January 21 2019

One, ten, one hundred, one thousand products. How to understand the limit of products manageable by WooCommerce.

How many products can WooCommerce handle? Here are some practical considerations and a real case.

Managed WooCommerce Hosting

From active users in the various WordPress groups on Facebook, as well as among the various email and telephone requests that we usually receive, one of the most popular questions we are asked is the one regarding the number of products that WooCommerce can manage.

It sounds something like this: "I should do an ecommerce with n-thousand products, is WooCommerce okay?"
Another variation to the question sounds like: "I should do an ecommerce with n-thousand products. Can I use WooCommerce or should I use Magento or Prestashop?"

Following on social networks the most colorful answers of more or less skilled users with each his opinion. Among those who recommend Magento because they use Nike, to those who do not recommend Magento why There is an article online that also says WooCommerce can manage stores with over half a million products.

As a rule, these threads on WooCommerce in social media always end up in wine and tarallucci with banal and childish comments that even go down in flame with mutual insults, and usual "You don't know who I am."

Taking for granted that such conversations don't help anyone, we thought about writing this article which does not necessarily want to be absolute truth, but at least a substitute for personal considerations and technical experiences derived from those who from 2005 to 2019 had the opportunity to do systems engineering for companies that work at high levels on Magento, as well as other companies and developers who are more or less experienced (or absolutely novices and "runaway") with the creation of WooCommerce stores.

We personally believe that an ecommerce platform should be chosen especially for the features it offers rather than relying on the number of products it can handle.
For example, if we needed to manage a multistore type shop (where for example each store responds to a different domain or even where each store is verticalized only on a certain product, for example one for glasses and one for shoes) surely Magento or at least Prestashop would be solutions ready to meet our needs, while a WooCommerce should be extended and integrated with additional plugins with the relative pros and cons.

The fact remains that WooCommerce is able to offer excellent potential to those who have the desire to develop profitable ecommerce as we can see for example from this screenshot of one of our customers:

However, regardless of the irrevocable decision of wanting to use WooCommerce, let's try to answer the simple question above: "How many products can WooCommerce handle?"

Read in this way, the question may sound misleading, as the quantity of manageable products should be at least inherent to the pleasantness of navigation, the fluidity of the same and in short, give a very nice and comfortable user experience.

So that a concept is clear, no one is interested in having an ecommerce with 100 products if the navigation is slow and takes 10 seconds for each page to load.
Otherwise, it could be if the loading time is less than 2 seconds even in the face of 1000 users connected simultaneously.

Strictly speaking, we therefore try to make considerations that are in line with the expectations of the client but above all of the end customer who may be comfortably browsing the site while sipping a hot chocolate in cheerful company, perhaps from his new iPhone.

The plausible answer therefore to those who ask us "can a WooCommerce store handle 100 products with fluidity and a satisfying user experience?" would be : "Yes, but under certain conditions."

If we take the site for example intershop (https://www.inter-shop.gr/) we can say that this ecommerce developed with WooCommerce could be a clear example of how a WooCommerce can handle around 170 products without any problems.

Intershop.gr with its 160 thousand products.

InterShop is an electronic shop that imports and markets products from various Greek companies. Their online store is based on the WooCommerce platform and has over 158.000 products which vary in categories like electronic gadgets, electrical items, automobile tools, etc. The Inter store runs out of Greece and caters to consumers all over the world. Although, shipping costs vary from country to country.

Their website inter-shop.gr is based on Flatsome WordPress Theme. According to statistics from WPThemeDetector, this WordPress theme from UXThemes is ranked # 13 in the list of top WordPress themes. FlatSome is a highly customizable theme, very well designed primarily for WooCommerce users.

According to WhoIsHostingThis, Inter Shop is using CloudFlare which is popular for its speed and performance related services thus making it a reliable web performance and security company and giving us more reason to believe that WooCommerce is easily scalable if you have adequate hosting support and lean and well done application development.

Inter Shop uses W3 Total Cache, a plugin that helps improve website speed and performance, thus giving the user a better overall experience of the site with loading times of less than two seconds.

So once again the answer is yes. Yes, it is possible to manage large stores with WooCommerce.

Why does it go slow with just a few products?

One of the objections of those who do not recommend the use of WooCommerce is that having tried and tested the use on a site with few products (even a few hundred), the experience was so slow, negative and traumatic that WooCommerce was considered a choice. very bad (even not recommended) for all those who had decided to use it. Obviously they did not ask themselves in the least if everything had been done correctly and if the cause (or causes) of a bad final result there could be more reasons attributable to them.

Because there is a big difference in noting that a site built with WooCommerce can be tremendously slow, and also knowing how to explain why. Throwing out the cousin's made WooCommerce are all good, bringing the site to analysis and profiling tools such as New Relic and understanding the bottlenecks (and perhaps even solving them) is a matter of course. Just as it is few to choose a hosting like ours which provides adequate technologies to host a WooCommerce site. Starting from a correct mounting of the partitions, to a correct tuning of the system and services, to the use of multiple cache layers (Redis.io, Memcached, Zend OpCache, W3 Total Cache, Varnish, NGINX Cache), to the use of InnoDB tables rather than the antiquated MyISAM in a global context where performance is really everything.

