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INSIGHTS 

The arrival of HPOS and why it's great news for your WooCommerce store. 

In its role as the crown-wearing champion among eCommerce software platforms globally, it's no surprise that WooCommerce continues to push boundaries when it comes to delivering unbeatable service for its users and their customers.

The most recent leap in this area has been the introduction of High-Performance Order Storage (HPOS), which is set to provide online retail brands with a leading edge when it comes to creating slick and seamless online shopping experiences.

To catch you up on the story of how this retail-centric adventure is unfolding, it's best if we go back in time to early 2022, when WooCommerce made the exciting announcement that it would be rolling out more a dynamic, reliable, and scalable data storage solution following increasing demand from developers.

Since then, thanks to the hard work of those driving the mega-platform, this bold promise of eCommerce magic has finally come to fruition. Of course, for developers and retailers alike, changes to the core tools that their daily operations depend upon can be just as intimidating as they are enchanting.

With that in mind, we are here to walk you through the ins and outs of HPOS, exploring why its arrival is a welcome milestone in the world of eCommerce, as well as the practical need-to-know information for implementing this new resource within your WooCommerce store.

Since then, thanks to the hard work of those driving the mega-platform, this bold promise of eCommerce magic has finally come to fruition. Of course, for developers and retailers alike, changes to the core tools that their daily operations depend upon can be just as intimidating as they are enchanting.

With that in mind, we are here to walk you through the ins and outs of HPOS, exploring why its arrival is a welcome milestone in the world of eCommerce, as well as the practical need-to-know information for implementing this new resource within your WooCommerce store.

What is the HPOS feature of WooCommerce?

The arrival of HPOS introduces a new data storage system for WooCommerce users that is designed to make creation, management, and retrieval of order details more speedy, efficient, and dependable. Originally dubbed the Custom Order Tables Project, this fundamental shift to the way that future WooCommerce stores would operate was ultimately renamed High-Performance Order Storage, or HPOS, as it began to take shape.

In a nutshell, the new model does away with the old system of storing order data in the two legacy WordPress database tables, wp posts and wp postmeta.  HPOS places order data in four new tables that have dedicated indexes leading to fewer read-write operations.

This adaptive new database structure introduces these four tables:

wp_wc_orders

The main order table, housing core and frequently used meta values like order ID, customer email, and order status.

wp_wc_order_addresses

An order addresses table housing all your essential shipping and billing data.

wp_wc_order_operational_data

An operational table that is home to both dynamic internal state maintenance data and less frequently used data, which can readily be integrated into the main order table if things change in the future.

wp_wc_orders_meta

A table similar in function to the old wp postmeta table, housing data used by WooCommerce extensions or plugins. From WooCommerce 8.2 onward, HPOS has been enabled by default for all new stores launching on the platform—and as of August of 2023, new installations no longer feature synchronisation with the old order tables.

What does that mean for you?

Well, if your retail site was created after this seismic shift, then great—no sweat—but if it predates it, then the time has come to make the switch to HPOS. Happily, WooCommerce has been busily putting all of the necessary puzzle pieces in place to make this process as smooth as possible for its users, which is something we'll come back to shortly.

What is the impact of HPOS on WooCommerce operations?

With the streamlined order data storage introduced with HPOS, it is more convenient for eCommerce store owners and developers to search for a single entry or understand structures within a table. This change also allows developers to add extensions to websites or products and customise WooCommerce with greater flexibility than ever before.

As WooCommerce has highlighted, HPOS delivers three key improvements that promise to offer powerful rewards for platform users moving forward:

  • Scalability The improved design means enhanced efficiency and fewer read-write operations, making it easier for online retailers to scale without seeing losses in user experience and performance.
  • Reliability HPOS has also been designed with improved data backup implementation in mind, mitigating the risk of lost order data or client information.
  • Simplicity The introduction of new tables means it's no longer necessary to trawl through a huge database to find the critical information you need to drive your business or pursue development goals.
Together, these factors add up to an impressive advantage when it comes to creating unique and fully scalable eCommerce experiences for shrewd online shoppers. Not to mention, HPOS offers great potential when it comes to boosting website performance, as research from WooCommerce indicated with reports of a site checkout process that is 1.5 times faster.

With all of that said, it is also vital that online brands ensure their WooCommerce stores are in good hands, collaborating with developers that have a finger on the pulse when it comes to navigating the shiny new HPOS landscape and leveraging this opportunity to realise a new benchmark for eCommerce customers.

So, how do you enable HPOS?

To make switching over to HPOS as smooth as possible, WooCommerce has created a setup that allows users to synchronise their old order data storage with HPOS upon its activation. This provides the opportunity to iron out any wrinkles and even switch back temporarily if operational problems arise.

It's important to realise that the synchronisation process can take a while and functionality will be limited during this process, so it's best to fully understand this process before its initiation.

Activating HPOS can be achieved by navigating from WP Admin to WooCommerce > Settings > Advanced > Features. Here, you can activate both HPOS and initiate synchronisation between your online store's original order data tables and the new HPOS tables, by selecting ‘Enable compatibility mode’.

As for those aforementioned potential functionality issues, WooCommerce has placed the onus on extension developers to ensure that their plugins are compatible with HPOS.

If you are running an incompatible plugin, this will probably be flagged before you can make the switch to HPOS. However, should issues arise, with compatibility mode enabled (please refer to the screenshot above), you will be able to move back and forth between HPOS and the legacy data storage system to resolve the problem.

How do I speed up my WooCommerce store?

While you may be eager to see results quickly, the zippy rewards of HPOS will only be realised once you have gone through the process of ensuring full compatibility and site functionality, before ultimately disabling the synchronisation provided by compatibility mode. As with all good things, reaping the benefits of this new development will require a little patience, and WooCommerce recommends taking some time over this, in order to claim absolute confidence that all is operating as it should be.

From there, you can expect faster performance both in your customer user experiences and in operational data retrieval. However, there are other tactics to explore when it comes to super-charging your WooCommerce store's speed. These include reducing product image sizes, stripping unused code or templates, using a great WooCommerce-specific theme, and many other strategies besides. Of course, one of the most critical underlying factors is always going to be the quality of your hosting.

Our conclusion on the arrival of HPOS.

The arrival of HPOS marks a bright new chapter for developers and store owners alike in the exciting realm of eCommerce. Here at Teapot Creative, we've been having great fun discovering the dynamic solutions that the rollout of HPOS allows us to deliver. For those operating existing WooCommerce stores, the platform has provided a friendly grace period and convenient setup, so that the switch can be made in a relaxed and measured way.

That said, it is important to be mindful that eventually, the shift to HPOS will be essential, with legacy tables disappearing as we move fully into this new era for WooCommerce. The good news is that if that sounds daunting to you, there's still plenty of time to call in the cavalry.

If you'd like to discover a partner that can provide the on-demand support you need to navigate the switch to HPOS, optimise your store settings, and make your online retail destination truly one of a kind, then our specialist WooCommerce team has your back.

Want to learn more about how Teapot can help you achieve your eCommerce ambitions?

Give us a shout. Contact us today.

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