One of the newest WooCommerce designs on the market is called Merchandiser.
Designed by Get Bowtied, Merchandiser is a minimalist design that emphasises speed and efficiency over unnecessary features. The goal was to design something that offers all the features you need without the added bloat that is usually associated with WooCommerce designs.
The correlation between page loading times and sales is well documented online. Fast loading websites help shop owners generate higher rankings in search engines and help increase sales. It also improves the browsing experience of their customers.
In this article I would like to take a closer look at Merchandiser and show you what it can do.
What Does Merchandiser Offer?
Merchandiser has a beautiful design that I am sure your customers will love. There are a number of different options available for your home page including a slider, featured products, a blog, and a coming soon template.
Once you begin browsing the demo area of Merchandiser, it becomes clear that a lot of attention has been paid to providing an enjoyable shopping experience for customers.
There are lots of little features such as an off-canvas shopping cart and off-canvas quick view area. This area will reveal itself when you click on the shopping cart icon at the top of each page or click to add something to your cart. It allows customers to see what items they have added without leaving the page.
Products can be showcased in a variety of ways. You can choose whether a sidebar is displayed or not and show anything from one to six products per row. The great thing about Merchandiser is that the theme will display less products in each row if the browser is resized or if the customer is viewing the page on a mobile device.
The product information page is big, bold, and clear. All of your favourite WooCommerce features are available in this area. For example, you can display product ratings and mark items on sale.
The included blog template looks good and matches the general style of Merchandiser. I am sure that most shop owners will be happy with the template, however as a blogger I would love to see more blog layouts added to the theme.
With the number of people shopping from mobile phones and tablets growing every day, Merchandiser ensures that mobile users have a pleasant shopping experience.
Get Bowtied are so proud of the coding and performance of Merchandiser that they have shared their W3C HTML Validator results and speed test results from Webpagetest and Pingdom. Feel free to check them out.
I was impressed with the quality of the Merchandiser design. The theme works with every WooCommerce feature and the inclusion of the drag and drop page builder Visual Composer means that you can style your pages with ease.
How to Install Merchandiser
Merchandiser comes packaged with the parent theme and a child theme. It is advisable to upload both themes and use the child theme so that any modifications you make are not overwritten when the theme is updated.
Once you have uploaded Merchandiser and activated the child theme, you will see a message asking you to install required plugins. The one required plugin that needs to be installed is called “GetBowtied Tools”.
When this required plugin has been activated, you will be presented with a welcome page that thanks you for using the theme.
On the next page you should enter the product activation key that is provided to you after purchasing Merchandiser. Doing this ensures the theme can be automatically updated through the WordPress admin area. The step is also necessary to install the two plugins that need to be installed with the theme.
The two plugins Merchandiser ask you to install are Visual Composer and WooCommerce. Visual Composer retails at $34 on its own so it is great to see it included with the theme.
Installing the theme’s demo content will help you get an understanding of what Merchandiser can do.
Before you install the demo content, be sure to check the system status to see if your website server is configured for importing the necessary files.
You may have to speak to your website host if the server environment is not set up correctly. The demo content did however install correctly for me despite some warnings about the PHP time limit and max upload size not being sufficient.
Once the demo content has been installed, the front-end of your website will look like the theme demo. All you have to do now is start adding products for sale (if you have not already done so).
There is no information about what installing the demo area actually adds to your database and how that content can be removed. This is a problem that many WordPress themes present.
When compared to other WordPress themes, the amount of data imported does appear to be quite light as no media is added. Hopefully the developer can clarify what the demo adds in a future version of the theme.
How to Configure Merchandiser
All settings for Merchandiser are handled via the WordPress theme customizer.
Unfortunately, if you have activated the child theme of Merchandizer, the only thing you can change are widgets.
The fact that Get Bowtied included a child theme with the theme package highlights that they understand the importance of using a child theme. It is therefore safe to assume that this is a small bug they need to correct.
Until they do, you will need to configure Merchandizer by activating the parent theme.
Once Merchandiser is activated, you will see all options listed in the WordPress theme customizer. You will see options for your header, footer, shop, product page, social media, and more.
Despite Get Bowtied marketing Merchandiser as a minimal theme, you will find a lot of great options inside the WordPress theme customizer.
There are additional layouts available for your header and navigation area. There are two shop layouts and two product page layouts too.
In a future version I would like to see more styling options and more layouts added.
The WordPress theme customizer is a fantastic way of modifying a theme as it allows users to see the changes they make immediately.
You can also style the content area of your pages using Visual Composer. I use Visual Composer on my own website to help me construct stylish content and present data that is more digestible for readers. This can take shape in the form of a slider, a table, or a blog post list.
The Visual Composer interface is quick and easy to use. You will feel comfortable creating pages with it after using it for just a few minutes.
Dozens of content elements are available within Visual Composer. You can add hundreds more through one of the many extensions that are available for Visual Composer (check the WordPress add-ons category on CodeCanyon).
These content elements will help you bring your pages to life and add a touch of class that competitors do not have.
Apart from the issue with the child theme not displaying the options in the WordPress theme customizer, Merchandiser was simple to configure.
To help expand the functionality of the theme, I would like to see options added for exporting and importing settings. This would allow users to set up the theme on a test website and then import them into their live website. It would also make life a lot easier for web design companies who use Merchandiser for multiple clients.
If you are looking for a minimal WooCommerce design that looks good and loads fast, Merchandiser is a great choice. I encourage you to view Merchandiser in action by checking out the official theme demo. This will give you an appreciation of how hood the theme looks.
Without doubt, the theme draws inspiration from portfolio and gallery websites. Product images dominate pages which means that each product gets a lot of attention. Compare this to eCommerce designs that fit dozens of products in each row.
There are some ways in which the theme can be improved, however the version I tested (1.0) had no bugs apart from the customizer not being shown in the child theme so I’m looking forward to seeing how the theme develops over the next year.
Merchandiser is available from ThemeForest for a fee of $59. This gives you unlimited theme updates and six months of support from Get Bowtied. An additional six months of support can be added for $17.70.
Check it out 🙂
Kevin[Editor’s note: The small bug Kevin mentioned with the child theme and the Customizer was fixed in version 1.02. The latest version at the time of writing is 1.03]