In most cases, however, a good system tuning even with all the precautions in the world and the best good will, it will not be able to solve structural problems derived from themes or plugins "Killer Killer" that should be effectively prohibited on WordPress as they overload the DB or processes with queries, making everything extremely slow and unusable. A good system tuning and a good hosting with good caches may perhaps lower the initially unsatisfactory user experience from 10 seconds to 3. A good debug with an application resolution (perhaps by deleting or replacing a plugin), on the other hand, can eliminate the problem by allowing a loading in just 1 second.

Slow plugins. An example with WPML.

One of the examples we always mention when a client decides to plan the translation of his current site into languages ​​other than the current ones is that of don't use WPML.

However well publicized and widespread, WPML (the best-known plugin for WordPress site translations) it certainly can't be said that it shines for performance. In fact, by implementing personal solutions to translate the various languages, such as proprietary tables, multiple joins and so on, the only result that is obtained (in addition to the obvious multilingual translation of the WordPress and WooCommerce pages) is that of significantly slow down page loading speed.

While it is true that on a fast site increasing the loading speed to 100% can mean having a site that uses WPML that still loads in 2 seconds instead of 1, on slower sites it can mean that a site loads in six seconds instead. of 2 or 3 and this is not tolerable.

A real experience we had with one of our clients was to give a really important frontend optimization, bringing the loading from about 6 seconds to less than 1 as the user not logged in was served the previously generated page in cache. However, the problem remained when the user (for example a retailer with his reserved price lists) decided to log in and therefore browse without benefiting from the static Varnish cache. At that point all the server optimization failed and the site was once again irremediably slow.

What to do then?

The site was simply still in one language and while using WPML with Italian as the main language it still had not been translated into the other languages, so the wisest and most sensible solution was to extrapolate all the articles, pages and products from WPML and insert them outside of it for later disable and finally delete WPML. 

Here is where the site is back lightning even for logged in users.

The only viable alternative to the very slow WPML is Multilingual press (https://multilingualpress.org), a choice also recommended by other Performance Based hosting such as WP Engine, as its structure is based on the feature WordPress native multisite (instead of the spaghetti code and proprietary tables of WPML) allows you to get the maximum performance and functionality without inventing strange and very slow tricks as does WPML, now at the end of a dishonored career.

It costs about $ 200 a year for each single site, but you sure don't screw up your guts like WPML does.

Obviously we wanted to focus on WPML, because it is common practice to notice a noticeable slowdown at the time of translation into the language, but it is not the only plugin capable of killing ecommerce by making you slow as snails. As a rule, all those who make use of AJAX calls to the backend are advisable to avoid, as well as all those who have non-primary functions and are left unpunished to massacre the DB with queries.

Other negative factors for a performing WooCommerce store?

Other negative factors for a performing WooCommerce that may not be able to handle a good number of products or a good traffic spike are:

Unsuitable shared hosting solutions.

What would be the sense of lending economy and thrift in spending 100 euros a year rather than 100 euros a month for an optimized managed and managed dedicated server if in fact your business is worth hundreds of thousands of euros a year or a month? It seems absurd but it has happened to see companies with slow sites in shared hosting with turnover of a few hundred thousand euros a year that did not want to switch to dedicated servers because according to the administrator it was too expensive. In this case, change jobs and close the business. Go to the beach rather than pretend to be an entrepreneur.

Lack of SSD or nVME disks in RAID.

Always inherent to the point mentioned as "Unsuitable shared hosting solutions", too the lack of adequate SSD or nVME disks can cause slowdowns in reading and writing with an increase in latencies such as to create important bottlenecks and a general slowness. It is not even necessary to dwell too much with words or technical virtuosity, just take a look at the following benchmark to understand the importance of an SSD disk or better nVME rather than the classic mechanical HDD Hard Disks.

Lack of adequate software technologies.

Let's be clear once and for all, if you think hosting means buying an account with CPanel and Plesk from iron (hardware) vendor companies without doing any software tuning and optimization, unfortunately for you they are scamming you.
To seriously host a WooCommerce project, you need a stack based on these software components: NGINX with http / 2, PHP-FPM with Zend OpCache, REDIS.IO and Memcache together with Varnish in reverse proxy and an adequate configuration to work in synergy with WordPress and WooCommerce. If these points are not satisfied and your supplier is not able to provide you with these services, run away because your supplier is not able to do his job very well or to push your store to the maximum. The names of the software mentioned above are not our exclusive recipe because "it is beautiful and we like it", but the recommended requirements and best practices of all high performance hosting.

A real test of one of our customers with over 10 thousand products in WooCommerce

Wanting to stay in reality and not just tell what other ecommerce that we have seen online and documented in this article with our research do, we wanted to give a practical demonstration of an ecommerce made with WooCommerce that has over 10 thousand products published.

Unlike the usual clichés that WooCommerce is only suitable for small sites and with few products otherwise it starts to be extremely slow, in the video you can see with your eyes the fluidity of navigation of a WooCommerce which uploaded over 10 thousand products.




We can therefore conclude this overview on the possibility of being able to build large ecommerce with WooCommerce, with the affirmation that WooCommerce gives the possibility to do it in an efficient and elegant way, but it is up to both the developer and the system engineer to make careful choices so that all the problems under construction that would penalize performance, and (as far as the system engineer is concerned) to implement all the best practices by sizing the best ad-hoc solution for the project both on the hardware side and on the software side.

If you need to evaluate the possibility of optimizing your site and increasing the speed considerably, do not hesitate to contact us.


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