A Master of WooCommerce Snippets: Rodolfo Melogli

Do the Woo - WooCommerce Podcast, Community and News
Do the Woo - WooCommerce Podcast, Community and News
A Master of WooCommerce Snippets: Rodolfo Melogli

There are some in the Woo space that have been a mainstay and you hear over and over again their names when someone talks about getting the help to push them to learn more as a developers. Rodolfo Melogli is one of those names.

His site is filled with WooCommerce snippets and other tutorials to help advanced developers up their Woo development skills. He talks about his long journey in Woo and some interesting insights into the value of snippets beyond a simple piece of code.

A Chat with Rodolfo

Noëlle and I talk with Rodolfo about:

  • How an idea of selling baked goods online turns into a web development career
  • What that turning point is when a developer wants to move to advanced WooCommerce
  • Why snippets are so valuable for a developer beyond just fixing or adding code
  • How he keeps his snippets updated
  • When and why he made the move to create his online courses

Connect with Rodolfo

Thanks to our Pod Friends

Mode Effect

Noëlle: Hey everyone, it's Noëlle with episode 122 of Do the Woo. With me is my co-host Bob. Bob, how are you doing today?

Bob: Hey, I'm doing excellent. I'm excited for the guests. I'm excited that you're back. I'm excited that you open the show. I'm excited about a lot of stuff today, so I'm just generally excited.

Noëlle: That's awesome. I'm excited as well because for our guest if it wasn't for him, I don't know where I would be today. I've learned so much from him like I know so many people, but first Bob is going to thank a few of our Pod Friends.

Bob: Yeah. We have a couple Pod Friends just want to they're part of the reason we're here all the time. And first of all the first one is Mode Effect. Mode Effect can help you with your clients, conversions and revenue. Their team can be a part of your team and help clients avoid the hassle of management and training. Sometimes you just don't want to do that training. So reach out to modeeffect.com and check out what they have going on over there.

And our other Pod Friend is YITH who has over a 100 plugins. And if you have a client that wants to get into memberships and subscriptions, they have a couple plugins just perfect for that especially if there's selling lessons, consultancies, anything like that. Membership restriction, recurring income, hey, those are great sells for your clients so check them out at Yithemes.com and they have a great selection.

So let's head right on back to Noëlle. And she's going to introduce who I believe is somebody I've been trying to get on the show for a while. We've gone back and forth. He's had many things going on in his life, but I would love for Noëlle to introduce our guest.

Noëlle: Yeah. So today we have on Rodolfo Melogli from BusinessBloomer.com. He'll tell you about himself, but his resources have been so valuable on my personal WooCommerce journey, Rodolfo, warm welcome to you and tell us how do you do the Woo?

Rodolfo: Well, that's a big question, maybe a million dollar question. I do the Woo maybe from the early morning until the late night. I start dreaming about PHP and then maybe think about some CSS and HTML and then wake up and start working with clients... No jokes apart. I am a WooCommerce developer, so I work with clients who usually have WooCommerce websites and may need customization so if you want that's my specialty. Over the years of have started to share my customizations and my snippets and my guides and tutorials all over the internet. And I found out that there is lots of people that are willing to customize WooCommerce websites.

And from that moment onwards I basically never looked back and despite I enjoy working with clients, right now my main focus is online courses and teaching people like me who maybe are luckier than myself, because when I started I knew nothing. There were no online courses, there were no videos, there were no tutorials, so I had to figure it out myself. So basically I'm trying to help people save time and get on with customization, which is a really fun part of WooCommerce. And I thank WooCommerce developers for making it so extensible, so flexible. And every day there is something new to learn and to achieve. So that's how I do the Woo and I really enjoy every day, or at least I've been enjoying it every day up until now. We'll see tomorrow.

Noëlle: No that sounds really, really awesome. And I just know to me you're such a big part of Woo see your tutorials show up in WooCommerce groups, time and time again. And I keep referring to them. Your visual Woo guides are very valuable for a lot of people, so thank you. If it wasn't for you then I don't know.

So how did you get into WooCommerce?

Rodolfo: Right. That's another million dollar question so that would be the second of the day. It's a long story I believe like everyone who is currently working in Woo, I think it's a very young piece of software. I think lot of us used to do apps really... I don't know had something very different beforehand. Well, let's say between 12 and 13 years ago, I used to be a civil engineer. I used to live in Ireland and I used to work in construction and one day recession came and I said, "Fine, I'm just going to get six months off and enjoy my free time." And I'm Italian and I was abroad and the local bakery had just closed down because of the recession. And I said, "Sure, why don't I just start a bakery business? I could make cakes and biscuits and fun stuff that by the way nobody would buy but sure I'll do it anyway."

