shopify vs wordpress for an ecommerce site - which is best? shopify or wordpress? in the case of wordpress vs shopify, your programming skills are the most important determinant

Shopify vs WordPress – which is best?

Shopify or WordPress? Which one would be best for your circumstances? The short answer is that if you already know how to use WordPress, or would like to learn how to develop in WordPress or have a budget for getting your site designed and built, then WordPress is going to suit you best. In the contest of Shopify vs WordPress, WordPress is the more flexible and more customisable of the two platforms, and it has better SEO potential and potential for better user experience. 

On the other hand, Shopify is a good option if you don’t know the first thing about setting up a WordPress site, don’t wish to learn. Or don’t wish to pay someone to design and/or develop your website for you. Shopify is an easier platform to knock up a quick website quite easily. And while the design and user experience may not be as good as a WordPress website, a Shopify site can be a great way to test a concept in the market for minimum investment. 

Of course, if you already have web hosting, and know even a small amount about building WordPress websites, then WordPress is going to be even less initial investment to test and validate an eCommerce product idea.

Learning curves for coding and WordPress vs Shopify

So, if you are considering WordPress as your platform for a new eCommerce website, then one thing to think about is the fact that the learning curve for WordPress is going to be steeper than in Shopify. Thankfully, there are a lot of good resources out there to help you. Including CodeCamp for learning coding languages such as CSS and HTML. The ultimate payoff is that if you put in some time (or money) into learning how to build websites with WordPress, you will have a transferable skill. 

As an aspiring entrepreneur myself, having the skills to build websites quickly and effectively, has been so helpful in testing and validating new business ideas. I can knock up a website in a few hours. And have it collecting data within a day, in order to find out if my latest idea might be a success. Having the skills in WordPress to do this, has helped me immeasurably.

If you are looking for ways to build your own entrepreneurial career, you will need to build Minimum Viable Products (MVPs). And being able to build WordPress websites will give you the capacity to test and learn from these MVPs. 

In this contest of Shopify vs WordPress, it is important to consider what skills you have and what skills you want to have.

Future planning

Another benefit of putting the effort in earlier in your journey is that you set the future of your eCommerce website on the right foot from the beginning. Because WordPress is more customisable and has the potential for better user experiences than Shopify, then eventually, you are probably going to want to move to this platform. This will help improve your conversion rate and get more sales. If you have built your eCommerce website in Shopify, it will be very difficult to export and move your site to a WordPress platform. 

Thankfully, you will be able to download a CSV file of product data, and can then use the Woocommerce Product Import CSV suite to upload your product data to Woocommerce, the most popular WordPress eCommerce solution. However, moving pages and posts is going to prove difficult. In terms of future planning, you might be painting yourself into a corner relying on Shopify for your store.

This all depends if you have the will to learn how to develop in WordPress. Or if you have the budget to get a designer/developer to build your site for you. 

I would definitely recommend taking a course in WordPress if you can find one. This can help you to skip ahead and get easy access to that mysterious world of how to make WordPress work for you. I studied a Digital Media course at TAFE back in 2011-12. This course gave me a real head start regarding developing in WordPress. With these foundations, I have been able to build skills and really push my business forward.

Ownership of your eCommerce website

In addition to the fact that it will be difficult to move your Shopify website to a new platform in the future, is the fact that when you develop on Shopify you are at the mercy of their terms for acceptable use. If Shopify doesn’t like your content or your website, then they can remove parts or all of it. And even take your website completely offline. 

I suppose that this is not a particularly commonplace situation. And of course, if your web host takes issue with your content on a website they may remove your website as well. For me, I just value the flexibility of being able to pick up and move whole sites between hosts, domains, and websites, and having ownership of my own content. 

Shopify vs WordPress – which is more expensive?

If you end up going with Shopify, you are likely to need to spend $29 USD or $79 USD per month. This will pay for hosting of your website and to take care of all the security maintenance, etc. This equates to $40 AUD or $110 AUD per month for using Shopify.

