Offerman Woodshop & WooCommerce – Quality, Community, Craft

You may know Nick Offerman from his acting roles on shows like “Parks and Recreation,” his comedic prowess, or his multiple, semi-autobiographical books. He is also the founder and CEO of Offerman Woodshop. This charismatic group of woodworkers and artisans are passionate about sustainability and locally-sourced materials.

We had the opportunity to meet Aveling/Ray from a custom web studio with locations throughout the U.S.A and Australia to discuss how Offerman Woodshop’s online shop was built, the experience of working with them, and why they chose WordPress over WooCommerce.


Q. Q. Tell us about Aveling/Ray.

Bobby Ray and Ronald Aveling are our names. As friends, we have been together since childhood. We help clients all over the globe get to where they want to be by understanding what is essential and what can be discarded in web projects. We love making eCommerce projects shine for actors, artists, and social enterprises.

Collaborations often have custom code and rich content. At every stage, we strive to maintain resilience and accessibility. We also obsess over giving our clients the best tools to do their work.

Q: When did you first start working in the woodshop? How was it to work with Nick and his team?

In 2013, we became involved in the shop. Ronald’s partner was part of the Offerman Woodshop collective, and we would meet up for Friday drinks. They convinced us to add a few more features to the site. We eventually switched to WooCommerce and then did two major redesigns.

It’s always a pleasure working with Nick and his crew. They are a big, happy family. Their passion for their craft is infectious. It takes total dedication.

Learn more:

Q. Tell us about OWS and what it represents.

OWS is a small group of woodworkers that meets at Nick Offerman’s East L.A. shop. They create small-edition wood products, custom-built furniture, and have strong opinions on what constitutes a job done well. They are all about “Made in the USA”, fair wages, equal opportunities, and locally-sourced material. They are a great bulwark for quality and craft against the flood of disposable options and we are grateful to be working alongside them.

Q. Q.

It began as Nick’s private shop. While he was making sets and building his own furniture, he also performed on the side. Acting was his passion, but he still went to the shop to do the occasional side project.

R. H. Lee, a local woodworker, was his friend. After working together on a few projects, he came up with the idea to open a shop that would promote fair trade and fine craft. The moustache-comb was their first product. As time passed, more members joined the group.

Q. Why is sustainability so important?

Nick once said “…since industrialism took over our society, have been moving very quickly — all of us holding hands — in a wrong direction and are somewhat aware. It’s not sustainable, we know it.

OWS is in many ways a solution to this problem. Their ethos is all about sustainability, local sourcing, and making things last. They love making beautiful things out of materials that could otherwise be discarded and believe that the products they sell should be durable enough to pass on to your great-grandchildren.

Q: What were your top priorities when redesigning the website? What were the top priorities when redesigning the site?

We wanted the site to be easier to use, more informative, as well as more fun.

We removed several pages in-between that were reiterations submenus. They only delayed the arrival of meaningful content. We also changed the structure of the main navigation to include link groups and labels that are more understandable.

We created reusable information components to help with product pages such as sizing charts and measuring tips. These components give shoppers a sense that there is consistency across pages. They also add fun graphics and useful information to the page.

Also, high-end furniture and custom-made furniture needed some TLC. This was not supported by the previous site. We updated it with information about the process, philosophy, wood species and wood sources. In a site full of irreverence, humor and home-punch, the new page layouts and tone for the copy for high end items add a touch more prestige.

Q: Who are the shop’s customers? How does knowing your audience impact design and functionality?

OWS serves a variety of audiences. Other woodworkers, people searching for unique gifts, and people seeking out one-of-a-kind wooden furniture are all part of OWS. It can be a challenge to accommodate them all on one site.

We agreed in the last redesign that the custom-built audience needed its own section of the site, with a separate sales enablement flow. This flow did not include checkouts or carts. We gave them a custom content type, and a range of taxonomies that would support it. The OWS project pages can be viewed by readers who want to learn more about wood species, slabs, and reclaimed lumber.

In separating the custom work, we noticed marked improvements to search rankings for custom-furniture-related keyword queries.

Q: What was the most important thing about expressing Nick’s personality and wit through the design and content? What did you do to achieve that?

OWS and Nick have a reputation of writing charming, personable product copy. This is evident on product pages where descriptions are filled with humorous and funny references, anecdotes and alliterations.

