First, we came across this tip after one of our editors (looking at you, Jeff!) from Australia happened to need custom made window blinds for his brand new home he had purchased. Being a tech-savvy person, he knew all about the DIY options available online. He browsed the web for his window coverings until ultimately arriving at My Direct Blinds from Google Search.
“Being a tech writer and programmer for a WordPress website, I instantly recognized that this was a WooCommerce / WordPress website I had landed on.” Said Jeff.
“Curiosity got the better of me,” Jeff said.
He frantically right-clicked and viewed the page source.
“Confirmed, It’s a WordPress website…”
“I was quite impressed with the overall design, and since there were a lot of product options to configure the window treatments on their website, I knew they would have had to of spent a lot of money on a custom implementation.” Said Jeff.
Upon browsing the page source code, however, he discovered that it was likely not a custom implementation. He saw that they were using the WooCommerce Extra Product Options plugin to help their customers configure their products.
“Not bad…” Jeff was thinking.
“The plugin was only $25 on codecanyon”, said Jeff.
This is a prime example of business happening to save a significant amount on development costs thanks to the open-source community contribution-based WordPress ecosystem.
We reached out to the director, Aaron of My Direct Blinds, to hear his story.
WPDesigner: Hi, Aaron, thank you for taking the time out of your day to chat with us about your WordPress website.
Aaron: No problem, my goal is that other businesses might see this interview and discover that it does not always take tens to hundreds of thousands of dollars to develop a website, especially one that might need some sort of a custom calculation software like a window furnishings or flooring business.
WPDesigner: Agreed, the open nature of WordPress, does allow for some great achievements.
Aaron: Being technical myself, I was always great at problem-solving and learning new things, but I never took the time to learn how to program. I was always focused on trying to make money. I simply didn’t have enough time to dedicate to learning how to program. But with a WordPress plugin, I didn’t need to know how to code. I simply installed it and configured the product options as per my product requirements. The plugin did the rest and worked seamlessly with the theme that I also bought from codecanyon.
WPDesigner: That’s great, Aaron, so you saved tens of thousands on developer wages by configuring the website yourself?
Aaron: I had hired a freelancer for a few hours to finish up the visual aspects and make sure the website was polished, but for my industrial products (window blinds) I had configured these through the plugin myself, saving me at least a few months of work I would have had to of paid a developer or some web agency to do otherwise! I’ve also managed to start several other businesses online with WordPress: A floor rugs website, a printer ink website, an ‘elo boosting’ game services website, the future’s looking bright 🙂
WPDesigner: Can you let us know what the plugin lets you accomplish and the hurdles you ran into?
Aaron: Sure, with window furnishings, nearly all prices are calculated via a pricing grid table matrix. A Price Matrix is a two-dimension table that summarizes the sizing of the blind and the associated price offered. Each cell of the table is identified by both its row and column indexes. There was no other plugin I could find that was able to handle these complex price calculations. Initially, the plugin did not have a price matrix and only had conditional formulas, but to achieve what I was after that would need a mind-boggling 500,000+ lines of price conditions to cover every combination.
WPDesigner: Woah, 500,000 combinations, how is that even possible?
Aaron: We have one product called a “Double Roller Blind,” because the user chooses one option on the first blind, and then another option on the second blind, there were very many combinations. There are about 15 fabric choices on each option, for 225 combinations in total. But it didn’t stop there, because of the price matrixes and the need to convert them into conditional formulas, I had 3000 lines of conditions on each combination, which then turned into the 500,000+ lines of formulas!
WPDesigner: That’s nuts, so how did you get around this?
Aaron: Well, initially, I sat there and wrote all of these out in an excel sheet. I guess that can be considered programming, but It was more of a tedious task as opposed to a difficult one. It took a very long time, but I eventually accomplished it. The very next month, the plugin developer saw my hassles and incorporated an inbuilt price matrix calculator into his plugin. So through my sweat, I’ve no doubt helped someone else who purchased his plugin. I’ve contributed my part to the WordPress community. 🙂
WPDesigner: Thank you for taking the time to have a chat with us today, Aaron. We hope our readers, or at least those who are thinking about starting a business with WordPress / WooCommerce, take this on board.
This is a lesson to all; the open-source platforms of WordPress and WooCommerce are a great asset for those that might be disadvantaged or are bootstrapping their business. You’re able to start something by doing it yourself and with limited technical knowledge. Aaron is proof of that. WordPress plugins allow the author to code something worth a lot of money because of the time and hours it takes to develop them, and then distribute it to thousands of people in the community for a low price. The author makes their money by having many people purchase it, and everyone else gets the software without having to code it from scratch. There is no point in reinventing the wheel every time if many people require the same function, it makes sense to have them acquire something already made by someone else.