308 – Up your WooCommerce game with Barn2 plugins

Interview with Katie Keith and Nathan Wrigley.

So we have Katie Keith on the podcast today to talk about what they’re doing over at Barn2 plugins.

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Based in the beautiful Devon countryside in South West England, we’re one of the UK’s top WordPress companies.

Run by husband and wife team Andy and Katie Keith, Barn2 has a diverse and committed team in more than 5 countries and 3 continents. We work closely together to build plugins that will delight our customers.

Barn2 Plugins About Page

And we’ve got the aforementioned Katie on the podcast to talk about what they do.

First off, we tackle the history of the company, and importantly, why they have such a peculiar name!

We then get into their journey into the WooCommerce space and how that’s enabled them to grow into the small, but mighty team that they are today.

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We then list out some of their more popular plugins and Katie explains what each one does and when you might need to deploy it.

If you’re running a WooCommerce store, then you need to know that your website is going to be up and running 100% of the time and so we get into the support options that they offer, should you have any need for fixes / questions about the plugins.

WooCommerce is incredible, but it’s also quite heavy. You need to understand what you’re getting yourself into in terms of how to optimise the site and make sure that the tech stack that you’re using is making your site run fast. Katie talks to us about ‘bloat’, and what Barn2 plugins have done to ensure that your site is as fast as it can be.

Lastly, we get into acquisitions. The WordPress space has been literally full of them over the last couple of years and WooCommerce plugins have been fairly popular ‘buys’ for some of the bigger players. Katie talks about this and how they wish to stay the course and keep the business going nuder their own steam.

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Transcript (if available)

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[00:00:00] Nathan Wrigley: Welcome to the WP Builds podcast, bringing you the latest news from the worth Rest community. Now welcome your hosts David Waumsley and Nathan Wrigley.

Hello there and welcome once again to the WP Builds podcast. You have reached episode number 308 entitled Up your WooCommerce Game with Barn2 Plugins. It was published on Thursday the 15th of December, 2022. My name's Nathan Wrigley and in a few short minutes we will be joined by our guest today who is Katie Keith from Barn2 Plugins.

But just before that, a few bits of house. The first thing I guess I need to say is we are gonna be having a couple of weeks off for Christmas, so this is gonna be the last episode for two weeks. There'll be a two week hiatus, which means that we'll be back on the 5th of January for this particular podcast.

Things like this week in WordPress. We'll be carrying on. Into next week, we'll do one more episode. It'll be a Christmas episode. You can find that at WP Builds.com/live. That's gonna be happening on Monday. We're gonna be hopefully getting a bit ridiculous with ball balls and things like that we'll have to see.

But yeah, couple of weeks off for Christmas. I hope that's all right with you. Another thing to mention is that the WP Awards just finished, and I would like to thank all 177 of you who voted for WP Builds as your favorite podcast player. If memory serves, I think we are the winner of the podcast category.

And so I'm, yeah, incredibly humbled and grateful, and I know that David feels the same way too. So thank you for anybody that voted for us. It's really very much appreciated. Thanks. The other thing to mention is that we still have our Black Friday page going, WP Builds.com/black. There's also our regular deals page, WP Builds.com/deals.

Don't forget to check those out. If you're looking to, who knows, buy a Christmas present of some hosting or some theme or plug-in. Who knows what people get up to. You could always look at those pages over the Christmas. If you're into Master On and you're trying to move away from Twitter, do remember that we've got an instance of Master On [email protected].

The WP Builds podcast was brought to you today by GoDaddy Pro. GoDaddy Pro the home of managed WordPress hosting that includes free domain SSL and 24 7. Bundle that with The Hub by GoDaddy Pro to unlock more free benefits to manage multiple sites in one place, invoice clients, and get 30% off new purchases. You can find out more by going to go.me/wpbuilds. That's go.me/wpbuilds, and we very sincerely thank GoDaddy Pro for their continuing support of the WP Builds podcast.

What's on the podcast today, I shall keep it brief. Today we have Katie Keith from Barn2 Plugins Barn. Two plugins are a company which create a suite of plugins, primarily for WooCommerce, but they do have a few that are not related to WooCommerce, and she's on the podcast today to talk about what those plugins do.

First of all, we get. Why on Earth it's called Barn2 plugins. It's quite a curious name, isn't it? Then we get into their journey into the WooCommerce space and how that's enabled them to grow into the small but mighty team that they are at the minute. And then we also talk about the specific plug-ins, what each one of them does, and so on.

We get into the idea of bloat and whether or not a WooCommerce store filled up with third party plugins may slow down and what it is that they've done to make sure that. As minimal as possible. And lastly, we're get into acquisitions talking about how WordPress companies in the most recent of times have been buying one another up left and center.

