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Part 1 – WooCommerce and Product Categories – Essential Site Organization

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In Lesson 2, Setup the Product Catalog and Create Products, we’re going to be talking about is creating products but really it’s not just creating products, it’s setting up the store catalog in the process of creating products.

Obviously the catalog starts with creating the product but there’s a lot more to it than just creating an individual product or creating a series of products. Creating a catalog starts by understanding how WooCommerce organizes products.

Products Organized Using Product Categories

WooCommerce fundamentally organizes products using product categories. Product categories are a custom taxonomy that apply specifically to products. When we set up Thesis to work with that, we looked at the product categories archive page and the product tag archive page. Both of those custom taxonomies apply to products but the main one that’s used for organizational purpose is the hierarchical product category.

Product Navigation

They are used for a number of different things, most importantly, they’re used for product navigation. You’ve got all kinds of widgets available to you to show product categories and people can choose between categories and subcategories to view various products.

If we come over to the shop, this has all that sample data in it and right now this shop shows all of the products. But as soon as we go to a product we can actually go to product category. If we look at Coffee & Tea, here’s your category archive page, right? So let’s look at a widget over here and say I want to look at Coffee & Tea once. That’s how this system works and it is fundamental organization.

Actually, if we come over and look at the way this sample data is organized and look at those categories, you can see there’s a category Appliances and then subcategories below that and then the category Bakeware, and the category Bar & Wine, category Coffee & Tea and so on and so forth.

URL/Post Name

So it’s used for navigation. It’s also used for URL’s. Actually we don’t see that here because I don’t have my permalinks set up correctly. Let’s use Post name and actually I’m going to use category post name and then I’m going to use Shop base with category as my system. Hit Save changes.

Note that this is Shop base with category. What that means is that now it’s shop/appliances/dualit-food-xl1500-processor/, right? This category or even subcategories gives you the ability to produce a semantic URL. It’s a URL that when somebody looks at it, they understand what’s actually being displayed up here. They can read the URL and they can tell what the product is and what category it’s under. That’s how that works.

Why Organization of Product Categories is Important

So categories are used both for navigation, you can see that here in the breadcrumbs and for the URL’s. It’s just the fundamental underlying assumption of how products are going to be organized which means that, how you choose to organize your product categories actually is pretty important.

It’s important that you pick the right system for choosing product categories because it’s critical in having a well organized site and it’s critical in having this semantic URL done. Obviously when you see this set of examples the whole idea of product categories makes plenty of sense.

I want to talk to you about three other examples so that you can see sort of the underlying rationale for why we’re choosing one system over another for setting up categories.

First Store Example

The first example is the same one that I use in the WP eStore class. It’s a store that’s sort of an analogy of BYOBWebsite but instead of being a membership site where you get access to all of the content, it’s more of a content selling store where you can buy bits of content in various formats for certain amount of money.

So you can buy an eBook on how to use WP eStore, or you can buy downloadable videos or whatever. This store sells downloadable videos, it sells eBooks in a couple of different formats. It sells plugins and boxes and child themes and stuff like that, and then it provides consulting. It’s a somewhat different model but with a similar product base as BYOBWebsite.

Important Categories

The subject matter obviously at BYOBWebsite is WordPress right? Some of what I teach is really just broadly generalized WordPress. It doesn’t really matter what theme or skin that you happen to be using, the information is still the same all the way across.

The second subject matter is Thesis. I’m teaching how to use, develop and customize the Thesis theme. So, that’s its own sort of discreet subject matter. It’s related to WordPress but it’s not necessarily descriptive of WordPress, it is primarily descriptive of Thesis.

The third primary subject matter is Genesis. Genesis has its own set of instructional information, it’s own set of language and functions that had to be taught. That is its own subject matter.

Finally, we have various plugins. So in that example, I’m teaching WooCommerce, WP eStore, WP eMember and something else.

Different Organizational Schemes

So you have these various subcategories that you could use as ways of thinking about how to organize your product. In fact, we talked about a couple of different potential schemes in organizing those products.

Organizing by Type of Product

The first one was, organizing the product by the type of product that it was. You could sell videos as a category of products, ebooks as a category of products, plugins as a category of products and consulting as a category of products. So, you have different categories of products based on the type of product that they were.

Organizing by Topics

Or, you could use topics. You could say, everything inside of WordPress is a category of products. Everything inside of Thesis is a category of products whether it’s an ebook or downloadable video or a plugin or whatever. They fit inside of that thing.

