So, you need a helping hand. A leg up. Someone to save your bacon. Or perhaps just to point you in the right direction? Well, I will be summarising a few of the best places to look for WooCommerce help in this blog post.

Update to mention we have now launched YoGrow Answers where you can ask all your e-commerce questions.

Leave a comment for anything I missed and for feedback. If nothing here helps, just hit the Spok button.

spock-butan

Open source help

WooCommerce is found on the WordPress repository as are many other WooCommerce plugins and extensions.

WordPress is open source. So are the plugins, themes and extra code added to WordPress. It’s copyrighted using the GPL license and there is a really snappy explanation about why WordPress uses it on the Codex.

In a nutshell; the code written for WordPress is free for all users.

Free to use, modify and redistribute. Free as in freedom and not free as in free beer! One of the first places to look for plugin support is the plugin repository support page.

When we forget about what free means our expectations get out of whack. We need to remember etiquette. I’m not getting snooty about the way you hold your teacup (us Brits are a bit harder skinned than that). I’m talking about the expectations we hold about our support queries. Just take a look at the support forum and it is peppered with examples of how not to ask.

Be thoughtful about your support query. If it’s on the repository the developer is helping you because he wants to help you. It’s not his job.

If it’s a premium plugin then you can still follow these steps. It is their job but we can help them help you. Have realistic expectations. Don’t expect a reply within a few days when you post on a Friday. Don’t expect the problem to be solved if you do not flesh out your question.

Customers want to put on a brave face but they’re often more frustrated than you believe. In other cases, their frustration is extremely visible, but I find that it’s better to treat all customers like they’re angry with me.

That’s written by Bryce from WooThemes who wrote a fascinating article about working in WooThemes customer services.

The good news is there are some easy tips you can use to get your items solved quickly and with less stress! Don’t get angry with your WordPress problem – get even!

Preparing a support question

There is nothing more frustrating than email tennis. You send an email, 5 days later you get a reply asking for something else that you don’t get back to for another week. Rinse and repeat and something that could have taken thirty minutes has taken thirty days. It’s frustrating and can easily be fixed with a little preparation.

infinite-cat-ping-pong

I’ll tell you the key to fixing this. There are two basic questions that always get asked. Answer them in the support ticket and you literally shave off a month of dilly dallying around.

Question 1: Have you updated to the latest plugin.
I know this may seem obvious, but the amount of times I have assumed we had updated or did not spot a minor update. Make sure you have ALL the plugins updated, the parent theme and the core files.

Question 2: Have you switched it off and on again?
Or more succinctly: Does it work with the 2012 theme and just the plugin enabled. It’s a smart question. You want to isolate the issue so you can fix it. But you don’t want to dismantle your site and then forget how to put it back together again. When you have to manually disable dozens of plugins it’s pretty easy to get yourself in a tangle.

Easily Deactivate all plugins

We built a plugin that will disable all plugins except the one you are testing. Once you are finished testing you can then reenable the plugins. All in one go. Our Bulk Deactivate plugin is a huge time saver. Install it, disable your plugins and check if the issue is resolved.

If it isn’t then when you contact support be sure to let them know you have ruled out the obvious. If the problem has gone, then it’s time to find out which plugin is causing the issue. You can easily enable individual plugins or all of them in one go. It’s much quicker than the bundled plugin manager so it makes this process a lot less painful.

Preparing a WooCommerce support query

If you are using WooCommerce, then they have their own diagnostic tools you would be wise to check out first. Head to WooCommerce > System Status. This page will flag up any issues. For instance, if you have not increased the memory limit of your site then this will be in red.

This page will also list any of the premium extensions that are out of date. Make sure these are updated as well. You can update manually by logging into the WooThemes website but it is better to download the WooThemes helper plugin. This plugin let’s you add your extension license key. Next time you update you will have the premium extensions automatically updated as well.

Download the WooThemes Helper here.

WooThemes Support

When you use the WooThemes support you are presented with a contact form funnel. It will request your site details and specific information they need to get the ticket resolved as quick as possible. They follow the steps I outlined above.

They also appreciate a screenshot or a video showing how to replicate the problem. As with all support queries it is only possible to fix a problem if the support agent can reproduce it. Make sure you bullet point everything and use screenshots to explain.

May not be an accurate representation of the Woo office
May not be an accurate representation of the Woo office

Sometimes when using the WooThemes support they hide the button to add a new ticket. We add a lot of tickets as we are in and out of WooThemes and WooCommerce all the time. It’s what we do as WooCommerce Developers. We find bugs or have problems and keep WooThemes up to date.

If you want to add multiple tickets but cannot, then this a good link to keep bookmarked. It will take you straight to adding a new ticket.

CodeCanyon

Another place many people purchase WooCommerce extensions is the Envato CodeCanyon marketplace. We tested out this market place and added our WooCommerce Tax Toggle here. Always check the support page before buying. Have a look at how the plugin author has responded to the queries as it will give you an idea of how proactive they are in maintaining their work.

You can search the support for each plugin. It’s always advisable to search through these questions before submitting your own.

Some plugin authors on CodeCanyon have their own support forums. Use these if possible.

I’ve purchased some great plugins from CodeCanyon but I’ve also bought stuff that has broken within 6 months. If I had a choice between a $10 CodeCanyon WooCommerce extension and a $100 per year WooThemes WooCommerce extension I would choose Woo every time. It’s all about getting long term value from your purchase.