And it feels like WooCommerce plugins are really ripe for that. And whether or not bar two plugins are intending to be bought in the near future. It's a lovely episode and I hope that you enjoy it. I am joined on the podcast today by Katie Keith. Hello, Katie. Hi. Thanks for having me. You are most welcome.

Katie and I think met for the very first time on a recent trip to San Diego. Both you and I were at Word Camp US 2022. How did that go for you? Yeah,

[00:04:39] Katie Keith: it was amazing. Met so many great people. San Diego was a beautiful city and it was the furthest away word camp I've been to, but definitely worth doing.

[00:04:48] Nathan Wrigley: Yeah, it was a really amazing experience. We're not here though to talk about Word Camp, although we are here very much to talk about WordPress. I suspect that most of this podcast will be focused on Woo WooCommerce in particular, and Katie is here representing I presume. Let's get into your founder's story in a minute, but before we do that she's gonna be here talking about Barn2.

That is b a r n and the number two.com. And they have a suite of plugins. So perhaps you wanna press pause on this podcast. Go to Barn2.com. Remember the numeral two. Have a look around, poke around, then come back to the podcast and you'll be much better placed to understand what we're gonna talk about.

Firstly, Katie, it's an unusual name, isn't it? Barn2, what? What's going on?

[00:05:37] Katie Keith: When my husband, Andy and I started the company, we literally lived in a converted barn in Dartmore, national Park, England, and it was barn number two, . So it was where we lived like three houses ago. Okay. And then the names.

Stuck and we built up our domain and our reputation a bit and things, and it never seemed right to change it. Yeah,

[00:05:59] Nathan Wrigley: that's interesting. Once you've got yourself established, definitely the the ship has sailed. How did you and your, you mentioned your husband, how did you both come into business in the WordPress space?

What was it that drew you in? Are you both developers is one of your developer? How come? How come? WordPress, basical.

[00:06:17] Katie Keith: Andy's a software developer by background and I am, my background's more project management and marketing, and for years we had normal jobs and we wanted to work for ourselves, and we talked endlessly about it, and we never had an a killer idea.

We watched programs like, Dragon's Den slash Shark Tank, depending on where you are and what it's called, and thought, how do we get this idea? And we never had one. And then eventually we just thought, okay, let's just do it. And just set up a web design shop. And Andy quit his job first while I. Kept my job and did the marketing and stuff on the side.

And he found WordPress very quickly just as a way to build the client's websites more efficiently. And obviously, being a cms it meant that the clients could update their own sites. We started using WordPress immediately for all our projects. And then eventually we started as we got better at it, specializing in it.

And this is back in like 2010. And we became quite well known in the UK as sort of WordPress specialist, cuz there weren't that many people in those days specializing in WordPress. And it all went from there.

[00:07:27] Nathan Wrigley: That's quite a long time ago actually, isn't it? When you think about it, you were lucky enough to hit a wave before I would say WordPress became a tidal wave, it was big. , but not that big. You were at that point, that was quite a gamble, because WordPress could easily have gone the way of Droople or Jummah. Perhaps not. Maybe that's just egging it a bit, but you get the point. So that was quite a courageous decision at that point. Who knew that WordPress would be 42% of.

Yeah, absolutely. Yeah. Yeah. So you've bound your, you've tied yourself to the WooCommerce space. Not entirely. Those of you that have taken my advice and gone over to Barn2.com will have noticed that a significant proportion of the plugins that you produce are for. WooCommerce, but there's other bits and pieces which we'll get onto in due course.

How come then, woo. Commerce. What was it that drew you into the WooCommerce space? Did you detect that WooCommerce was lacking in a certain area? Was there just some sort of thing that you needed, you scratching your own itch? How did you begin down the WooCommerce journey?

[00:08:30] Katie Keith: We identified it as a growth area really, partly because it was so big, partly because we were aware that there were gaps in the market that we could fill with plugins.

And also partly because we'd read some kind of business. Theory stuff about people are more likely to be willing to pay for a premium plugin if it makes, if it increases their sales, if it makes them money. And so with WooCommerce, that's what it does, of course, compared to a WordPress plugin that does, I dunno, backups or something that doesn't directly make the money.


[00:09:03] Nathan Wrigley: so there's a whole ecosystem of, WordPress itself is an ecosystem, and then a subset of that ecosystem is WooCommerce. And clearly there's a lot of companies in the WooCommerce space who bring something to the table, they bring additional functionality and so on and so forth. What is it that you initially found that was wrong with it?

Was it that it was slow? Was it that, it didn't have customization options? What was the sort of first foray that you. ,

[00:09:32] Katie Keith: the very first one was adding a missing feature, which was password protected categories. So in WooCommerce, you can divide your products into categories just like WordPress, post E, exactly the same as that.

