How we Implemented a Performant WooCommerce Shop: michel and elbe

Michael Firnkes Last updated 05.01.2021
6 Min.
Online shop michel und elbe
Last updated 05.01.2021

A WooCommerce shop with lots of pictures? And then also a migration to a new WordPress host ? Not quite an easy task. Our interview with designer Justyna Schmidt and photographer Andreas Schmidt-Wiethoff from the online shop michel und elbe shows how this can still be mastered. Including recommendations for the right Plugins.

You have a wonderful WordPress online shop with photographs around Hamburg. How did the design come about and what tools do you use?

Andreas: Before, we had a very elaborately built Magento shop and were dependent on a digital agency. That cost us a lot of money, and we weren't always satisfied with the response times. That's why we decided to take the reins ourselves at the beginning of 2020. Two systems came into question: Shopify and WordPress respectively. WooCommerce. After a test phase with Shopify, we decided to go with WordPress . Shopify was easy to use, but not flexible enough in terms of design.

The right WooCommerce theme as a basis

Justyna: I take care of the graphics at michel und elbe. Since I also work a lot as a web designer, I have been at home in the world of WordPress for a long time. It was really fun to design our new website and shop with the pictures of michel and elbe.

I chose Shopkeeper as our WordPress theme; it was a really good basis for the WooCommerce shop and for the design. Of course, I needed to make a lot of CSS modifications but personalizing the theme was also great fun.

How we Implemented a Performant WooCommerce Shop: michel and elbe
Hamburg for the wall: a photograph from michel and elbe

I've been looking for an uncomplicated and fast slider for the start page for a long time. I wanted to get away from LayerSlider and Smart Slider. With the Gutenslider by the German developer Niklas Plessing I finally found a slider that can be edited directly in the editor of WordPress without having to switch to the slider's own, often complicated settings environment. I find this much more efficient.

Image management in WordPress

WooCommerce and hundreds of pictures - not an easy combination. How did you solve the challenge?

Andreas: Yes, soon thousands of pictures, because we show mock-ups of each motif, how the picture looks in a living situation. In the standard media library of WordPress you quickly lose the overview. We couldn't do it without a good premiumPlugin. We organize the images in folders and subfolders with the Plugin Real Media Library, which makes our work much easier.

Gutenberg is controversial, you guys like to use it. Why? And which blocks are used?

Justyna: I've been working with Gutenberg since the release in 2018 and I don't want to miss the blocks. When I first saw the new Gutenberg editor, it was love at first sight. It was like Christmas for me, like I got a new LEGO building set that is infinitely expandable. No more complicated backend and almost "what you see is what you get".

Being able to copy groups and use them somewhere else makes our work much easier. A simple theme for WordPress or WooCommerce, a few good blocks of your choice, and the website is ready. It used to be that you'd customize a theme and it had its own design elements available. Depending on the theme, it sometimes meant learning the backend afresh. Now I don't need a "heavy" theme anymore, I can keep the website lean.

Depending on my needs, I choose the blocks I need - and can do without the rest of the ballast. This significantly increases the performance of the website. Besides the standard blocks that come with Gutenberg , I prefer to work with Ghost Kit and with the Kadence blocks. I have tried many block collections, but I can always rely on these two.

I also find that Gutenberg gets better with every release. Since WordPress 5.5 a lot has changed again. I think this development is great and I don't regret getting involved with Gutenberg back then.

The right WooCommerce hosting

You just recently switched to RAIDBOXES . What was the reason?

Andreas: We initially built the new michel und elbe shop on a mass server (Strato). During the design phase, the performance was still okay. But when entering and managing the products in the backend of WooCommerce , we realized that we urgently needed more computing power. We were looking for a German hosting, which is specialized on WordPress . That's how we came to RAIDBOXES came.

How did you test the performance of our BOXES? And how did our support help you with the setup?

