Podcast Episode

440 – Plugin Review: WooCommerce Bookings


Plugin Review: WooCommerce Bookings

Bookings is a premium extension that adds the ability to have customers book time on your website.

Whether it’s booking a hotel room, or scheduling one-on-one time with you, there is tons of flexibility with the plugin.

You can also specify how the plugin calculates the prices, whether a fixed cost or by the hour.

Full Transcript

Business Transcription is provided by GMR Transcription.

On today’s episode, we are going to talk all about Bookings and do a plugin review of the WooCommerce and Bookings plugin. Right here on Your Website Engineer podcast episode number 440.

Hello, and welcome to another episode of Your Website Engineer podcast. My name is Dustin Hartzler. I’m excited to be here with you today because right now I’m recording this early on May 8th. So, usually, I record earlier in the week but I just got back from my team meet up this week in Toronto and spent some time with my colleagues. And I really spent a lot of time learning. It was really a cool meetup. We didn’t have any projects we were working on, but each individual as part of our team told us and shared what they really specialize in.

I’m on a unique team inside of Automatic where I’ve got colleagues that work on wordpress.com but we also have people that work on wordpress.com business sites and the e-commerce plan and I’m on WooCommerce and then we have people that specialize in doing mobile support and doing business one on one calls and all kinds of things. So, we get to just spend the entire week learning from each other and what each other does. So, that was really exciting, and it just really kind of prompted me to get to learn and excited for the summer as I’m going to learn how to use a bunch of different premium plugins that I’ve never tried before.

And so that’s what we’re going to kind of start this whole segment off. It’s also exciting because today, as I record this on May 8th, is the first day of my three-month sabbatical from Automatic so I don’t have to log into work. Well, today I’ve got to log in and do an expense report and do all the out of office replies and all that kind of stuff and get all that set up so people know that I’m going to be gone for three months. But basically, it’s exciting times and I’m going to be working on building a deck. I’m building out my basement. I’m mowing my grass for the first time and doing a bunch of things like that.

So, and that’s kind of where we are when it comes to Dustin’s schedule and so starting next week it’ll be kind of more of a streamlined episode without as much news and whatnot just because I’m going to start batch recording these so I don’t have to every Tuesday night be stressed about getting this thing recorded. So, and that’s where we are. Let’s go ahead and dive right into the announcements.

So, the first announcement is that WordPress 5.2 Jaco has been released. Some of the things that are released with WordPress 5.2 is the site health check. So, site health was a feature that was released in 5.1 but this adds two new pages to help debug a common configuration issues. It also adds space where developers can include debugging information for site maintainers.

So, that’s one thing that’s built into 5.2. Another thing is all about PHP error protection and this is an admin focused update that will allow you to safely fix or manage fatal errors without requiring a developer time. It features better handling of the so-called white screen of death and a way to enter recovery mode which pauses auto causing plugins or themes.

Other improvements for folks in 5.2 are accessibility updates so there’s been a number of changes to work together to improve contextual awareness and keyboard navigation flow. For those using screen readers and other assisted technologies, there’s some new dashboard icons which I talked about a couple of weeks ago and there’s plugin compatibility checks. So, WordPress will now automatically determine if your site’s version of PHP is compatible with installed plugins. If the plugin requires a higher version of PHP that’s currently in use; WordPress will not allow you to activate the plugin, preventing potential compatibility errors.

And so this is really exciting especially this feature because I see this happen all the time with our customers at WooCommerce. They will install a plugin and activate it but it requires PHP 7.0 or something and then it just all breaks. And so that is a great improvement in WordPress 5.2. There’s a few other things. There was a version bump so the minimum supported PHP version now is 5.6 and so themes and plugins can take advantage of the namespace, the anonymous functions, and all the other cool things that are built into PHP.

There are some other things when it comes to the developer side of things. There have been some privacy updates. There’s a new body hook which allows themes to support injecting code right at the beginning of the body element. And there is some additional web pack and babble configurations in the WordPress script package so that developers won’t have to worry about setting up complex build tools just to write modern Javascript. And so that’s kind of the recap.