And there was no password protected category option, which would allow you to restrict access. Certain user roles, users or people with the password, and we'd found that was a gap in the market in WooCommerce at the time. We realized it actually was not a very difficult thing to develop, so we thought, wow, that's the perfect first plugin to dip our toe in the water, see if we can actually sell a plugin and be the only one at the market.

There's now various plugins that do that, but ours was the first. So we started off by looking for little gaps like that and filling.

[00:10:20] Nathan Wrigley: So essentially you began scratching an itch that you discovered yourself discovered that there was a success to be had down this road and then presumably went looking for other problems and developing plugins for those.

And currently you might be well in the process of developing a load more, it looks like you've got about 14. W Commerce plugins on the website. You've got three regular WordPress plugins and something for E D, easy digital downloads as well. . So what came next. Are you led by, are you led by your customers or are you led by your own example?

Are the things that you've decided to do just because it's suited you? How does the, how has the process gone over time?

[00:11:03] Katie Keith: Our second plugin was led by the customer. That was a customer, a client had basically paid us to develop a plugin that would list blog posts in a searchable table on their website.

Okay? So they had hundreds and hundreds of blog posts. So this has nothing to do with WooCommerce and they needed a more searchable way because as you will well know, with WordPress blogs, you usually have the most recent one at the top. You may have some like links in the sidebar for category or something like that, but really it's not that easy to interrogate the blog and find articles by topic or particularly older articles.

They drop off the bottom and then never seen again. Yeah. In many ways. Yeah. So by listing them in a table, you can have. Filters above the table. You can have sortable columns for like title, category, tag, whatever. And so it's a kind of way to help keep your content evergreen and help to organize a large blog so that the customer can find articles on things other than just.

Date, so a ca. Anyway, a customer paid us to do that. We launched it as a free plugin, which is still available now on wordpress.org, which is post table with search and sort. And then very quickly, feature requests started coming in on the free plugin. So we had two big groups of feature requests. One was tons of people asking to list custom post types in the table.

That might be documents or members or events, or any other custom post type they wanted. Searchable table of it. And the other big group was W Commerce products. So people wanted a table of products. So we built both of those plugins post Table Pro and W Commerce product table. And they've both been our biggest sellers since they were launched in Late 2016 and we've kept building them and improving them and modernizing them and adding more features and things.

And it's been huge. And it's really interesting because they're just tables like visually, but they ha are used for radically different purposes. Nice. So with the WooCommerce product table, it's basically an a quick or one page order form, so it supports things like variations and quantity boxes.

So people can like tick multiple products, select the quantity, select a variation option, and then click add all to card. And it's like a really quick way of buying. So for certain products like wholesale or stationary or something, it's a really quick way to buy without having to visit a separate page for every product.

And then with the Post Table Pro plugin, there are different reasons for using the table. It's more about finding information quickly. How,

[00:13:43] Nathan Wrigley: how lucky , I don't mean to sound glib about it, but you've said that the first two that you developed ended up being the more successful you can imagine the exact opposite happening.

You develop a couple of plug-ins and basically nobody notices them and you fade into oblivion and your grand ambitions of having this WordPress plugin business sort of fall, fall around your ears. That's remarkable. The first two things that you did are the sort of bedrock of the business.

That's fabulous.

[00:14:14] Katie Keith: It's been incredible, particularly with the table thing cuz like our best selling plugin now is one I haven't even mentioned yet, which is a document library plugin called Document Library Pro. And so that is a sort of evolution of Post Table Pro because after a few years of selling Post Table Pro to list any prototype, we.

The most common use case was listing documents but there were some features missing. For example, people wanted to download buttons and document previews and things like that. They wanted to click on multiple documents and download them as a zip file or individually. And so we then maybe 18 months ago, launched a dedicated document library plugin with that extra functionality, and that is now our biggest plugin.

But it all stemmed from that one client project years ago where they wanted to list their blog posts in a table. So it's been amazing how the whole table thing has grown into all these multiple products based on that. Starting point. Yeah, that

[00:15:15] Nathan Wrigley: is, that is really fascinating. So let's just go back and we'll just concentrate on the WooCommerce side of things.

You you, in the sort of shared show notes that we put together before this podcast, you mentioned that you, right at the beginning, you obviously saw that there was a need in WooCommerce. There was missing features. I guess that's one of the benefits of having WooCommerce is that, it's not trying to be everything to everybody.

It's allowing developers like you to have a basic cart, which is for free. But it's limited in features and functionality that then allows people like you to step in, develop features over the top of that, and speed things up, or customize the workflow and so on. But you described the WooCommerce the process of buying things in a default WooCommerce store as being slow and a bit underoptimized.

What did you mean by that? What was your initial thoughts when you stared at w What were you trying to.

[00:16:09] Katie Keith: Yeah, that's what we're specializing in now is speeding up the customer journey in WooCommerce. So when you install WooCommerce as it comes there's a few ways that it takes quite a long time to find products and buy them.

