A Developer’s look at Woo Express

Beau Lebens, Head of Engineering at WooCommerce, recently sat down with Do the Woo and shared his insights on a new offering from Woo, Woo Express. If you haven’t heard the buzz, Woo Express is a managed version of WooCommerce that is hosted on the WordPress.com platform. It offers a convenient way to create a WooCommerce store without having to worry about technical details like hosting and maintenance. 

In addition to the essentials for selling online, including secure payments, configurable shipping options, and actionable analytics what WooCommerce is known for, Woo Express expands upon the robust foundation with:

  • Ultra-high performance hosting from WordPress.com to keep your site online 24/7.
  • A selection of handpicked WooCommerce extensions and tools to help you get started fast, sell more types of products, and grow your business.
  • A streamlined navigation and store management experience that brings essential functionality to your fingertips.

Here’s what you need to know about Woo Express:

Is this just for merchants?

Woo Express enables you to give your clients a taste of WooCommerce, without you having to invest any initial time into development. Quickly spin up a Woo store – complete with essential ecommerce features – for free, and let your clients experience the power of Woo during the 14-day trial period. And if you decide to continue using Woo Express as the base platform of your ecommerce builds, you’ll benefit from the savings gained from our bundled extensions.

How can I use Woo Express with a new merchant? 

Starting a new merchant off on Woo Express can help reduce the start-up time by letting the merchant work through the first basic steps on their own.

The Woo store will function the same as any other Woo installation. You will be able to customize the design, install any additional extensions, and work with the merchant as they grow and expand their business

What technical pieces will change?

Woo Express is a managed, hosted way to use the same plugin you already know and love. Nothing changes on the core platform technical front. The WooCommerce plugin continues to be an open-source, fully extendable solution that is free to use and develop on.

What do I need to know about Woo Express if I’m accustomed to self-hosted environments?

Woo Express is still WooCommerce, but due to being hosted on the managed WordPress.com environment, there are a few subtle differences when it comes to the hosting environment

With every managed WordPress.com environment, you get access to a native GitHub integration, you can run WP-CLI commands, check server logs, access to DBs directly and set up your workflows through SSH and SFTP, and much more.

We recommend checking out the WordPress.com Managed Hosting FAQs, or reaching out to support if you have specific questions. 

Can Woo Express sites be migrated to other hosts?

Yes. You can export backups just like you would with any other WordPress site or host, and migrate the site to another host if you find a need to do so. 

Can I use custom code or 3rd-party extensions with Woo Express?

Yes, bar a few exceptions for extensions that conflict with the WordPress.com hosting environment.

How does managing multiple client sites work with Woo Express?

Currently, sites are managed individually. 

What themes are compatible with Woo Express?

We provide modern, attractive, professionally designed themes for use with your Woo Express site, but we understand that expressing your client’s vision can demand flexibility. You can use any suitable WordPress theme, including the ones specifically designed for WooCommerce. 

Is there a path to make my extensions eligible for Woo Express?

We want to keep Woo Express lean and ensure that all the extensions are inter-compatible out of the box. For that reason, we are keeping the Woo Express extension ecosystem minimal. However, once a Woo Express store is up and running, users are able to install any extension they like.

Does Woo Express mean Woo/Automattic are going all-in on SaaS?

In a word, no. Woo Express has the convenience of a SaaS product, but doesn’t leave behind open source ideals or functionality, and strictly speaking is not SaaS at all. You can always export a backed-up Woo Express site and move to another host, and we still support extensions in the same ways we ever have. No locks, walls, or gates here — just a more convenient way to use the same open source software as before.

We will be continuing to invest in and expand the WooCommerce plugin, as we always have done — Woo Express is simply an additional option for users.

Has Woo or Automattic developed any non-open source code as part of Woo Express? Is it all still open source?

A few proprietary parts of the WordPress.com hosting environment and the onboarding experience are not published and are therefore not open under the GPL. However, the parts of WordPress, WooCommerce, and associated extensions that you interact with day-to-day in Woo Express are still open — nothing has changed there. 

Will you still be working on and addressing issues in the WooCommerce core plugin? 

Woo Express is not a fork of WooCommerce — it’s a managed, hosted way to use it. 

We’re just as committed as we’ve ever been to improving and maintaining WooCommerce, and have taken pains to ensure that Woo Express does not slow down or diminish WooCommerce development. 

What’s next?

Right now, Woo Express is available for new stores on woo.com. New stores will have access to the 14-day free trial to start out. After the free trial, they can choose the Essential or Performance packages. Our current documentation for Woo Express contains more details about the offerings.

In the coming weeks, we’ll be rolling out a few more updates and a dedicated landing page. We look forward to sharing more details soon. Please share any comments below, or feel free to ping us in the WooCommerce Community Slack #developers channel.

One response to “A Developer’s look at Woo Express”

  1. I was thinking of purchasing some Woocommerce paid plugins and then I saw “Woo Express” which is a better option with all those plugins included. Can I get Woo Express service for an existing Woocommerce store?

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