I have x and y, I just need to…

I didn't expect to answer a question on Quora today. Most days I'm just annoyed by their emails. But today a question caught my eye, purely because I was curious what the answers were.

Here was the question:

I need to change the look and feel of a WP based e-commerce website with WooCommerce and an Adamas theme. Where are the most needed changes: In WooCommerce or the theme? Where can I look for a developer?

I was less than inspired by the answers I read, so I decided to just type out my initial thoughts. Here's what I came up with:

The problem I see is that you're setting a constraint on the look and feel (saying what theme to use) while also saying you need to change it.

I would recommend reorganizing the priorities:

  • Determine what features and qualities to the site are most important to you.
  • Determine if these features and qualities will require assistance from a developer or development agency.
  • Determine the value of these things so that you can establish a budget for the work that's required. (The people you contact can help you establish this).
  • Determine if a pre-existing theme can help you achieve these goals on budget. You'll be surprised how often a developer will be worried to use a pre-existing theme, especially one they don't have great knowledge of. Not all themes are made the same. Many are bloated, poorly coded, not flexible, or not well documented. There's a lot more than the feature-list to consider, and it's not the easiest task.
  • Choose whether to utilize an existing theme or have one created for your situation.

No matter what direction you take, be sure that you're using best practices for when you customize eCommerce plugins like WooCommerce. Never edit the plugin or a distributed theme directly. Be sure your developer is using a custom plugin to customize WooCommerce and a child theme to customize a distributed theme.

Websites — and eCommerce in particular — are not a simple thing, especially once you start customizing things. Yes, they're easier than ever before, but strategy is still an important and valuable task, and your web developer should be part of that process.

I would encourage you to choose an option that you can use pretty much out of the box unless you've established a value that this project will provide you. If it's your first eCommerce experience then what you think are the important components probably are not the most important (to be blunt).

Nevertheless, I hope this helps some. Best of luck.

I get emails all the time where someone has learned enough to get themselves a website and some plugins and themes installed. But they usually are missing the strategy component, and they have a hard time sorting through what are simple changes versus what are very expensive or even deal-breakers for the proposed solution.

I'm guessing you get contacted like this quite often as well. Maybe my answer will help. Or even better, you may have some advice for my off the cuff response; and I'd love to hear about it.

Here's the actual Quora thread, if you want to see what the full discussion looks like.

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