WooCommerce 2.6 is coming this week (most likely tomorrow!), so we’re outlining what’s new and changed in this WooCommerce 2.6 Review.
As we detailed in our WooCommerce 2.5 Review, version 2.5 was primarily focused on making WooCommerce more performant and including some “under-the-hood” changes (such as a new session handler). WooCommerce 2.6 includes some structural changes as well, such as migrating to the WP REST API structure available in WordPress core. However, it also includes neat improvements for store owners and their customers alike.
Let’s start at the beginning: settings and new user onboarding have been tweaked in version 2.6. First, the “payments” set up in the onboarding wizard now recommends a couple of free payment integrations while still allowing you to set up core payment methods.
A nice small tweak is “localizing” the Cheque gateway name for the US citizens 🙂
The shipping section of the onboarding wizard has also changed to make way for shipping zone creation. Rather than setting up some rates immediately, you’ll be asked only if you want to enable shipping, as simple methods like “Flat Rate” are no longer available (unless you’re upgrading and have them enabled previously).
General Settings have been adjusted to ask you if you need tax or shipping functionality within your store, and you’ll notice that the settings tooltips have also been tweaked to use a different icon.
This means that, as you enable taxes and shipping on the “general” settings screen, you’ll no longer see these checkboxes under their respective settings tabs.
If taxes and shipping are disabled, the settings area will be simplified to hide these tabs completely, as the settings are not needed.
Aside from onboarding for new merchants, there are also several admin changes for existing merchants to check out.
First, the “Account” settings have been re-organized to put the settings you’re more likely to change first. There are also some new endpoints available to the reorganization of the account area for customers.
Since WooCommerce 2.6 adds architecture for payment tokenization, there are also some new endpoints under “Checkout” settings for saved payment methods. Note that payment gateways will need to add support for these new features for them to be used.
Speaking of payment methods, the core payment methods have been simplified again. Simplify Commerce has been removed from core so that it can be updated independent of WooCommerce itself, and is now available as a free plugin on WordPress.org instead.
WooCommerce 2.6 adds an “on hold” email that’s automatically sent to customers when an order moves to this status.
Emails also get a UI tweak while editing them. Previously, to return to the emails list, you had to click the “Emails” tab again. Now you have a “back” button to return to your email settings.
The Product Data fields have been tweaked just a tad as well. The tab icons have been upgraded to use Dashicons (which are already bundled with WordPress), and the “SKU” field has been moved to the “Inventory” tab.
This is a tiny improvement, but a welcome one: orders will now show the “quick edit” links when you hover over one, allowing you to quickly delete an order (handy while testing):
While viewing an individual order, the order will now show the paid date with the payment details right under the order title while viewed.
Order line items management has also been tweaked with a new UI and bulk actions for line items. You can now click on several line items at once to edit them, and can also edit the order total manually (click the image to see it in action).
There are a couple nice frontend improvements to the browsing experience that customers will see. First, you can now add a widget to filter by product rating on shop and archive pages.
Second, any cart changes now load via ajax instead of requiring a page refresh, such as applying or removing a coupon, or changing a line item quantity. This means that customers can make changes faster without having to reload the entire page for every change. You can see a demo of the difference in the development blog overview.
Shipping zones are one of the major features to ship with version 2.6, which give store owners more flexibility in determining which shipping methods are available where.
First, you’ll notice that the shipping options have been drastically changed when you upgrade, as the simple rates will no longer be in use (depending on your settings, they may still be enabled as “legacy” methods).
Shipping classes have also been moved under this tab from their previous location under the “Products” menu. Rather than adding shipping classes with the default taxonomy page (the original one that looks like a category listing), you’ll now click “Add shipping class” to create a new row in your shipping classes list.
When you first view shipping zones, you’ll see an overview inviting you to create some zones. The “Rest of the World” zone will be the default zone used if none of the other zones / rules apply to a customer, so this is already created.
