WordPress and Woocommerce vs Shopify – what do we recommend?

Brand Skills, Wordpress Skills

This is not your typical WordPress vs Wix vs Shopify vs Squarespace article.

Which ecommerce solution is best?

This question comes up a lot with our clients and colleagues in the web design business. We see it come up daily in business groups, and the answers given…. leave a lot to be desired.

The core of this question is evangelical. Yes. I said it. Selecting an ecomm platform is a lot like choosing a religion and people get fanatical about their answers.

So who do you trust?

Well let’s just say I’m one of those people who are spiritual but not religious. I look at everything with a critical lens and chose the best programs for my clients because at the end of the day, I care about humans and their success.

And who am I, you ask? Fair question.

A Lined Design Web And Brand Design 51
I’m the CEO of my own web design firm that I built from scratch after leaving my career as a lawyer. I notice things. I compare things. It’s all in the details. You’ll see.

I do have my answer, as you may have gathered from the title of this piece but I’ll walk you through all of your options so you can decide if you want to go full zealot or make your own decision.

Disclosure note – links marked * are affiliate links.

Open Source Vs Closed Source

This is the core issue which literally every piece of advice I had read totally misses. Like, doesn’t even skim or attempt to answer.
 
Open source software is software with source code that anyone can inspect, modify, and enhance.
 
This means that anyone, for free, can take this software apart, modify it, make it better, break it… whatever you like.
 
WordPress is open source. I can go and download all of WordPress, muck about with its insides, have a real good look at what’s going on inside. It doesn’t cost anything to do this, and if I make an interesting discovery I can use and share it. I can even package it up and sell it if I want to.
 
Closed source software is exact opposite: only the original authors of software can access, copy, and alter that software. In a case with closed source software, you are not purchasing the software, but only pay to use it or pay to even have a look at what it;s made of. You can’t download it or change it.
 
This is Wix, Squaresapce and Shopify. We can’t go download all of Shopify and have a play. We can’t create a development environment anywhere other than Shopify’s servers, and we must pay to access the code. So if we make a little thing which is awesome that makes the closed platform better, we need to pay the owner of the code to do so. 
 
Did you glaze over reading all that?
 
Important note: We at A Lined Design only recommend WordPress as a solution for businesses of any size because it’s the only platform (apart from a ground up bespoke build) which guarantees you own your content, lets you control the operation and performance of your website and keeps the costs down over time.

What Does This Mean In Practice?

A few things. For our clients is comes down to cost, risk, customisation, and the power of content.
 
 

Costs

Closed source is pay to play. So the developers have to recoup their costs somehow. With Shopify this is monthly fees for their solution for what in WordPress would usually be a once-off fee. Thanks for the loan, Kimmy.

For example a mega menu: those big, feature rich flyouts with images and columns and all the pretty.

Our favourite mega menu for plugin is Ubermenu. It costs $25USD once, with updates for a life and a small tech support fee of $7.50 for six months.

Say you want a page builder: no need to code every section of your site from the ground up, drag and drop your content into place.

Our fave Divi* costs $89USD a year or smart money with $249USD once.

Same solution in Shopify?

Let’s say you have your site for five years.

 
WordPress is $274 if you go lifetime options + your hosting.
Hosting varies a lot, but even with a premium host like our faves at Siteground*, you’re looking at $9.99AU each month. For five years this is $599.40.
 
A grand total of $873.40.
 
Shopify is $2895 for the extras + whatever monthly plan you go for. 
 
Bit of a difference yeah? Thats a big chunk of money that could go toward your income stream.
 
Shopify’s platform is a “leasing” system, and not a pay-to-own system. When you walk away from Shopify, you walk away from your website, and you’ll need to have another one built. A customised e-commerce will range from $7,000 to around $20,000 on average. For the $299 monthly price (which offers a similar levels of bells and whistles to woocommerce) of using Shopify for 2 years, you could have your very own custom-built e-commerce platform! A platform that you own, control, and can optimise to fit your business needs.

Risk

Websites break. It’s true. No matter what platform you are on. Why? Lots of reasons. Websites are a lot like a house. They have structure, plumbing, and are affected by external factors.
A WordPress site is like having a vacant lot. As a website owner you have a lot of control over everything, and that can be really daunting.

