Recently I found a discussion on a popular web hosting portal, where someone was seeking help to choose a hosting plan for a website project, to be more specific, for an online shop built with WordPress and WooCommerce. I have read lots of different opinion and realize that some people still do not understand the fact that hosting is as important as the website itself. So I decided to create this article and help all those webmasters choosing the proper hosting plans that are looking to build an e-commerce site with WordPress.
Planning, planning and planning
It is important to plan your project ahead, to know what you want to build and how are going to finalize the website. If you choose to build an online shop with WordPress, the first thing to do is, to do a research and find out what options you have for a shopping cart. There are many shopping cart plugins that may be good for you, but let’s go deeper. You will also need to check the available add-ons that a plugin comes with, because you many not only want a simple add to cart – check out function, but also some advanced options such as product search, featured and promotional products, various checkout with and shipping options. If you have the knowledge to develop such plugins yourself, then you can start building a shopping cart from scratch, but if you want to save time, probably you will go with an existing extension that is available rather for free or you need to purchase a license.
Probably most of you would choose a free shopping cart plugin such as Woocommerce, WP E-commerce, Ithemes Exchange, Cart66 Lite or other. Let’s say we go with the most popular and choose Woocommerce, because it is free, there are many websites using it, it is well documented, has a very active and helpful community and there are plenty of premium add-ons to it to extend the functionality of your online shop, anytime you wish.
What other plugins you need?
Not long time ago, I had a chance to help a friend with building an online shop, with WordPress. We discussed all the details, planned ahead and this is the list of plugins we decided to install to her website:
- Contact Form 7
- W3 Total Cache
- Yoast SEO
- Addtoany share button
- FV Top level Categories
We have also chosen a theme that is responsive and is pre-styled for Woocommerce. I have made some modifications on the theme to match the requirements of the design concept she had in mind and started uploading the products. Initially there were about 100 products with two pictures each, so I thought that a shared hosting plan will be sufficient for this website. I was totally wrong! The website was working well, until she started with the advertising campaign. With only 200 daily visitors and 800 page views, the website was loading like on a free web host. Reworking some part of the code did not help, changing the theme did not help neither; she had to stop advertising the website until we figured out what the problem is. Probably this is a situation where you don’t want to fall into. So what the problem was?
What hosting type to choose shared or vps?
A built with WordPress, receiving 500 daily visitors will run great on a shared hosting. Sure, this depends on the hosting provider as well, but if you choose a good wordpress hosting plan, your site will be fine. Extending the functionality of your WordPress site, by installing different plugins and using complicated themes will gradually slow down your website. Receiving more and more traffic will also “help” in slowing it down. If your website stores bigger image files (in our case product images) and users are accessing them at once, will also greatly slow down the speed and will damage the performance.
I figured out that the hosting plan was causing the slow performance of the shop; the shared plan was not enough to guarantee the performance we expected. Moving it to a virtual server, where the site got dedicated RAM and CPU, fixed the issue.
Conclusion and recommendation
A simple blog or a company presentation website can live on shared hosting for long. In case of an online shop built with Woocommerce or other shopping cart plugin, I would recommend going straight for a virtual private server. It costs more, and it may be hard at the beginning to sustain the hosting cost as well the development of the website, but in the long run this is more beneficial for your business. The first impression always matters a lot: if your visitors experience slow performance on your website, probably will not return in the future and you will be losing business because of the inappropriate hosting plan you have. If you are serious about your online shop, don’t get cheap on hosting, get a proper hosting account that will give the best performance for your website.