So the first problem is finding them in the first place because the built-in filtering options, for example, and search are quite basic and not very visual. So there, there are a couple of filters in the free W commerce plugin, but they're not that useful for really drilling down by the product data to find what you want, which is a problem in.

Stores that have maybe hundreds or thousands of products. . So you want a really sort of user-friendly, visual way of clicking on things and then drilling down the list. The second problem is that once you find a product, you have to generally click through to a separate page for each product you're interested in.

So there might be add to cart buttons on the shop page, but you can't use those to learn more about the product or select a quantity, or choose a variation option To do any of those things, you have to click through to a separate page for the product. And then you have to go back and do so again for every product that you're interested in, so people are likely to get lost or bored or whatever.

It's just quite a sort of slow process if you're buying multiple products. And of course, all stores want their customers to buy multiple products. Yeah. That's all about increasing the average order value, and you need to actively encourage that rather than think, oh, I've added one product now I'll complete my.

So that's problem number two. Problem number three is the checkout process. So after you added a product or more to the cart, you have to go through to a cart page to review your order, and then you click through to a separate checkout page to add your information and complete the order. And so we've developed.

That fix every part of that, basically that process. So problem number one, with not being able to find the products. We've recently, just two months ago, launched a really advanced filter plugin, which provides much more visual user-friendly options for selecting any type of product data and narrowing down the list.

We've also got products to fix problem number two, which was having to visit a separate page for each product. So we, there's a couple of those, but one is our, we call a Quick view pro plugin, which adds quick view buttons to your store so that you can open up a light box with extra product information and quantity boxes and all that stuff.

So you can do that in the light box, add to the cart, the light box then closes. Still on that shop page, ready to do the same for more products. So that makes you more likely to buy multiple products, of course. And similarly, either instead of or as well as Quickview, you can use our product table plugin that we've already talked about to create a quick one page order form so people can literally tick tick, check boxes for multiple products and add them to the cart in a single click.

So those are two much quicker ways to select products and add them to the cart. And then finally we've got our WW Commerce Fast Cart plugin, which is, I think about a year old now, which speeds up the cart and the checkout part of the process by bringing all of that into an on page pop-up cart.

So when you add a product to the cart, then either a floating cart icon or a whole pop-up cart appears on your page and you can then review your order. Pay and complete it and add your details and do the full checkout within this popup, so you're not taken through multiple pages, you just stay on the same page for the whole buying process.

So all those things together combined to really speed up the customer journey. I

[00:20:04] Nathan Wrigley: suppose if we rewound the clock, oh goodness, let's go like 15 years. A really long time ago the process of buying anything online was by modern standards, by the standards of today, pretty tortuous. All of those things that you've just described as being problems were completely ordinary.

You would put up with the fact that you had to go to a separate screen and it never was there a cart, which popped up as some sort of, light box to inform you that you've got three things in the cart. To go to the cart now, you had to refresh pa refresh pages, do everything manually.

You're probably connecting it to things like PayPal cuz you know using credit cards over the internet was still a bit of a problem. And then of course the industry adapts and it evolves and it modifies itself. And slowly but surely, all of these little bits and pieces are added on all of the bits and pieces that you've described and make the, basically make the journey.

Make the journey easier, simpler, quicker. But also there's expected tropes now, you do expect there to be a car icon floating at the top, right? Somewhere on a desktop screen. You do expect to be able to add things to the cart and view more information about them. But Woo, commerce doesn't really have them out of the box.

But I wonder, like you were saying, do you fully, do you believe that is now the basic expectation, the sort of plugins that you are doing? That's the expectation now, and if you are not providing those things for the customers, you are pushing traffic away and the opportunity for people to convert and push things through carts to finally buying things.

If you're not doing these things, you're getting left behind. Yeah,

[00:21:44] Katie Keith: it's not so much that the customer consciously misses the features, it's that they are in a hurry. Everyone's attention span has been destroyed by modern technology. Yeah. And it's very well known through research into people user testing and things, how much more likely they are to bounce from a website or abandon their cart if it's slow and if it's not obvious what to do next.

And so it's about speeding up that journey because customer. No, they expect speed. They expect to be able to do things dead quickly, or they get fed up and go elsewhere.

[00:22:18] Nathan Wrigley: Yeah, I have this kind of muscle memory and it doesn't really matter what website I'm on. If I go to a website where I'm buying something, there's this sort of typical process that I expect to see and it's, list of products typically in some kind of table as you've described.

I wanna be able to quickly review information about what it is, tabs of, okay, here's some reviews about it. Here's some more information about it. Here's some images that you can roll over and, possibly something that you can interact with a video or something like that. And then I want to be able to click add to cart, and then instantly click the buy now button, visit the cart and be done in five or six seconds with my browser filling in a lot of the information and anything outside of.

