In case you didn’t know, Automattic (the company behind WordPress) acquired WooCommerce a few weeks ago. There’s been a lot of speculation about what this means for Automattic and what this means for WordPress with Matt Mullenweg laying it all out on the table for the entire community on his blog. There is some speculation that Automattic paid around $30 million in cash and stock to acquire it which seems like quite a large sum but perhaps worth it after getting $160 million in a recent round of funding.
What does this mean?
So what does this mean for the community of developers and designers who build custom WordPress and WooCommerce themes? Well, I can only guess as to the future plans but I think it is likely you will see a WooCommerce hosted (SaaS product) offering similar to that of WordPress.com. Staying in line with their close ties to the open source community, I imagine Automattic forever keeping WooCommerce as a free plugin (with paid extensions). However, they will now have the chance to battle Shopify and Squarespace who are rising to the call of making launching ecommerce sites a simple and painless task.
I recently had a client who moved from WooCommerce to Shopify citing that the WordPress interface was difficult to use in terms of doing the primary actions they focused on: adding products and managing orders. Whereas WooCommerce is light years ahead of the other ecommerce plugins which preceded it, I feel that it still has a long way to go in terms of offering a user friendly interface and setup. Many WordPress developers do not like the limitations of platforms such as Shopify but many of them fail to recognize that a lack of features and functionality can actually help to simplify the user experience.
How will they transition from blogs to ecommerce?
The biggest strength of WordPress has always been its commitment to improving its platform and making publishing content on the web easier. The community that has grown around it is completely mind numbing. I am an organizer of WordPress East LA and a co-organizer of the Los Angeles WooCommerce Meetup. I enjoy giving back my knowledge of WordPress custom theme development and WooCommerce integration back to the community which taught me what I currently know.
I have no doubt that WordPress will continue to be a powerhouse in the content management realm, but WooCommerce has a lot of pressure to continue performing well. Even though WooComemrce is powering 10% of all ecommerce sites and is on track to surpass Magento in the realm, there will be greater market fragmentation by innovative offerings from Shopify and Squarespace. Developers may not want to jump to other platforms for fear of abandoning their primary source of income, but if they want to stay competitive in a saturated market they might need to expand their skill set in ecommerce development onto other platforms.
Paul is a UX designer and web developer who founded Lab Coat Media and works as a consultant for Ness SES. He balances his time between design and development projects and teaching workshops on Axure prototyping and UX design. He is an active member of the local community in Los Angeles and is a co-organizer of the LAUX meetup group.