Alan Sawyers hosted 2 video training sessions this week on WordPress. The first aimed at beginners and the second aimed at more advanced users covering things like visual builders.

This advanced users session took place on Thursday 7th May 2020.

Take a look for yourself in the video below.

Underneath the video you will also find a PDF Transcript.

Transcript of Video

So thanks to you for everyone for joining. Normal normal systems, normal systems. We’ll try and keep everyone on, on mute. Please feel free to unmute yourself if you have like a driving question for Alan during the session. But he does do regular breaks to open up for questions. If you do want to put anything in the chat, in the chat, please do so and we’ll try and bring you in at the appropriate time. But apart from that enjoy it, Alan, over to you.

Good stuff. Thanks Peter. Morning everyone. Just to explain my setup, which I always do at the beginning of the call. I’ve got my presentation and my notes in front of me. I’ve got some of you on the screen to the right. So if I’m looking over here, I’m trying to find who’s talking, but most of the time I’ll, I’ll look here so I’ll not be able to see you guys.

So some of you will know me already. I’m Alan, I build websites, design things, I look at people’s SEO and Ad Words and that kind of thing. And most of you will know Peter as well, he’s here to help answer questions and jump in where I need him. So this is the second session of the week. This is WordPress session two advanced. And this session is about giving you some ideas as to what WordPress can do over and above the sort of basics that we went through on Tuesday.

And as I said, if you’ve got a question if it’s, if it’s something that you want, like that you want to kind of put in with, then just unmute yourself and ask. But most of most of the time we ask people to put questions in the chat so that we can answer them whenever you see purple screen. And also for those who’ve, who have been on my training before, I always like to start with a caveat. And today’s caveat is everybody here will be at different levels and have different requirements. So if you, if you have a question, ask it. And we can only say that we don’t know. There’s so many different themes for WordPress, so many different plugins, so many different set ups that people will have on their own website that it’s all, it’s impossible for us to answer every single question, but give us a go.

And we’re going to start with plugins. We went through essential plugins on Tuesday, which was things like setting up security and and speed. It’s the things that speed your website up and things like that. But we’re going to go through some, some more sort of advanced plugins and things like where you can start adding functionality to your website. What I always say to people, and I said this Tuesday as well, is always use plugins, research them, read the reviews, and find out whether there’s an alternative option. So the, the more plugins that you have on your site, the more chance it’s got of becoming slower, becoming unstable. So if you just pile a load of plugins on your website, you probably not doing any good. So what I tend to do is I have a good relationship with the developer who I will ask if there’s a, if there’s an alternative option first because sometimes what you’ll find is that you put, if you want to make one tiny tweak to your website that isn’t sort of part of the, the standard options within WordPress or within your theme, you might attempted to put a plugin on the site, which has lots and lots and lots of code cause it’s got lots of functionality.

But to change one little thing, there might be a load of code that you don’t need. So later on we’ll, we’ll go into how you can, how you can do that in different ways.

And as, as I said on Tuesday, always look at the credentials of any plugin you put on your website. So if you, if you’re installing one through the sort of standard WordPress way of instaling plugins, look at things like how many active installations there are, what the reviews are like when it was last updated, and whether it’s compatible with your version of WordPress. And as Peter said on Tuesday actually as well, you can check the plugins that you’ve got installed, check when they were last updated as well because the longer it’s been since they’re updated, the more, more chance that they haven’t been updated for all the latest sort of security protocols and that kind of thing. So we didn’t cover this on Tuesday actually cause I thought this is how you would find out the existing plugins on your website, how up to date they are.

So all of the plugins have I have a link to view details or most of them should have, as some were bespoke developed by someone and if you click on that it will show you that. So you can see there on the, on the right hand side it was updated two months ago. It requires WordPress 4.0 or higher and that kind of thing. It just gives you an idea as to what, whether you, you should start thinking about getting rid of a plugin, looking for an alternative. Two months ago is fine. I think anything, anything more than six months to 12 months, I would start to think about replacing that plugin. And this is just one example of the sort of, you can add to a website with a plugin. This is from the Mint website. So most of you would have seen this. I believe this is a plugin. Peter can tell me if it’s not, the calendar functionality where you can book events.

It is, yeah,
it is a plugin. That was good. I didn’t want to take away from me if you developed this yourself. No, I didn’t. It’s Event Calendar Pro, I think it’s called.

Yeah. so yeah, this is Event Calendar Pro and what you’ll find with most plugins is that if you don’t have to pay for them, there’s usually a limited free version, which you will do so much in. Then you’ll, you’ll get prompted all the time to upgrade if you want it, if you want to add sort of a higher level functionality.

Okay.

And this is just a good example of the kind of functionality you can put on your website because a lot of people have events and it’s got things in there that you wouldn’t, you wouldn’t get with WordPress as standard.