Kind of feels alien and a bit janky and a bit Ooh, this is a bit cottage industry. I'm not sure I trust this website. I dunno what you think about that.

[00:23:10] Katie Keith: Yeah, that's true. It's interesting because WooCommerce is so huge. It's used on more than 40% of all e-commerce sites, as you mentioned earlier.

So even though these are separate websites with totally different themes and brandings, people do get a certain, they do get used to a layout, don't they? Yeah. . And so they, they do have that muscle memory and ex they find it strange when something's different. Yeah,

[00:23:35] Nathan Wrigley: yeah, that's right. Yeah. Yeah. I,

[00:23:36] Katie Keith: I really think that's strange.

And then a lot of the big players that aren't WooCommerce for example, we often analyze major UK clothing stores cause that's what we are familiar with. And think what are they doing that isn't available in WooCommerce? Yes. So when we did our, developed our filter plugin for example, we didn't really look at other WordPress filter plugins cuz often within WordPress you get stuck in a rut.

And we looked outside of WordPress into what the biggest players are doing in e-commerce and thinking how would that work within e-commerce and trying to bring things from outside that people are used to from other types of websites as.

[00:24:14] Nathan Wrigley: Yeah, that's a really good idea when we have a lot of very successful websites in the UK and some of them have obviously got fairly deep pockets.

And just so happens that I've got a friend who's a developer, a very large clothing website within the uk and they've got dozens of people on their team who are just constantly iterating on features. AB testing things and trying things out and just trying to get the slimmest change, like a little half percent optic or a 2% optic or whatever it might be, and just trying all these things out.

So that's interesting that you're scouting around not trying to copy what all of the other WordPress plugins are doing, but seeing what's out there in the marketplace and working for. Some of the major brands. Your approach though is like alacarte. So unless I'm wrong, I could be wrong.

Maybe. Maybe there is like an overarching barn to plugin that you can buy that brings everything along for the ride. Maybe that is something that you can do, but it appears to me that it's more of a alacarte, find something that you think on your website is missing going by the individual plugin.

So is that it? Is it basically, you buy one or two or three at a time. How does it, how do you market. Yeah,

[00:25:24] Katie Keith: generally people do that and often they, once they've got one plug-in, they realize they like us, the quality, the support, that kind of thing. So they'll come back with more. We also offer an all access pass that people can upgrade to at any time which comes with all the plug-ins, but they're all individual plug-ins.

So you install the ones that are relevant to your store, which makes sense for us because while we are. A WooCommerce company. We are not just that, as you mentioned, we have something like Ford Nonw, commerce plugins just for historical re reasons as much as anything. And so it makes sense to allow people to choose what's relevant to them.

And we wouldn't wanna bloat their store with something that isn't, for example. Okay,

[00:26:06] Nathan Wrigley: so I'm looking at the list of plugins at the moment, and I'm gonna stay on the WooCom side of things if that's all right. So we've got the following. After I've read out the list, what I'm hoping you'll do is tell us about your favorite ones that you haven't mentioned already.

So we've got one called bulk variations. We've got fast cart lead time, multiple email recipients, private store that's curious. Product filters, product options, product sample. Product table that's possibly the one that you highlighted earlier. Protect categories again, sounds like you mentioned that one.

Quantity manager, Quickview Pro, restaurant Ordering and Wholesale Pro. My guess is if we let you go soup to nuts on each of those, we'd probably be here for several more hours. So pick a couple you really like that you think maybe a little bit under discovered and a gem buried in the weeds that you wanna tell us.


[00:27:00] Katie Keith: main one to mention would be W Commerce product options, because that is new. I think it was released two weeks ago, maybe a little bit less. Oh, nice. So that's a major plugin we've been working on for months that's just come out and it's. Basically, so with WooCommerce products, you have variations where you can select, for example, you on a clothing product, you might select the size from a dropdown, and you might select the color from a dropdown.

And that's variations. That's all built into WooCommerce. So product options is a lot more flexible than that because you can add things like check boxes to a plugin. So for example, let's say you're selling a pizza, you don't want dropdowns to add extra cheese and extra pepperoni or whatever you want.

Check boxes so you can tick as many as you want and maybe increase the price for each extra topping that you tick. Nice. So variations and no use, and that's when you need product options. You can also add things like clickable images. So let's say that you've selected a gift wrap option on a product which might be a checkbox, and then that reveals more options.

Like you might click on pictures of gift cards to add a gift card with it and with the design you like. There might be. Field where you can write a happy birthday message or something. So it's got all these different types of options, which are a lot more flexible than variations and let you sell more personalized products.