Premium Options

Premium plugins also inherit the GPL license. This means the code can be freely distributed. In fact there are a couple of sites that have sprung up to re-sell premium extensions at a lower cost. This seems to be technically legitimate within the GPL license but I think it is unsustainable and damaging for the user.

Updates are so significant because the WordPress landscape is constantly shifting under our feet.

Stretching the metaphor to the limit
Stretching the metaphor to the limit

An average site will have over a dozen plugins enabled. They all need to adapt to each others changes. If you are not using the latest versions together then you risk a conflict or bug appearing. But also importantly, if you are not investing in the developers that are committing the bug fixes and updates then that plugin will stop being maintained.

This is one of the reasons we always choose annual subscription plugins over pay once plugins. For example, WooThemes versus CodeCanyon. We are building businesses that will be around for years. Any plugin we add has a business critical function. In two years time we would expect to use the same plugin, but we would not be able to guarantee that if we are not funding it’s development.

A good premium plugin has a solid business model behind it.

So premium plugins are selling updates. They are also selling support. Many will have forums or knowledge bases. Check these first as the majority of issues have occurred before and are likely documented. If that does not solve the issue then get in touch and remember to follow our steps outlined earlier to make sure you isolate the issue quickly.

Admin Accounts

You may be required to create an admin account for your support agent. We never want to have admin accounts lying around. We recommend using a plugin called User Access Expiration which will automatically disable the account after a set period of time.

Debug Mode

If you want to get a better idea of what is breaking on your site then it is wise to setup Debug Mode. You can do this by editing your sites config file which is called wp-config.php and found in the root of your WordPress install.

There are a few lines to add to your wp-config file. Read about them here or just look at this handy GitHub Gist we use for all our sites

When using the above Gist, remember to set the correct path for your log file.

When the debug mode has been enabled using the above method you will get notifications and warnings about problems with the site. Use these to track down the offending code or let your support agent know in the support ticket.

Debug Tools

We use the same set of debug plugins for each site we look at. They are for the more advanced user but are a big time saver when looking at sites. We only like to use these plugins when debugging a site. So we built a plugin that let’s you enable or disable this group of plugins in one go. Download our Plugin Bundles plugin from the WordPress repository to do this.

Once installed you will see the option for the Debug Bundle.

Logging Emails and Activity

We have also added a bundle called the Logging Bundle. This includes two very useful plugins.

  1. Log Emails – This saves a copy of every email sent and is a very important tool when working out problems with email
  2. WP Security Audit – This logs all activity on the site. This helps you trace what happened on the site and it helps determine what caused the problem

WordCamps and Meetups

One of the best places to get WordPress and WooCommerce help is at your local WordPress event. There are WordCamps and meetups in most towns and cities. You will find all sorts of people and all sorts of skills there. It’s a fantastic place to network and meet locals who can offer a helping hand. In fact I am giving a talk in February about how to build WooCommerce themes using Bamboo and WooThemes Canvas.

Support MarketPlaces

WooThemes have a list of Affiliated Woo Workers on their site. This list includes designers, developers, strategists and everything in between. These are the top teams and freelancers to work on your project. We are an affiliated Woo Worker too!

At this point it is worth talking about budgets. I recently wrote a blog post about why we are increasing our rates. In the article I talk about the dangers of getting burnt by using poor quality workers. We get a lot of horror stories about jobs that were farmed out to workers found on elance or freelancer websites which failed. Do your due diligence and make sure that you have a solid worker and remember that cheap comes at a cost.

That said, for small fixes I have heard good things about the following services:

Elto
Codeable

Once you have found a trusted worker I suggest earmarking a few days per month for updates and support. Sites are in constant flux and anticipating this is half the battle.

Clarity and Consultancy

A fantastic resource for help is a consultancy website called Clarity. The site is a directory of experts in a variety of fields. You’ll find many ecommerce, WooCommerce and WordPress professionals here. You’ll also find me here where I offer WooCommerce consultancy.

Once you have found the professional you want to talk to select three times that are suitable for a phone call. The expert will then confirm or suggest an alternative time. Then you both phone a clarity phone number which tracks how long the phone conversation is and the call is charged per minute.

Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe.
Abraham Lincoln

I can’t recommend this highly enough. I have been using the service for 6 months now and every conversation I have had has been of enormous use to those who rang. We’ve been able to make recommendations which save time and money. Preparation is key.

WooCommerce CTO role

We’ve recently launched a part-time CTO role for WooCommerce. This is aimed to offer on-going help to grow your business. It’s a mix of strategy and implementation. One without the other is bad business.

Learn

Here are a list of links that will offer some fantastic help.

Community

When we went to WordCamp Europe last summer it was incredible to see so much of the WordPress community in one place. Seeing real people in place of avatars is bizarre! There are so many specialists out there to learn from and to help you grow. The beauty of the community is how open and helpful it is. Everyone shares knowledge and helps each other. I followed dozens of new people that day. You should too.

Last month the WordPress magazine Torque released a Top 100 WP influencers list which caused a comical furore on twitter. But it’s really quite spot on. If you are new to twitter or new to following those involved in WordPress then this is an ace place to start.

Links