On Tuesday we, we briefly talked about backing up cause it’s not as important when you first put new website together because if it goes down, nobody’s really bothered. But if you’ve got, if you’ve got a website that’s already up and running, you’re making money from it, your customers go into it, then it’s always a good idea to, to make a backup of your site before you start putting any more plugins in. Have a look on WordPress for sure. The kind of backup plugins that are already available, like Updraft Plus is probably one of the most popular ones, two plus million active installations. I don’t think I’ve used this one myself actually. Cause I, I always use a host that has backups daily. And any site that I have that is eCommerce and is making money on a daily basis, I pay somebody else to do the plugins cause it’s, it’s too much of a risk for me to, to have the website go down even for a couple of hours.

Okay. We’ve got, we’ve actually got quite a bit to do today so I’m going to try and get through this as quickly as possible so that you can ask questions. So before we go on to page builders, does anybody have any questions at this early stage? Anything in the chat Peter?

There’s nothing in the questions in the chat and the only thing I would add is just on your screen before where it was saying it wasn’t tested with a current version of WordPress. I would, I would urge caution, caution about updating that plugin if it’s not proved to be compatible. It may cause problems with your website. So you may want to hold back on that until they have released a version that is compatible with your version of WordPress.

Yeah, that’s what I mean. If it’s two months, it’s not really a lot of time, but if it gets to six months, start to be concerned about it. If it’s 12 I would definitely start thinking about getting rid of it or replacing it.

Absolutely. I did have a situation last year where a virus got into a couple of my websites through a plugin that was out of date, hadn’t been supported and it only just got out of date. To me, they didn’t just stop supporting it the month before and already there was a virus vulnerability and the sites got hacked, so that was a learning curve for me last year on a couple of sites, so it’s worthwhile watching those on a regular basis

And it’s probably important just to keep reiterating that. The reason that we always ask people to make sure that plugins are up to date is this big security risks for plugins that out of date and everybody, including Peter and myself will be guilty of just of not updating plugins on certain websites that I run and that I don’t, that aren’t very active websites that might sit there for a couple of months without, without an update. But it’s, you know, I don’t always practice what I preach, but I’ll preach to you to make sure your plugins are up to date as often as possible.

So moving on, we’re going to look at page builders and there’s three main ones I would say Divi, Element and Visual Composer. I’ve used the first two, I used visual composer years ago when it was, it was kind of the only one at the time. But I haven’t used it for quite some time, but most of what I’m going to show you in this section is Divi because I use that the most. Unlike themes, if you buy your theme off the shelf or you get a free theme, you’ll find that there’s page templates in there and most of the pages have already been designed. But page builders allow you to design pages from scratch using sections, rows and modules, which looks like this. So you’ve got the, the sections in blue, in blue or purple. And in this case, it’s not really important at the minute, but the purple section means that it’s full width, with blue sections are not full width.

Then within each section you have modules and sometimes rows. And what that looks like when you go into edit that, this is the backend of the site obviously, is you can edit your modules content. So any text, images, backgrounds, videos, that kind of thing, you would edit within the content because you can then tweak the design. So everything, all the things that used to be quite frustrating on websites, on WordPress websites, you couldn’t, you didn’t have a lot of flexibility in terms of the look and feel of things without knowing how to edit the code. With page builders and actually a lot of themes, you can edits things like the text size, the text font whether, whether it’s bold, italic, that kind of thing. Sizing looks at things like how, how wide something is on the screen so you can set it if you don’t want it to be full width.

Spacing is things like margin and padding. So how much space there is around things on your website, on your web page and then little aesthetic things like borders and shadows and stuff and that kind of thing.

And then if we look on, on the advanced tab you can do things like disabling modules or sections or rows on mobile or tablet. So one of the things that I do quite regularly is I look at how a website looks on a mobile device and if it doesn’t look as good as I would like it to, then I’ll either, hide that section on a mobile and design another one that is only shown on mobile or what you can do with Divi in particular is you can, well a lot of these design settings, you can set them for desktop, tablet, and phone. So you can have different, different settings for how, how things display on mobile. Which is always a good idea with things like headlines, headings cause the default, if you have a heading on a website, which is 40 point text, it’s going to look okay. But 40 point on a mobile, it’s probably going to stretch the, you know, it’s probably going to stretch down the whole page because it’ll just be so big.

Another thing you can do page editors is you can have global elements. So in the case of Divi, global elements are shown in lime green. And all this means is you create an element that you can repeat on various pages rather than building, rather than designing something on it, on every page that you want it to appear, you design it once, save it as a global element, and then you can insert that into a page.

And also just to point out that where all these things are called row, column, text, you can give these names. So it’s easier for work for you when you’re looking for something that you want to want to edit within your site. You can, you can find it easy, easier. And just to give you an example I think Vicky’s with us somewhere, I can’t see. This is taken from Vicky Smith’s website Tailored Fit. And this is an example of where you might want to have a global element that you can repeat on various pages and things like

opening times, opening hours for, for shops and stuff. And that’s a, it’s a a difficult time for people who have an opening time on their site, but in general that’s what you would use this for.

And the other, the other good thing about using a page builder rather than a theme is that you can, with most of them, you can edit on the front end of the website as well with the visual builder. And you still do it through sections, rows, modules. So just to give you an example here, this is the same, the same element as I’m just showing you on Vicki’s site. But you can edit that while you’re actually looking at it. And how that looks is if you, if, if Vicky wanted to get rid of the whole green tree design, which I don’t think she will, you could change that the background image on that particular section or column or row. And it will show you how it’s going to look before you decide whether you like it or not. You can cancel it or you can save it.

