Can An eCommerce Website Be Simple to Build?

I have PTSD from my the first e-commerce website I ever created.  It’s been about eight years and I feel like I may be over the trauma fairly NEVER.

The reason (for me) e-commerce is so painful is that there are a lot of elements (sizes, prices, shipping, images, related images, related products, etc).  Of course, when I built my first site it was on Yahoo Stores.  I wanted the client to publish the site when we had 15 products, she was a million times more optimistic than me about the potential success and must have given me 100 products (okay, maybe it was 70 but we both ultimately agreed, it was many more than we should have added as neither one of us really knew what we were doing.)

While I am perfectly comfortable passing on business that I am not suited for, I really do not like it when someone asks me a question and I have to say I haven’t a CLUE how to answer.  So when Andrew shared a website he created using Shopify, I thought perhaps I should just learn a little bit about Shopify and at least when e-commerce is mentioned I can feel confident that I know a little something, or not panic and jump under my desk.  Either one would be a win.

I always have a lot of questions, so I am going to put them here, then share what I found during my research.  If some of these make you say, oh my gosh, what a novice question, my response to you is, isn’t it good not to be the least knowledgeable person on the blog?  Leave that to me, I don’t mind being least smart on a subject.  And if you say, phew, I am glad someone else asked that my response is, I am here for you.

Let’s start here. What is the difference between Shopify and WordPress?

WordPress is a stand-alone product. To build a shop with WordPress you need a variety of elements (WordPress itself, a theme, we like Divi, an eCommerce plugin, we all seem to use WooCommerce, a payment gateway, etc).  Shopify is a one-stop solution, sign up for their program and you get hosting, security, back ups, and payment gateways, themes (they have free and premium themes) all the little pieces are under one lovely roof. I know what you are thinking, I am a web designer, if it’s so easy, clients won’t need me.  Have an honest discussion with yourself and your client.  Does the client want to maintain their own site after you build it?  If yes, make your decision based on what you think they can handle on their own.  If you will be dealing with adding products or making changes choose whichever you are most comfortable with.

Can I use Shopify with WordPress? 

Yes, actually, this seems to be the perfect combo (the best article I found on the Pros and Cons of WordPress / Shopify can be found here).  By utilizing both you will be able to have your shop in your domain name, NOT have to deal with all the set up of e-commerce, be able to blog and have pages that are optimized for your search terms; however (the con) you will have to sign in to two different accounts (your WordPress site and your Shopify account).  Shopify has a plugin that allows you to add a buy button to products.  Also consider what you already know, if you have invested time in learning WooCommerce it may not be worth it to you to begin a new learning curve with another platform.  Plenty of people put Woo into the “easy” category.  Easy is a relative term and what’s easy for you may not be easy for me.

Can I have a Blog with Shopify?

Yes, but No.  Your blog needs to be on its own, self-hosted domain. WordPress would be your best choice, then configure your menu’s in Shopify to link over to your blog and visa versa.  If you don’t think a blog is important, rethink this.  The most challenging part of any e-commerce website is generating traffic.  You have the most likely opportunity to market your e-commerce shop with organic traffic if you have related content linked from your blog.

Which platform is more affordable?

Both are going to probably cost you more than you want to pay (let’s be honest, we all want free and based on my back of an envelope calculation either choice is more than that).  Each Shopify and WooCommerce  have many Add-On Options (and yes, you are going to want at least a few of those add on’s), but how many really depends on you and your business.

You can read the details of the Shopify Costs here you can read some of the Woo features and costs here. Shopify has an App Store, which you can poke around here WooCommerce has extensions which you can learn about here. Quick little bit of info Woo and WordPress costs are generally one time upfront, then an annual renewal of licenses, hosting, etc.  You have monthly fees with Shopify.