And the thing is that I didn't have a lot of budget. I said, "Sure, I'll just do it online. And I'll bake from home and then I'll sell it online with PayPal and stuff like that." And at the time I just basically didn't know how to do websites. I didn't know anything about e-commerce and just picked the first software that came to my mind and said, "Oh, this WooCommerce sounds awesome and it looks simple." I didn't even know WordPress. So I said, "Oh, WooCommerce runs off WordPress and fine I'll just come up with a website now." I created the first website and purchased my first hosting package, and my first domain name, and came up with the pictures and content. And in the meanwhile I was baking, and baking, and baking and becoming fatter.

And then I said, "I think really no one is ever going to buy my cakes and biscuits. Why would they ever do that?" But other than that I actually enjoyed developing this website. I enjoyed using WooCommerce and why not? I could come up with a business idea and start doing websites for $70 and that's what I did. And then I met a friend of mine at the tennis club. And I said, "Are you crazy? $70 per website, in order to make whatever salary you have to do 500 websites per year." And I said, "Okay, maybe you're right. Okay. That will be 497." And that was my first offering of my websites. And over the years I changed from website designer to WooCommerce developer.

I don't develop websites any longer, I just fix them or customize them. So it's something that I enjoy much more than building websites from scratch, but that was the story. So I think it's pretty fun and the first client that landed said, "Can you do this, this and that?" I said, "Sure, of course I can." So I have to go and figure it out but it was fun. And that was my first client as well. And then there were more, and there were more, and there were more. I said after four or five years I'm going to give up because there is no money in doing websites, at least the way I was doing them. And then with the help of a business coach I found my niche and decided to exclusively work with WooCommerce clients, and with people who already had ongoing businesses and that was the key for turning myself into a WooCommerce freelance. And I've been enjoying it every day so far.

Noëlle: Our stories actually have a lot in common because I too started with having a need for my own website. I barely knew how to use Facebook at the time. Everything was new. I sat there and I figured everything out, no documentation and tutorials blood, sweat, and tears type of thing. And then also discovered, "Hey, I like building websites. I never knew this." And well, from there, here I am. And it also shows that everyone starts from somewhere, it seems to be such a universal thing?

Rodolfo: Yeah. Absolutely.

Noëlle: Charging peanuts for a first website, I think we've all been there.

Rodolfo: We've all been there and we've all been probably destroyed by clients who were not happy and, "That's not good. That's not good enough. That's never going to be good and I'll never pay you." Clients who used to go out of business after 12 months because you still hadn't gotten all the content of their website. And then in the meanwhile everything changed. We've been there, we've done mistakes and hopefully we got over them and we found a solution to each one of this one.

Bob: I'm really curious. On your site one of the things you first mention is about becoming an advanced WooCommerce developer. Where do you think that turning point is? Because I think a lot of developers go into it and just start learning the code. Where is that point that you're finding they're coming to you and saying, "Hey, Rodolfo I need to bump it up here because I'm not where I need to be. And you seem to be the perfect opportunity to take me to that next step."

Rodolfo: Yeah. Yeah. That's a good question. I think being advanced doesn't mean that you've been working at it for 20 years or that you have a degree in WooCommerce if even existed. I think being advanced is knowing the tools and knowing how the WooCommerce plugin is coded, and also no knowing the environment and how it works with updates. What's the WooCommerce team is looking at at the moment and what's the roadmap. And of course then coding is a good plus. If you know how to code in PHP and a bit of CSS, and of course everything is made from HTML that's a bonus. But 10 years ago I knew nothing about PHP and especially JavaScript. I only knew HTML because I used to build the website for our Fantasy Football group you know that that was the only website I ever developed up until 10 years ago.

And PHP is not difficult, you just need to try it out and learn by example. And I think that's also how I became an advanced developer. I simply had some tasks, found some tutorials and some code snippets online, found out that they were working or they were not, tried to understand if they were reliable or not, tested them out and applied them and eventually I was able to even customize them and make them a little bit more unique or a little bit more specific. That's how my business basically was born. I simply saw what was online and used it. So I think being advanced is basically knowing all the tools out there and because now I'm advanced, I am able to know that a WooCommerce developer need to know about the hooks, for example, that's how the visual hook guides came up.