This is where things get a bit dicey; a zone is not a method. A zone is a geographical area, to which you can assign one or more available methods. For example, you can assign both ground and expedited flat rate methods to a “US” shipping zone.
While this complicates, rather than simplifies, the shipping UI, it also gives you a lot more control and flexibility for shipping method set up. I definitely had to play around with it a bit to get a good feel for how I’d set up different zones and methods, but I imagine merchants selling physical goods will appreciate the ability to offer more shipping choices than just “domestic flat rate” vs “international flat rate”.
First, you’ll add your zones. This may be parts of the US, local vs US, domestic vs international, or as many geographical zones as you’d like to address.
Once you’ve added your zones, you can view your first zone. This is where you’ll add some methods / rates for any customer purchasing in that zone.
Add your first method by clicking “Add shipping method”, then select what kind of method you want to add.
Next, you can configure this method with the rate, rate per class, whether it’s taxable or not, and other settings.
Once you save your first method for the zone, you can determine if there are other methods that should be available. For example, in my US zone, I want to offer regular shipping, expedited shipping, and free shipping if orders are over a certain amount. I can add each method to this zone.
You can then repeat this process for the rest of your zones. Don’t forget to add a rate to the “Rest of the World” zone if you want to have a default rate to fall back on! You’ll be able to see all of these rates and edit them from the “Shipping Zones” listing.
The other major improvement in WooCommerce 2.6 is for your customers: the “account” area is now formatted with a tabbed layout to make finding relevant or desired information easier.
In previous versions of WooCommerce, the account area was one single page, and data was added with separate headings.
While this worked fine if you only had a few details, this page can get extremely long and unwieldy with several orders or downloads, and gets even worse when you throw plugins into the mix, such as social login accounts, subscriptions, memberships, or other customer information.
WooCommerce 2.6 changes this to introduce the tabbed account page, which shows account “sections” in a navigation instead. This way, customers can navigate quickly to the information they’re looking for without scrolling through a long, unorganized account page.
Some themes even already support this, such as Storefront:
There are also a few minor tweaks that store owners or admins may want to know about:
- If there are no shipping methods set up or available, the shipping fields / choices are not presented.
- “Failed” orders can now be edited by default
- The “Cash on delivery” shipping method will use the “on hold” order status if the order contains downloadable items so that customers don’t have access until they pay
As always, there are tweaks and improvements for developers, along with REST API updates in WooCommerce 2.6.
Theme developers may want to check out the list of changed templates in the beta 1 announcement to ensure that themes are compatible with the new template changes.
Plugin developers, especially those who work with payment gateways, may be interested in the new built-in payment token API in WooCommerce 2.6. This provides core support for adding saved payment methods, which plugins can leverage to ensure they’re saved in a consistent way.
The WooCommerce REST API has also migrated to using the WordPress REST API architecture in this release. WordPress 4.4 contained some of the structure for the WP REST API, so WooCommerce now leverages this structure where possible. You can read more about this change here.
WooCommerce 2.6 is a pretty packed release, with lots of structural updates and feature additions. The REST API changes move the WooCommerce REST API into new territory, making this “v1” of the WP-based REST API. The payment token API also helps developers build on top of WooCommerce in a standardized way.
WooCommerce 2.4 drastically simplified the shipping UI, but the addition of shipping zones adds some complication to shipping set up. However, the tradeoff here is a far more powerful shipping engine in WooCommerce core. Rather than being limited to a single flat rate method (plus the “international” method), you can now set up rates based on where your customers are, offering both choice (ie regular and “expedited” methods), along with more responsive shipping rates per location.
The account area improvements, cart updates via ajax, and filtering by product rating all improve the shopping experience for your customers to help them find the products they want and also find account information easier.
Having used the changes for a few weeks, I’m enjoying the updated order line items view and some of the settings tweaks, and definitely recommend upgrading soon for the shipping zones and account area benefits 🙂 Just don’t forget to test on a staging site first!
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