In my previous posts in this series, we’ve looked at the general differences between BigCommerce’s V2 and V3 product experiences. We’ve also examined how V3 options, variants and rules compare to V2. In this post we’ll be looking at V3 shared options and how they differ from the traditional shared option sets available in V2.
V3 Shared Options Cannot Be Assigned In Bulk
The biggest change store owners will notice with V3 shared options is that they aren’t, well, easy to share. In V2, with option sets, one could export a bunch of products, add the option set name in the Option Set column, and then import the products back into the store. In addition, you can apply an option set to multiple products at once directly from the Products > View screen using the action dropdown.
Unfortunately, V3 doesn’t offer either of those features. So let’s say I create a shared option for Size, which I intend to use for all 500 t-shirts I’ll be selling. The only way to assign that option to my products is to edit each one individually and manually add the Size option to it. This process is not quick – it requires quite a few clicks:
- Edit the item
- Click on Variations
- Click Add a Variant Option
- Click Add Shared Variant Options
- Search for the shared option I want to add
- Check the box to select the shared option
- Click Add
- Click Save Variants
- Save the product
Yes, it takes nearly ten clicks just to add a shared option to a product. Now imagine doing that for all 500 of my products. And this applies to both regular shared options and shared modifier options. So if you have to apply multiple shared options to each product, it takes even longer.
One might argue that it would be easier to instead just create product-specific options in this scenario. Especially since variants can be created on the fly with a bulk import (though most store owners find this process intimidating). However, the benefit of a shared option is that it’s shared. When my supplier starts offering 2XL for their t-shirts, I can edit my shared Size option, add 2XL and all 500 of my t-shirts will now have 2XL available. If I instead created product-specific options for each t-shirt, I’ll now be stuck editing all 500 to add the 2XL size to each one.
Until BigCommerce figures out a way to allow the application of V3 shared options en masse, I imagine many store owners will not be able to upgrade.
V3 Shared Options Don’t Link to Their Products
This functionality gap is one that I personally find very frustrating, especially when I’m working on client stores. Often clients will set up their own options, and I don’t know their products as well as they do. A typical request may be something like:
“I need to add a new [choice] to an existing shared option, and it has an upcharge of $20.”
In V2, this isn’t that big of a deal. I find the option, add the new size and then go to the corresponding option set. On screen, it shows me how many products are using that option set, and that number is clickable. I can click that number and be taken to a list of all the products using that option set. From there, I can edit each item to add the price change rule. It takes a little while, but it’s straightforward nonetheless.
With V3 shared options, I can also see how many products are using that option. But the number isn’t clickable. And since V3 shared options don’t appear in the product export file, there is no actual way to identify which products I have to edit to add that price change rule. Maybe the client gives me the list of products using the shared option in question. Still, there’s no easy way to bring them all up in a single search so I can easy edit them. I have to manually search for each one.
This seems like a really easy fix for BigCommerce to make, so I’m hoping they resolve it ASAP. I’ll update this post if they do.
V3 Shared Options Cannot Be Easily Repurposed
This change likely affects people like me who do a lot of option work more than the typical store owner. But it’s still frustrating.
In V2, let’s say I have an option for Size with choices of Small, Medium and Large. I can add that option to an option set called “SML” which has all choices. Then I can create a separate option set called “SM”, add the same option and disable the Large size so it’s not available in that option set. This allows me to very quickly create multiple option sets using the same base option.
As you know by now, there are no option sets in V3. So I have to create individual shared options for every combination of sizes available for my products. This is mainly problematic because you can no longer hide specific choices on the product page – only make them non-purchasable. If I don’t want shoppers to see a Large option on t-shirts that will never come in Large, I have to create a separate option that only includes Small and Medium.
V3 Shared Options Can Only Be Added Once Per Product
As I noted in the previous post, V3 options cannot be duplicated when being added directly to a product. Similarly, when you add a shared option to a product, you cannot add it more than once. So if you’re creating a customizable set or a bundle, you can’t use shared options.
To use the example in my previous post, let’s say I want to sell a 3-pack of t-shirts and the shopper can choose the size for each one. If I add a shared Size option to my product for the first t-shirt size, I can’t add that same shared option again so the shopper can choose the size of the second and third t-shirts. I’m forced to create three separate size options that are specifically tied to this product only.
No More Shared Modifier Pick Lists
One final thing to note. I was surprised to see that Pick Lists (Product Lists) cannot be created as shared modifier options. I’m not sure why – whether it’s a technical issue or just an oversight on BigCommerce’s part. If it’s technically possible, I know many store owners would appreciate this functionality. Especially since pick lists can be shared in V2 and will be required for some store owners to upgrade. Pick lists can still be created within a product, however.
The V3 product experience exists because BigCommerce needed to upgrade their API. App developers and partners wanted to offer more complex apps. To do that, they needed every product variant to have a sku. And the existing V2 product experience didn’t require skus for variants.
While I’m not an API expert or a systems architect, I can still understand the logic behind this decision. However, it doesn’t seem like BigCommerce considered how this change would affect the user experience. It feels like V3 was designed for developers at the expense of store owners.
I’m not sure how much of the user interface change was really necessary to simply move from optional variants to required variants. And as a designer, I understand how once you change something, that can easily cascade into changing other things just to match. I don’t know if that’s what happened in this situation, and I don’t want to make assumptions. There may be more things involved in some of these decisions than I know.
But ultimately, I’d argue that the most important element of any e-commerce control panel is how it handles product management. Products are the foundation of any e-commerce website and where many store owners spend most of their time. Many people may hate V2’s option sets, but V3 introduced a host of new problems with its UX/design choices and by leaving out functionality that store owners relied upon. It seems like it was a missed opportunity for real improvement.
Some of my clients have been told by BigCommerce tech support that they might as well upgrade to V3 now because they’ll have to do it eventually. I imagine that ultimately will be the case. First, because BigCommere won’t want to support two different product experiences. And second, because all the popular apps will require it at some point. Unfortunately, I don’t see how BigCommerce can expect stores on V2 to upgrade any time soon. Especially since they’re not currently offering any automated way of converting V2 products to V3 products.
I truly hope that BigCommerce is working behind the scenes to address most, if not all, of the issues I’ve outlined in this blog series. Quickly. Because, ultimately, I still believe that BigCommerce is the superior choice out of all the SAAS platforms out there. Their platform deserves a product management experience that matches the high-quality, user-friendly functionality they otherwise offer. But at least for now, V3 is not it.