BigCommerce V3 Shared Options Compared to V2

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:

  1. Edit the item
  2. Click on Variations
  3. Click Add a Variant Option
  4. Click Add Shared Variant Options
  5. Search for the shared option I want to add
  6. Check the box to select the shared option
  7. Click Add
  8. Click Save Variants
  9. 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.

V2 Option Set Products

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.

V3 Shared Option Products

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.

Summary

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.

What’s Next?

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.

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BigCommerce V3 Options, Variants and Rules Compared to V2

Now that you have an idea of the general differences between V2 and V3, it’s time to get into the nitty-gritty. The biggest differences between BigCommerce’s V2 and V3 product experiences can be found in how options function. Options are a major part of many store owners’ product management, so understanding these differences is critical if you’re considering an upgrade to V3.

No More Option Sets

First off, V3 options are no longer tied to option sets. This will be welcome news if you hate having to create option sets for every one-off option just so you can assign it to a product. However, the nice thing about option sets is that they can be applied in bulk. You can select a bunch of products on the Products > View screen and use the action menu to apply a specific option set. In addition, you can export your products, plug in the option set name and then import your products back into the store.

V3 does have shared options, but there is currently no way to apply them to multiple products at once. After creating a shared option, you must edit each product in the control panel and then apply the shared option to it. This process takes several clicks. And if you have thousands of products that all use the same options, you can imagine how impractical this is.

Changes (and Limitations) to Variants and SKUs

The V3 experience also introduces variants. While variants technically exist in V2, they are really never mentioned. A “variant” is a combination of all options assigned to a product. For example, if I sell a t-shirt that comes in S, M, L and red, green, blue, I’ll have nine variants – one variant for each size/color combination.

With V3 options, these variants are automatically generated and assigned a SKU. For those stores that never really used skus, this shouldn’t make much difference. For those who use the SKU generator in V2, you no longer have the ability to customize the format of these automatically generated SKUs. BigCommerce will simply assign them based on the product’s overall sku, or just randomly if you didn’t enter an overall sku.

One quite important thing about V3 options is that you are limited to 600 variants. To be fair, this is a higher limit that some other platforms have, including Shopify. However, if you sell highly customizable products, you can easily reach this limit. Let’s consider a wood table that might have these options:

  • 3 sizes
  • 5 table top materials
  • 5 finishes
  • 5 leg styles
  • Wheels or no wheels

This product setup would result in 750 variants, over the limit. The workaround would be to make some of these options into modifiers/customizations, which are generally optional and cannot be assigned a sku. Alternately, you could split this product into three unique items, one for each size.

If you’re starting a new store, the 600 variant limitation is easier to work with. You can determine how to configure your products in advance. However, if you’re converting from V2 to V3, this limitation may require you to rebuild some (or all) of your products. That may or may not be worth the time depending on why you’re making the switch.

V3 Options and Rules

There are many functionality gaps between V2 and V3 options when it comes to rules. For one thing, rules no longer exist for options. They can only be used for modifiers/customizations. You do still have the ability to change the photo, price, weight and other attributes for options. BUT, they are now assigned on the variant level.

Let’s look at my t-shirt example again to better understand the implications of this change.

In V2, if I want to charge more for the Large size, I can create a rule that adds $2 to that size, regardless of what color the customer selects. In V3, I can only added a fixed price and it must be assigned to all SKUs that contain the Large size (large red, large blue and large green).

First, this is more work to set up for the store owner. Second, it means that if I increase the base price of my t-shirt, I also have to manually update the fixed cost of those Large variants because they will no longer be $2 more. Third, from the shopper’s perspective, they will not see any price change when they select the Large size. Since the price change is assigned at the variant level, they won’t see the price change until they select both size AND color.

The same applies to photo changes. In V2, you can create a rule to change the photo when a shopper selects Red, regardless of whether they’ve selected a size. In V3, the photo only changes when the shopper has selected both color AND size since the photo is assigned at the variant level. And again, you as the store owner will need to upload that red t-shirt photo three times – one for each color/size variant.

One of my biggest frustrations with V3 options is the variant based, fixed price change. Having worked with many V3 stores now, I’ve found it’s very easy to enter the wrong price for specific variants when a product has multiple options.

We can use my custom table example again to see why, even if we simplify it. Let’s say the basic table costs $399 and has the following option prices as given to me by the manufacturer:

Table Top Options
Wood table top – base price
Glass table top – add $49
Mosaic tile table top – add $79
Marble table top – add $149

Leg Options
Standard square leg – base price
Rounded leg – add $59
Tapered leg – add $79
Clawfoot leg – add $109

Finish Options
Wood finish – base price
Black finish – add $29
Gold metallic finish – add $69

Quick, how much is the variant that includes a glass top, tapered leg and black finish? Or the variant that includes a mosaic top, clawfoot leg and metallic gold finish? Better have your calculator ready! This is all MUCH easier in V2 where you can just create “add X” pricing rules to the different available options.

