09 Sep Comparing Shopify and WooCommerce for Ecommerce Websites
If you’ve been following this blog for long, you know that I can tend to have some pretty strong opinions on different marketing platforms and the real-world quality of service they offer. We’ve looked previously at which website hosting plans are the best bang for your buck, the best website platforms for your business needs, and at least one or two rants about third-party marketing services/review sites. With all that in mind, I think it’s time to weigh in on the pros and cons of using Shopify for your ecommerce site versus building a site with WooCommerce.
If you’re not familiar with Shopify or WooCommerce, here’s a breakdown of what we’re talking about – both of these are website platforms that all for ecommerce functionality, which is basically just the ability to sell products or services online. Both are very common in website design, and many of the ecommerce sites that you probably visit on a regular basis are powered by one or the other (with a few other exceptions for bigger ecommerce platforms like Magento and BigCommerce).
Pros of Each Platform
We’ll start with Shopify. Shopify is essentially an ecommerce only platform. As such, they’re pretty solid at ecommerce solutions, since it’s essentially their main/only niche. For the most part, Shopify is a really great solution for a small-to-medium sized business. You can design a sleek, clean shopping website for your customers without needing a ton of coding experience. It also offers pretty solid support through phone calls and chat to assist with any questions you may encounter while building your website and running your business. There are also a litany of themes available for purchase that can be installed on your site and give you a demo/framework to build your layout from. An additional perk, Shopify is ecommerce only, so it essentially comes with it’s own CRM dashboard, since all the purchases online are made through the platform. Finally, there are literally thousands of different applications that can be added to your site to give it extra functionality and capability, such as adding a live chat button or a social media stream.
For WooCommerce, the benefits are largely tied to your perspective on website design/management. WooCommerce is part of the WordPress platform, and as such, many of the perks of WooCommerce are actually perks of WordPress on the whole. For example, WooCommerce offers thousands of fully-customizable themes for your website design, gives the user the ability to create custom pages and content, and can literally add any functionality imaginable to the site through use of plugins (the WordPress version of Shopify’s Applications). WordPress is also considered one the best (if not the very best) platforms for SEO, which means you’ll be more likely to get your site to rank on Google than with other services. It also gives an almost unparalleled level of customization, as there are a litany of options to accomplish nearly any task on WordPress. Additionally, WooCommerce is a “paid-and-done” platform, as there is no monthly subscription required for the service or the plugins. Many of the plugins/themes offer support for their products, but WordPress/WooCommerce itself doesn’t do much in the way of user support.
Why Shopify Stinks
I feel like I need to preface this paragraph with a disclaimer – I personally do not love the Shopify platform. Part of that might simply be my personal preference, but it’s not my favorite by a longshot. However, I feel like I have some valid reasons for this and am not just shaking my fist in the air bemoaning the departure from the good ol’ days.
For example, one of the things I loathe about Shopify is the cost associated with practically all of the site Apps. Because Shopify is a monthly website service, almost all of the applications require a recurring monthly fee to use. If you want to add an SEO plugin, for example, it’s going to cost you $19/mo for the life of that tool. Want to add customized product filters that allow you to simplify the tagging structure that Shopify employs for products? Yep, that one is going to cost you $29/mo. Tack that on to the fact that Shopify itself charges for using their platform and the cost associated with this service can get pretty high, pretty quickly.
Furthermore, Shopify walks a frustrating line between being very simple and being very complex from a website/design standpoint. Yes, it is relatively simple and easy to make surface level edits and put together a good looking site. The interface is designed for the “non-web designers” of the world to still have a nice looking site. However, anything past the basic, superficial edits requires full-blown coding to manage. There isn’t an option for a middle-ground, which makes many of the customizations you may want as a user quite difficult.
Finally, I really dislike the fact that Shopify (without an additional, monthly application) doesn’t allow you to make “pages” for your site beyond the home page and the product/collection pages. For example, if you want to make a page for your “About Us” information, you’re essentially given a WYSIWYG text block editor that suffices for the entire page content. While you technically CAN put content on a page, you can’t really design a unique page that offers more than a Microsoft Word appearance. Custom call-to-actions? Forget it. Unique contact forms? No way. Landing pages for SEO? Good luck.
Is WooCommere Perfect?
All that being said, WooCommerce isn’t completely blemish-free, either. While I do tend to like the functionality of WooCommerce more, it has it’s warts, as well. One of the biggest issues with WooCommerce is the fact that the product management interface can be clunky. Making your products look sleek, polished and professional is simply not as intuitive with WooCommerce as it is with Shopify. Also, WooCommerce continually needs to be updated to the latest version of the software, which can cause some issues with integration between different plugins.
On top of that, you absolutely will have to do more customization (and perhaps even more work) to get your site to look the way you want it to. Because WooCommerce does allow for more in-depth customization, you may need to put more time and effort into your initial build out, and it can be cumbersome to someone who is less “web-design savvy.” You may need to explore more plugins and integrations to get all the features to work the way you want, which can be tedious. The good news, though, is that many of the plugins are free (or at least offer a free version), and even the ones that aren’t free are almost always a one-time licensing cost.
The Bottom Line
For me, there’s no contest. Give me WooCommerce every day. That being said, not every user is yours truly. If you’re looking for a simple, straight-forward, effective ecommerce site, there’s nothing wrong with Shopify. It’ll let you get your products out on the internet without needing a ton of custom coding (hopefully) and they’re very good at ecommerce, since it’s the whole crux of the platform.
That being said, if you’re looking for something that you can build out really thoroughly, customize to your exact specifications, integrate into your CRM/email database and then not have to worry about ongoing costs, you’re going to want WooCommerce. It can be a little more tedious to set up, but it’ll allow for more specification, better SEO, and a lot less hassle long-term than Shopify.
No matter which option you prefer, the website design experts here at Odd Duck Media are more than capable of helping you create the ideal site for your store. Just contact our team today to get a free quote and estimate.