If you’re starting an e-commerce business, you’re likely weighing up two different platforms: Shopify and WooCommerce.
Choosing the right platform is key to firing up a first-rate online shop that targets the right people. So, we’ve put together some of the questions to keep in mind for choosing an e-commerce platform, taking a good, hard look at how WooCommerce and Shopify really measure up.
How easy is it to use?
Your e-commerce site needs to be easy for you to manage so that it doesn’t take over your life. Your product is beautiful, your service is second to none, and your time is too valuable to be wasted screwing around with a CMS that you don’t understand.
Shopify is very easy to use for beginners, but the trade-off is the limitation on how much control you have over the design of your store. WooCommerce is harder to get to grips with, but it is much more flexible in how you can use it. When it comes to your customers using the store, Shopify is naturally user-friendly, but with WooCommerce, the bulk of the UX will be down to how you set it all up.
Ultimately, it comes down to whether you want a more bespoke and unique design that you can afford to invest time into or something that pretty much runs itself.
How quickly can you build and launch a site?
Shopify is super simple to get up and running; all you need to do is create an account, purchase or sync a domain and choose your theme. If you’re short on time for the launch and need something basic that serves the purpose, this is probably the option for you. Shopify is very much easier from the outset for do-it-yourselfers.
WooCommerce, on the other hand, can be a little more complicated. WooCommerce is a plugin for WordPress, which means you should be familiar with the WordPress interface before installing the WooCommerce plugin and learning that too.
If you’re already a wiz at WordPress, this should be no issue for you. Similarly, if you’re working with an experienced developer, they’ll have the skills and know-how to build a site that works for you (although you should keep in mind that a more bespoke and complex design will take longer).
How flexible is it?
One of the key things you should be looking at from your shop builder is how much control you have over the site’s functionality. Both WooCommerce and Shopify let you customise your theme and utilise plugins (for WooCommerce) or apps (for Shopify).
WooCommerce is the more flexible of the two when it comes to DIY site builds. Not just because of the coding capabilities, but also for the lack of caps on product variations and options, meaning you can take orders for personalised items more easily.
WooCommerce is designed for developers – the code and themes are open source so developers can quickly view the publicly available files straight away and become familiar with best practises.
Every template can be customised and/or completely rewritten making it very popular with developers and non-developers alike. Non-developers can drop in pre-made snippets which are freely available on the WooCommerce website.
Having said that, developers who know the language can get as much flexibility with Shopify as with WooCommerce and create super-cool and unique designs. As official ‘Shopify Experts’, developing custom and bespoke Shopify sites is something we are doing here at Studio Illicit for a selection of clients.
What payment methods are offered?
Shopify allows customers to pay with PayPal, Stripe, Amazon, Apple Pay and a number of local gateways, but you can just use Shopify’s own gateway for your payments which is super quick and easy to set up.
WooCommerce has a huge plugin community, meaning there are plenty of options for payment gateways. These include region-specific methods, as well as the more recognisable names like PayPal, Stripe, Square, Authorize and Amazon.
How much maintenance will the site require?
While you might enjoy making tweaks or jazzing up your shop front, having to constantly maintain the functionality of your site can take away a lot of time you could be spending on actually running your business.
Shopify requires the least maintenance as it is hosted by Shopify, meaning they will manage the software for you. This does exclude any additional apps you have installed, which you will need to update or maintain yourself. WooCommerce requires more maintenance as it’s self-hosted on your own server; one of the reasons why it allows so much flexibility.
WooCommerce is owned by Automattic (the company behind WordPress), meaning that support and updates are very frequent. However, a number of extensions are not created by WooCommerce and are developed independently. While all the plugins have to go through a vetting process, support and updates can be infrequent or negligible.
Although WooCommerce updates provide security and improvements, you have to check all the plugins still perform as you’d expect afterwards. Also, if you’ve made any theme alterations, these could become out of date if not manually reviewed after each update.
Most businesses with an e-commerce site will decide to keep a retainer with a web developer. This means the developer can do important maintenance and make additional changes to the site to keep it in tiptop shape.
How much your e-commerce platform will cost you is obviously one of the key factors you’ll be considering. If you need to be able to plan your finances for the process exactly, you can only really do that with Shopify, as they have different price plans depending on whether you opt for the basic, regular, or advanced package.
WooCommerce is just a plugin for WordPress so if you’re already using it to power your website, you can simply install WooCommerce from the plugin directory and set it up in no time. This means that a complete e-commerce solution can be achieved at no initial cost. This includes setting up Stripe and Paypal, adding unlimited products and setting the billing and shipping details for the shop.
However, advanced functionality on WooCommerce often has to be achieved through the use of paid extensions so it can be harder to get an absolute figure for your costs.
If you have the budget available, it’s usually a good idea to enlist the help of a professional web developer. This will take your e-commerce website from basic and functional to a platform that is geared up to attract and retain an audience and generate sales. They’ll also be able to advise on the best platform for your needs and will provide you with a quote for the total cost of a web build which meets your requirements.
Is WooCommerce vs. Shopify a case of one clear winner? Unfortunately not. Shopify is best for beginners when it comes to web building and e-commerce, and those who just want to get the business up and running as soon as possible. WooCommerce may be more fiddly overall but it’s virtually limitless in terms of customisation and what you can achieve.
Need more? Hit us up at any to chat about firing up your web shop…