One of WooCommerce’s best-selling points is its customizability. But as extensive as the WooCommerce plugin database is, sometimes it’s still not enough. That’s where custom development for your WooCommerce store comes in. With custom development, we open a whole new world to your website’s capabilities. Still, as powerful as it is, it doesn’t come without its challenges.
What exactly do we mean when we say custom development? Well, it’s like a custom tailored suit – it is tailoring code according to your exact specifications. With that, we’ll have precise control of the end-result. It is making changes to your website using configurations beyond what the software or plugins are originally capable of.
Sometimes you may find that WooCommerce is lacking a certain functionality that you require. You search for a plugin and there’s no viable plugin for it. In cases like these, we can custom code to add that functionality to your WooCommerce store. If you don’t like how a WooCommerce plugin works, we can add custom code to tweak it and make it work the way you want it to.
However, this does not come without its challenges.
In a vacuum, programming is predictable. For example, if you only had to deal with WooCommerce and you wanted to change something, it is simple and straightforward. However, in reality, a website exists as a combination of different software working together. What should be a straightforward change to WooCommerce could become unpredictable. Other installed plugins may behave differently as a result of the custom code.
These complications can create additional work but solving them is a necessary step in custom development.
Other obstacles to custom development are unexpected bugs and simple errors.
Custom development is adding short pieces of software to the site. And as with all software, the first release rarely turns out as perfect from the get-go. Even with thorough testing, not all cases can be tested. In some instances, the bugs can pop up at an irrelevant area of the website.
Errors are also common, especially with complex customizations. At Wooassist we have tested over 500 developers in our recruitment program and trialed almost 100 of them. We are left with the cream of the crop and have 3 solid developers. They are the top one percentile, but they are not machines. They are not perfect. These unexpected bugs and mistakes go hand in hand with custom development. To get things right, several iterations may be necessary.
More meticulous testing is advised, but it will also cost more. It is up to the client to set the balance between testing and cost.
Another challenge for custom development is its dependency on the parent software. This includes – either WordPress itself, WooCommerce or the other plugins you have installed. There’s the possibility that updates and new software versions will affect your custom development.
This is because the custom code has been specifically designed for the current setup at the time. If the setup changes, then the custom code needs to be modified as well. This means that custom development is not a build-it-and-leave-it process. It needs regular maintenance to keep up with the updates of the original technology.
So should you still get custom development for your WooCommerce store?
Most of the time, the ready-built plugins and extensions for WordPress and WooCommerce are enough to get a website up and going. There are thousands of extensions, both free and paid. Chances are, the functionality you are looking for might already be available. If it comes down to a choice between a paid plugin and custom development, sometimes the paid plugin is more advisable. It is much safer and easier to adjust your expectations and solution compared to custom code.
Business owners can be guilty of coming up with less than optimal ideas and then investing in development to implement these. A much better process is to invest more in researching the problem and the range of solutions available. Find some experts, send them the objective, the problem and your proposed solution and let them do some research for you. There is often a much simpler and cheaper solution.
Now what if there are no plugins for the functionality you require?
This is when you have to decide whether the functionality is worth the challenges and costs that come with custom development. If it is a functionality that gives the site admins the capability to spend less time working on a task, then it will pay itself off in the long run. If it improves customer experience and increases conversions, then it should also be an acceptable cost.
You can also choose the option that requires the least customization. Strike a compromise between the functionality you require and functionality of the original software. Bend the software less to avoid complications. All in all, custom development is not advisable for all projects. While challenging, custom development tells us that there will almost always be a solution. For most website owners, custom development is a necessary step in creating the website that they envision. To pursue this path, the site owner must accept the challenges of custom development.
1. Here’s an example of a WooCommerce checkout that we’ve customized. Instead of the standard WooCommerce checkout page, we’ve separated certain sections grouping them together. We ended up with four sections, namely Billing Details, Shipping Details, Payment and Confirmation.
During the process, we encountered an error that cost some time to troubleshoot. So apart from the customization itself, we also needed to deal with unexpected complications.
It turns out that it was caused by a conflict with an idle plugin activated on the site. Deactivating the plugin fixed the issue.
2. Here’s a product page that we’ve customized according to our client’s specifications. For this particular project, not only did we have to customize the product page, we also had to migrate an existing database of non-WooCommerce products to a WooCommerce website. This was complex as the existing products had attributes not compatible with WooCommerce.
The only viable solution we could think of was to make use of separate paid plugins to manage the attributes. In the end, the client had to purchase a separate premium plugin, WP All Import and the Advanced Custom Fields add-on. Unexpected costs like these may deter some website owners from custom development. However, these are often necessary.
3. One of our clients asked for the functionality to create a list of the site’s most regular customers. She had installed a plugin for it. However, upon checking, the plugin has not been updated in over 2 years. As there are no alternative plugins, we figured that the most viable option would just be to build custom code for it.
The custom development itself was straightforward. Still, we needed to strike the right balance between spending time creating the code and spending time testing for errors. In the end, we were able to complete the custom development with the bare minimum in functionality in just a bit above 2 hours.
Here at Wooassist, we bill the work we do by the hour. So when it comes to custom development for your WooCommerce store, more complications can mean more time spent than expected. Most of our clients still prefer this arrangement as it is still cheaper than fixed price custom development work. Also, it is easier to arrange changes to the project along the way. Agencies that offer fixed-price quotes for free usually offer them at a premium as the client is also paying for the time when they didn’t get the work. And once the project has started, it is difficult to arrange changes without incurring additional charges.
But for those that would still prefer a fixed price quote, we can offer our Custom Project Roadmap product. When you purchase it, we will spend time researching, analyzing and defining the scope of the problem and solution. After these, we will offer a fixed price quotation. By having a clear strategy that is pre-assessed to be viable, we can minimize the complications. And when complications do arise, we won’t be billing you anymore for additional charges so you have control over the expense.