You can find a free WordPress plugin for just about anything. But, just because you can, doesn’t mean you should.
Here’s the argument for not having a Check-Out, Members Area, Forum, Onsite Videos, or Live Chat, built into your site.
This post is written with new (and growing) bloggers in mind. If you have a WordPress.org blog, dirt cheap hosting, limited website resources, and have never heard of the Data Protection Act, this is for you.
Here are 5 things you shouldn’t burden your website with:
WordPress Plugins You DON’T Need
1. Shopping Cart & Check Out
A few years ago, when we first started to grow our crochet blog, Hooked On Patterns, we thought about creating our own built-in store.
It sort of made sense, since we had digital products to sell – so, why not?
Well, it came down to Customer Data…
WooCommerce Personal Data Retention
WooCommerce is the leading open-source eCommerce solution, so naturally, it was the first place I looked when thinking about creating an on-site shop.
What I discovered was, WooCommerce collects personal information in order to carry out transactions, and this personal information is stored on the host server (where your WordPress installation is).
By default, WooCommerce retains:Quote: woocommerce.com
• What products a customer ordered and when
• Name, e-mail address, and phone number provided by the customer
• Billing (and optionally: shipping) address entered by the customer
• A note about payment method used by the customer
On the matter of website security, WooCommerce gives this advice on how to keep your WooCommerce website secure. They also add:
Because WooCommerce is built on WordPress, a given WooCommerce site is overall exactly as secure as the WordPress installation itself. (&)Quote: woocommerce.com
WooCommerce stands behind our products… …we stake our reputation on their security.
However, I still wasn’t satisfied with the risk-reward ratio for us. It wasn’t so much a concern about WooCommerce (or any other eCommerce solution), more so, the insecure nature of shared hosting.
The Off-Site Check-Out Solution
Thankfully, there was an another option: Offload the checkout.
At the time, Ravelry (a leading crochet company), was already handling the bulk of our crochet pattern sales. They also provided a check-out solution which removed our need to collect any data at all.
Take a look at our Pyjama Monsters crochet pattern (a fun pyjama case design). If you hit the BUY NOW button, you’ll be taken off-site through Ravelry, and directly to their PayPal checkout. And, once a payment is made, Ravelry will send out the pattern download link, and keep a record of the sale.
So, Ravelry handles the digital download distribution, while PayPal take and confirm the payment.
This type of solution is available for most online sellers, and if you’re a new/small blogger, maybe this would better serve your needs.
2. Members Area
A Members Area represents a part of a website that is only accessible to signed up members. In this area, you might share more valuable content, and/or allow members to update their own personal information.
There are some business models that really need this sort of set-up. For example, if you sell a subscription based product, it would be useful for your customers to be able to update their home address, and payment details.
But that aside, a Members Area represents yet more data collection. More names, more emails, and depending on how it’s implemented, more personal data.
Using Social Media Instead
There is another option, and that’s to use social media.
Let’s say you have a website that sells Sports Cars. It might be more advantageous to create and manage a Facebook group, than to have your own Members Area.
And, Facebook will actually help you, by promoting your group (& therefore your brand) to anybody interested in Sports Cars.
I’ve heard it said before, ‘the advantage of running our own forum on your website is, nobody can shut you down’.
At the end of the day, if you’re on Facebook or Discord, you operate at their discretion, so at any point, they could pull the plug. However, that’s extremely unlikely. Especially for mainstream topics, which don’t attract any kind of censorship.
On the other hand, a forum is a data harvesting gold mine. And, you have to keep all of that information safe. Further, people will start using your website to make friendships and possibly communicate with each other in real life. They may even Buy and Sell from your platform. And, all of that is going to require some level of management from you. Maybe even a little legal research.
The real question is, why bother?
If you can host a community away from your website, why not? You could still charge a fee, target sales, or request email addresses when they ask to join.
4. Video Hosting
Videos take up a lot of memory. Space that your shared-hosting plan might not provide for you.
But, there are other options, like using YouTube (or other video platforms), and then embedding videos into your web-page.
If you only have a few short videos, then maybe YouTube’s not worth the effort. On the other hand, if you have GBs of data, then it may be the only real solution (that, or dedicated hosting).
Either way, before clogging up your WordPress blog with videos, speak with your host. Because, what you’re thinking, may not even be possible on your current hosting plan.
5. Live Chat
Live chat seems like a great feature, and for a busy sales website, it makes sense. But for a small Art Shop, it really isn’t worth the resources it’s going to tie up.
First, you have the possibly of website slowdown. Then you have the problem of monitoring the thing.
Are you really gonna be available 24/7 (or however long you turn the feature on for)? Or, can you really afford to hire somebody, to be?
Unless you stand to make a lot of money from Live Chat, the answer should be a firm, ‘I don’t need it’.
For a more instant solution to email, you could offer Messenger chat via your Facebook page.
Offload Everything You Can From Your Website
I wanted to share this message to new bloggers and online business owners, because it really worked for us. A lot of it comes down to website speed, and security. But at the end of the day, you have to do what’s right for your business.
Our website is basically a picture in a frame; you can look at it, but can’t interact. And, that’s ideal for new bloggers who don’t really know what they’re doing, and who really aren’t ready for the responsibility of personal data management.
The fact is, when you offload these website assets, it’s one less thing to worry about. And, down the line, you might actually be relived that you did.
All of that is to say, keep it simple, if you can.
If you found this post helpful, please share it on your social media, or link-back to it from your own blog. Thank you!