Even things like engraving or personalized birthday cakes where you upload a picture of your child to be printed on the cake. Nice. The text, and select the icing color from little squares of color so you can choose the shade you like. And so it's very different to variations. Yes. Quite a new exciting product.

Sky's the

[00:28:45] Nathan Wrigley: limit. That one's called WooCommerce Product Options. It's in the main menu. If you go to the you go to Barn2.com, you'll see a plug-ins dropdown and it's right in there. So that's one. Give us another one.

[00:28:57] Katie Keith: One worth mentioning is W Commerce Wholesale Pro, because that's one of our biggest plugins, probably number three or something.

Because a lot of people use w Commerce to sell to, not to the public. So they might have a public's. Store, but they might also have a private wholesale area, which has different pricing. It might have the same products or different products, but the key is that when a wholesale user logs in, they get special trade pricing at discounted prices.

And they might have, you might need a registration form so they can sign up and that kind of thing. So there are special needs for W Commerce wholesale users that aren't met by W Commerce. It's public W commerce. So the wholesale plugin's really popular because that meets a big need within W Commerce.

Yeah. Okay. I'm

[00:29:47] Nathan Wrigley: enjoying this One more, one more.

[00:29:50] Katie Keith: A natural thing to follow on from that is two more I'm afraid. Oh, it's okay. It's okay. WooCommerce protected categories and WooCommerce private store, and they both add different types of privacy options to WooCommerce, so the wholesale stores for that use case.

Whereas protected categories might be for even a photographer who is uploading photos after a photo shoot, they might create a category. For that client of their photos, and then they log into their hidden category and buy their photos so that the public can't see them. For example, it might be like a sportswear club that sells branded gear with the logo on of a rugby team or something.

And each rugby team might have a different category with the products with their logo on. So there's lots of reasons why different people would want to a hidden area within w. . So that's the categories plugin. So it doesn't have to just be for wholesale. And the private store plugin is like very similar, but it makes your entire store private.

So let's say that's the kind of exclusive members only store. Oh, okay. I was wondering what, or maybe a school shop, like if it's. School is selling school uniform on their website. Got it. They don't want the public to be able to order that. They might just want a password, protect that part of the website so that people enter a password or log in or whatever, and then they've got this hidden store so you can still access the homepage and the other.

Sections, the blog, whatever, but not the W commerce area. So we've got three W Commerce plugins that restrict access in different ways. And it's surprising, it's ironic in a way, how many people have an online store, they want the sales, but not from just anybody. They want to control who has access to the online store.

Yeah. That's

[00:31:35] Nathan Wrigley: fascinating. So it sounds like what with your 14 current WordPress, particularly WooCommerce plug-ins, 14 WooCommerce, I should make that clear. Plus four others. You're taking little chunks out of things that you believe word WordPress and WooCommerce need bits of, I dunno, functionality that are missing.

You've gone from one now to 14. Makes me feel that there's maybe gonna be a 15th or a 16th coming along, along the road. Is this something that you are committed to? Do you wanna keep swelling that inventory so that there's more and more things added each time?

[00:32:11] Katie Keith: Yeah. There's still so many opportunities and it makes.

We should continue doing what works and it's working so it makes sense to keep going. Yep. And we want things that sort of fit with our current products. For example, we're in the early days of starting work on a checkout editor plugin. , because we've got our fast cart plugin, which displays the checkout within the popup that we mentioned earlier.

But it doesn't actually let you edit the field. So you might want to remove checkout fields like the phone number, for example, simplify the address fields. It doesn't do that at the moment. And also you might want to add extra fields to the checkout, like a, for example, for a restaurant, you might want to leave a add a tip option or something like that.

So there's lots of reasons why you might want to do. and that would integrate with our Fast Cart plugin. So that's likely to be the next one. But there's so many opportunities and just by being out there, we, have access to people's ideas and requests and things like that.

[00:33:13] Nathan Wrigley: Yeah. So the business is growing, it sounds like, you're certainly making a decent living out of it.

And if you go to the about page, so it's Barn2.com/about, you'll be able to see that there's a whole host of staff that you've got. You mentioned Andy and yourself. You are right at the top of that list there, but you've got a whole load of other people underneath plugin developers and support people and so on.

So that leads me to this section, which is all about support really, because feels to me that if you are building a WooCommerce site, that there is a seriousness about that, you're handling people's data. You're obviously getting yourself involved with shipping products potentially, or certainly, you're just into a whole different area than having a normal website.

That requires trust. If you're gonna be buying products from people such as yourself, you've gotta be able to trust that A, it's gonna work, B, that the support is gonna be there, should things not work out as expected, or you are just confused. What is the deal with support with you? Do you have a 24 7, 365 approach or is it limited to, I don't know.

Have you got a chat bot or have you got email that you do? How does it all?

