables you to sell things. It is a WordPress plugin, which means it only works on websites built with WordPress.

It was developed by Woothemes, a South African company. Then Automattic bought it in 2015.

Automattic (note the double t in the name) owns, a hosting platform where anyone can host their website. Unsurprisingly, is built on the WordPress platform.

Note that there is also, the sister company from where anyone can download the WordPress code and build a website with WordPress on the web host of their choice.

The governing and unchanging principles of are that the WordPress files must remain free for everyone to download, use, and change if they want, now and in the future.

Why Use WooCommerce

Part of the reason for the success of WooCommerce is the rise of payment processors like Stripe and Paypal, that make the process of actually taking money from customers easy.

Another reason for the success of WooCommerce is that you can extend its functionality with more plugins. There are paid and free plugins (or ‘extensions’ as they are called), but WooCommerce itself is free to download and use. And often that is all a seller needs.

Do You Need WooCommerce

If you only want to sell digital products, you can use WooCommerce but you can also use Easy Digital Downloads (EDD) or LemonSqueezy.

If you are selling tangible products, you could use Shopify Lite, which is an add-on that enables you to add button links to your WordPress site that send the customer to Shopify to complete the payment transaction.

Simple Payment Buttons

Or if you only have a few products, you could add a PayPal button or a Stripe button to your WordPress site.

I have never tried payment buttons on a self-hosted site but it is super easy to do on any of the paid plans on I have a web site on a paid plan on, so I have first-hand knowledge of how to set it up.

WordPress is built using what are called blocks, and it is simple to add a PayPal button block or a Stripe button block to a post or page. When you are in the WordPress admin, you will find the button blocks for Paypal and Stripe in the section named EARN.

Limitations To Payment Buttons

There are limits to what you can do with payment buttons. For example, there is no stock control and no way to mark a product out of stock. That might not matter. Maybe you are selling prints, and when you see that stock is getting low you go to the local copy shop to get more printed.

Another limitation of simple payment buttons is that you can’t offer size, colour, or any kind of variation. Well, you could if you presented each variation as a separate product and added a button for each variation, but it’s a bit clunky. For example, if you have three sizes and four colours, that’s twelve variations with a ‘Buy’ button for each one.

Customers can’t buy a selection of different products in one order with a payment button, because there is no basket. So if a customer wants to buy more than one thing, they have to complete a separate transaction for each product.

Again, you could bundle products in one transaction, but that is just another way of saying ‘this is one product’.

You can add payment buttons on any paid plan on and on any self-hosted plan by using a plugin such as Jetpack.

This isn’t the place to talk about solutions other than within WordPress, but if you are interested in knowing what else is out there, I wrote about some of the options outside of WordPress.

So now we know a couple of the features of WooCommerce: You can make up bundles or sets of products with variations, and a customer can put a range of products in their basket and check out with one transaction.

Setting Up WooCommerce

When you set up WooCommerce for the first time you are greeted with a Welcome page. It is the first page in a wizard that guides you through the setup. Note that it picks up your email address from whatever you sign in with as WordPress admin.

You may think it better to use the domain email to access the web site. I recommend not doing this because if there is a glitch with the domain then you can lose access to your web site. Use a Gmail or Yahoo address, or some other publicly reliable address.

You will see a ‘Skip setup store details’ at the foot of the page. If you do that and then later on you want to continue, you can always pick it up by going to the dashboard and you will see an invitation to continue with the setup.

And you can see a little ‘i’ in a circle next to ‘Skip setup store details’. If you hit that little ‘I’, it comes up with this message ‘Manual setup is only recommended for experienced WooCommerce users or developers.

Before moving on with the wizard, I should say that you can run Woo on the Business plan with Here in the UK is costs £27/month if paying monthly or £20/month if paying annually. That’s more expensive that some web hosts, but then you get the security benefit of rather than having to secure your self-hosted site. You still have to pay for any paid extensions just like with a self-hosted site, though.

