Online business owners in 2017 are very fortunate to have a huge selection of Content Management Systems to use to run their e-commerce website. Each one has multiple strengths and can possibly be the perfect solution for you to build an e-Commerce store with. And the best news is that you can do so all on your own, without any help from professional designers and/or developers.
In the past few years, two platforms have stood apart from the competition in terms of e-commerce website: WordPress (Woo Commerce) and Shopify. Which one is the best choice for a small business looking to start selling online? Let’s look at 3 important points.
3 Points to Consider to Start Your Online Business
Point 1: EASE OF USE
One of the most important aspects of a good platform is being able to easily set up and customize your website with minimal headaches or having to go into a long and complicated manual.
If we’re talking about a standard installation of WordPress, it could be a bit daunting at first on how to get started. You’ll have to get your own web hosting from a web hosting service provider (such as GoDaddy). That in itself is a hard process to go through for a new business owner on their own if they do not have experience managing their own website.
If you go with another hosting provider that doesn’t have the option to install WordPress with the click of a button, you’ll have to download the package from WordPress.org and upload it via FTP to your web hosting. Afterwards, a little database knowledge is needed to properly install your website.
Once you complete the installation process, you’ll still have a bit of work to do before you can get started. WordPress in essence is designed to be a blog. To transform it into a full-fledged e-commerce website, you’ll need to install numerous plugins and a theme. The most important plugin to install is Woo Commerce, which is WordPress’ most popular plugin to turn your website into an online store-front. Most free themes available comes with a very unintuitive way to create your pages using shortcodes and HTML. You’ll most likely have to purchase a theme if you want to have the proper tools, such as Visual Composer, to easily create your website. All in all, it’s a lengthy process with many parts that can be quite annoying to go through.
As for Shopify, in our experience it’s far easier to get started. Shopify gives you a quick wizard to set up your website in a few pages. In a few minutes, your website is set up and ready for use! Generally speaking, you don’t need to install a multitude of plugins and extensions to have a functional e-commerce website. Shopify was designed to be ready to sell right out of the box.
Themes are easy to install thanks to their integrated marketplace and are often curated to ensure 100% compatibility and consistent experience for their customers. They come preloaded with the essential templates; homepage, about us, contact us, categories, products, checkout.
In terms of ease of use and getting started quickly, Shopify is without a doubt our pick.
Point 2: Features
Shopify is meant to have an easy way for online business owners to create their website and start selling as soon as possible. As is usually the case with these kinds of designs where you want to cater to as many people as possible, the features and ability to customize are limited. For example, if you have complicated products with multiple different variations, you must feel your options are restricted. You can only have a maximum of 3 different options (ex: colour, size and style) for a single product. In most cases, this is acceptable. However, we’ve had some customers that sold custom car parts that come in dozens of different sets of options.
The list of available of extensions (called Apps in Shopify) are very well built but much smaller than what WordPress has to offer. Most of the extensions that are incredibly useful cost quite a bit. Being a closed platform, Shopify needs to curate and approve all extensions before they can be available to Shopify users. This mean that your choices are limited.
As a web developer, customizing a theme in Shopify can be a bit tricky. Their themes are built on a unique language called Liquid, developed in-house. It’s similar to PHP, Perl and Ruby but has some intricacies that requires a bit of learning before you can start. Your web developer might need a bit of extra work to make the custom changes you need for your online business.
WordPress is an open-sourced platform built on PHP. This means that most programmers and developers with PHP and MySQL knowledge can customize it, build plugins/extensions and create new themes without any restrictions and make those work available to any WordPress user. One of the most important plugins out there is Visual Composer (it comes included with most paid themes) which makes creating your web pages a breeze. Just drag and drop the elements that you want directly onto your page, wherever you want.
Visual Composer is especially versatile and powerful because you can add any shortcode from any plugin you install on your WordPress website and use it in the same way as your other elements. Speaking of which, the number of plugins available to you is endless. There are so many to choose from that can fit your exact need that you’ll most likely never need to make any deep changes to WordPress’ code. For this reason especially, WordPress wins this round.
One of the most scrutinized aspects of an e-commerce website for an online business is cost. Although we would recommend not skimming on paying for a properly build and designed website, it’s important to be cost-effective when committing to a platform for your online business. In this aspect, both platforms are neck-and-neck.
For WordPress and Woo Commerce, they are completely open-sourced and free to use. There’s no license involved or running cost to own a WordPress website. The costs are mostly to host your website on a web hosting provider, usually between $5 to well over $50 a month depending on the provider and performance you need. The plugins for WordPress and Woo Commerce are mostly free, with the high quality or specialized plugins starting at $1. The average cost to run a full WordPress website is around $20/month.
Shopify is a bit more expensive, but not by that much. Starting at $29/month for the Basic package, you’ll have everything you need to run your e-commerce website and make sales online. You can pay up to $299/month for the full set of their features. There is also a fee to process credit card transactions which can add up if you sell a lot of volume (not a terrible thinkg, mind you!). Extensions in Shopify are quite expensive compared to WordPress, with all extensions having monthly fees. In the long run, this can add up to a lot more of expenses.
So who wins? In this case, WordPress is the clear winner if we include the costs of extensions and plugins. However if you go for just the basics, both options are quite comparable. One thing to consider however is that with Shopify, the small extra fee compared to WordPress means you get 24/7 technical support, whereas with WordPress you are pretty much on your own.
So which one should you go for? In terms of return on investment, WordPress and Woo Commerce is the better option for you and your online business. It’s more cost effective and versatile. The added bonus is you have more of a hands-on experience building your website so you can be independent when you have issues and be able to better troubleshoot them.
However, if you find it a challenge to install your own website, Shopify would be the best option for you. You get technical support for issues your website might be having and the quality of Shopify’s platform is well worth the added costs.