The release was led by Matt Mullenweg and a few others. There was 327 generous volunteer contributors and so there’s a lot of people that had their hand in this version of WooCommerce or in this version of WordPress. Excuse me. So, as you are getting ready for the week, you’ll probably see those dashboard updates or your hosting provider might automatically update you. But that’s what’s happening in WordPress 5.2.

Another thing that I saw out there on WP Tavern this week was the WordPress designers are starting to explore the possibility and the proposal to simplify the WP admin navigation. So, you know that left-hand sidebar can be very intimidating to navigate if you’re just getting started with WordPress. If you got plugins and you’re adding plugins and whatnot that navigation menu gets really really big really really quickly. So, it hasn’t changed anything since WordPress 3.8 in 2013 and so they’re just working on maybe making the menu on the left-hand side expand and contract.

And what I mean by that is instead of having all of those different menu items, maybe they’ll have like Home, Site, Design, Tools, and Manage. And under the Site, they might have things like Pages, and Posts, and Media, and Comments. And under Design, it might be like Edit Template or Theme or Widgets or Menus or Customize. And under Tools, it might be the Settings and the Tools and whatnot. So, that’s kind of some of the thoughts that are going on with WordPress and what might be happening in WordPress 5.3. And so if you’re interested in the article, there’s a link in the show notes for episode number 440 where you can go check that out and read for yourself.

And the last news item this week is all about Word Camp US. Word Camp US 2019 is going to be located in St. Louis, Missouri, November 1-3 and it is now available to register for tickets. I think the website is a little bit interesting if you head on over to 2019.us.wordcamp.org. Near the upper right-hand corner and a few other places across the site it just says “Sign Up.” I think it’s a little bit different than “Buy a Ticket” or whatever but just look for the red button that says “Sign Up.” I will be there in St. Louis. I’m excited. I am actually on the organizing team for Word Camp US and I’m helping organize all of the volunteers and making sure the event runs smoothly. So, I will be there probably starting in the end of October through November 3rd.

So, I’m really excited to spend some time there and learn from some sessions, but then also make sure that the event runs smoothly. So, if you are in a drivable distance from St. Louis; I highly recommend going. It is a $50 event for three days and so it’s a little bit more costly. I think last year it was at $40 so they bumped it up a little bit but then they also have some accommodations that you can stay right on the hotel that’s part of Word Camp US.

And so I believe that’s a Marriott hotel and it’s very very close to the convention center and it’s just an exciting place to be and just a great place to communicate and network with other WordPress developers or see some friends that you haven’t seen in quite a while. So, Word Camp US is the place to be. They’ve moved it from December to November so hopefully, the weather’s a little bit better and that it doesn’t kind of mess with the whole holidays and get your whole month of December really really busy. So, that’s what I wanted to share with you today.

All right. Moving on to the "is there a plugin for that" section. I’m basically going to just kind of remover that on the weeks that we talk about a specific plugin because today we’re going to talk specifically about WooCommerce Bookings. And this is one mainly because I use it all the time. I got a good interface and I understand how it works and I just want to share some of this because it is a premium plugin. It’s a plugin that runs $249 per year and so I wanted to make sure that just kind of understand and know what this plugin can do in case someday that you like, “I need a plugin to help my customers book a session of some kind” or whatever.

So, that’s what we’re going to talk about today. We’re going to talk all about WooCommerce Bookings. In order to use WooCommerce Bookings, you do have to have WooCommerce available and activate it. So, the first thing is you’ll want to turn on or download from the repository WooCommerce. And that basically gives you the ability to create products. And then inside of the product area, there is a new data type called bookable products. And then it adds a whole bunch of extra meta fields and so once you activate this and we’re just going to walk through some of the settings here and we’ll talk about how some of this stuff works.

And so the cool part is with WooCommerce Bookings; it allows your customers to book classes or schedule appointments or reserve items. And you can set defined options or you can set definite options like fixed timeslot or for an appointment or guided tour or you can let customers choose the time that works best for them. So, one example would be if you wanted to have them book in fixed blocks of one hour, they would say, “Oh, maybe it’s a co-working space” and they want to schedule from 8:00-9:00 in the co-working space. That would be you could book for one hour at a time.