Justyna: Setting up the BOX itself was so easy with the Migrator from RAIDBOXES that we didn't need any help. A little wait for the site to copy and the BOX was ready. At least that's how I remember it.

Andreas: At the beginning, the support team recommended that we test the STARTER-BOX. We thought that was great, because they didn't want to sell us the PRO-plan right away. The performance of the STARTER-BOX was good, but not fast enough for our complex shop with hundreds of variable products in the backend.

We wanted it to be fun. And that's what we got. With the PRO-plan for WooCommerce, which we tested next. This was what we wanted. We activated the BOX immediately (after 10 minutes of testing we were convinced) and made a redirect of our domain to the BOX . When setting up the redirection, the chat support helped us quickly and easily.

Stress-free WordPress migrations

How did the migration itself go? As a shop owner, not a completely tension-free moment...

Justyna: That surprised me the most. Previously, a digital agency always did the domainmigration for us and I was afraid that something would go wrong, that settings or links would not come along. After the successful migration Christian from the support helped me super with the DNS administration, because I hardly knew anything about it. That was the moment where I needed active help from you guys. And Christian "took me by the hand" in the chat and led me through the settings.

By the way, I love your chat function - it's modern and saves time. Very cool for people like me who don't like to talk on the phone. The help offered via chat is of such high quality and targeted so well that you don't need to call anymore. It's better even because you can exchange links and screenshots in the chat. So a shout-at at this point to the smart and patient team members in chat!

Andreas: We got the authcode from our old provider, entered it at RAIDBOXES and 10 minutes later we were live. I can still remember the excitement on the day we went live. How now, so fast?

WooCommerce caching

You are still using WP Rocket for performance, in combination with other tools. What are they and why do you want to switch?

Justyna: When we were hosting michelundelbe.de on a mass server, I went to great lengths to set up WP Rocket in conjunction with Asset CleanUp Page Speed Booster on the website to boost performance. With the combination of the two premiumPlugins I had achieved very good results in the frontend.

But that's no longer necessary. Thanks to RAIDBOXES's built-in caching, we won't need WP Rocket in the future, we're just phasing out the subscription. I have already deactivated the caching function of WP Rocket so that there are no conflicts with the server's own caching.

For data optimization, a free Plugin like Swift Performance lite will probably suffice. I'll keep a free version of Asset CleanUp Page Speed Booster running.

Online shop to retail store

What are the future plans for the michel und elbe shop?

Andreas: At the moment, we are very happy that we were able to more than compensate for the Corona-related drop in sales in the stationary business with the new online shop. Of course, the shop will continue to grow and we are constantly adding new products and product categories. We analyze the buying behavior of our customers and also adapt our products.

In the future, we want to continue to maintain and improve our SEO settings with Yoast SEO. This is a lot of work with so many products. To make the shop even more popular, we are planning landing pages in conjunction with a Google Ads campaign.

A few words about you and michelundelbe.de?

Andreas: The michel und elbe gallery has been around since 2005, when we were the first in Hamburg to offer exclusively Hamburg pictures. The idea was born out of our great love for photography and for our port city in all its facets. In the beginning we only offered the photographs in our gallery. The online shop exists since 2010.

Onlineshop michel and elbe team
The team of michel and elbe

According to the motto "Hamburg for the wall", our photographic works are available in our online shop on canvas, aluminum print, or behind acrylic glass. You can see the pictures live in our gallery in Hamburg and get a real feel for them. We also advise our customers on all aspects of processing and give tips on interior design at our gallery.

Justyna: Besides working for michel und elbe, I have been working as a graphic designer and web designer for various clients for 20 years. If you want to know more about my work, feel free to have a look here: freiraum-grafikdesign.de.

Online shop with WooCommerce: Your questions

What questions do you have for Justyna and Andreas? Which tools can you recommend yourself? Feel free to use the comment function. You want more tips about WordPress and WooCommerce? Then follow us on Twitter, Facebook or via our newsletter.

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