And what you can also do, with page builder page builders also have additional plugins and one of them that I use on Divi is called Page Builder Anywhere. And that allows you to do something similar to, to create global global elements. The idea of the global element is you would put it into a website, into a webpage, wherever you wanted it. But with this plugin you can put that into the same place on every single page on your website. So at the minute, I use this quite a lot for, for Covid 19 updates. Then it’s always at the top of the page. Every single page that you go on. Because what a lot of people do is they’ll put their announcements on the home page, but then if they’re, if they use Facebook or any social media to push people to other pages on the website, you’re not going to see that announcement on the homepage. So with this particular plugin, you can put it above the header, below the header in the footer, wherever you want.

And just very briefly, this is only one slide for this one, cause I don’t use Elementor very much, but this is what Elementor looks like. It’s very similar to Divi in a lot of ways. It looks different, but I guess Elementor would call itself Divi’s biggest rival, it’s biggest competitor. And they’re both very similar in terms of they allow you to, to take all of these kinds of elements and just drag them into the page and put them in the page. And that’s basically it on, on page builders.

Let me, we’ve just got a couple of questions if that’s okay. If it’s a good time.

So we’ve got a question just asking if you can use a page builder within a theme?

A lot of themes now are finding that if you buy your theme online it will probably use a page builder. I think a lot of them have gone down that route. But mainly because for somebody to develop a theme they have to, you have to build it. So if they’re building a theme they may as well use a theme, a page builder themselves. But it would, I think it would depend on the, on the theme. If you’ve got one currently that isn’t using the page builder then then probably not.

But you can have, you can install them, can’t you?

So if you have a theme, I mean Divi, Divi is it’s own editor really, you can’t use Devi on other themes, but things like Elementor you can install. But like, like Alan said, a lot of them do come with as a package. So quite often you’ll get a theme with a package which includes a page builder and maybe some of the plugins as well, which that theme has said these are, these are compatible with my theme so we work as a team, so it’s worthwhile sticking with those. But if you want to try, if you have a theme that doesn’t have a page builder and you want to try one, you can install, there’s a free version on most of the page builders you can install and if it doesn’t work, that may be the time to change the theme to something maybe a bit more modern because like I said, modern themes are compatible. I would say

There is, there is something within Divi that I think is called Divi Elements or something where you can put the elements that you build in Divi. You can put them into, it says any website, but that again, it would come down to what theme you’re using and what it’s built on. I’ve never tried.

I must say I use Divi a lot as well, like Alan. I found it really powerful, really flexible and just, you know, I can build pretty much any website I want using Divi. So like that’s my preferred one at the moment. Yeah. Just one more question though. Hugh says that Divi doesn’t work on his website due to hosting, so uses Elementor. I don’t know what you think about that in what way, in what that has to do with the host, if you want to come in.

I must admit, I do find Divi quite heavy in terms of performance. So but it has been improving this year. There’s been a lot of enhancements on Divi, so their performance has been constantly improving this year. But if you have a weak host, I would say that you may have an issue. Yeah. Hugh, is there anything you want to add on that?

I don’t know. I can’t remember the exact details. It was so long ago that had the issue. But something to do with some background setting that couldn’t be as advanced as Divi wanted on my hosting. Something to do with the PHP, PHP. It was my PHP wasn’t advanced enough and I hosted LCN and they couldn’t go to that advanced level. So I just went with Elementor and I found that fine.

Yeah. With Elementor i have had people, kept seeing it because I use Divi, I kept seeing it in Facebook sponsored ads, very cleverly calling itself the world’s biggest rival to Divi or something like that. But I had never used it. But there’s a couple of clients recently have asked me to use paid themes, which are, and I haven’t used them for years, but just as it happened, these themes were there, available, the clients had already bought them and that they just happened to use Elementor so I’ve used it a couple of times and it’s good. It’s good. I like it. It’s different. And I think Peter will tell you as well, if you, if you’re used to using one particular system, then going to another one is quite frustrating because you look and you’re almost trying to start again looking for where various settings are, but you’ll get, you’ll get a good page builder, you get all the options out of Elementor as well as Divi.

Yup. Absolutely. Keely’s just asking are page builders and themes are these all plugins in a directory or WordPress,then you can choose which plugin you want to use?

With page builders you’d usually download them direct from the website, so the Divi website or Elementor website. And then within that there’s, there’ll be various plugins available on the website, but also there’s a lot of, a lot of developers have got websites dedicated to to Divi plugins or to Elementor plugins. And they’re sort of semi-official, I would say, they’re approved I guess, but, but not official. And again, as, as we always said, just look at when they were last updated and how popular they are out there and stuff like that.

If they’re being linked to from the Divi site or the Elementor site, then the chances are they’re going to be fine. Yeah. Cool. Sorry, I’m trying to carry on.

