I learned an important lesson this week.
In my role as a professional web designer, I do my best to respect my clients’ budgets. I know that not everyone has $40,000 laying around for a website. Sometimes – especially when using an open-source system like WordPress – you’ll find there are multiple ways to get the job done. For example, if you want a plug-in that can modify your functions.php file, a quick search will turn up half a dozen viable options. And usually there’s at least one free option that will work out just fine. No need to pass along the cost of a premium plug-in to the customer. Everybody wins.
But on my latest project we ran into a problem. My client needs to offer financing options by means of a subscription system – the end user should be able to pick between 36, 60, and 120-month financing options. Each comes with a different monthly cost, of course. So, as I usually do, I browsed the plug-in marketplace and found that there were a number of options that promised to handle subscriptions. And since my client wanted to use Stripe as the payment processor, and Stripe also offers the ability to set up subscriptions, I wanted to use a plug-in that would allow my client to manage the subscriptions from Stripe’s back-end while offering his customers the ease-of-use that comes from a WooCommerce front-end.
I went through iteration after iteration, changed countless settings, chased that rabbit as far down the rabbit hole as I could go. Multiple plug-ins. Multiple configurations.
Nothing. Nada. Couldn’t get it to work.
I had to admit defeat.
And, in the end, my client had to shell out $199 for the “official” WooCommerce Subscriptions plug-in. And guess what? It works! Out of the box!
It was truly a case of “you get what you pay for”. I spent hours trying to get the free plug-ins to do something that they simply couldn’t do and honestly I’m going to take the hit for some of those hours – no sense in billing my client for the time it took to experiment with the free options. Chalk it up as a learning experience.
That’s not to say that all free WordPress plug-ins are bad, or that paid options are always better. But if you’re a WordPress designer/developer, don’t forget that sometimes it might cost you and your client more in the time and labor it takes to force workarounds for free plug-ins when you could just pay for the one that works right away.