Sean Conklin of Coded-Commerce-LLC
Sean Conklin, Coded Commerce

As part of our customer and technology spotlight series, this guest post by Sean Conklin describes how his freelance business Coded Commerce leverages WordPress and the WP Engine platform to build successful WooCommerce stores that are a joy for clients to use while retaining the power and flexibility of open source.

Learn more about WP Engine’s new WooCommerce hosting solutions that make WooCommerce up to 40% faster and 18% better at driving sales.

Enjoy Sean’s thoughts on how Coded Commerce delivers value for their WooCommerce clients on WP Engine…

As pleasant as proprietary, with the freedom of open source.

Coded Commerce, LLC is a freelance developer servicing clients’ WooCommerce powered online storefronts, which run on WordPress. Founder and senior web application developer Sean Conklin fills in the gaps between clients’ operational staff, their web hosting provider, and their plugin and theme “app” vendors.

From our launch in 2018, our primary goal has been making WooCommerce sites as pleasant as any proprietary eCommerce shopping cart platform, but without sacrificing the many freedoms of open source. We’re involved in the community and take pride in the full application ownership of its products, fixed and variable cost savings, wide vendor options, total customizability, and overall goodwill.

That being said, open source can be like handing the keys of a Lamborghini to a high school student. We see a lot of “fender benders” come in. It’s more than just a good idea to understand the technology stack “under the hood,” and have competent resources reviewing the site and consulting on KPI performance.

Maintenance is crucial to technical performance, but does not make for great business KPIs.

As eCommerce sites in particular grow exponentially, somebody must manage areas of responsibility to update software, tidy the data, and organize the code. The result should be positive in terms of measured front-end and back-end performance, plus reduce KPI-unfriendly maintenance work. Our motto; before adding something to a site, decide what, if anything, can first be removed.

Having the full level of WP Engine web hosting service saves our time (and clients’ money) while providing the greatest assurances for 24×7 support by people who know their stuff, including ever-important security matters, overall reliability, and peace of mind.

Our work begins with a small onboarding process that includes an existing site evaluation. Free Transferable Sites and the included BlogVault Migration tool make easy work of project environment setup and transfer. We use the environments as a base for analysis and as shared access (staging) for project phases.

We work with small business clientele and become pseudo staff. We often become the main contact for most things concerning the website during and for a period after project completion. We work agile. Clients subscribe to a level of service based on their needs and where they are at in the project lifecycle. 

The work breaks down into three categories: project management, development, and support. We’re small and can only serve a limited volume of clients. It is essential that active clients understand, value, and monetize their investment quickly.

eCommerce sites have a way of grabbing the steering wheel.

The next fire drill could be a credit card guessing attack, a plugin update that goes badly and breaks the checkout form (usually about once a year), a customer service dilemma, serious shifts in business rules, or just new features that must be released in time for seasonal specials. 

Managing these situations is a lot of responsibility. We prefer to offload as much of the routine work as we can, particularly leaning on the built-in tools and automations that come with WP Engine’s managed web hosting service.

Plugins customize the interface or act as a gateway between WooCommerce and third-party solutions. eCommerce uses these and their corresponding cloud services quite a bit—say for payment processing, email marketing, ad conversion management, sales tax automation, reporting, CRM or accounting integrations, and more. 

WooCommerce sites tend to run 20-40 plugins. Nobody can stay on top of every single development, but WordPress optimized hosting can help us prepare for and debug problems as they occur.

We need as much help as we can get to stay on top of plugin updates. The Smart Plugin Manager automation helps us with the majority of production software update testing and releasing. We also review PHP Error Logs for signs of trouble with a plugin or a recent update.

For higher traffic sites it’s essential to have access to server charts. One prime example is New Relic APM bundled into a private server account. This is essential for keeping track of plugin performance and tracing any server side performance issues that come up.

Global Edge Security provides a fully managed edge network. WP Engine’s single cache flush button clears server-side, edge side, and browser side caching all in one simple step. This is useful when making time-sensitive content changes or updating software components, which we do a lot!

In conclusion, Coded Commerce, LLC recommends WP Engine as the most comprehensive WordPress managed hosting solution available. Best of breed tools and automations save us time as developers and save our eCommerce clients’ money while we focus on delivering short-term business value and shoring things up for the longer term.