Ah the EU. Always with their bright ideas. If you haven’t heard about the upcoming changes surrounding EU VAT, first off, where have you been hiding?
To put it simply, essentially they require everyone selling digital products to customers in the EU to charge EU Tax based on the customer location, regardless of where your business is based. You can read more about the changes in the blog post I wrote on WooThemes.com here.
Being based in the UK, and selling plugins on WPJobManager.com, I am affected by these changes and so I’ve been doing a lot of research, speaking to accountants, and preparing my site for the changes.
In this post I’ll explain what I’m doing and hopefully this may give you some ideas/resources if you’re struggling with compliance.
WooCommerce 2.1 has a new dashboard widget which replaces the previous version’s “Right now”, sales, and recent order widgets. Some users will like this change, others may ‘miss’ the old widgets. In this post I’ll explain the reasoning behind the changes.
I was asked about WooCommerce’s session handling at WCEU (where I seized up; darn social phobia) so I thought it would be good to give a brief history of our handling of sessions, and how things are changing in 2.1.
Cart sessions have been a long standing source of frustration in WooCommerce. To clarify, the session is the part which tracks a particular user’s cart object – without this the user wouldn’t be able to use the cart nor checkout.
The most obvious solution would be to use PHP’s built in sessions and session_start(). This was the first thing we used (obviously) and you’d expect this to work perfectly fine…but it doesn’t for the following reasons.
Back in January we had several shipping methods for WooCommerce for getting quotes from APIs such as UPS, USPS and FedEx. Because these APIs expected ‘packages’ to quote on, it was necessary for items to be ‘packed’ into packages with a weight and dimensions.
The original extensions attempted to pack items by attempting to stack items to see how many items would fit into a box. This was not well received, and had several flaws:
Stacked items left ‘gaps’ in the box
Only one box size was supported – the box just grew to envelop all items..
..or was pre-defined which lacked flexibility (any sized item would be shipped in that box)
Both the developer and I looked into solutions and this lead us to read about the BIN packing problem.
Wow, what a milestone. WooCommerce has today hit 2 million downloads, just 6 months after hitting a million.
How did we get here? Team WooCommerce has grown from 2 to 11 employees over the past 2 years, we’ve made 63 releases, closed 3735 Github issues (out of 3779), and solved over 30k support tickets.
Since the creation of the WooCommerce repository on Github, there have been a massive **6,284 commits*. Personally I’ve made 3,134 commits of those, with 1,187,191 line additions and 887,313 lines removed.
WooCommerce is by far the biggest and most successful thing I’ve worked on and I’m so happy to see it flourishing, especially this quickly into it’s existence.
Google trends shows the increasing interest in searches related to WooCommerce which really demonstrates its popularity:
This dwarfs other WordPress eCommerce plugins. Other platforms such as Magento do still have more interest average, but WooCommerce is catching up fast (given it’s age, and that its not a dedicated eCommerce solution this is pretty impressive).
BuiltWith has even more promising stats, suggesting WooCommerce powers 9% of eCommerce sites (thats 154 463 stores!). the below chart shows it’s popularity amongst the top 100k, 10k and 1 million sites. and suggests at present it is more popular with smaller sites, but that popularity is growing.
BuiltWith also has stats about platform usage showing just what the stores they track are using. WooCommerce takes a large chunk of that pie. Interestingly many use custom carts. I would expect custom carts to be a lot more work over time for the companies involved, so perhaps those will start moving to other solutions (including WC) in the near future?
It’s good to see WooCommerce beating other WordPress eCommerce plugins, and even many dedicated eCommerce platforms, by a substantial margin.
We’ll continue to improve core (2.1 is coming out soon) build and evolve surrounding plugins, and hopefully continue with the impressive growth we’ve seen so far. As the platform evolves I imagine WooCommerce will appeal more and more to users of WordPress, and WordPress + WooCommerce will become a more serious alternative to dedicated eCommmerce platforms like Magento.
Sometimes code needs to change; without doing so you can end up with a non-consistent, bloated mess. When changing things such as functions and hooks however, you do have to consider backwards compatibility so that code which relies on the old things doesn’t just stop breaking without explanation.
In WooCommerce major releases we often have to deal with this problem – in this post I’ll explain how to deprecate code, and how we dealt with it whilst developing 2.1.
Up until 2.1, each order had to be shipped via a single method with a single price. 2.1 changes that and allows each package to be quoted and shipped individually.
By default, each order is a package, so to get this new functionality to kick in you must split it into multiple packages first.
Filtering the packages
Each package has cart items, a total cost, applied coupons, and the destination:
Once items are placed into this package, the package is then filtered through the woocommerce_cart_shipping_packages hook. This is where you can manipulate the packages and create more if needed.
Lets say for this example we have a regular items and a bulky item in our cart:
The bulky item cannot ship with regular items, so we give it a shipping class called ‘Bulky’ and then filter the packages to separate it out via some code:
This code puts bulky items in one package, and regular items in another – once done, during cart and checkout you will get a shipping section per-package, and each can be chosen independently:
Limiting available methods for a package
Each package can now also be marked to ‘ship via’ a method of your choosing. This is useful if certain packages can only be shipped by certain methods.
For this example, lets ensure bulky items are only shipped via flat rate, and not shipped for free.
Notice the ‘ship_via’ row which has been added. Now during cart and checkout, only flat rate will be allowed for the bulky items:
After an order is placed, this is displayed in the backend like this:
So how can this new feature be used? Here are some example use cases:
Shipping method restrictions
Per product shipping with a different selectable method per product
True per-product shipping costs
Shipping per class
Free shipping for qualifying products only, not the whole cart
Right now its obviously only do-able via code, but I plan on building some extra functionality into the per-product shipping plugin to use this at some point, and I’m sure someone will make a UI for this eventually 🙂