Making this task even more difficult is the fact that the variants are displayed in the grid. Since the grid has a fixed size, you often can’t see the full list of options that make up the variant on screen. Yes, you can click into each variant and scroll all the way to the right, hoping that you remember what you’ve seen so you can calculate the correct price. Or, you can export the product, calculate and enter the prices in your spreadsheet and then re-upload it. Either way, it’s very time consuming and prone to calculation errors.

I previously mentioned that there are still shared options in V3. But, since pricing is done at the variant level, you cannot assign price changes to those shared options (unlike in V2). So you’ll need to do these price calculations for every product individually.

One final thing about V3 options and rules. In V2, you can easily hide an option that is sold out or temporarily unavailable. If I’m out of Large t-shirts, I can create a rule to hide Large from the Size dropdown. Since V3 uses variants, and variants are combinations of sizes and colors, my only choice is to disable the three variants that include the Large size (large red, large green, large blue). Disabling doesn’t hide the option. It just makes it unavailable for purchase. So when a customer selects Large and Red, they will see a message saying that product combination is not available. This is not a great experience for the customer.

No More Copying Options

While you can still copy shared options (more on that in the next blog post), you cannot copy options created within a product. This is mainly a problem for store owners that use options to create sets or bundles.

Let’s say I want to sell a 3-pack of t-shirts and the shopper can choose the color for each one. First I’ll create a size option (S, M, L). Then I’ll create a color option (Red, Blue, Green). In V2, I can add that same color option to my option set three times. I just need to change the display name to T-Shirt Size 1, T-Shirt Size 2 and T-Shirt Size 3.

With V3 options, I need to create three separate size options. There is no ability to copy the first size option once I’ve created it and just change its name. And if you created Size as a shared option, you cannot add it to you product more than once. As you can imagine, this becomes quite labor intensive when you are selling a set or bundle with 10, 15 or more selectable options. Trust me, I’ve done it. If you’re selling bundles using V3, I highly recommend grabbing yourself a glass of wine or putting on some good music first.

Adding V3 Options is More Time Consuming

This is a user-interface issue and not so much a functionality gap. But I still find it annoying. In V2, the little “+” to add a new choice to an option is located on the right side of the screen. This means I can click that “+” button 20 times and create 20 additional fields without moving my mouse.

In V3, the link to create a new field is below the last one in your list. So to add another field, I have to scroll down, then click the link. Scroll down, then click the link. For every new field I want to create.

I know this seems trivial, but when you’re creating an option that has 20 or 30 choices and you’re copying/pasting from a list, the time difference really adds up. I can quickly add 20 empty fields and then fill them in afterwards on V2. In V3, the scroll-click process not only takes longer, but it’s harder to keep track of how many I’ve added. A nit-pick for sure, but one that increases my billable time to clients when my goal is to complete their projects as quickly as possible.

In my next post, BigCommerce V3 Shared Options Compared to V2, I detail V3 shared options and how they differ from V2. Read it now >

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BigCommerce V2 vs V3: Overall Differences

Now that you’ve read the initial BigCommerce V2 vs V3 post, let’s look at the basic differences between them. They are both functional and design related. This post will cover these general V2 vs V3 differences that store owners should be aware of if considering an upgrade.

Left Navigation Instead of Top Navigation Tabs

The most obvious change from V2 to V3 is the navigation placement. In V2, you can navigate through the various product sections using tabs at the top of the screen. On V3, navigation is listed along the left side.

The rationale behind a left navigation was to make the product experience easier for mobile users. Unfortunately, the left navigation just doesn’t work well. There are more sections listed vertically than you can see on the screen (unless you’re using a giant monitor). To access the off-screen sections, you need to scroll. But scrolling with your mouse only scrolls the right side of the screen, where the product entry fields are located. It’s not until you scroll to the last visible section in the left nav does the left navigation list begin to scroll. This is the case whether scrolling up or down.

Therefore, if you’re trying to jump to the SEO section of the product, which is listed at the very end, you can’t. You have to scroll 2/3 of the page before that navigation link becomes visible.

In addition, the left navigation disappears entirely on mobile. There is no way to “jump” to specific sections further down the page. To make matters worse, the actual content area is too wide for a mobile screen. This means that the right-most 25% of the necessary fields are off screen. There’s no left or right scroll bar to let you access that hidden information. This makes editing product variants essentially impossible on mobile.

