Shopify is a godsend of a product – as long as your need fits nicely into their mold. A good developer can make either Shopify and WordPress do just about anything, but that doesn’t mean it’s the most cost-effective route forward or the option with the greatest longevity.

My clients regularly ask me about which of these they should choose, so I wrote this article to help me organize my thinking on the subject. I hope it helps you too!

1. Do most visitors come to my website to shop, or do something else?

Is being a storefront your website’s day job, or is it more of a side-hustle? Do most visitors come to your website to browse your catalog, or to read your blog?

If your website is, first and foremost, a storefront, keep reading.

If not, I advise against using Shopify to build your website. You should use WordPress or another technology for your website because Shopify was not built for your use case.

2. If I wanted to, could I use Amazon instead of building my own website?

Earlier in this post, I mentioned that “Shopify is a godsend of a product – as long as your need fits nicely into their mold.” A good rule of thumb is that if you can easily sell something on Amazon, you’ll probably be able to sell it on Shopify without modifying Shopify too much.

If your products are too complex to be sold easily on Amazon, they’re probably also more complex than what is natively supported on Shopify. Amazon is much more limited than Shopify, so this is meant to be more of a general heuristic than a rule.

Shopify (and Amazon) Compatible Examples:

- An apparel brand that sells products direct to consumers.

- A software company selling digital downloads.

- A subscription box.

Examples that are better suited for WordPress:

- Restaurant delivery or takeout orders.

- Appointment bookings.

- Bill pay for medical practices.

- Retainers for services.

- SAAS subscriptions.

Often (although not always), you can make this distinction by examining whether you offer a product (better for Shopify) or a service (better for WordPress).

3. What post types do I need on my website?

New term, I know - but if you’re a marketer or entrepreneur, you should know it. It’ll help you speak more intelligently about every web project you’re ever involved in.

Think of the last blog you visited (or look at the one we designed below).

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Fundamentally, it consists of two parts.

1) The blog list.

  • Usually a grid of titles and images with links to articles.
  • Each article can have other information such as a blog description, an author, or category showing on this page as well

2) The articles.

  • Each article usually has a similar layout to the next.
  • Different text, images, and video added in.

Now think of the last experience you had looking for a product online.

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Again, this consists of two parts.

1) The product catalog.

  • Usually a grid of titles, images, prices, with links to products.
  • Each product can have other information on this page such as product attributes, categories, or descriptions.

2) The individual product page.

  • Each product usually has a similar layout to the next.
  • Different text, images, and video added in.

These two types of content are very structurally similar! In fact, this is often the pattern that businesses use to structure information about their teams, office locations, and service offerings as well.

In the development world, each of these different uses of this structure is called a “post type.”

Some common post types:

  • Articles
  • Products
  • Case Studies
  • Team Members
  • Office Locations
  • Real Estate Listings

So how does this affect your decision between Shopify and WordPress?

Shopify is built to support two different post types: products and articles. If you need more than those two post types, WordPress is the path of least resistance.

4. Who will be managing this website?

Think about the person on your team who will be adding products, fulfilling orders, adding blog posts, and changing out website content.

If they’re not very tech-savvy, Shopify is going to flatten out the learning curve.

If they’re pretty comfortable at the keys, WordPress will be no problem at all.

5. Do you need to customize your checkout page?

This is the page that you see right after confirming your shopping cart where you enter payment details and complete the transaction.

Shopify has a tight restriction on this page’s template (see the screenshot below), while you can customize it in WordPress if needed.

There’s nothing inherently wrong with the Shopify checkout page, but some companies have specific needs that can’t be met in Shopify without upgrading to Shopify Plus, which costs at least $2000/month.

6. Is your business or industry restricted to using specific payment gateways?

A gateway is a service like Stripe, PayPal, ApplePay, or Authorize.net that processes payments on your behalf, so you don’t have to store credit card information (among other reasons).

Shopify has tighter restrictions on which gateways you can use on their platform. Industries such as Cannabis and Ammunition have historically struggled to use the platform - although this has been improving slowly over time. In any case, WordPress has a much larger set of payment gateways to choose from.

If you can find information on your gateway here, you’re good to use it with Shopify. If not, best to go with WordPress.

I’ve never seen a payment gateway I couldn’t integrate with WordPress. If you need a specific gateway to integrate with WordPress, try searching for it here. If you still can’t find the one you’re looking for, there’s almost certainly still a way to make it happen, you may just need to get creative.

7. What features does my website need?

More times than not, this is what pushes me to WordPress. While anything is possible with solid development skills, there are some features that are just more trouble than they’re worth to build in Shopify.

Here are some examples of features, for which I would advise a client to choose WordPress:

  • Compare the specs of 2 or more different products on my store side by side.
  • Different prices for more than 2 different kinds of users (wholesale, retail, etc.)
  • Add a community hub on my website, where users can make posts and comment on other users’ posts.

This list is getting shorter every day. Shopify’s app store is growing quickly, so you can often find pre-made solutions for your features on your app store.

If you’re not sure about your feature, search for it on Shopify’s app store or shoot me an email!

My advice: If you can use Shopify, you should.

It’s a better platform for E-Commerce overall - people will often tell you that it costs more, but I think that’s outdated advice unless you’re trying to add extra post types or custom features.

As someone who has literally spent thousands of hours designing and developing websites for these platforms - trust me:

You will like Shopify better than WordPress unless you’re trying to force Shopify to do something it wasn’t designed to do originally.

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