The other way you could do it is you could say customer defined blocks and maybe you can say that “Oh, they need to register for at least four hours.” Maybe it’s a boat tour or something and you would say, “Oh, they have to pick at least four hours.” So then they can say, “Oh, I’m going to start at 10:00 and then it’ll run until 2:00” because that is a four-hour window. And you can say how many max bookings are per block so say you have a co-working space – this is a good example and you have 10 desks, then you can say that “I have 10 desks so I can have 10 people register per block.” And then once 10 people have signed up for that specific block; then there is going to be no more availability for that hour which is really nice.

Then the other thing you can do depending on either way whichever booking duration you set up whether it be fixed blocks or customer defined blocks, then you can also add buffers between bookings. So, you can make sure that your schedule works so maybe you go to people’s houses to fix their computers. And they sign up for the time and you can put a buffer before and after each of your – or just before or just after and then that will allow you some buffer room so if somebody schedules it from 8:00-9:00 then you can be there for a whole hour and then it won’t show the next available booking until 9:30 because then that’s the next available time. Because if you have a 30-minute buffer at the end of it so that’s really nice and it gives you some flexibility.

I’ve also seen people use like on the boat tour example, they will make sure the boat comes back. They want a 30 minute or an hour buffer so then they can fill up the boat with gas, they can wipe it down, they can clean it up, and they can get it ready to turn and flip to use for the next customer. So, that’s what you can do with WooCommerce Bookings with the buffer section.

You can do one on one appointments or multi-person events and so you can set inside the person’s tab so there’s a couple of different ways you can configure WooCommerce Bookings. Of course, there’s hundreds of ways that you can do it, but if you turn on the has persons, this will allow you to have a checkbox. For a boat tour, for example, you can say that “Oh, you can book for one person up to 12 people.” And you can multiply all the costs against the people so if you want to charge per person you can do that. You can count each person as a booking so that just basically means that if four people sign up then four people that would count as four individual bookings.

And then you could also do person type. So, that’s really nice and if you wanted to say, “Adults are going to be $30 but kids are only going to be $12” you can specify that so when people are filling out the form and they say, “Oh, I have two adults and two kids” then it’s going to be the $30 times two and the $12 times two. And so it does all the calculations for you which is really really nice. You can also offer special pricing for your groups or days or individuals. So, under the cost tab, you can say a base cost so whatever your bookings is each an hour, you can say that the base is going to be $30 and then each individual hour, each individual block if you will; it could be $10. So, it could be $30 to reserve an hour and then each additional hour is $10.

You can also do different ranges. This is built in and it can very very powerful. So, you can say, oh, from this time range – the noon time is always really busy maybe at the restaurant. Maybe there’s an upsell charge. Maybe it’s $10 to get a reservation at the top of an observation deck at exactly 12:00 because that’s the most busy time. Then you can say anywhere from 12:00-1:00 then the cost is an additional $10. Or you can multiply the cost by 10 if you wanted to at specific times.

You can also do custom date ranges so if you know the 4th of July is a very popular holiday and you wanted to have that be a little bit more expensive to rent, maybe you’re renting camping gear or boats for weekends or whatever. Then you can say that “Oh, from this range from July 3rd through July 5th a popular holiday weekend, then that’s going to be an additional $300.” Or you know whatever you can do that. You can also do discounts for people that are booking multiple slots if you want or show lower prices. So, you don’t always just have to go up when it comes to the cost tab; you can always go down as well.

The other cool part about this especially if you are working with a global audience is you can show your availability in the customers’ time zone. So, this is really important if you’re doing some sort of online consulting or you’re scheduling for an interview or something like that. So, the people can see in their own time zone whether they’re in New York or Mexico or New Zealand, they can see the time zones when they need to be available so that’s really really handy. It’s perfect for virtual classes or online appointments or rentals that need to be delivered at a specific time. That’s what that is all about.

You also have the ability to require confirmation or offer free cancellations. Either one of those is completely up to you. So, you can set up confirmations so basically, that means that they can request the availability. They can say, “I want to go at this time for this amount of time or this day for this time.” And when it’s checked instead of actually booking it; it sends and kind of holds that time for them and then it goes to you as the admin of the store and then you could approve or decline it if you like. And so that’s really handy.

