Profiles in Woo introduces you to the people who power the community of WooCommerce
Meet Judd Dunagan, Founder and President of Bright Vessel
How do you do the Woo?
I build and/or design WooCommerce sites.
Tell me a bit about what you do with Woo.
Bright Vessel is a hybrid development and website management agency that holds several certifications. The most notable is we are certified as a WordPress and WooCommerce partner.
Our main services are store management which boils down to helping hundreds of websites get back on their feet and in the right direction from a technical and marketing perspective.
We believe in having solid communication. Our biggest strengths are transparency and the willingness to work agilely while not breaking the client’s bank because we know that plans and directions can change as a project evolve.
As the founder of Bright Vessel, launched in 2013 as a boutique digital agency specializing in e-commerce consulting. In 2015, we were invited by WooCommerce to join their enterprise expert program, which propelled the company into e-commerce store management. Today we fully manage over 150 e-commerce stores and 350 WordPress websites.
What year did you start using WooCommerce?
Tell me the story of how you started using WooCommerce and why?
It was around 2008, after the market went to crap. My design agency at the time was into real estate and local clients. We did a lot of straight-up HTML builds. I will skip the part about how I lost the house, wife, and shirt off my back. I decided my best bet was to find a big corporation to work for and ended up getting placed at Spectrum Brands. They had no web department, and I was the first guy in. The short version of the story is I ended up building six major brand sites (George Forman Grill, Black and Decker Appliances, Juiceman, Littermaid, Etc) in six months with ASPDOTNETSTOREFRONT.
After launch, it was time for SEO and blogging. ASPDOTNETSTOREFRONT was not the way to go so we did the blogs in WordPress and I loved it, especially for all my side gigs. Super easy to install and easy for clients to use. In 2012, I started to play around with WooCommerce and did my first site, https://keylimejuice.com/. At this time, I was working at Liberty Power and made a move to go from employee to digital agency, Bright Vessel. My goal wAS not to get jobs because they wanted to work with Judd, but instead Bright Vessel. I did not want to be tied down to the local area, and when I saw the WooCommerce partner program, I jumped on it. It did take a few more builds and pestering Michael Tieso for almost one and a half years before they accepted me. Since then, it has been fantastic. We excelled in so many ways, and it was one of the best decisions I made.
What is your favorite thing about Woo?
It’s super easy to spin up a store and very cost-effective to work in.
What is your biggest challenge with WooCommerce?
The new reporting dashboard has gotten much better but I think it needs much more. We used Klipfolio as an example to help Fish Monkey Gloves create reports that drill down to the color, size, wholesale vs consumer etc. Another issue is big migrations with the order tables and dealing with customizing subscriptions. I tend to run away from customization there.
Share with me one of your most challenging or unique projects you have done with Woo?
Like, I never want to work that client again challenging or just a difficult job? We take on a lot of store management, which includes hosting. There have been many sites that were done wrong or had 90 plugins installed. In some cases, we can fix them in others, it’s just better to redo. Raptis Rare Books, was one which we hot fixed for two years until we came to an agreement to rebuild.
The tough part is they doubled in growth every year so we needed to build a better and more optimized site. I think what really saved us was Jetpack’s elasticsearch we launched. The search was slow which improved ten times and in this process, we also jumped into Amazon AWS. The migration was massive and took a few tries because they had over 30,000 products. Each book was one of a kind so they just kept adding inventory. The good news is we are in a good place but we launched during the SEO dip in December which affected some of the image search results at the same time as creating fire drills.
Are there any trends that you see coming in the WooCommerce/eCommerce space?
I see WooCommerce trying to capitalize more like a business making things all-encompassing, like processing credit cards. We may see things like more built-in security tools and WooCommerce-vetted plugins on their site.
What will you not buy online and still need to get in-person. And why?
Geez, that is a hard one. I order everything online and my wife does all the shopping. Maybe a surfboard :).
Founder and President of Bright Vessel