YOU CAN BUILD ON YOUR OWN LAND.

Wix, Sqaurespace and Shopify are like having a rented space in an office (Wix/Squarespace) or retail (Shopify) center. You get what you’re given and you’re not allowed to change the stair access for a ramp, the lighting, the advertising, or the grumpy valet at the door. comparing Shopify and WordPress is like comparing a leased shop floor and a vacant lot. Shopify is a leased shop floor where you can’t change what building your in, you pay the electricity etc to the centre manager. WordPress is the vacant lot – what you put on it matters and it is all your to do anything with. The tools you pick matter a lot. If you want to scale and add more features you can. You will have to pay more for this in Shopify.

YOU ARE LEASING.

You’ll hear a lot of people say – but you have to maintain WordPress! I’m sick of all the error and it breaking. You don’t need to maintain Shopify! and nothing goes wrong!

Spoiler alert – it does but you don’t know about it because you don’t get the error notifications.

And the closed platforms can roll out changes willy nilly, which you just have to live with it. Core updates broke your site? Tough. You can’t roll back. Had a barney with mailchimp over user data and they won’t play any more? Gotta migrate all your contacts across and find a new solution.

Doesn’t happen on WordPress where you can roll back any core updates which break things or rely on the community to come to your rescue when an integration breaks.

Which brings me to the next point

Customisations

 
When you get a theme for your website, on any platform, that theme guides the fonts, colours, styles and functions of your site.
 
In WordPress you have the parent theme and you build a child theme where your customisations live. When the theme developer rolls out changes you just click update and your developer’s hard work stays intact.
 
On closed platforms, these updates destroy your developer’s hard work. There is no ability to build a child theme.

You cant make a child theme to edit your theme in a non destructive way. Shopify says you don’t need to update their themes which is crap. Everything on the internet needs updating from time to time to keep up with best practices. If you need to update a theme you’ve played around in or spent money having a developer play around in and find that it’s out of date etc and needs up dating – you can’t.

We know already that adding custom apps or functions is expensive, but adding/customising performance for closed platforms is actually impossible. The source files required are locked down which means you’re stuck with sucky site speeds. Every new thing you add in is a load on the core system which can’t then be optimised for delivery. Imagine a camper van flying along the highway with extra wires and windows and rattling cans banging along – that’s your solution on the highway of the internet.

With WordPress we can use caching systems to bring these add ons inside the campervan and make sure she’s built for speed.

Oh yeah, and the source stuff which drives SEO – you can’t touch that either. So optimising your permalinks and structure for more google love is not gonna happen. And if your theme gets out of date for google and you want to update it but you can’t because you’ve customised it – we’re talking a full rebuild. Which you might not be able to afford because of all those monthly fees.

As far as ecommerce is concerned – the work flow of Shopify vs woocommerce is so similar is silly. It’s just a matter of aesthetics.

Content

When you use Shopify’s e-commerce platform, you do not own your website. You may own your images and text, but you do not own the code, the hosting, or the system. Should you decide to leave Shopify, you will not be able to take your website with you, as it is not yours to take.

if you’re content marketing – which you damn well should be because most site’s most popular page is a blog article not their home page – you need to have good control of your SEO. Shopify is not a blogging platform, it’s ecomm. Don’t believe us or want to read more technical stuff? Head over here.

Okay, So WordPress Is The Clear Choice. Would We Ever Recommend A Closed Platform?

Yep. owning a business requires a bias for action. Get out there! Start! If that’s Shopify or Wix, do it! But be well schooled in the limitations of the platform and the true costs.
 
Tap Tap, this is important so pay attention. Shopify is a bit like a multilevel marketing company. Developers who recommend it get paid every month you hit your targets. It becomes a passive income stream for them. It’s a tasty business model and we so get it. 
 
So would you take a recommendation from someone who gets a kickback or someone who is outside the cult, explaining your options to you? Ah-hem.
 
Get out there, get your website up however you need to. Learn WordPress and get control of your stuff. That’s what we would do.
 
And when you’re ready to come level up come have a chat with us at ALD and we’ll help you out.

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