In this interview, we hear from Manos Psychogyiopoulos from SomewhereWarm. SomewhereWarm is a one-person WooCommerce extension development shop. Manos is the developer behind popular WooCommerce extensions like WooCommerce Composite Products, WooCommerce Product Bundles, and WooCommerce Conditional Shipping and Payments.
Below is the summary of the video discussion. If you have any questions or comments, please share in the comment section of this post.
The three WooCommerce extensions take up most of my time. There’s a lot of product management, which is making sure that each extension does well what it’s supposed to do. This includes prioritizing features, maintaining list of tasks, and keeping up with updates.
I also do second-level customer support for these extensions behind WooCommerce Ninjas, who are the first-level support. This means they escalate more technical issues, or when they suspect that there’s an issue with the code in the extensions.
Lastly, I collaborate with other WooCommerce extension development teams on compatibility and projects.
Around the time WordPress started supporting custom post types, I was looking at eCommerce platforms based on customer needs. WooCommerce ticked all the boxes in terms of my eCommerce requirements and I started using and getting familiar with the platform.
I also became a co-founder of a successful and fairly complex eCommerce store built on WooCommerce. This gave me the opportunity to learn the codebase of WooCommerce and learn the challenges of store owners. I did started building functionality for our own needs. At the time, WooThemes wanted to grow and they had put a call for development work to which I submitted my code. And that’s how it all started.
SomewhereWarm was actually the name of my WordPress blog that I used to maintain as a student, especially in Denmark. So after I decided to start my company and my new beginning, I felt like using the same name.
During my time at the eCommerce store, I was building a lot of functionality to support that store. Product Bundles was one the first full-fledged plugins that I created. Composite Products came around about a year after that. At the time, these did well what they needed to do based on my understanding of the needs.
However, as I talked to more shop owners and learned about more use-cases, these plugins evolved in their functionality.
Conditional Shipping and Payments was also built out of the need of my eCommerce shop. I had kept finding small code snippets before I built the extension to exclude certain shipping gateways and such. But there was no one general extension that could be used to modify aspects of the checkout experience, and so I decided to put it all together in one extension.
Being on all the fronts of SomewhereWarm is probably the biggest challenge in terms of the time it takes. As a team of one, I am the one who has to do product management, design, and support. Over time, I am finding more opportunities to work with other teams and that has been a really good experience.
It really helps to be a part of the extended WooThemes family. For example, product management happens at two levels – one me, and there is also a team of product managers at WooThemes who help with that.
When it comes to time management, it’s important to have your own roadmap of tasks to do. But, you have to be flexible to adapt
The extensions get around 20 to 60 support tickets per week. In terms of the scope, these are between 50,000 to 60,000 lines of code. Composite Products takes up about half of that number.
The extensions have been purchased by roughly 15,000 to 20,000 WooThemes customers.
- Document your code. Even if nobody else looks at it when you’re starting, at some point you might want to go back and look at something. It’s not the best feeling when you look at your own old code and you can’t figure out exactly what you were thinking at the time. So, putting some comments or documenting is great for that.
- Try to work with a designer. We are not designers, and they are not developers. And sometimes we can create a mess when we try to think as designers. So work with designers as it’ll pay dividends down the road.
- Spend time on yourself and with your family. Get out of the office often to keep that balance.
If somebody is trying to get into development, the most helpful place to start is looking at the code of open-source projects. Get into the code and try to see where each function or line of code takes you. It really helps progression to look at code written by an entire community of developers. Try to get feedback from users of your projects, and other developers.
I am seeing a lot of store owners with a tight budget focused too much on the design or development of their eCommerce website, and maybe ignoring their products a bit. Start with something simple like the Storefront instead of spending a lot of money on the “perfect” theme. Perhaps at the least, have your company logo done by a good designer.
Focus first on your product, and don’t worry initially too much about the website design or user experience.
Over the next few years, I think eCommerce will be encouraging purchasing habits more oriented towards subscriptions – not just for services, but for everyday products. I’m seeing a trend towards that and it is something that I’m excited about in the future.
- Short term is focusing on the release of WooCommerce 2.6, which is right around the corner.
- One promising project I’m working on is developing a mini-extension for WooCommerce Subscriptions that I have co-authored with the Prospress team. It’s called Subscribe All the Things and it is still in the experimental phase. An example of what it would make possible is that shop managers can allow subscriptions not just for a single product, but also for an entire cart. If you have a few items in your cart that you would like to purchase regularly, it gives you the ability to do that.
- On a personal level, I would like to spend more time with my family. So creating that work-life balance is an ongoing process, but certainly something I would like to work on.
I would just like to emphasize the value of family. I know as a developer, sometimes we get too obsessed with work and getting things done. It’s important to have your family behind you and to spend time with them, as it can be easy to forget that. So, make an effort to spend more time with your family.
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