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Profiles in Woo: Maarten Belmans

Meet Maarten Belmans, Founder at Studio Wombat


How do you Do the Woo?

I create and sell WooCommerce plugins at Studio Wombat.

The market for WooCommerce plugins, or plugins in general, may seem saturated, but I found there is still a need for quality code and a quick turnaround time for support. So I decided to join the market and see what would happen.

What year did you start using WooCommerce?

2015

Tell me the story of how you started using WooCommerce and why.

At the time, my story was pretty unique. By now, it has become a little more standard — and it may sound like a story you’ve heard before. Nonetheless, this is it: 

In 2015, I quit my comfortable consultancy job to travel through Australia for a full year. For someone coming from a very different part of the world, it was such an eye-opening experience that I decided I wanted to make this type of freedom a part of my daily life. 

I started wondering how I could travel whenever I wanted, without having to worry about the financial side of things. Since I had a background as a web application developer, I figured I would leverage my skill to earn an income online.

I looked at what I could do — something that was in demand. That’s how I stumbled upon WordPress. It was a well-established, popular, and growing platform, and therefore, a no-brainer.

I’m not a super creative person (well, maybe occasionally), so designing websites was off the table. Luckily, WordPress has a vibrant plugin ecosystem that I could dip my toes into!

From 2015 to 2017, I learned the ins and outs of WordPress, and more specifically WooCommerce. I loved how this large plugin could transform a site into a fully functioning e-commerce platform.

Even though my journey with Woo started as a business decision, the platform grew on me, and I had caught the WooCommerce bug before I knew it!

Why did you choose to focus on WooCommerce?

My background was in application development (.NET and even ColdFusion), so I never really liked to build “standard” websites. Developing something for WooCommerce is more challenging and gave me the rewarding experience I was looking for. Looking back, I made the right choice because it’s hard to ignore the growing e-commerce trend!

What do you like most about WooCommerce?

“There’s a hook for that.” 

Many areas within WooCommerce can be extended because the authors carefully chose to include hooks & filters. However you want to extend it, it’s likely possible.

What is your biggest challenge with WooCommerce?

My favorite aspect of WooCommerce is also what can make it cumbersome in some ways. There are endless possibilities, but it can take hours or days to figure out how to properly tie your features into WooCommerce. Especially taking into account that WooCommerce is constantly being developed further, and you never really know what will break in the next major release.

What would you like to see in the future with WooCommerce in terms of making it easier to run your business?

WooCommerce has been doubling down on providing resources for developers so they’re definitely stepping up their game to make us happy!

What’s missing for me is a clear roadmap. Perhaps it exists, but I haven’t found it yet (which is then part of the problem), so if someone knows a resource please reach out to me on Twitter :-). 

The people at WooCommerce have short-term and long-term goals that may affect me as a plugin developer. I’d like to be notified of those plans in time, so I can make correct business decisions. For example, I wouldn’t want to start developing a plugin that WooCommerce is planning to include in their core offering. I guess I’m missing some transparency that looks further ahead than the current major release.

Are there any trends that you see coming in the WooCommerce/eCommerce space?

For WooCommerce specifically, I think we’ll see more products or resources popping up in the “headless” WooCommerce space. So much is changing for themes, which has divided the landscape into pro- and anti-Gutenberg. There’s a third, less travelled, option: a headless store where the frontend is something entirely different.

Specifically for e-commerce, I think AI will play a bigger role in shaping the purchase experience.

What will you not buy online and still need to get in person. And why?

I would have said “trousers”, but the covid pandemic has helped me come to the conclusion that buying trousers online is perfectly possible. So I’ll go with shoes instead. Good footwear is just too important to buy based on a photo and a description.

Connect with Maarten

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