I’ve been building custom websites with shopping cart functionality for years. Two of my favorite platforms are WordPress and Shopify. Here’s some info on the pros and cons of both for selling online!
In a nutshell, WordPress (WP) is an open-source platform, meaning it’s up to the user (you, or someone you hire, such as m.e.) to maintain updates and security, but offers a TON of scalability through plugins and third-party software. Shopify is closed-source, meaning Shopify handles updates and security, but you are limited to the only “apps” they provide or have cleared others to provide. Both require a roughly 3% take on sales, and both can be in relatively the same price range per month once you factor in web hosting, security/SSL, payment gateway and possible add-ons. Both are very popular and “easy” to use, so I’m merely trying to outline how they differ below…
PROS of WordPress for Your Online Store
- Widely used, flexible and very scalable (geared toward versatility)
- Easy [for designers like me] to customize
- More design options than Shopify
- WooCommerce is one of the most used e-commerce platforms on the internet (highly supported)
- Easier to add custom product variations
- There’s a plugin for everything you can imagine!
- Free to use (but premium add-ons to be purchased for certain functionality)
- Ability to take payment for items other than products (for example, payment form where user inputs invoice # and custom payment amount)
- Much better blogging/content marketing component
- More customizable SEO
- Easier backups
- E-mail hosting comes with some WordPress hosting packages*
CONS of WordPress for Your Online Store
- Many moving parts and varying costs
- Needs continual updates for security and maintenance (WordPress itself, plugins and theme)
- Little support (although premium add-ons typically have fantastic support, and you can find virtually anything with a quick google search)
- WooCommerce plugin needed to enable shopping cart and e-commerce
- Hosting is separate from add-ons
- A bit less friendly for updating global elements such as header, footer and sidebar widgets
Please also be aware there are two versions of WordPress (.com and .org). WordPress.com is like Shopify where you pay monthly and it controls the updates and security. I do NOT recommend wordpress.com. If choosing WordPress, it’s best to install and configure the free software at wordpress.org in order to take full control of WP’s capabilities.
*NOTE: Not all WordPress hosting packages include e-mail. Website hosting from Siteground includes e-mail, whereas other companies tend to focus on website and direct users to a third-party such as Google for e-mail accounts using the same domain name.
PROS of Shopify for Your Online Store
- Widely used and supported (geared specifically for sales)
- All costs rolled into one monthly bill
- Security and maintenance handled; SSL included
- Better customer support (24/7 although mostly through access to forums)
- No additional shopping cart plugins necessary
- Better at social sharing and marketing out of the box
- Some email marketing included (although I would recommend using Mailchimp for both WP and Shopify)
CONS of Shopify for Your Online Store
- Not as scalable as WordPress
- More difficult [for designers like me] to customize
- Less design options (limited to templates they offer, but they have some good ones!)
- Not as many third-party plugins for adding customization (for example: events calendar or photo galleries)
- Blogging available but not as customizable or robust
- SEO not as customizable
- E-mail hosting not included*
*NOTE: Shopify hosting packages do NOT include e-mail. So be sure to budget for a third-party such as Google for e-mail accounts using the same domain name.
Okay, so I know this a TON of info. But all good stuff for you to consider. There are a couple of articles I referenced for this if you want to dig deeper…
Likewise, there are a lot of other platforms worth considering such as Bigcommerce or Squarespace, but I would recommend WordPress and Shopify over both of these. If you’re asking my preference, it will always be WordPress since I have the most experience with it and I really love the flexibility from both a design and functionality perspective.
So what’s next? Contact m.e. for estimates for what I can handle regarding either platform. Ultimately it will depend on how much work is involved, so I would love for you to fill out a website workplan questionnaire I can send through email.
P.S. – A word or two about web hosting… I offer “Managed Website Hosting” for $50/mo, which includes quarterly WP/plugin/theme updates + SSL and dedicated VPS (Virtual Private Server—which houses a website separately from other sites which could be infected with malware or decrease performance in a “shared” environment). A typical Shopify plan with hosting included is $29/mo. There is cheaper hosting out there for around $10/mo+ from companies like Siteground. But with web hosting you definitely get what you pay for!