A series of changes were made that gave rise to this great voice and tone throughout the site. The product grids were one of our most popular changes. We created many taglines and added space under product titles.

We were allowed to add humor to the main cart link and calls to action.

Q: What was the value of copywriting in this particular project? How did this process look?

It was crucial to have great copy. Our work focused mainly on improving the foundation. The crew had established a consistent voice and tone with many contributing excellent copy. Nick is an actor, woodworker, and an author so words are important to him. He had the final say in product copy and brought a lot of Nick-ish taglines.

Q: Your store sells a variety of products in different price ranges. You also offer custom products. How did you manage all this?

We had two options for binding: wood and Nick’s simple philosophy of living. Their commitment to quality and timeless beauty combined with a comfortable ambiance makes everything work. This is all compatible with high-end wood products. We feel we have achieved a balance that doesn’t leave out the Ron Swanson fan who is looking for a moustache, or the interior decorator searching for the perfect slab coffee tables for their client.

Q: Shipping heavy items can be costly and complicated. How can you make sure that your items arrive in perfect condition and are shipped safely?

OWS supports the United States Postal Service. They use tracking numbers and reuse as much packaging as possible. This covers both small and medium-sized items.

More care is required for heavy products and custom items. It’s important to do what is necessary to safely transport the product, as sizes and weights can vary. To get their large products to customers quickly and at a reasonable price, the crew created a flat-packable table.

Forklifts, ratchet belts, packing blankets and crates are often used for large projects. Crew members may deliver and even install the items in person.

Q: What made you choose WooCommerce over WordPress?

Big Cartel was the original host for the webstore. The webstore was successful for the first year. However, OWS quickly outgrew it. They wanted something that allowed them to be more creative with their brand and flexible in product configurations, as well as efficient in fulfillment operations.

Because WordPress and WooCommerce are both reliable and scaleable, we recommended them.

WordPress and Woo offer almost unlimited customization options. They allowed us to stay true the shop’s vision and made it a little easier for the admin. The WooCommerce extensions allowed us to ship products in all sizes and shapes. Because of their popularity, it was simple to integrate WP and Woo into third-party services.

The REST API is another great feature. It was used to unify a complex set of product taxonomies. It’s also used to pull in book information on Nick’s personal website, so that we don’t have the same data in 2 places.

Q. What plugins or extensions are most important for your site?

We believe that custom solutions are the best features of their website. Other than that, here are some other things:

  • Advanced custom Fields Pro is an essential tool for creating custom fields and relationships.
  • WooCommerce Advanced Notices make it possible to support a collaborative-based product sales model.
  • WooCommerce USPS Shipping has been a great resource, as it gives the shipping calculator and the real-time rates needed to fulfill 90% of all orders.
  • image optimization is something content creators don’t need to think about.

Q. Are there other tools you think are essential?

The combination of Shipstation and WooCommerce reduced fulfillment times by a lot. It was simple to integrate customer data into Shipstation. Configuring Shipstation’s automation rules also was easy. We cannot imagine returning to the old ways.

Q: Does the shop partner with non-profits such as Would Works? This is an important part the brand’s image.

The shop is committed to maintaining local connections. They have strong relationships with Would Works and nearby Allied Woodshop who teach people how they work with wood and Angel City Lumber who rescue fallen trees in Los Angeles and turn them into woodworking material.

Wendell Berry was a major influence on Nick. Berry believes in local economics, sustainability, appropriate technologies and connection to the place.

Q. What was your favorite moment while working with the team to create the site?

The discovery process was enjoyable and we enjoyed the first iterations of our most recent redesign. It was fun to come up with creative ways to incorporate their brand voice throughout the user journey. The OWS crew is always a fun way to meet — video meetings are a great way to share brand and product ideas while listening to the sound of wood being sliced and diced.

It was great to launch the last redesign. We were able to solve a lot of difficult problems while still adhering to the client’s vision.

Q. Anything else you’d love to share with the WordPress/WooCommerce community?

WooCommerce extensions work great. We are confident that the quality of these extensions is high-quality and will not cause any problems after they have been installed on a client’s website. Woo’s “Try Before You Buy”, 30-day feature is essential. It is nice to have the ability to try different approaches before you commit.