So the next section is making how to make your site your own. And the, the moral of this section I guess is don’t settle for standard. So the first thing that I would recommend is to know the ins and outs of your themes, style and options. If you’re using a theme and not as a page builder, there will be various options available. So things like body text size, body line, height or all these things, fonts, colors, try and do as much as possible through global settings so that you’re not having to do this on every single page. Because then when it, if it comes to, again, if, if, if you wanted to change the color scheme of your entire business, it hadn’t been done on the website via global settings, you would have to go in there every single page and, and do that unless you know how to, how to do the code.

And here’s just a basic example of, of just that really don’t settle for standard colors and schemes. There’s a lot of things that you can change on, on pretty much any website in any theme, in any page builder. Sometimes there’s not. There’s a, there’s a couple of little things that for some reason or another, they just haven’t given you the option to change the styling, which I’ll go into in a second.

So what about things that aren’t customizable? And the simple answer really is, is pretty much nothing that isn’t customizable on a website with a caveat, which I’ll get onto in a second. Basically all all websites are written using, using code, usually PHP, and that code can be changed somewhere.

So to give you an example this is another one of my sites. So say for example, I didn’t like the color of that button and I want to change it, but within the theme, that wasn’t an option. We’ll get onto WooCommerce in a second, which is what this is, but there are some things within WooCommerce, unless you’re using the page builder that are all really easy to change. What you can do on, on any website is right-click on any element on the page and click on inspect. And what that will do is the browser will then give you a code inspector. And this, I appreciate this, this is getting a little bit advanced, but it is a simple way of of customizing your site without being a developer because the code essentially, it’s already written. So within the code inspector you can change any of that code that you can see there and it won’t, it won’t do anything to the site.

It won’t affect the site. You could do this on any site you want. In fact, I was, I was testing this out last night on the BBC websites, change the color of texts and stuff on the BBC website just to see how it looks. But obviously that’s not going to save. You do need to know what you’re looking for, but with a little bit of trial and error, you get used to these kinds of things.

So that the styling for this button here is all within this little bit of text here. And all I’ve done here is I’ve changed the color, the background and the border. Mmm. And that, that worked. I’m happy with that. So every, every WordPress website, just about I think, I think this is a standard thing in WordPress now that you have a, an additional CSS box. So all I’ve done there is I’ve taken the, the code from the, the code inspector with my changed colors and I’ve pasted in here and the changes that, so it’s very simple and it’s, it’s something that, and I guess anybody can do as long as, as long as you’re happy with trying things.

And if they don’t work, there’s a number of occasions where I’ve tried things and they just haven’t worked, so I don’t bother basically. So, so something Peter mentioned on Tuesday was using the child theme and yeah, if you don’t know what a child theme is, it’s basically, it’s a lighter version of a theme that sits on top of you, your main theme. Because what can happen is if you’re, if you’re making a lot of customizations, especially to the CSS code and then you, you update your theme, sometimes the, the new version of the theme can overwrite the CSS. So what a child theme does is it sits above that and all of your customizations will be there. So if you, if you update the theme that’s essentially sat underneath that it won’t affect the, the styling. To a point, there might be things that suddenly the code and the new theme become incompatible with the, the code and the child theme. But by and large it won’t affect that.

And the other thing you can do actually use something, something else that we haven’t gone into yet cause it’s a little bit of a even more advanced thing, is set up a staging site, which means that you would have a duplicate copy of your site, sat on a server that isn’t live to the public or it’s or it’s hidden to the public. So you can make changes on there, see what they look like. And then make them on your live site as well.

So before we go on to Woocommerce are there any questions?

Just a question here from Carrie. I was just about to respond on the chat, but it’s a good opportunity. Just asking if Divi is a paid for page builder. There is, there’s a free version I think. Yeah, I’m not sure you’d be able to show it. There’s a free version of Divi, I think it’s, it’s been that long since either of us have had paid for it, but we have this global license, a lifetime license, a lifetime license. I think it is a paid for theme. Yeah. It’s not for, it’s not very expensive, put it that way. But Peter and I both paid for lifetime license, so we’re never gonna have to pay for it again. But you, you do tend to find that with anything free it’s going to be limited and it’s not going to be particularly good. So yeah, I think the best

thing to do is pay for it, even though they’re not massively expensive. It’s cheaper than getting some big development agency to build page templates for you cause that can cost thousands if you want.

Try it, Carrie to see if it’s suitable for you. I mean I can set up a dummy site for you, like a demo site for you to play on if you like. I’m got no problem with that. So if you are thinking but don’t want to not sure about the investment, just let us know and I’ll give you a, like a sample area to play in.

There’s another advanced theme for you, an advanced term for you Sam. Okay. So let’s move on to WooCommerce. This is the, I think it’s now the only e-commerce plugin for WordPress or it’s, it’s, if it’s not, it’s the, it’s the one that’s most used. It was launched in 2011 and I’ve been using it since about 2013. By the end of 2014, this is the research I did last night it’d had 380,000 downloads and today it’s used on almost 4 million websites. It’s pretty well used. This is what the back end of WooCommerce looks like. So if you go to a website where you’re taking orders for products, this is what it looked like and obviously I’ve hid the names and addresses, but you’ve got the option here to see in a sort of a quick view what items people have ordered.