Using a Combination of Product Type and Topics

What I suggested is a combination of those things, essentially, a hybrid of that where you use types but then those types are broken down by subjects. The first type of product is instructional products. The second type of products are plugins, add-on products. The third type of product is the consulting. So you have instructional products, plugins and consulting.

That’s three product types, three primary categories and then inside those three primary categories, you have subcategories. So, under instructional type, then we switch to topic so we don’t ever really make a distinction in books and ebooks. Even for that matter, primarily, books, ebooks and videos. What we do is we have WordPress as a subcategory. Under WordPress instruction, we have ebooks, videos and that sort of thing. So you have type and then subject as the breakdown.

The same thing happens inside of plugins. We have plugin as a type but then the thing that plugin is appropriate to is the dividing category. So, you have plugins as one but then you have Thesis plugin as a subcategory or plugins on Genesis plugins as a subcategory or plugins on WordPress plugins as a subcategory.

So you use those things to break it down and that’s sort of a hybrid system of both subject matter and the type of material as a mechanism for dividing it up.

Second Store Example

The next example I want to talk about is the Mental Management Store. This is a member’s store that I’ve worked on quite a bit. He’s in the process of converting to WooCommerce from Shopp. In this situation, Lanny sells hard-cover books, soft-cover books, dvds, cds, downloadable books in a variety of formats.

The audiobooks are mp3 audios where the book is read rather than being a downloadable print kind of book. So, Audiobooks, downloadable videos and then, downloadable audios that are entirely separate from books. So he’s got all these different kinds of formats that he sells and you could choose to use again, the format.

The reason I keep bringing this question of format up is because, I’ve observed people immediately moving to that as their primary method of categorization. Someone will say, well I’m selling books, ebooks and videos. So category 1 is books, category 2 is ebooks, category 3 is videos. You could do that with this up but I think, especially in Lanny’s case is not useful at all.

What we ended up doing was, breaking it down by subject matter and so what we have now is a list of products, all the products related to archery. Whether they are cds, books, hardcover books or even something like a performance analysis journal. As long as it is related to archery, it shows up in the archery category.

In fact, then the way that we deal with a book like this, a hardcover, softcover, audio and then downloadable, is we create variations. It’s the same product, but it has different variations. So, we don’t have a hardcover product for “Freedom Flight”. We have Freedom Flight as a product and then it comes in various different formats, whether it’s hardcover, softcover, a downloadable ebook or an audiobook. That’s the way we chose to break this down. I think that makes a lot more sense in a situation like this.

Current Store Example, Laura Crisci’s Site

The example that we are actually working on though is Laura Crisci’s site. And in her case, she sells physical cds of her work, downloadable mp3s, soap and lip balm. In the future, what she wants to be able to do is sell concert tickets and have a membership site and sell membership.

One way to think about doing this is essentially, to have each one of those things as a separate category. So, she could have downloadable products as one category product and then physical cds or cds as a second product and soap as a third and lip balm as a fourth and concerts and the memberships. We could do that, it’s essentially a flat organization where each one of those things is one product category.

4 Primary Categories with Subcategories

But I don’t really think that gets to the fundamental organization of what she’s going to be selling. So what we’re going to be doing is essentially breaking this up into 4 primary categories. We’re going to have music as the primary category. Beauty products as a category. Tickets as a category and then membership as a category.

She’ll have 4 primary categories and inside those, there may be subcategories. Certainly, under beauty products, there will be subcategories. But we end up with is more of a fundamental organization. There is a fundamental difference between the music and the beauty products and between both of those and tickets in between those and membership. So, we’re breaking them up into its most fundamental pieces and then taking those fundamental pieces and potentially sub-categorizing them further.

Add Product Categories

So there we are. Under Carta 1, the very first thing we do is to create some product categories. It’s exactly the same thing as creating a regular category. So you come over here, you add a new product category and the new product category is Music. It doesn’t have a parent.

Right now, we’re not going to put a description in here. We currently are not going to upload an image but we might get around to doing that here later. We’re not going to give it a custom template so we’re just going to add a new new product category. That will be good for the moment.

Then we’re going to do this again for Music and Beauty Products. Add that product category. Then under Beauty Products, we’re going to add Soaps and now the parent category is going to be Beauty Products. Then finally, lip balm and the parent is Beauty Products. Now we have 3 categories, 1 parent category and two subcategories.

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