Profiles in Woo: Robert Abela

Meet Robert Abela, CEO and Founder of WP White Security

How Do You Do the Woo?

I develop an activity log WordPress plugin that has an extension for WooCommerce, which allows users to keep a detailed log of all the changes that happen in the WooCommerce store: settings, products, orders, and much more.

What year did you start using WooCommerce?

I started with WooCommerce in 2017.

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

I was never into e-commerce myself. I was always into security, so WooCommerce was not really on my radar.

I had heard of WooCommerce, seen it on some websites, read some articles about it, but never used it. However, when our WP Activity Log plugin started getting traction, a lot of WooCommerce store owners got in touch, asking us to start covering WooCommerce.

In the beginning, I was a bit reluctant. WooCommerce is quite an extensive product, and with all the third party plugins, the options are endless. I was overwhelmed whenever I tried to look into it because I didn’t know where to start. However, it made a lot of sense to create an activity log solution for WooCommerce, both from the security and the manageability points of view.

Most stores have multiple users working, processing orders, modifying product data and metadata, adding coupons, changing tax rates and all of what is required to run an e-commerce store.

This is even more important nowadays, when most of us work remotely and many colleagues have never even met in real life!

So, store admins need something that allows them to look back at what happened and find out who did what. This is not about big brother, or only about security. It is about user accountability: quickly identifying the source of the issue and addressing it, and of course, keeping an eye on the business. Back when we started, we were lucky because we had a few plugin users who were happy to assist us. That is something unique to the WordPress community. Many store owners were keen enough to share their WooCommerce configuration with us and explain the way they use WooCommerce. All this helped us in the process of building the activity log solution.

Why did you choose to focus on WooCommerce?

I didn’t choose to focus on WooCommerce. It started when the WooCommerce community asked us to expand the activity log coverage to WooCommerce. We’ve had requests to support some other e-commerce solutions, but nowhere near as the number of requests we got for WooCommerce.

That shows to me how popular and widely used WooCommerce is. If I had to determine which is the most popular e-commerce solution based on the number of requests we get (and still get to keep on improving the coverage), WooCommerce is definitely the most widely used e-commerce solution by far!

What do you like most about WooCommerce?

There are quite a few things that I like about WooCommerce, here’ are some:

  1. The large number of third-party plugins, making it possible to build whatever e-commerce solution you want.
  2. The solution is very extensive, even without third-party plugins you can build a solid e-commerce store.
  3. It is very well documented, so getting started (both as a user and as a developer) is relatively easy.
  4. There is a hook for everything, so building something for it or integrating with it is also easily done.

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

Plugin developers require a different type of support than the end user.

It would be nice if there was a dedicated channel for developers, even if we are talking about paid support. So, if there are technical or integration problems, we do not have to go through the normal end-user channel. In most cases, developers need to speak to developers, because they are dealing directly with code.

Having said that, WooCommerce has doubled down on developer support. There are a lot of resources available, such as documentation, dedicated developers, Slack channel and more.

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

We are living through trying times at the moment due to a pandemic. It is not an easy time for many. However, looking on the bright side, hard times create better men.

Due to the pandemic, we are seeing more and more businesses moving online, and a lot of new innovations. There are new ways of doing business online, new plugins that add functionality to checkout or other parts of an e-commerce solution that previously were never needed, integrations with more services and much more.

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

A mountain bike! I like trail riding and Enduro, thus the feel of the bike and my position on the bike is very important. So unless I can test ride a bike, I won’t buy it.

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