Woo Pages

When you go through the wizard, WooCommerece builds these pages that the site needs.

  • Cart – Cart Page
  • Checkout – Checkout Page
  • My account – My Account Page
  • Privacy Policy – Privacy Policy Page
  • Refund and Returns Policy – Draft
  • Shop – Shop Page

You don’t add or edit content directly in the Shop, Cart, or Checkout pages. When you add products, the Shop page fills up with the products.

When you set up your shipping options and costs of delivery, the system populates the information for the Cart page and the Checkout page. 

If there is nothing in the cart it will say ‘Your cart is currently empty.’ If you go to the Checkout page when there are no products in the Cart, the system will redirect you to the Cart page and tell you ‘Checkout is not available whilst your cart is empty.’

My Account page

Drilling down, if you are logged in as an admin or a customer, you will see the following within your My Account page

  • Orders
  • Downloads
  • Addresses
  • Account details
  • Logout

Just because there is a heading for downloads doesn’t mean that you as the store owner have any made downloadable products. The section is there ‘in case’ you have any such products.

When a customer buys something, it triggers system emails to you as the store owner to tell you someone has bought something, with the customer’s details and what they bought. And the system also triggers an email to the customer to confirm the sale.

If you use the stock keeping system built into WooCommerce, then it also changes the stock levels to reflect the sale.

Customer Accounts

Under WooCommerce / Accounts and Privacy you (as the store owner) have the option to require customers to create an account or to allow them to check out as a guest.

Irrespective of that, you also have the option to enable them to create an account when they want (on the Accounts page), or to only allow them to create an account during checkout. Store owners report that people sign up for accounts with no intention of buying anything. If you suffer from that, restrict customers to only be able to create an account at checkout.

Ad Store Details

The next thing you will see in the wizard is a list of things to do:

  • Add store details
  • Add products
  • Set up payments
  • Add tax rates
  • Add shipping costs
  • Get more sales
  • Personalize your store

When you click into ‘Add store details’ you will see the screen that is the one you will use most with tabs for General, Products, Shipping, Payments, Accounts & Privacy, Emails, Integration, Advanced.

The General tab is where you put in your store address, which countries you will sell to, the default customer location, and taxes to be added – yes or no.

You will see little information buttons next to the options. The information button next to the default customer location says “This option determines : customers default location. The MaxMind GeoLite Database will be periodically downloaded to your wp- content directory if using geolocation.”

This becomes relevant if you have customers in different locations liable for different tax rates that you need to charge.

Shipping is basically how much you are going to get products to your customers and how you are going to charge your customers for shipping. 

So for example you might set up a shipping class for a product and have a shipping price for a customer who buys from one to three of that product, and then a cheaper shipping price or a free option for a customer who buys more that three in one order. And you can have it tiered, as in 1-3, 4-6, 7-99 or whatever you want.

You have to set up Shipping zones | Shipping options | Shipping classes in that order, though you may not have to set up Shipping classes at all. 

Besides number bought, you can also make shipping cost break points by price or weight.

Connect to

At some point the Wizard it will ask you to connect to ‘Connect to You can ignore it if all you want to do install Woo from the repository, but you have to have a account to purchase WooCommerce extensions, or subscriptions, or raise Support tickets.

This 2017 article from Woo that explains the reason for the requirement to have a account. 

If you don’t have a account, it’s easy to get one, and then you can get a free WP site and get to play around with Block themes without costing you a lot of heartache.


The system sends emails to customers. Some go automatically and some – such as when an order is ‘complete’, you have to trigger yourself.

‘Complete’ is a variable term. For us it means that the distribution centre has posted the product to the customer. For others it could mean that the courier has notified the seller that the item has been delivered. Whatever it means, up to that point the order is ‘processing’. You have to mark it complete.

It’s easy to do this on a smartphone, by the way. There is an Woo Admin app, but I don’t use it.

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