They need to know a little bit of the basics of coding and how the WooCommerce plugin files are organized. And that's also where the hooks are coming from, basically opening each file and see what's inside it. I think being advanced also means exactly downloading the plugin and opening its files. That's a big thing because by reading these files, these PHP files especially, you actually find out how the plugin is coded and how the front-end, how the pages that you see on the front end are actually generated. And other than that once I became an advanced developer the key to basically up my reputation was to share all my knowledge. Sharing all this knowledge by the way wasn't intentional. I just was posting snippets on Business Bloomer because I needed them for my next clients.

I wasn't expecting that my snippets will attract so much traffic, it was for myself so that's also interesting. Something that was helpful for me as a developer then of course it became helpful for thousands of other developers. And that's the moment where I said, "Oh, that's the way I build traffic to my site and I share my knowledge." And eventually I will come up with a freelancing business and of course get clients out of my website because I do know networking, I do know ads, it's just all organic and clients basically arrive from the snippets on my website, "Can you do this? Can you also do that? Can you customize this snippet of yours? This snippet doesn't work can you fix it? I want to get rid of a plugin can you use this snippet on my website," and so on.

So basically the moment I understood that people wanted more, I just publish more and more and more and I still do it. The last few months with a new baby it hasn't been that easy, but I still try to write one post a week with resources, with tutorials, with snippets, with solutions. I don't mind sharing solutions. My dad one day said, "Why do you post the full solution online? Are you not losing business, are you not wasting your time because people just copy and paste your snippets and that's the solution." And I said that's not the problem. The problem is that if you share, if people appreciate it, people give you a much better reputation and one day or the other they're going to hire you, they're going to get you to work on their websites.

And that's how it is it's just a numbers game. And other than that resources that I share it's not to make money. It's just to give people as much as I can, because I know how difficult it is especially at the beginning without knowing anything, without documentation, without knowledge, without tools. And I'm trying to help people and that really turned into a business. So if someone tries to help first and then to make money and to make a living, this is how it works. If it's the other way around then I don't think it will ever work.

Bob: I know Noëlle's got to have some stuff because she's basically learned from you, but I want to ask one thing about the snippets because this is what you do a lot , is snippets. And just to give you a little history, I remember when I used to write back several years ago when I was writing blog posts, I would get developers come in and drop snippets, "Well, don't use this, use this snippet instead." So we'd go back and forth on this conversation and I'd tell them my audience is real basic, they see a snippet and it's like this wild little snake down there that's going to bite them or something. When I first got into WordPress I wouldn't touch them with a 10 foot pole because they did frighten me just as a basic user, then down the road I started getting a little more comfortable using them.

And then of course tools like the snippet plugin I can't even remember the actual name of it, but where you can put it in and it'll tell you if something's wrong with it, that does help. What I'm leading to is snippets are great. They were like a lifesaver for me. It was like, "Wow, this is cool." Or somebody provided me a snippet. It seems like it's really a for developers too, it's a constant learning skill to use those snippets. It's not just a grab one of Rodolfo's snippets and use it. Do you feel like they're gaining even more value from that snippet because they're seeing how something works, and then in turn they might start exploring it on their own more and dabbling in the code more and more.

Rodolfo: Yeah, that's a very good question actually. I think a snippet is always the starting point. Usually a snippet will give you a quick fix or a quick customization, move that element on the single product page from the top to the bottom. Okay. That's an example of a snippet, but what if you want to do that only for a given product, or only for a given category, or only if the price is above $50, or only if the product is in stock? So at that stage, you start learning conditional logic and that would be the next step, which means how to make the function trigger only if a certain condition is true. And then at that stage you start learning maybe a little bit of JavaScript as well because WooCommerce uses a lot of dynamic content and event triggers, especially on variable products and so on.

So I believe a snippet is always the starting point at least it's the answer to the is this possible in WooCommerce? And if there is a snippet for that or for something similar to that, for sure, you're confident that you can achieve that without plugins. Now I say without plugins not because plug-ins are bad. The majority of WooCommerce plugins especially premium ones from reputable agencies or marketplaces they're great. I'm just saying that sometimes four lines of code are better than a plugin, sometimes they're not because plugin might be complex enough to handle payments, to manage shipping, to do something quite delicate. And in that case really using snippets or custom code is never, or almost never a great idea because it's an e-commerce site of course so money comes first. If with a snippet you do something wrong and payments cannot be taken and a shipping doesn't work then there is a lot of issues, especially with your client.