And WooCommerce tend to whenever there’s a big update to change things and take things away that the things people aren’t using. And one of the things they did take away was the ability to look at what items people are buying, which was quite frustrating because we then had to click into every single order. So if you’re, if you’re, gonna get stock from your home office or your business unit or whatever, going into every single order to see what people have asked for was, was a little bit frustrating. I don’t think this is a standard thing, but they introduced a way of bringing it back. And then obviously you’ve got the date, you’ve got the status, the order toal, and then these buttons here are, this one will mark the order was complete and this one will allow you to print out dispatch notes.

And this again with, with everything, there’s lots and lots and lots of different plugins and one of the plugins that you can use will give you additional options here. So you’ve got your invoices and if you, if you want to say if you send somebody an invoice with prices on or you want to just send them a dispatch note without prices on, you’ve got those options within, within various plugins.

And this is what the, the product section looks like. So again, I’ll give you a quick kind of a quick overview of what’s in stock prices are, what your skus are and all that, all that kind of thing. And the product editor looks like it’s it looks very much like the standard WordPress page builder and a page editor and post editor. You get title, text or the different things like price and how many you’ve got in stock. And what the shipping options are and that kind of thing. And then you’ve got product tags, there’s categories on there somewhere and your featured image. And then on the front end of the website, it looks like that.

And this here actually is something that isn’t standard within the WooCommerce. It’s something that I introduced recently. And again, there’s various plugins that allow you to do things like that. And you can set this one in particular was set up by the parent category. So I’ve got a parent category which has greetings cards. So everything within that category we will have this option. And randomly I had one last night where somebody, she’s sending the order to herself, but just put a note on it to the postman. I don’t know where she wants that to go on the envelope, I’m presuming, but it’s an odd one.

And like WordPress, as I said, WooCommerce comes with lots and lots of different plugins. Most of them are available from the WooCommerce site. And like I said with Divi, if you’re buying, if you’re buying or downloading free plugins that are recommended by WooCommerce, then the chances are they’re going to be, they’re going to be decent. They’re going to be sort of at least semi authorized. So here you can see things like WooCommerce Payments. You can, you can link it to Stripe FourSquare or PayPal. Various other payment options. In fact, I think even some of the payment options I’ve never heard of have got a WooCommerce plugin because it’s just, it’s so used. So well used these days.

Other ones we’ve got, you can, you can connect your site to MailChimp. You can connect to Royal Mail so that you’re offering prices based on, on Royal Mail’s existing prices or things like weight. And you can charge your customer exactly what you’re going to get charged. Book Order Form, Xero. It’s, it’s endless, really the number of plugins that you can put on WooCommerce.

So I’m gonna and this little, well actually we’re gonna end the thing before we want to go to more questions with some of the WooCommerce plugins and customizations customizations that I’ve got on my on site.

So this one here is Delivery Slots and I think this one costs $99 a year. So if it adds value to your website, it’s not a lot to pay. And what this is, it allows you to, to set a number of a number of slots per delivery day. So say you’ve got, you can only handle 10 orders a day. You can’t do any more than that. You would open up 10 slots for a day and then when those slots have taken off, that day would disappear and the next day will become the first day. So this was taken yesterday, this screenshot and the first day available for delivery is the 14th. And things like this, they enhance the customer experience because they know when they’re going to get the delivery and it’s not sort of a, please allow three to five working days with delivery. And you’re gonna, I mean, most people are sat in the house at the minute anyway, but under normal circumstances you kind of want to know when your delivery is going to be with you.

This plugin here is Flexible Shipping. How this works is there’s certain criteria that you set, like price is based on weight or based on postcode. So on this particular website, if you’ve got, if you’ve entered a postcode that it’s not within a certain area, then you’ll get different options. I think it’s within, you know, something like one mile or two miles from this particular shop, you don’t want, you don’t want to get an order from somebody who’s 20 miles away and then have to deliver it to them. So you get different options depending on, on what you’ve ordered and where you live. And again, it just, it just enhances the customer experience that they, it’s managing their expectations to what what options are available for them.

This one you’ve already, you’ve already seen, but this is, this is done through simple styling within Divi. And also there’s a plugin for Divi called, it’s called WC Builder. I’ve actually called it DB WooCommerce. It’s actually called WC Builder. And what that allows you to do is the standard layout for WooCommerce products is a, it’s not very flexible. So with Divi with this plugin, and I can’t remember if this one’s free or not, it will, it will literally allow you to build your own templates for, for your product. So you can put the image where you want, you can put the description where you want. You can also put in things if you want it to have delivery information on every single page or you want it to have different delivery information for for certain categories you can, you can set up product templates that only apply to, to certain categories.

