Our review of Shopify as an eCommerce platform

6th December 2018

Estimated reading time: 5 minutes, 20 seconds.

Shopify was founded in 2006 and the company has spent a long time developing their platform and shoring up the exact service they offer. As with most online store builders, they have their pros and cons. Meaning they are great for certain types of business, but not necessarily best suited to others. Here’s our take on where they stand as a means to help power your new online store.

Shopify Element Media

A bit about Shopify

Shopify is one of the many online store builders that have cropped up in recent years as a means to cope with the expanding array of online stores. They have proved rather popular and are generally considered a reliable platform for a variety of different store-types.

They work by offering a number of different “themes” which you can then customise to suit your products and brand identity. It is estimated that they now power more than half a million stores, making them one of the biggest players in the industry. Especially for those in the dropshipping arena. Here’s what you can expect to find from choosing Shopify as your eCommerce platform.

Benefits of choosing Shopify

After years spent designing sites for clients across a number of different industries, here’s a quick overview of what we believe to be the top 5 selling points of Shopify.

1. They offer slick mobile sites

Finished Shopify stores tend to be fully responsive across all devices. This is a big upside for both SEO and also for your customers, seeing as most searches now begin on mobile devices, as opposed to desktop.

2. They have globally fast load times

Sites also tend to be well-optimised in terms of offering fast load times. This is equally as important for both SEO and customer experience. So if you want people to be able to use your store quickly and smoothly when on-the-go, then this is a bonus!

3. They offer a wide array of plugins

You can customize your story to a wide extent by using the large array of integrations Shopify offers. These apps are wide-ranging in functionality and allow you to perform all kinds of tasks. Such as quickly translating content or converting prices into different currencies.

4. Finished stores tend to look quite professional

Shopify have invested millions into developing their platform and do offer very professional stores. Their standard checkout format exists across all of their themes and is generally very sleek and easy-to-use.

5. They work with many of the most trusted payment processors

This is important, and Shopify allows you to offer all kinds of payment options to your customers. Right through from traditional debit and credit card payment methods to the increasingly-popular PayPal.

The cons of using Shopify

At the same time, we have discovered a number of issues when using Shopify to power client stores. This includes …

1. It is hard to tweak SEO and customise beyond themes

Existing Shopify themes are quite rigid. Meaning that, if you want something to be customised, then it can be hard to get exactly what you want. For example, we tend to find that making major SEO tweaks can be very complex and these changes are difficult to understand for someone not adept at using code.

2. Everything is chargeable, so monthly costs can really stack up

Though they offer a whole host of 3rd party apps, these can oftentimes be very expensive. You tend to need to pay monthly for them and very few are free. As such, you soon find that your monthly payments to keep your store running become very hefty. Especially as opposed to other online store builders.

3. It costs a lot to code any changes outside of a theme

If you do wish to make changes not supported by themes or apps, then you will need to bring in a designer to help you. More specifically, that designer will need to have a working knowledge of Liquid, which is Shopify’s open-source template language.

4. There are higher upfront development costs

When you compare Shopify to many of the other popular store builders, we tend to find that it costs a lot more to get a site up and running through Shopify. The process is often much longer as well.

5. It doesn’t integrate as easily with existing sites

Did you know that WordPress now powers more than 70% of all websites? Well, if you wish to integrate Shopify into an existing site, such as WordPress, then this can be quite tricky. Your best choice would be to use their “Buy Button” feature. However, this requires a lot of time spent coding and individually adding products, without any back-end support. There is a much better alternative, and we discuss that below …

What is our go-to store builder?

Over the years, we have worked with a few clients who opted for Shopify as their choice to power their online store. And are happy to work again with clients who have a strict preference for them. However, they would not be our go-to choice. Instead, we are oftentimes much more inclined to recommend WooCommerce.

WooCommerce was founded at around the same time as Shopify and is much more widely adopted amongst store owners. In fact, it powers more than 30% of all online stores and offers a number of considerable advantages. Most notably, it is much cheaper to get a site up and running with WooCommerce. The monthly costs are also much lower.

As it was developed to work with WordPress, it is the most obvious choice for anyone wishing to expand upon an existing site to include eCommerce functionality. You can read more about the benefits of using WooCommerce in this guide.

Rounding off

Ultimately, the decision of whether or not to use Shopify all comes down to what you are looking for in the finished build. If budget is an issue and you want to keep monthly costs down, you might wish to go for an alternative. Or, if you need a simple store that doesn’t require any out-of-the-box customisation, then Shopify might be a good choice.

It is pretty straightforward to use and the back-end offers detailed analysis and a fulfillment process that is quite easy to learn. Our client, Medico Beauty, was very happy with the finished design of their Shopify store. We would be happy to discuss any upcoming project you have in mind. Here is a look at some of our other past eCommerce design projects.