I recently created a list of all the costs associated with our WordPress eCommerce website. So that we can get a better sense of where the money is going and what our Return On Investment (ROI) is. This investigation highlights the fact that it would be difficult to reach $79 USD per month, with costs related to WordPress. Web hosting costs us about $19 AUD ($13 USD) per month. Apart from that, there are few ongoing costs related to the WordPress setup itself. We paid $50 USD ($70 AUD) for a theme, and you would be likely to spend $50 – $80 on a theme, that you will probably update every 3 – 5 years. You might spend a few hundred USD on plugin extensions over the course of your eCommerce website. However, these can be one-off costs, they are not ongoing. 

Other costs

The other consideration is that of payment processing fees. I believe that Shopify Payments does not charge you a processing fee. However, for all other payment gateways – PayPal, Stripe, AfterPay, Zippay, etc, you will pay a percentage processing fee. This is the same with both platforms.

So while you may pay someone to design and develop your website, or pay for a course to learn how to build using WordPress, you are likely not going to spend a total of $948 USD or $1355 AUD per year on development costs in WordPress.

For costs the consideration of Shopify vs WordPress depends if you want an ongoing monthly cost (in USD), or prefer to pay your fees upfront, without too much extra liability in terms of development costs.

Where to go if you need support with Shopify or WordPress?

The good thing about paying for Shopify is that you can write to them and ask them for support – technical or otherwise. And you can expect a response. I have read some articles saying that there is no support with WordPress. However, in my experience, this is not the case. They have a big WordPress.org forum, where you can post any of the problems that you are having and it is likely that within a few hours, or overnight, you will get a response from someone who has the solution. Developers are very generous on the WordPress forum, and I find it a reliable place to get advice. 

I have also developed some very effective Googling skills over my time building WordPress sites, and can now often find a solution just by some creative Googling. Most of the plugins and themes have very good documentation as well. And if you have paid for a theme or a plugin, or even sometimes when you have not, the developers will be happy to give you technical support or advice about their software. 

So while there may not be a centralised customer service centre such as is the case with Shopify, there is definitely a lot of avenues to solve your problems in WordPress. 

Other considerations for whether to choose Shopify or WordPress

  • Security is probably easier to manage in Shopify vs WordPress. In Shopify, this is all managed for you, while with WordPress you need to regularly update plugins, themes, and core files yourself. These things are not too difficult once you know-how. However, they can sometimes result in unintended consequences, which experience can help you to iron out efficiently.
  • SEO is probably more effective with WordPress due in part to the simpler forms of URLs that WordPress uses to create categories, products, and taxonomies on its platform. Shopify URLs are not as simple. Furthermore, WordPress is set up as a blogging platform, and blogging regularly can bring in traffic and raise the authority of an eCommerce website in Google’s eyes. Furthermore, WordPress has plugins like Yoast, which are excellent in the development and optimisation of content for SEO.
  • Shopify offers a free SSL certificate, but there are also ways of getting a free SSL certificate from within a traditional web host as well.
  • Conversion rate optimisation (CRO) – due to the fact that Shopify is not as customisable as WordPress, it will be harder to improve conversion rate through the design of your website in Shopify. This will be important later in the life in your store. When you are starting to generate some sales and wish to improve your performance

So, which is better? Shopify or WordPress

If you want a site by yesterday, and you don’t have a budget to spend on development, or you don’t already know something of how to develop in WordPress, then Shopify is probably your best bet. It looks like you sign up for monthly billing, and that the basic ($29USD) plan will be sufficient for most needs. This means that you won’t be hit with a big upfront cost, and can effectively test an idea for as little as $29 USD ($41 AUD). 

However, if you know how to build WordPress websites and already have hosting, your learning curve will be much flatter going with WordPress. You could have something up in a day to test and validate your idea. 

If after testing and validation you want to take advantage of superior user experiences and conversion rates, please don’t hesitate to get in touch for development and design services.

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