You can also send out reminders to reduce no shows and so you can set this up and it will remind clients about their appointments with notification emails when a reservation is made when it’s confirmed, and the day before the booking date which is really really handy. So, if you want to do more you can actually even send a special reminder right from the website. You can send a personalized notification for your customers or the people that have booked on your website.

Other things that are built in, you can never get double booked and so you can use things called resources. And so if you are a person, maybe a hairstylist say you are the resource and so that means that if somebody books at 2:00 then nobody can book again in that 2:00 hour because you are already booked. You can also use the resources for maybe if you’re renting out party rooms. Maybe you are a karaoke bar and you have four rooms and you want to allow people to book from – I don’t know, 8:00-12:00 at night. Then people can pick, “Oh, I want Room 1 or Room 2.” Or you can set it up so it automatically just chooses and then it assigns you a room and then you never have to worry about offering the same resources to two customers at the same time.

If four people have booked those four rooms at the karaoke bar; it’s unavailable for the rest of the day. Or also a new feature that came out with Bookings just a couple – maybe it was the last version or so is now you can manage your calendar including syncing with Google Calendar. So, it allows you to just log into your Google Calendar and you can see what’s happening right there, but you can see existing bookings or availability. But it also syncs with Google Calendar so that you can manage things on your store and then you can see it in your Google Calendar. Or if you wanted to say – they’re doing two-way sync now so that you can say, “Oh, well I want to block out this day. I don’t want any availability on Saturday and Sunday so I’ll block it out on my Google Calendar and then it’ll be blocked out on your WooCommerce calendar as well.”

And so, it’s really cool. There’s tons of features that we use it for. There’s an additional accommodation booking extension. It’s a free booking but that basically turns into more like accommodations for an Airbnb or maybe you’re running a small boutique hotel that allows basically that it just kind of changes some of the wording. Instead of booking for the day or whatever it’s per night so it allows your customers to set things up per night.

You can also use a couple of the other WooCommerce plugins if you need to like the deposits plugin. So, you can take a deposit for a hotel reservation if you want to or if you wanted to add on some additional things. Maybe people are buying merchandise or they’re doing something else with – if you’re doing a massage, maybe you want a special oil treatment, or whatever; there’s the product add on plugin which is a $49 extension from WooCommerce and that will allow you to add those types of things to your bookable product as well. And so that’s WooCommerce Bookings in about 10 minutes or so. It is an extremely complex plugin.

That’s probably why they charge $250 for one site. If you want to do five sites; it’s $300 and if you want to go up to 25 sites or basically unlimited; then you are running at $450. So, it’s one of our plugins that we see a lot of people buy. It’s really really handy but it works really really well.

One thing though I do want to mention that sometimes people say, “Oh, I’m running this event.” And maybe they are running – I’m trying to think of a good example. If somebody was running, they were putting together a spa conference or something like that and they were wondering if Bookings is the right plugin for them. Well, it could be but it’s very very complex to set up just for a specific event. So, if you have a specific event like that like it’s going to be June 1st through June 7th. And everybody is booking through that exact same day; you don’t necessarily need the Bookings plugin because while it will work but then everybody has to click on the calendar and whatnot.

You can just do a product, a simple product and just use inventory and make sure that there is enough inventory. If you’re going to sell 300 seats or 300 people could come to this event, then you would just sell it with an inventory of 300. And so that makes it a little bit easier but you don’t necessarily need the Bookings part of the plugin.

And the main thing that you will need Bookings for is when you want people to pick a specific time or date throughout the week or month and then you want to make sure that you’re not getting double booked. And so WooCommerce Bookings is a perfect plugin for that. It works well with Stripe and Square and PayPal, the three plugins that are completely free within WooCommerce but then you can also use authorized.net or some of the premium PayPal extensions that we offer at WooCommerce as well. So, that’s what I wanted to share with you today, all about WooCommerce Bookings.

It’s an extremely flexible plugin. You can do a lot of things and it can make your business pretty sweet actually. Instead of using some third-party integration to try to find when people can schedule a one on one consultation with you or whatnot; you can do it all through your website through WooCommerce Bookings. That’s what I wanted to share with you this week. Take care. Next week, we’re talking about new plugins that I haven’t even tried yet. So, I’m really excited about that and we’ll talk then. Take care. Bye-bye.