On review today we have the WooCommerce Booking & Appointment Plugin from Ashok Rane at Tychesoftwares.com.
Booking and appointment plugins are very much in demand right now, so this plugin is a very welcome addition. WooCommerce itself has been growing very rapidly and is probably the most popular e-commerce system for WordPress nowadays, so the idea to create a booking add-on specifically for WooCommerce makes a lot of sense.
Features & Usage
This is the first fully integrated booking plugin with WooCommerce. It means users of the plugin can have the option of using the full range of WooCommerce extensions and no other booking plugin offers that level of integration. The plugin can be used to work with Gravity Forms or WooCommerce Product Add-ons plugin or with the inbuilt Woo Product Variations as well. Being able to tie into the various add-ons for WooCommerce, such as all the payment gateways, is a huge advantage.
For those who prefer watching a video walkthrough, I’ve prepared one for you too:
Once you install this plugin, you’ll find a new sub menu under ‘WooCommerce’ named ‘Booking Settings’. This is where the general settings of the plugin can be set. Nothing complicated here, just the basic things you always need, such as time formats, language, and the calendar’s theme (based on jQuery UI). You can also add holidays or exclude days or blackout certain dates from your booking calendar. This is available on 2 levels. One is at the global level (WooCommerce -> Booking Settings), that is applied to all products. The second one is at a product level and thus is not via this screen.
With settings out of the way, you can proceed to create your first bookable service/product.
Create a new product via WooCommerce, and notice that there is now a new meta box available named ‘Booking’.
It’s via this meta box that we can set up booking facilities for this product.
You can set up various types of products and services, and you have to keep this in mind when using this meta box. Here are the main products you can set up:
- Date based booking services
- Date and Time based booking services
- Accommodation / hotel booking type of services
For date based booking services you just need to tick the ‘Enable booking date’ option in the Booking meta box
You can leave your calendar open, so people can book any day of the year, but you can also black out certain dates on a per product basis, using this same Booking meta box.
Want to have your service available on specific dates only? No problem, just hit the ‘Specific Dates’ checkbox and select the dates you want.
Of course you can also set up recurring weekdays when your service will be available, very easy stuff.
You can also enable a combination of Recurring Weekdays as well as Specific Dates. For example, if you offer recurring services on Monday, Wednesday & Friday. But there is a particular date that does not fall on any of these recurring weekdays & you want to offer your services on that one-off date. Let’s say it falls on a Sunday & the date is 28th July 2013. In that case, you can enable “Specific Dates” and select just that one date & add the time slots to it as you need. 28th July 2013 will be available in addition to the recurring weekdays of Monday, Wednesday & Friday.
Lets add one extra variable (time) to our bookings. Will it be a challenge? Absolutely not! You just need to tick the ‘Enable Booking Time’ checkbox, then add some time slots below it.
These will now be visible under the ‘View Delete Booking Dates/Time Slots’ tab.
On the front end, users can now select their preferred time slot.
Once the plugin was launched there were many requests to make it possible to book property, so now in version 1.1 we also have the option to book a start and end date which is suitable for the rental of property, hotel booking, accommodations, etc.
In order to enable that, you need to select these two checkboxes:
Once you enable them, you’ll have the booking date and check out date available on the front end:
There’s also the facility to use variable products in WooCommerce to create a fully fledged booking system which takes into consideration things like pricing differences between adults and children. All you need to do is create a variable product via WooCommerce and add the attributes such as ‘Children’ and ‘Adults’ as variable factors. WooCommerce Booking and Appointments add-on will then automatically pick them up and on the front end you’ll see these new variations show. Obviously pricing will also change accordingly with these new variations.
Once you add the product to cart you can then checkout as normal via WooCommerce.
The 1.1 version of the plugin has just been released, bringing with it two main improvements to the plugin. The update now allows customers to use the plugin for bookings spanning multiple days. So it can now be used for services like Hotel bookings, Accommodations, Rental apartments, etc. The second feature addition is that it now allows you to choose between 12 hour & 24 hour time formats for appointment services.
The plugin’s interface is quite intuitive, I see no problems there. It uses many of the WordPress native UI elements and never looks out of place within the WordPress dashboard, something which I put a lot of value in. Those of you who are familiar with WooCommerce will definitely find it very intuitive.
Although this is only version 1.1, it already feels like it’s a mature plugin and this augurs very well for the future of this add-on.
For those of you eager to see some sites out in the wild already using this plugin, here are a few links:
Support & Documentation
Support is via the feedback section of tychesoftwares.com, on this page people can submit their ideas and leave feedback, as well as send an email to Ashok if necessary. As you will see, many people have put in their ideas for the booking plugin there.
Many plugin authors are moving away from forums as they are not deemed to be an efficient support structure. Especially when there is only one developer behind the project, email or feedback systems make a lot of sense. I think therefore that this is the right way to go for this add-on, although it remains to be seen how sustainable it will be in the future as the plugin’s popularity increases. The plugin author could opt for a system like HelpScout or ZenDesk, which are very popular with other developers.
Documentation comes in the form of a one-pager on the plugin site, but it’s comprehensive enough, and there’s also a video in which the author shows how to set up things. What I feel needs more documentation is the setting up of variations within products. Although this is chiefly WooCommerce territory, it wouldn’t hurt to repeat the process on the add-ons documentation page as well.
The WooCommerce Booking and Appointment plugin runs on a three tier pricing scheme:
- Single store – $79.00
- Five stores – $199.00
- Unlimited stores – $249
This is a scheme used by other top plugins in the industry, and makes good sense. The ‘Unlimited stores’ version is an especially good deal for developers who regularly build booking-enabled websites for clients.
A little box on the plugin’s website reminds you that if you charge $40 per hour, the plugin only needs to save you 2 hours of time to pay for a single store license. I think this makes sense, it’s definitely not overpriced considering the dearth of other alternatives there are around.
Payments are accepted via PayPal, you get instant delivery of the add-on and there’s also a 30 day no questions asked refund policy, so there’s no risk at all for you.
We all want to know what others think about a product before buying it, don’t we? So here’s a random testimonial for this plugin:
“This guy is a legend! Builds fantastic, bullet proof plugins that are suited to a really diverse selection of applications. Personally I can think of at least 10 websites i have done that I can take this to and show it to them and they will buy it straight away. Why break a sweat and try to do it yourself when Ashok can build it perfectly for you so cheaply.
Lifetime customer here. Thanks for the great service and the fantastic plugins.”
– Andrew Woods, Town & Country Custom Web Design, http://www.
Bookings and Appointments are possibly one of the biggest niche uses of WordPress, and till now there hasn’t been one single leader in this niche. Although this plugin is very young, it has started off on the right footing, has a knowledgeable developer behind it, and is making the right choice by basing itself on one of the top e-commerce systems out there, WooCommerce.
I highly recommend this plugin if you want to enable booking for any kind of service or product from your website. It’s ideal for anyone from hair salons to lawyers to vacation rentals, and we can finally say that there now is a reliable and well-backed booking system for WordPress.
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