So your disclaimer is very important in this case, but I learned by looking at snippets online. My goal is just to organize this information, which over the last 10 years has grown exponentially.. Initially I wasn't the only website doing snippets, now I'm probably one out of 10,000. So I see this with the traffic dropping because there are more and more competitors. I see this with more people commenting on the blogs and I see people from different countries. So initially it was only US and India now. It's really all over the world and people don't mind about the English language because PHP is nowadays international language and so that's the answer.

I think snippets may be complex but at the same stage they open the developer's mind, basically give them the confidence to say, "Oh, this can actually be done in WooCommerce so let's try it," of course, if they have budget, if they don't maybe a $79 plugin might be the solution. That's why I don't ever say, "Don't buy plugins, don't download plug-ins." I just say that's your choice as long as which one is the perfect fit to your project specifications, go for it.

Bob: Having done tutorials not from the developer side of things, but more on the user side of things, there has been your biggest challenges. You got a lot of content and stuff changes and things happen. How do you keep on top of that with what you written as far as keeping it updated as well as you can keep it updated. It's almost an impossibility in a lot of situations to do that with a lot of content, but what challenges and what have you done to keep things updated? Because I watch you on Twitter and I see updated posts, and I'm like, "Oh yeah, oh yeah. I get it." So how's that played out for you?

Rodolfo: Yeah. That makes sense. By the way that Twitter notification is just an automatic post that gets generated every time I revise a blog post. So in real time that happens, thankfully the Business Bloomer blog has got a lot more readers. These readers leave a lot of comments and sometimes some of these comments will say, "Thanks so much but since WooCommerce 5.1 this snippet is not working any longer. Can you fix it?" So that will be the time I just go in test it because we are in the WordPress war and we know that it might not only be the WooCommerce 5.1 breaking the snippets, it could be absolutely anything else, a theme it could be another plugin, it could be some other custom code you've written. So I just go in test it on my development site and if I really notice that there is a bug, or that the snippet requires updating I'll just go and do it.

So thankfully it's not that challenging because every week I've got a couple of hours scheduled for replying to blog posts, comments. And within those two hours, I also manage to maybe revise a couple of posts. And lucky enough because my posts have no content, it's just snippets of code so they're not long, there is no images to change, there is no text content to change. It's just copy the snippet on my development site, see if it works, if it does reply to the blog post saying, "Listen, it works so it's your fault." And if it doesn't work, I just go fix it and republish it. So it's quite easy I think just maybe once or twice in 10 years happened that I couldn't manage to fix it or that it was so long to fix it.

And I said, "Listen, guys, I just have no time. So just understand that posting on the blog is done for free so I just kind of help everyone." But other than that I enjoy also keeping code up-to-date. And it's also a sort of a demonstration that the same way plugins require constant updating, snippets are the exact same. Snippets are just mini plugins. So even snippets at some stage will break at some stage will stop working because WooCommerce changes their code every month now, actually on a daily basis. So sooner or later your code will break. So snippets are not forever, same as plugins. So support is a big thing. And even if I do it for free, I actually think that it's a good service to provide keeping the blog up to date.

Noëlle: So Rodolfo I was wondering, you've been providing all this awesome information free of charge on your blog for quite a while and then your courses came along. I've taken the customized Woo course as you know and it's really changed how I look at things. I remember it says on the page instead of thinking, "Is there a plugin for that, it's how do I code that?" And I feel I've truly gone there, but what was the turning point for you where you decided, "Right. Now I'm going to put a product out there and I'm going to try and summarize it all in this first course. How did you get there?"

Rodolfo: That's very interesting. And once again, that came out of the blue. It wasn't planned or it wasn't studied, or I didn't have a meeting with myself because who is in the business anyway saying, "Okay, now in order to grow traffic, I should do this, this and that." No that didn't happen. It was just totally random at the beginning. What happened was that Localeze or with the local Chamber of Commerce at the time in Ireland, I really enjoyed holding events and presenting, and talking about SEO, and talking about a little bit of development and talking about cool things, of course, free events. And at that time my traffic was growing on Business Bloomer. And one day I said, "Why don't I just do a live event," on at the time Google Hangouts?

