Last month, I attended WooConf in Austin, Texas along with Matt Johnson, CTO of Alley Interactive. WooConf is a conference bringing together developers, store owners, and e-commerce experts for a weekend long immersion in all aspects of WooCommerce, the leading e-commerce plugin for WordPress. Alley Interactive is focused on serving publishing, media and non-profit organizations, so while building e-commerce sites will never be our main goal, it’s natural that some clients need e-commerce solutions to serve their needs. The journey to Texas was a chance to explore the frontier of how we can utilize the strength and flexibility of WooCommerce and its surrounding ecosystem of extensions and integrations to meet the growing needs of our clients.

Though it was my first time in Texas, the conference was filled with the faces of friends and former co-workers. My first job was at WooThemes, and this extremely talented team have become experts in e-commerce, growing the plugin to over a million installs with hundreds of extensions. Having the chance to re-connect with many of them and learn from their large base of knowledge in the space made for both a fun and valuable weekend. WooConf was packed with amazing speakers, I’ll do my best to highlight only a few of my favorite sessions, but all of the slide decks have been made available on the WooConf site.

One of the takeaways from this conference was that there are many areas of e-commerce that are extremely painful to even think about, such as sales tax and compliance. Thankfully, there are plugins that handle this, and it would be well worth the cost to make this someone else’s headache rather than spending our own time and resources on an aspect of business that isn’t a core competency.

The WooCommerce API has been around for a while now, and Bryce Adams had a bit of fun on stage showing off some unique uses of it. His demonstrations included drones, Arduinos and LEDs, and a pretty neat smart clock/digital display. While many of these seemed completely for the fun of doing it, one of the more practical was hooking up a printer to the API to print out invoices when a sale is made. Other useful applications could include integrating with light systems to signal sales, or even using a 3-D printer to build a customers product when it’s ordered.

Patrick Garmen, a fellow former Woo-ninja and Sr. eCommerce Specialist at ColourPop Cosmetics gave easily the most practical talk to me, coming from a developer background. The talk was about WooCommerce at scale, and the challenges one faces when operating an extremely high-traffic, high-transaction e-commerce business. Patrick’s talk highlighted bottlenecks of both WooCommerce and WordPress, but more importantly posed and implemented solutions to overcome seemingly daunting challenges.

WooConf was useful, and fun. The knowledge and ideas not only serve immediate benefit, but more importantly solidify our knowledge base to build into the future. See you all there next year.

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