Profiles in Woo: Katie Keith

Profiles in Woo introduces you to the Woo builders across the globe

Tell us how do you Do the Woo?

I’m Operations Director at Barn2 plugins, and am the mastermind behind all the plugins that we develop. We specialize in WooCommerce plugins although we have a few non-WooCommerce plugins too.

All our WooCommerce plugins focus on adding specific features to WooCommerce which aren’t available elsewhere. We keep our plugins lightweight so that they solve a specific need, and do it well – without weighing down people’s sites.

For example, our bestselling WooCommerce Product Table plugin displays WooCommerce products in a quick order form layout. It improves conversions and speeds up the buying process for customers because they can quickly choose quantities, variations and tick all the products they require before adding them to their cart all from from one page, which is much faster than having to visit a separate page for each product.

What year did you start using WooCommerce and tell us the story behind that.

We started in 2009 building websites for clients, and started specializing in WordPress in late 2010 when we discovered that it was the best way to build websites for an affordable price and in a way that allowed the client would update their own content. We built our first WooCommerce site in 2011 when clients started requesting e-commerce functionality. We tried a few different WordPress e-commerce plugins and found most of them very clunky and difficult to customize, but WooCommerce was different and soon became our weapon of choice.

What made you decide to focus on building products for WooCommerce?

When we started selling plugins, we tried a few different niches. Through our experimentation, it quickly became clear that WooCommerce was the way forward and was an area within WordPress with a huge market and good potential to build successful products. For example, in early 2016 we released a generic WordPress table plugin called Posts Table Pro, which lists any post type (e.g. blog posts, documents, events, or e-commerce products) in a table.

The plugin was successful but we soon started receiving feature requests from customers wanting extra features that specifically related to listing WooCommerce products in a table or one-page order form. We listened to their feedback and released WooCommerce Product Table, which has been our bestselling plugin ever since. At the time it was the first WooCommerce table plugin on the market but of course there are quite a few now.

When we have released a generic and a WooCommerce version of the same plugin (another example being our Password Protected Categories and WooCommerce Protected Categories plugins), I have always been amazed at how much better the WooCommerce version sells.

There are so many gaps in the functionality of WooCommerce that if you know it well, there are plenty of opportunities for building successful and unique products. Customers are also more inclined to pay higher amounts for WooCommerce plugins because they actively help to grow their sales and make them money, unlike plugins that do more general tasks such as improve their blog.

When you were first learning to build with or for WooCommerce, are there any individuals or websites that inspired you and helped you to become a better builder?

I always found Chris Lema’s blog very helpful because he talks about how to do things in a simple, practical way.

Tell us one product or service, specifically built for WooCommerce, that you are impressed with and why?

I really like Iconic’s Sales Booster for WooCommerce plugin because it looks at every part of the customer journey and offers ways to increase the average order value – for example, by displaying related products in appropriate locations at each stage of the process, including on the checkout which most plugins don’t do. I’m jealous because I want to use it on our own site and we use EDD instead of WooCommerce!

What is your biggest challenge when building with or for WooCommerce?

When planning the functionality for new plugins, there are often challenges relating to how our plugins will integrate with WooCommerce itself. Sometimes WooCommerce simply isn’t very user-friendly! For example, we have just launched our new WooCommerce Discontinued Products plugin, which adds a ‘Discontinued’ status to WooCommerce for end-of-life products. We wanted to add a feature to discontinue all variations and ended up adding it to a dropdown on the ‘Edit Product’ screen that we feel is not at all user-friendly. However, our philosophy is to work with WooCommerce instead of against it and even though we don’t like the way they have implemented that dropdown for usability reasons, it was the logical place to put it.

Similarly, the structure of the current WooCommerce settings pages make it difficult to find a logical place to put the settings pages for our own plugins. We feel they should be in the WooCommerce area and aren’t arrogant enough to add a dedicated ‘Barn2’ section to the WP admin, but it doesn’t feel like they fit naturally into the structure. I believe WooCommerce are currently working on improving this with a new left nav.

Do you have any predictions of what you see coming in the WooCommerce ecosystem?

At some point WooCommerce will become more block-based. Given that it is owner by Automattic, it’s surprising how long they have taken to add Gutenberg support to the product page etc.

What is your biggest piece of advice for anyone wanting to start building products for WooCommerce.

Immerse yourself in the market, e.g. by building sites for clients or for yourself. That’s the best way to find ideas and gaps in the market. There are so many gaps that you can easily find a unique idea, without having to copy plugins that have already been made. That way, you get 100% market share!

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

Big things like a car or a house. I’m currently planning to move to Mallorca for a year and despite the current travel restrictions, Andy and I just went for a few days to find a house to rent for a year. After visiting, we realised that we had done the right thing and that it would not have been possible for us to get a true flavor of the area or of each property without visiting in person. We spent ages beforehand looking on Google Maps, Google satellite view etc. and still had a very different impression of each place after visiting in real life.

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