Building an Ecommerce Site with WooCommerce and Shop Plugins

Shop Plugins

WordPress developer Daniel Espinoza took time out of his busy holiday schedule to answer some of my questions about Shop Plugins, his WooCommerce plugin business. In addition to questions about Shop Plugins, Daniel talked a bit about his #BUILDSZN project where he is focusing on building a SaaS company in a limited timeframe.


Can you start by telling me about how you found yourself working with WordPress?

I started freelancing as a web developer in 2008. I quit a job I hated in a bank’s IT department. I wanted to spend more time with my wife and newborn daughter. I found work doing ecommerce site builds and had to teach myself PHP and Javascript. The designer I was subcontracting for used an inexpensive PHP shopping cart and then later Magento to build ecommerce sites. Most of the sites needed a blog so I would install WordPress in a sub directory and convert the ecommerce theme to the WordPress theme. Building the theme twice was double the work, so I was thankful when WooCommerce came around and we could build everything on WordPress!

You sell a collection of WooCommerce related plugins through Shop Plugins. How do you deal with handling development and support for so many projects?

Originally I handled all development and support for the plugins. This year I’ve moved to just doing support for the plugins and have had help from Igor Benic (Editor’s Note: Check out our interview with Igor where we talk about his Simple Giveaways plugin.) on development.

He’s a great developer and we work well together. Igor will work on a new plugin concept, bug fixes, or an enhancement then I’ll test the code and deploy a new release. We’ve added tests and CI to improve the process. It’s good to have multiple people involved in building to reduce mistakes.

Is there any particular plugin that has proven to be more technically challenging that the rest and, if so, what were some of the hurdles you had to leap to get it completed?

The most technically challenging plugin on the site is the Toolbox for WooCommerce Subscriptions plugin developed by Gabor Javorszky. The concept for this plugin started with a client project through my WooCommerce agency Grow Development. Gabor generalized and expanded on the code and we published the plugin on Shop Plugins.

The plugin extends the WooCommerce and WooCommerce Subscriptions plugins and gives customers more control over their subscriptions. WC Subscriptions is a powerful and complicated plugin and there is a lot going on under the hood. Understanding the codebase is a challenge.

Toolbox for WooCommerce Subscriptions
Toolbox for WooCommerce Subscriptions

In a related question, is there any one plugin you sell that has proven to be more popular than the rest and, if so, why do you think that is?

Our most popular plugin is the WooCommerce Redirect Thank You plugin. It solves the problem of providing contextual page content based on the contents of the customer’s cart. I think that’s why it’s been so popular.

How do you go about successfully marketing your WooCommerce plugins to potential customers? Do you focus on individual plugins or your business as a whole in your marketing?

We tried sponsoring one or two WordCamps, but I don’t like going to these camps anymore so it feels like wasted money if there isn’t someone there to wear a t-shirt or shake hands.

Marketing for the site is split between focusing on SEO keywords and working with a handful of affiliates. Shop Plugins launched in February 2015. Over that time I’ve seen a few posts and plugin pages gain SEO traction. The posts that rank well keep converting to sales.

WooCommerce Redirect Thank You
WooCommerce Redirect Thank You

Is there any piece of advice you could give to other people interested in WooCommerce that you wish you had been told before you got started?

For developers starting to use WooCommerce I would suggest to read the code, read the developer docs, and follow the GitHub repository issues. You’ll speed up your learning time by reading through the plugin’s code even if you don’t understand what you’re reading. Later when you try to extend a feature or make a modification you’ll recall what you read and will be able to find the code faster.

There’s also a WooCommerce community Slack that is free to join. It helps to see the questions and answers being shared and a way to connect with other people developing with WooCommerce.

What’s on the horizon for Shop Plugins?

We currently have 8 plugin for sale on the site. We have about 6 that are ready to ship and a few more in development. I’d like to get to 20 plugins on the site by mid-year.

I wanted to end by discussing your #BUILDSZN project. What is #BUILDSZN exactly, how did the idea come about and what are you hoping to get out of this personally?

#BUILDSZN is my take on “building in public.” I mentioned I’ve been working for myself since 2008, but I’ve been a developer since 1993. Over that time I’ve had to learn new skills to keep up with the times. During #BUILDSZN I’m going to build a SaaS. I have a lot to learn and will make mistakes, but on the other side I’ll have a new set of skills that I can use to build a new company.