This is in a couple of different ways. This is a site that I’ve got, which is, it’s a range of collectibles that, that no longer exists so that they’re referred to as retired. So the concept behind the site was that it was a retirement home for these little figurines. And I wanted that to kind of, I want it to be able to keep the, the ones that are sold. I want it to be able to keep them on the website so that it almost becomes a bit of a resource for collectors. But I didn’t want it to say out of stock, out of stock, out of stock all the time. So this particular bit here is just some simple customization. Fonts and colors. And this here is done through the CSS. So I’ve, I’ve switched on the ability in WooCommerce to put a label on a product if it’s in stock or out of stock. And then I’ve styled that and changed the, the word. And so it’s either rehome me if it’s available or rehomed if it’s not. And again, it just, it’s all about the customer experience. And out of stock looks a bit negative if you, if you’re a collector or something if everything’s out of stock. But if you, if you’re looking at it as being a resource so you can, you can still see what’s been available. But you know, with, with collectible items, I might never get another one again. So I just call it rehomed.

And this is the last one. This is a little bit more advanced. This is a site that uses a theme called Storefront because it’s a very, it’s a very light theme. It’s not, it’s not heavy, you’re not clunky. And it means that you can do a lot of your own customization to it, mainly through, through code and, and CSS in this case. But it’s an, it’s a good example of how you can really make a site work for your customers, things like that. Well, in this particular, for this particular business, there’s a free sample option, which I think under normal circumstances within WooCommerce, you’d probably have to put that as a variant so the product can have it in a drop down menu. We did for years on the site. And it was, we found that as soon as we introduced this free sample button, the number of free samples that were being ordered just went through the roof.

So it’s, it’s all about making things easy for the customer, whoever your customer is. And again, looking up things like on this page with this particular product, some of it’s sold in packs, some of it’s sold in single panels. So you want to, you want to make sure that the customer knows that they’re not paying £4.99 for a panel, for a pack of eight. So there’s all these little customizations. And here as well, this is done through through custom fields within WooCommerce, or I’ve set up a custom field for the brand and then a custom field for a short description of what the product looks like.

Because what we found with this, this particular product is that the client wants to have in the brand name the name of the product and also what kind of effect this particular style was. And it, it just meant every product name was just ridiculously long. So this is what we did with, with customization. And that’s about it. I’ve deliberately made this session slightly shorter cause I think people will have more questions than on Tuesday. Although we did have quite a few questions on Tuesday actually to be fair. So we’ve got about 15 minutes left. Peter, if you want to,

Yeah, I’ll put in a couple at first and we’ll open it up. So we’ve had a question, a good question from Nathalie about whether WooCommerce can be used for services as well as products.

What kind of service? So we’re talking French class, Nathalie here? I can’t see anybody on my screen. I can see four people, right?

Yeah. Natalie does classes, but I suppose any service really, I mean my answer on the chat feed was that WooCommerce can be used for products or services, but services would be badged in the same way as you would a product in terms of what you’re doing behind the scenes. But you can sell anything really can’t you?

You can sell anything. And there’s also various ways of just making the customer experience clearer. I’m just going back to it and say, you know, just go back to Vicki’s site where we’re selling online classes, which is, it’s kind of a product and a service, but it’s not a physical product that you’re, you’re going to send to somebody. So we’ve done little things like we’ve disabled the order dispatch email cause you’re not gonna, you’re not gonna have anything to dispatch to. It’s probably going to confuse people. If you’re going to, if they get an email saying your order has been dispatched. What is Vicky on her way to my house? So you can sell services, but just about making sure that it’s clear.

It’s, there’s also been a lot of chat on the, on the line about whether you should show out of stock items on the front end and whether you should display how much stock items are on there and things like that.

It depends on what you, what the business is. Like the collectibles site. Like, like I said, I want people to be able to see what has been available in the past. But on, on Northeast Gifts I tend to hide out of stock items. Mainly because it results in a lot of a lot of customer queries asking when things are going to be back in stock and unless you’re restocking that product regularly it could just be a bit of a headache for you. The other thing I do is I, I don’t tend to show how many items are in stock cause it’s, it’s giving, it’s kind of giving your stock levels away. But what the, there is an option within WooCommerce to have a

low, a low stock threshold. So if, if you’ve only got one left in stock, it will show that. But if you’ve got 500 in stock, it’s not going to say there’s 500 of these in stock.

Yeah, I think also backorders is an interesting one as well. Do you allow backorders on your site? So what backorders are for those who don’t know is if you are out of stock, do you still allow people to buy the products? If you know there’s no stock coming in, and that’s the question that you need to ask yourself really isn’t it.

It is. Now, it all comes down to your processes, what you actually sell. Because what, what will tend to happen is somebody will order four items and they’ll put four items in the basket. If one of them’s a back order, you’ll potentially be in a situation where you’re gonna have to decide do I send the first three items out and then send the additional light later on, which is going to be a cost to you or do you set it up so that if something is out of stock it can only be ordered on its own? Which I think is slightly slightly complex in WooCommerce to do that cause there’s been times in the past where things like calendars because they’re an odd shape and size of wanting to make it so that you have to order that in an order on its own and it’s quite complex customization in the code. I think it’s quite difficult with WooCommerce to do that it might be worth looking at.

Yeah, I certainly use WooCommerce a lot, I know you do. It is once it’s set up, but it can take a little bit of time to get your configuration right and it’s worthwhile thinking about that, especially the shipping side of it. Like you touched on the shipping before. The shipping, depending on your business model, can be extremely complex, can’t it Danielle Stanley?