"And I'll just get some people to sign up and I'll collect email addresses, and then I can send them the recording, it's going to be fun." And I just went for it. And so my first free video lessons basically went live on the website. They were simply the recordings of these very long one hour session of teaching. And there was a lot of chit chatting and stuff like that. And as soon as I publish them people started saying, "Oh, that's great content amazing, but why don't you just do them 10 minutes long instead?" And I said, "Listen, they're just recordings. So I'm not good at editing and I'm not going to fix that. Take it and don't complain." At that stage I really noticed a big number or people who were looking for video tutorials for live demos.

And it was myself logging into WordPress and opening FTP and editing functions, DocPHP and using hooks and stuff live so it was fun to see. Because I think developers at the very beginning they actually need to see someone else doing live coding, that's why right now live coding becomes so popular. So I said, "Hey, this video format really works." I think my videos on YouTube they got up to a million views or stuff like that. And I said, "Oh, hold on I could do videos." So I transformed my free video lessons in lead magnets. So I said now these videos will be given to people as soon as they enter their email address. So at that stage I basically implemented my first internet marketing thing on Business Bloomer because I said now it's time to make the most of this big traffic that I have.

The next thing was, "Let's just put five of these videos together, add another 20 and that's an online course so why not?" So I just spent two months in the same room and try not to do any sounds and noises and stuff like that, and I got my first online course recorded. And then I had to arrange all the videos and cut them and save them, and it took me ages but it was a lot of fun. And so the first product on my website was born. So up until that time, it was just services and I think that there is some good marketer out there who talks about productizing businesses. And I think that that was the first thing that made me realize that having products for sale is actually a great idea even for developers.

So it's not random that developers go and develop plug-ins or themes or online courses or sponsorships and podcasts and stuff like that because products are cool and you don't need to sell your time any longer. I'm still selling it but at the same time I enjoy also creating more online courses. If I have the time right now I would have probably published two more, but I'll hold on for a little longer until the end of the year.

Bob: I know how that is because those are very time consuming but rewarding.

Well, this has been excellent. I'm so glad I was able to get you on here. And I think that is a great way to wrap up the show. We have a lot of people on the show talking about productizing and that's a perfect example how you took that and you build up your audience. The biggest thing there to be learned from that is you build up your audience and then you did this, and you had them in place and that's how this works. Excellent.

Well, we'll go ahead and wrap up here. Where can people connect with you? Let's revisit your website and then if there's other places that's a good place for people to ping you if they want have any questions.

Rodolfo: Yeah. My main website is businessbloomer.com, which by the way was still my original brand from when I used to do websites. My goal was to bloom someone's business so that name stayed on. Other than that, of course you can find my personal email on that same website, or otherwise my Twitter handle that I'm not going to spell it today because it's so complex, so just copy and paste it from the footer on my website and that's it. So I'd say Twitter and emails are the best ways to get in touch with me.

Bob: Well, cool. Well, do check out businessbloomer.com I recommend that you sign up and see what courses he has to offer. I know a lot of people are always asking me, where do I learn advanced coding for WooCommerce? BusinessBloomer.com is a great start.

Let me thank our pod sponsors one last time. YITH. To compliment that membership and subscription plugin I was talking about, they also have a dynamic pricing plugin that allows your clients to create their own Amazon prime like benefits and discounts. I don't think you want to do that with a code snippet.

Probably not. I would suggest maybe a plugin for that as Rodolfo suggested.

Rodolfo: Yes, too complex.

Bob: And then Mode Effect. Partner up with Mode Effect and let them help you keep your clients running smoothly in the longterm at modeeffect.com

Excellent again, thank you so much, Rodolfo.

Rodolfo: My pleasure.

Bob: You know, someday, I'm going to talk you into doing a live coding on event via a live feed.

Rodolfo: Cool

Bob: I’m gonna, you do that that sometime.

Noëlle: That would be fun.

Bob: Yeah. definitely have to have you do that. And really appreciate you taking the time to come on.

Noëlle: Yeah, thanks so much. It was great to have you on.

Rodolfo: It’s been a pleasure. Absolutely.

Bob: Alrighty. Well, everyone just keep on top of do the woo. Go to do the dothewoo.io/subscribe. And as Rodolfo does, he does the Woo a lot. So be like Rodolfo, doing it night and day and dreaming about it. Take care of everyone.