[00:34:22] Katie Keith: We've got six full-time support people now. Wow. Wow. It's always expanding. I think there's about three of them have joined this year, so it's all been growing quite fast with the support. There's not 24 7. I don't know of any plugging companies that are, to be honest.

But it's every day. And there's limited support across weekends as well, so you can still get a answer to something over the weekend.

[00:34:47] Nathan Wrigley: So it's email based generally speak. It

[00:34:50] Katie Keith: is generally, but we do have live chat on the website as well, and we have, we've recently hired a tier three support person who's actually a developer.

As well as having the kind of people who are WordPress WooCommerce experts that can advise you as well as obviously, Being experts in our plug-ins. We have somebody with development experience that can help with things like CSS fixes with your theme, and even temporary patches while the plug-ins lead developer is providing a more permanent fix if you report a bug and things.

So that's helping to improve the communication routine, support and development, and also provide more technical support to our customers, which we haven't had. .

[00:35:31] Nathan Wrigley: Okay. Oh, that's interesting to know. A couple of hot button topics that have come over in the last two or three years is Core Web Vitals has been one of them.

Everybody's incredibly worried about the performance of their website and, the number of plugins that you throw on often has a direct relationship to how performance your website is. There's the first one. The second one is accessibility and people concerned about making sure that their websites are as accessible as possible.

And if there are people out there who can't browse a store because they simply can't navigate it, you are in a sense you're not only not serving that community that deserves to be served, but you're also leaving money on the table. Deal with the first one. Have you got anything to say about the sort of core web vitals?

And what I mean by there is bloat speed slowing down the website. Do you have any, do you have anything to say about that? Have gone to great lengths to make sure that things are as quick and lean as possible? .

[00:36:28] Katie Keith: Yeah, definitely. Because that's so important, particularly with W Commerce, but just across the board, because of the impact on the seo, a lot of that is simply following best practices and things like that.

And using the latest techniques we are particularly careful of that. Some of our. Plugins by definition offer a very, a stores with a lot of products. So for example W's product table is aimed at stores with loads of products because of the table order form layout. And similarly, our filter plugin, you only need filters when you have quite a few products.

Yep. Particularly the table, because normally WooCommerce, we only list about nine products per page, for example, right? But a product table might list dozens and that is gonna take longer to load than nine products. And also we are pulling extra data into the, that main page such as variation, dropdowns, and.

There's product description, for example, which wouldn't normally appear on the main shop page. So we have to be very careful in how the plugin is coded and also in how we support our customers. So we might if they report problems, we might advi. We've got a lot of advice that we give people about how to reduce what's loading on each page.

Like you can change the number of products at the table. There's a lady lazy load option as well, so that it's only loading the products it needs to at any one time. So we've identified that as a potential issue because it's bringing more products onto that shop page for a genuine business reason.

But there are implications. And with the filter plugin, similarly, as part of the initial development of it, we built an indexing function. So it's not looking at all of your thousands of products. Whenever you're performing a filter, it's already. Them Google, so that it can find the results instantly, right?

[00:38:22] Nathan Wrigley: Yeah. Yeah. So basically things are just much more performant on the front and backend. Yeah. That's good. Okay, so let's deal with the Acquisi sorry, the acquisition. I dunno where that came from. Let's deal with the access every other. Yeah I'll come back to that in a minute. Let's deal with the accessibility piece.

Anything to say about. . Again,

[00:38:42] Katie Keith: it's a lot of, it's about following best practices, but we do accessibility testing and things like that as well to make sure that it is accessible from, screen readers and even things like design and button sizes and things. It covers everything really.

[00:39:01] Nathan Wrigley: Okay, so I. Accidentally said the word acquisition, but it planted a seed in my head. seems like the WooCommerce space has been ripe for acquisition in the recent past. And just wondering what your thoughts are on that. I'm not suggesting anything. I'm just just dropping it in there and seeing what you, seeing how you reply to that.

[00:39:24] Katie Keith: It's been really interesting to watch the kind of flurry of acquisitions because I love owning my company and being independent and not having a boss. And if I sold I don't particularly want a payout and to move on. I like what I do and. So it's been really interesting and a bit kind of confusing.

Word pr word Camp US was quite confusing for me because there was a lot of acquired people there and I was spending a lot of time with people for multiple companies who have been acquired and they're like, they've got managers and things now, and I'm like, Hang on. I like not having a manager.

I'm the boss. Why? Why have you ? It was really interesting because I don't have that temptation certainly at this point in my life. So it's interesting to me to see. But it was also interesting to talk about people's reasons for being acquired, and everybody has a different reason indeed.

Like some people, they might want to buy something specific in their lives, like a new home or something. Some people might have had such rapid growth that they can't cope with it. Some people might have such a big staff bill that they're scared if anything ever happened. They couldn't support people and they want that backing of a bigger player.