V2 vs V3 Difference: Content Not Visible in V3

Product Pricing Located in Two Sections

If your products typically have an MSRP, Price and Cost, you’ll need to enter them in two different locations. In V3, only the basic “Price” is located with the basic product details like name and category.

To access the other price fields, you’ll need to click the More Pricing link, which drops you about halfway down the screen. There, you’ll click Show Advanced Pricing to access the MSRP, Cost price and Sale price. Bulk Pricing is also located in this section.

One you’re done adding all your prices, you’ll need to scroll or click Basic Information in the left navigation to go back to the top of the screen.

Improved Creating New Categories on the Fly

This is one area where V3 makes things easier than V2. If you are adding a new product in V2 and realize you forgot to create its associated category, you have to leave the product edit screen to create the new category. In V3, you can click Add Category and create the new category without leaving the product edit screen.

Slower Adding Images from a URL

If you sometimes pull in images from the web, V3 has made that process a little more time consuming. In V2, when you click the “Add from URL” link, you are given five boxes in which to add image URLs. You can enter five URLs and then add them all at once.

In V3, clicking the “Add from URL” link only gives you one box, in which you can enter a photo or video URL. Once you enter the URL, the image or video is previewed below and you can save it to your product. Rather than being able to add five images at once, you’ll need to go through the add images from URL process five times.

Variations Instead of Options

In V2, things like sizes and colors are called options. In V3, they are called variations. Specific combinations of variations are called variants. How options are handled is a major V2 vs V3 difference.

For example, let’s say a t-shirt comes in three sizes (S, M, L) and three colors (red, green, blue). In V2, you can choose to assign skus to each combination (Small Red, Small Green, Small Blue, etc). You can also choose not to assign skus. In V3, each combination, or Variant, is automatically generated when you create your options and every variant is auto-assigned a sku.

If you already have skus for your variants (such as from a manufacturer), you will need to replace the auto-generated ones with you own. If you haven’t used skus in the past, you’ll be forced to use skus on V3.

Once variants are created, you can also assign a UPC, weight, dimensions and other attributes to them. This can be accomplished by changing the columns shown in the variant grid. You can then add the specific attributes for each variant.

V2 vs V3 Difference: Variant Column Display in V3

Customizations work essentially the same on V3 as they did on V2. They are just referred to as Modifiers.

Product URL Doesn’t Automatically Update

This V2 vs V3 difference is really important, and one that many store owners may not even notice. As you probably know, the product’s URL is automatically generated based on the product’s name. If you have a product named “Men’s Blue Short Sleeve Tee”, the product URL will be /mens-blue-short-sleeve-tee/.

Let’s say you change the product name to “Men’s Blue Short Sleeve T-Shirt”. In V2, the product URL automatically updates to /mens-blue-short-sleeve-t-shirt/. In addition, a checkbox displays asking if you want to create a 301 redirect from the original product URL to the new one. The box is checked by default.

In V3, I’ve seen two different results. On some stores, the product URL does not automatically change when you update a product name. Therefore, in the example here, the product URL would remain /mens-blue-short-sleeve-tee/. If you want the URL to reflect the product’s new name, you’ll need to scroll down to the SEO section and manually change it. On other stores, I’ve seen the URL automatically update, but the checkbox to automatically create the 301 redirect is not checked. I’m not sure why different stores exhibit difference behaviors. However, it’s important to note that neither works exactly like V2.

This is especially important when it comes to copying products. Many store owners duplicate existing products to save time creating new ones. Again, I’ve seen two different behaviors here. In some stores, when you update the copied product’s name, the URL updates to match. In other stores, I’ve seen the URL remain /copy-of-mens-blue-short-sleeve-tee/ (if using the example product from earlier). In the latter case, you’ll want to manually update the product URL so it reflects the new product name.

Read the next post, BigCommerce V3 Options, Variants and Rules Compared to V2 >

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BigCommerce V2 vs V3: What’s it all About?

Two Different but Similar Cars

If you’re a BigCommerce store owner, you may have heard people talking about “V2 vs V3”. These labels refer to the two unique product experiences that BigCommerce currently offers. New stores, and ones that were created in the last year or so, have the V3 product experience. Older stores have the V2 product experience.

Why Does V2 vs V3 Matter?

Some newer apps will only work if you’re on V3. And the new multi-storefront functionality that BigCommerce just released only works with V3 stores.

Existing Stores Considering Upgrading

If you have an older store and are thinking about upgrading to V3, there’s a lot to consider. The functionality between the two experiences is, as of this date, drastically different. There are some BigCommerce stores which simply would not be able to run on V3 as it’s currently designed. And the process of upgrading to V3 is not an easy one.

