I am a big fan of WooCommerce. WooCommerce is the most popular choice among the top million eCommerce sites, ahead of both Magento and Shopify. I have personally deployed dozens of WooCommerce online stores and have greatly appreciated the simple, flexible, and powerful eCommerce framework that it provides for WordPress and the absolutely incredible array of extensions from a vibrant development community.
Two Roads Diverged …
Each WooCommerce website that I deploy needs certain specialized functionality beyond the core eCommerce features provided out-of-the-box by WooCommerce itself. This added functionality is provided by WooCommerce extension plugins. Whether the plugin is freely available on the official WordPress.org plugin repository, a premium plugin from the WooCommerce.com Extension store, or a premium plugin delivered from the developer’s own website, I have found that every WooCommerce plugin provides settings in the WordPress Dashboard in one of two ways:
#1. Logical, user-friendly admin settings grouped together on a tab or subtab under WooCommerce Settings. This approach provides an intuitive location for clients to manage all of their store settings in one simple location.
#2. A separate, top-level menu item named after the company that developed the plugin. This approach provides a completely different location for the end user to have to visit to manage random store settings that just happen to be controlled by that particular plugin.
One company that provides an excellent array of useful WooCommerce extension plugins is YITH, which advertises itself as “the #1 Independent Seller of WooCommerce Plugins”. Unfortunately, YITH has taken the second approach, which provides a very confusing experience for the end user.
Imagine if all the other big-name WooCommerce extension developers thought the way that YITH did. I would have to tell my clients to go to “SkyVerge” to manage the store settings controlled by SkyVerge WooCommerce extensions and then “Lucas Stark” to manage the store settings from Lucas Stark’s WooCommerce extensions and then “YITH” for to manage the store settings controlled by YITH WooCommerce extensions and then “WooCommerce > Settings” for core store settings that aren’t controlled by any of the above plugins. What a nightmare! Thankfully, most serious WooCommerce plugin developers don’t use the same approach that YITH is currently using.
Cut the Clutter
WooCommerce has a settings screen to store it’s settings. And there are clear instructions on how to add a section to an existing settings tab or even add a completely new tab to the Settings interface. So why clutter up the WordPress admin interface with an entirely new menu item titled with … your company name? Look, I don’t really care about your company name. My priority is a straightforward experience for my clients. The reason I’m interested in your plugin is that it provides helpful functionality. And that functionality is worth paying for if it provides a good user experience.
Instead, plugin developers like YITH act as if it’s all about their little plugin dynasty. It is almost as if they expect store owners to purchase half a dozen of their plugins for every new WooCommerce deployment so that they can collect all of their custom little settings pages into their own little company-branded area. Is this starting to feel narcissistic?
Ask the Right Questions
When Steve Jobs was at the helm of Apple, one reason that their products, interfaces, and marketing were so successful was that they were meticulously designed to first and foremost meet the needs and wants of the end-user.
Unfortunately, Instead of thinking about the needs of the end-user, many plugin developers ask themselves, “Where should I store the settings for my plugin?” and then proceed to proudly create a top-level WordPress admin menu with their company name. But that is entirely the wrong question to have asked. A much better approach would be to think about what the end user is asking: “Where should I go to manage my store settings?” Obviously, that’s going to be under “WooCommerce > Settings” not “Some Random Company > Settings”.
If WooCommerce stores are going to remain competitive in offering a simple customer-friendly management experience that is equal to that of a dedicated eCommerce platform such as Shopify, WooCommerce plugin creators will need to design their software to meet the needs of the end user. At the time of this writing, YITH is not doing that with the way they are hooking their settings into the WordPress admin. This obviously is not going to change overnight. But my hope is that in 2020, YITH and other plugin creators will beginn to wake up to the fact that it’s just as important to provide a simple and intuitive admin interface as it is to provide useful frontend functionality. The field of WooCommerce plugin developers is growing more and more crowded every week and only those that choose to put the end user first are going to survive.