So it was really interesting to chat with different people about why they went down that route. And none of the reasons they came up with resonated with me, but it helped me to understand people's motivat. Yeah, it is interesting.

[00:40:51] Nathan Wrigley: Which isn't just money. Yeah. It is interesting. Like you said there, there are all sorts of reasons hidden in the background, but from a, from the ER's point of view, so one of the customers of your products, I think it's really important to have some sort of clarity on that, because it can be a bit of a jolting shock when the products that you've invested in and you've built your.

In this case, let's say WooCommerce store, you suddenly find out that they have been acquired by, I don't know, X company over there, and you don't really know anything about X company over there, but you realize that all of the trust that you've put in. It, whatever plugin it may be has now been shifted over here and it can be a little bit unsettling.

You always get the usual email which comes through saying that nothing will change. Everything's gonna be the same, we're staying on and blah, blah, blah. And you know how that email reads, but it doesn't. It doesn't always sit well. And so that's interesting that you've said that you, that's not necessarily your intention.

I won't hold you to that, by the way, just in case, , in case that intention changes. I think I said

[00:41:52] Katie Keith: For the time. Yes. That's good. I can't say what will happen in 15

[00:41:57] Nathan Wrigley: years or something, but it does seem like Will Commerce is ripe for that. It's growing at an incredible rate.

Like you said. Woo. Will Commerce. 40% of the e-commerce space, which is just absolutely insane when you think about it. So I really do think that you've you've basically, you've strapped yourself onto the right horse. It feels if you'd have gone in any other direction, with Dumler or whatever it was gonna be, life would've been a little bit more difficult.

And then finding yourself in the WooCommerce space, boy, you just played every card, right? Well done .

[00:42:31] Katie Keith: Yeah, I remember when we first started, my dad sent Andy and I an article about security and he was like, I dunno what you're doing with this WordPress thing. The money is in website, is in internet security.

I'm sure there's money there, but I think we did okay.

[00:42:47] Nathan Wrigley: Yeah, that's really great. We're fast running out of time, so I'm just gonna ask if that's all right with you. If there's anywhere you would like people to be directed, so a particular page on the website where they can find out about something or maybe an email address or a Twitter handle, what, whatever it is that you wanna push, feel free to do that now.

[00:43:07] Katie Keith: I'd say the key place is the [email protected] where you can learn more about us on the about page and you can look at the different plugins and things like that. And at the bottom of that, you've got all our social networks and YouTube channel and all the other places that you can see us.

[00:43:25] Nathan Wrigley: Well, Katie, Keith, thank you very much for chatting to us today. So if you're in the WooCom space or indeed the word WordPress space, go and check out Barn2 the numeral two.com and yeah, get in touch, chat with Katie and see what they've got to say. Thanks very much. Yep. Thank you for having me.

Very nice to chat to Katie, Keith today, all about the things that they're doing over at Barn2 Plugins. If you've got any commentary around that, if you want to leave as a comment, feel free to do that. The best way to do that is to go to WP Builds.com, search for episode number 308, and leave as a comment there.

Alternatively, there's our Facebook group, WP Builds.com/facebook. You could search for the thread in there and leave as a comment as. As I said at the top of the show, we're having a couple of weeks off for Christmas, so the podcast will return on the 5th of January. I hope that you have a nice Christmas.

Don't forget though, if you wanna get into the Christmas spirit. Our this week in WordPress show, the last one of the year will be this coming Monday. WP Builds.com/live. You can join me and a variety of WordPress guests. Hopefully we'll get some Christmas decorations and make it a bit silly, but that'll be Monday going out as a podcast episode on Tuesday.

So I hope that's all clear. This the Thursday podcast, the one that you're listening to now. This is the last episode of that before Christmas, back on the fifth of Jan, but we'll be having one on Monday.

The WP Builds podcast was brought to you today by GoDaddy Pro. GoDaddy Pro, the home of managed WordPress hosting that includes free domain SSL and 24 7 support. Bundle that with The Hub by GoDaddy Pro to unlock more free benefits to manage multiple sites in one place, invoice clients, and get 30% off new purchases. You can find out more by going to go.me/wpbuilds. And we do thank GoDaddy Pro for their continuing support of the WP Builds podcast.

Okay, that's it. That's all we got for you for the podcast for this year. I tried to find the least Christmasy music I could possibly manage in. It's approaching metal, so I'm gonna say have a nice time if you'd enjoying the holidays. I hope that you do enjoy those. Take care. Here comes some cheesy music. Stay safe. Bye-bye for now.

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Nathan Wrigley
Nathan Wrigley

Nathan writes posts and creates audio about WordPress on WP Builds and WP Tavern. He can also be found in the WP Builds Facebook group, and on Mastodon at wpbuilds.social. Feel free to donate to WP Builds to keep the lights on as well!

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