Editors Note: if you are new to e-commerce I suggest that you spend some time on different websites and see what happens as you go through the shopping/checkout process.  Don’t assume that anything you encounter is standard.  Keep a list of what you like/don’t like, as you may need to pay for that feature.  Example, Woo has a feature that allows you to pick up your order in a store.  Or if you are looking at an item and see “related items” at the bottom of the page, you will need to add that on to your Woo purchases.  We have a whole lot of Woo add-ons.  I think we only actually wanted one or two things, but everything in the Woo store seems to be bundled so you may really only want to buy one or two things and then get a dozen additional items.

Also, keep in mind, you will have some financial investment to make, but either choice will be a fraction of the cost that establishing a traditional retail shop would require.

Do either Shopify or WooCommerce have customer support?

I am a huge fan of customer support.  Any time I can upgrade an account to have access to a human I upgrade.  As time goes by I realize that human help is a huge time saver, and if I do the dollar cost averaging, ends up saving me money. There are few things more depressing than reviewing a project and realizing you worked for .12 cents an hour because it took you 3 days to figure out how to configure shipping and another 4 to figure out how to apply taxes by State.

But here’s your answer, does either option have customer support:

Can I switch platforms or am I stuck with my choice forever?

You can always switch.  How much time / effort / money you want to reinvest to move is an answer that only you (or your client) can answer. This article will show you how to export products from Shopify.

So which do I choose?

With everything, it depends on a multitude of things: your goals, your skills, your budget.  I thought this video was very helpful.

Another option is to read through the comments that have been made about Shopify vs. Woo in the Facebook group.  I spent a lot of time reading these as I wrote this article.  It’s very helpful to read individuals situations and then resolution they settled upon and why.

On this site, ElegantMarketplace.com we use easy digital downloads which we transferred from Woo, because we found EDD easier to adapt. And on LayoutsCloud we use WooCommerce because we wanted the subscriptions model which wasn’t available with Easy Digital Downloads at the time of development. As you can see the choice of e-commerce platform is a difficult one. And is often based on what’s available at the time. It is worthwhile to keep abreast of the changes in each platform and of course how your business changes over time and with growth and to best serve your digital customers.

If Woo is the best platform for you, we have a few favorite products which may make your web design process run more smoothly. You may see them all here. Best sellers include:

Will I dive into e-commerce now like a puppy who has been let outside to enjoy his first snow storm?  Maybe not, but I do appreciate knowing there are always options, and several times through my research I came across people commenting that using Shopify was easier than they had expected and other people who said they loved Woo and couldn’t understand why anyone would look elsewhere for an e-commerce solution.  What this tells me is that e-commerce is possible, and even if not for me, I see a bunch of names I can refer business to.

Editors unsolicited advice: About a year ago a client asked me to use a specific theme (not Divi) for her website.  She sent me the url of the site she wanted.  I called the woman who built the site and asked to hire her for an hour to learn the basics of the theme and answer my questions.  As random a coincidence, she followed my blog and was really surprised I was asking for what she called “basic” help.  Turns out she had spent HOURS figuring out the theme and I had bypassed all of that aggravation by getting a coach.  If you are taking up Woo, Shopify or another platform, yes, of course the Univerity of YouTube is amazing, but an hour of a private tutors time could be the best investment ever.

I KNOW you have opinions on which platform is better, please comment below.

 

A little about the author, Eileen Lonergan

Eileen Lonergan is a WordPress website designer and internet marketing specialist. She is the founder and Community Manager of the Divi Theme User Group on Facebook. Eileen's focus is on web design, content marketing and search engine optimization.

4 Comments

  1. Anna Buzzelli

    Great post Eileen! I just had someone ask for this exact advice. I did my best to explain pros and cons in the spot, but this article really does a great job explaining it all.

  2. Stephanie

    “If some of these make you say, oh my gosh, what a novice question, my response to you is, isn’t it good not to be the least knowledgeable person on the blog? Leave that to me, I don’t mind being least smart on a subject. And if you say, phew, I am glad someone else asked that my response is, I am here for you.”

    You are awesome. <3

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