And they are different models, some people have weight-based shipping, some people want cutoffs at a certain price range and so on. There are ways of doing it. But taking a step back, especially if you’re coming into a new business or looking to revise that, taking a step back, working out what your shipping model needs to be, what it needs to cover and make sure you’re covering your costs is really important.

Yeah. And also it’s about just developing it over time because when we first launched Northeast Gifts, we had everything set up with shipping classes. So each product had its own, its own class assigned. But what you find is that if you, if somebody is ordering from multiple classes, it could, it could end up in a situation where you’re overcharging somebody or you’re undercharging and it’s costing you a fortune, which is what was happening with us. So, for example, if we send out a single greeting card, it’s charged the customers 95 pence or something like that, but as soon as they add a mug to that order, it suddenly it goes from a letter to a parcel and you’ve got to, you know, if you, if you haven’t got your shipping set up right, it could end up costing you a fortune sending stuff out that customer hasn’t paid for. But again, it’s something that we’ve developed over time. I think most businesses will develop that. They’ll try things and then work out the not the way the charging too much and customers aren’t, aren’t willing to pay for it or it’s costing them as well.

Yeah. They just, it just takes a lot of planning to take a stepping back and working out what you want it to be. Yeah. Like I said, the other side of it is the cumulative cost. If you’re starting to charge per item, the cumulative cost of postage can be very expensive if they have a basket full of products.

Yeah. The other thing to consider as well as at what point in, if ever, do you offer free delivery? I know some people, some people on this call will, will have free delivery options on their site and we, we did on it for a while on Northeast gifts but we took it off because I think you have to consider what, how your prices are, your product prices and if your product is a well relatively well priced and you’re not, sort of people can’t just go anywhere and get the products a lot cheaper than on your website, most people are all willing to pay for postage. I think the other thing that’s worth mentioning when it comes to delivery is how you handle returns and always have a, a decent returns policy on your website and be clear with people as to when, when they can return things, how long they have, if they’ve got to contact you, something arrives damaged if they’ve got to contact you within 24 hours or whatever.

Yeah.
Jill, Jill Stewart, do you want to come in on your question? You’ve asked me a question about emails,

I can’t see Jill now. I’ll ask the question. So Jill put a question in the feed about can I check the, all the, can I check all the emails that the customer gets through their journey in WooCommerce?

Yep. You can set them up and you can switch them on and off. So the standard ones are order confirmation. So this is an order confirmation that your customer will get instantly as soon as they, they click pay or whatever. And then there’s the other standard one is the order, the order dispatch confirmation of the order, complete confirmation, which you, you do that manually whenever you, whenever you would click on the tick to say that this order was complete, the customer will then get an email to say that. And you can customize that.

How do I find them and edit them?

Within WooCommerce settings. So if you go to WooCommerce settings and then there’s a tab for email. Okay. And you can customize the text in there, the customization, standard customization within WooCommerce email templates.

It isn’t brilliant because I think they’ve had to consider different kinds of email programs and stuff and what’s going to display so you can customize it to a point. You put your logo in there and things like that. But then what I also do is I, I’ve got a plugin again, I think it’s a paid plugin which allows you to send follow up emails. So after, at the minute, I think it’s 10 days because of the postal delays, but 10 days after an order is marked as complete customer will get an email saying, how did we do? Give us some feedback.

And on the, on the bathroom cladding website, there’s an email that goes to customers only if they’re order value’s under two pound, which means that they’ve only ordered free samples and paid one 99 postage. And that goes to them about 10 days after they orderd to say, How were your samples? Are you ready to buy?

Well, I’d love to add it. Yeah. An extra one after they’ve received their item. Yeah. I might have to ask the developers.

Yeah. Or just ask, just tell them that. Tell your developers that there’s a plugin called Follow Up Emails for WooCommerce. It’s usually if you’ve got to pay a hundred dollars a year for a plugin, it’s a lot cheaper than, than paying somebody to develop it themselves because somebody is already doing that work. Yeah,

Yeah. The thing I use, Alan is a plugin called WP Mail Log. So if you want to keep track of what emails are physically going out from your website, so someone says, I didn’t get an email and I didn’t get a confirmation. If you have WP Mail Log on now, it keeps an audit trail of all the emails that are generated from your website so you can see what actually went out and what address it went to and so on.

There’s, there’s other things that, that, that plugins that will send emails from your server often and do it from the server. So like Mandrill has an app that’s something similar. There’s a log to see whether the emails are being, delivered, I suppose, I don’t know whether it could tell you whether they’ve been read but certainly tell you if it’s been delivered. But actually just while we’re talking about emails, the other thing you can do with WooCommerce is there’s a free plugin for MailChimp which will connect WooCommerce to MailChimp and you can actually send your confirmation emails that way. I did that for a while and I’ve found that the open rate of delivery rate wasn’t as good with MailChimp. But it is an option but also if you’ve got MailChimp connected to WooCommerce, it keeps a record of what people are buying. So then you can send them customized follow up email so you can, based on what they’ve purchased in the past, give them recommendations and things like that. You’re on mute Pete.

