WooCommerce.com is bringing back a feature that made it possible for customers to test extensions in a sandbox environment before purchasing them. Select extensions can be loaded up on a private test site for 30 days before the site self-destructs.
Although WooCommerce.com already offers a 30 day money back guarantee if users are unhappy with a purchase, the sandbox testing offers a frontline prevention for customers having to invoke the money back guarantee. It saves both parties time and resources by allowing customers to test extensions against their unique inventory of needs without committing to buy.
The flow for this feature is strategic in that it requires prospective customers to log in or create an account in order to test an extension. This enables users to come back and revisit their test sites later during the decision-making process. WooCommerce.com can also collect data on how many sandboxes are started for each of its extensions and determine which ones are struggling to convert. I would not be surprised if WooCommerce ends up streamlining these sandboxes for better conversions.
In my test of this feature I chose the WooCommerce Pre-Orders extension. Once logged in, the site loaded up in seconds with the extension already activated on an empty store. I was successfully able to create a product as being available for pre-order.
The live testing feature is not yet available for all extensions. WooCommerce engineer Rémi Corson reports that it’s currently active on the following products (with more on come in the future): follow-up emails, product add-ons, product CSV import suite, product vendors, table rate shipping, bookings, checkout field editor, points and rewards, and pre-orders. Any of the available extensions can be simultaneously activated on an existing test site.
WooCommerce.com’s sandbox sites are set up strictly for testing extensions in a simple way. This may not be the best if you need to rule out conflicts with other extensions during your tests. The test sites do not allow you to install a different theme or add any other plugins.
In most cases, the live testing feature should be adequate to answer most questions users have prior to purchasing an extension. It’s also great for demonstrating to a client in case of the necessity to justify the expense. Some of these extensions are in the range of $100-$249/year billed annually, which is not a trivial expense for people who are just getting started with a store and wondering if the extension will suit their needs.
WooCommerce.com is one of many digital product creators in the WordPress space that already employs this type of testing, though the life of the sandbox varies from an hour to several weeks. Offering instant live testing is definitely the way to go if you don’t want to offer a free version of your extension where users would pay to upgrade. It saves users the hassle of having to set up their own test sites and get a refund, but also allows them to truly browse a host of commercial add-ons that they may not have otherwise thought to explore.