New Stores Evaluating BigCommerce

Some of you may be actively demo-ing the BigCommerce platform. Maybe you’re thinking about migrating to BigCommerce from another platform or launching a new business. Your trial store will have the V3 experience by default. However, it’s important to note that you can request V2 for your store if you need features that only V2 provides.

Should I Upgrade to V3?

I’m starting to get questions from my older clients about V3 and whether they should upgrade. In short, unless you absolutely need an app that only works with V3, I don’t recommend it. For most store owners, there is no benefit to upgrading. And in fact, you may lose essential functionality you need to manage your store. As someone who offers product support for many clients, I can attest that certain tasks are near impossible to accomplish on V3.

V2 vs V3 Differences

Over the next few blog posts, I’ll be outlining the current differences between V2 and V3. I believe it’s important for BigCommerce store owners to understand the functionality gaps that exist so they can make an informed decision about whether to upgrade. And for those evaluating the BigCommerce platform, I hope this series of posts will help you better determine if BigCommerce will work for you.

Ultimately, I expect that BigCommerce will push all stores to upgrade to V3. However, until there is parity between V3 and V2, I don’t think that will be feasible. My hope is that BigCommerce starts to address these gaps in the very near future. If they do, I’ll be updating this post and the ones that follow to reflect those changes.

Read the next post, BigCommerce V2 vs V3: Overall Differences >

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Highlighting Some Favorite BigCommerce Website Designs for #PortfolioDay

It’s a new year, which means reflecting on all the projects I completed last year and the many amazing clients I had the pleasure of working worth. With Portfolio Day coming up this week, I thought it would be fun to highlight some of my favorite BigCommerce website projects, not just from 2021, but from the past few years.

Cornucopia Popcorn Website Design

Cornucopia Popcorn Custom Website Design

First up is Cornucopia Popcorn, which was of course fun because of the products! Who knew that someone could make so many amazing flavors of popcorn? Cornucopia Popcorn was also one of my favorite projects because it’s the epitome of a true local business. Based in Austin, TX, it’s clear just from reading their reviews that Cornucopia Popcorn is a beloved member of their community. They also give back with donations and sponsorships to local nonprofits.

In terms of the design, the Cornucopia website features a bright color palette that we used to draw attention to key buttons, headings and graphical elements. The sticky header shrinks when you scroll down, even the multi-color band that runs through their logo. For some reason, watching it get bigger and smaller always makes me smile! We also utilized BigCommerce’s custom fields feature to highlight important ingredient notes for each product, such as gluten-free, vegan and nuts.

Woodlore Website Design

Woodlore Custom Redesign

I’ve been working with the team at Woodlore for quite a few years now, and their current custom BigCommerce theme is the second one I’ve built for them. Even though they’re part of the publicly-traded Caleres company, Woodlore’s team still has the feel of a small business. They’re very customer-focused and passionate about their products, most of which are designed using USA grown cedar.

Collaborating with their marketing consultant, we gave the website a more upscale design featuring oversized photography, new fonts, bold headlines and more accessible content about the benefits of cedar. The end result was a much more modern looking website that really highlights the beauty and advantages of their products. If you want to keep those favorite shoes in like-new condition, I highly recommend their Combination Shoe Trees for men and women!

Marc Defang Website Design

Marc Defang Theme Customization

Unlike the previous two websites, Marc Defang’s new design utilizes a stock theme rather than a custom one built on Cornerstone. We chose the Covent Garden theme because of its flexible layout options and built-in merchandising features, then customized the header to overlap the homepage carousel among other changes. The end result was a high-end design that showcases Marc Defang’s gorgeous special occasion shoes, handbags and apparel.

I love working with Marc because he’s a great example of a small business that competes with the big players. His passion for design and his strong connections to the pageant community has truly made him a brand to watch.

Patricia Shoppe Website Design

Patricia Shoppe Migration & Custom Theme

Occasionally I work with clients who bring their own designers and mockups. Patricia Shoppe was one of those projects. Owner Erin had a website design in mind and we worked together to bring it to life as part of her BigCommerce migration. As the e-commerce arm of Patricia Shoppe’s Ann Arbor, Michigan boutique, it was important to maintain the store’s personality, just in online form.

The custom design includes oversized product images and classic background images reminiscent of the original Chicago Patricia Shoppe owned by Erin’s great-grandmother. We utilized the BigCommerce Page Builder to build the custom homepage layout so that images can easily be changed seasonally or to highlight new apparel and accessories. Working with another designer or a client with strong design ideas can sometimes require compromises, but it’s always a great learning experience for me. I think the final design came out beautiful!

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