I’ve done it again, Danielle Stanley. Are you able to chip in there, cause I know you’ve used MailChimp to link a lot to your website. What’s your, what’s your view on linking in MailChimp? You’re on mute as well. No doubt. Danielle.

Yeah, I use MailChimp quite a lot and I get quite a lot of sales from it. Especially for abandoned cart emails. I need to work on my followups. So like Alan was saying, I do have a sort of gentle nudge to remind people to leave reviews and that does sometimes prompt people to reply and ask questions if there was something they weren’t sure about before they leave reviews, which is useful. But I still struggled to get people to leave reviews on the website. I don’t know if you’ve got any suggestions for that Alan.

I don’t know. I mean I get quite a lot of feedback from them on the website. I think it just comes down to how you word the email and how, how easy it is to leave feedback on the website. Cause a lot of people will click on an email, click on a link, and if it takes them something that they have to you know, like if, if they have to go to Google and they have to log in or have an account, there’s a lot of people will just say, I can’t be arsed with this. But you’ve got on Northeast Gifts site. It’s a very simple thing. It’s just an email address and a rate and a box for a comment

Yeah, mine’s the same.
Yeah. So I mean, how many do you think you get in, in terms of percentage would you say?

I get a lot more Facebook and Google reviews. Less than one percent on product reviews. Yeah. Even though I’m bribing them now with the stationary addict points.

Great. Hugh had a question on staging sites, but I think it wasn’t actually part of what we were covering today. So here we’ll take that offline if you like and discuss that question.

Are there any final questions?

Can I ask one? I have. So I’ve got WooCommerce, but it’s a bit of a mess at the minute. So what I find easier is I’ve taken a download CSV of what I’ve put up I’ve taken, I’ve downloaded their what’s the word I’m looking for? The CSV that they give you, empty the CSV file that they give you, empty that has everything in it. Just, just.

Templates?
Yes, templates! Sorry guys. Yeah. Okay. Right. Move on.

And so I’m going to fill in the CSV and then upload it. And I was just, if anybody had had an experience of doing that and if there’s any tips or tricks or is it a case of steer clear of it and just do it online before I start fully filling this in. Because for me it’s easier to do it in a CSV and do a lot of copy and paste and put exactly and see it exactly how I want it. And then add in the last bits and tricks,

There are some drawbacks to that. I don’t, I don’t think it’s very good at handling images if, if image is an option at all. But the other thing is that when you’re, when you’re putting your descriptions and stuff in your website, then we always recommend that you use headings and you format your text nicely. Sometimes with the CSV it will just strip all that formatting out and,

You can write it in HTML?

You can write in HTML, whether it, whether it works or not. Sometimes it depends on how you save the CSV. Try, I mean what I would probably suggest you do is try it with two or three products first. So yeah, I think I did that. I did do that with a site recently, so it works to a point. Yeah.

So if I write the description into HTML and I thought the images, if I’ve already uploaded them, I can just write the the link. The URL is at where as if they were sitting with it. Yeah.

What I do Hannah is if I, if I’m doing it, when I import the data from a CSV file, I’ll first create a product the way I want it on the target site, export that into a CSV file. That way you’ve got the format that it’s using correctly and then you can just add yours in the same way and reimport it.

Yeah, I was wondering about that cause that’s kinda what I did to compare my CSV and how I’ve been using product description against their CSV template, which has so many more columns that I’m like, yeah, I really don’t need that. So that’s kind of what I was thinking. Download mine and then sort of re repopulate that and then re upload that.

I think the other thing you might, you might end up doing is doing it in chunks because, or in batches because I think in the past it might be different now, but we’ve been in the past when I’ve tried to upload say a hundred products and they’ve all got a HTML code and they’ve all got various categories and things like that. It times out quite quickly. Depending on how much, how, how long your descriptions are and how much you HTML code you’ve got in there, if you can imagine it’s, it’s having to put all of that database somewhere, right. And depending on how, how fast your server is and what your PHP version and everything it can, it can time out and then you’d end up in a situation where you’re having to work out what it’s uploaded.

Yeah. And it’ll upload them as new products will it or, because obviously it’s going on ID cause that was the other thing when you’re downloading, it’s giving you the product ID and I’m thinking well that means that if I upload is there going to be a problem with the product ID and should I be giving them all new IDs or will that auto ID when I load it? That was the other part. I was like, you know, sort of unique ID really.

I think you have to set the ID. So you’ve got to be careful what, cause you work. If you’ve got it set to update, it will try and match the ID. But otherwise, if you’re trying to create new products, you’ll need to have unique IDs on your upload. Hey, that’s my understanding of it. It’s quite a complex one that one. If you want to have a chat offline, we can do, sorry.

Sorry guys. Any final questions before I’ll close? Nope?

All right, well, thank you very much again, Alan, for your hard work in preparing all of that. It takes a lot of effort to put all this together and we really appreciate your time and expertise. So thank you very much.

Let me say before I thank you everyone for your questions and for attending, and we’ll see you soon.