The best thing about running a blog, a product based business and a service based Web Design business, is that I can shower my clients with my own personal experience. With the clients I work with, and the majority of projects I work on, I’ve actually been there and done that, reaped the rewards and trudged through the failures. I can tell my clients what’s worked for me, alongside giving them advice seated in experience rather than speculation.
Recently I’ve been working a lot with Shopify, both for new clients and existing clients. In the past I might have suggested other ecommerce solutions to my clients, in fact I’ve built a fair few ecommerce sites on Magento, WordPress (with Woocommerce and Jigoshop), Big Cartel, OsCommerce… you name it!
I’ve enjoyed working with Shopify on my client’s shops so much that I decided to move my own shop over there, too. I was previously on Magento and not really enjoying it, before that I was on Zencart. While both served their purpose, I’m super glad that I’m now running through Shopify.
Here’s why Shopify is winning for me at the moment
- Ease of use. Compared to Magento, and even Woocommerce, Shopify comes out on top for me (and for my clients) because its admin area is bomb-awesome. It’s really easy to use, both for seasoned web people and for those with just a little web knowledge. If you can send an email, you can use Shopify’s admin area.
- Security. I’ve had a few issues with Magento over the past few years, and even with the strictest security settings I had a client’s store get hacked last year. There seemed to ALWAYS be security patches and updates coming through for Magento, which didn’t give me much confidence in it. Shopify, however, is hosted on their own servers so you don’t need to worry about security – you’re paying them to deal with that for you! You also don’t need to worry about purchasing an SSL certificate as the payment system is all taken care of on the Shopify side.
- Templating system. For me, the templating system on Shopify is really easy to use. I won’t get too in depth about it, but I will say that it’s a lot more flexible and easy to understand than the system for Magento (and even Woocommerce).
- Updates. With any hosted ecommerce solution (Woocommerce, Magento) you’re going to need to run updates. With both Woocommerce and Magento, I’ve had some seriously shit experiences (Magento was determined to break every. damn. time. an update was run, and Woocommerce would update and break the theme). Shopify, however, runs all of its updates on its own server, so you don’t need to do anything. It’s bliss. BLISS.
- SEO. Since moving to Shopify I’ve definitely noticed an increase in SEO. The site load time is really fast, which I think is a big contributing factor, and I was sure to use a theme that was well made for SEO.
- Updates Pt 2. Shopify is continually rolling out new features. I kept seeing all these cool new things appearing with my client’s shops, really great features that make the day-to-day running of the shop really fun. There’s even a really cool new feature where you can sell directly on Pinterest using your Shopify store as a feed (not yet available in GBP, unfortunately).
- Choice. Shopify does have a monthly cost attached (I believe it’s totally worth the fee), but you can choose between three levels of subscription, each one with different benefits and incrementally lower fees. I have clients successfully running stores on all three levels, and one of my clients has even gone so far as to use Shopify for her brick-and-mortar POS. I use the Professional (middle) level subscription, which gives me more than enough features for my needs.
- Apps. The Shopify App store lets you add “apps” to your shopify shop to extend its basic functionality. Some of these are free and others are premium, but they let you customise your shop to your own specifications. It’s not as in depth as customising with Magento (you can really get into the nuts and bolts with that one), but that might be a good thing!! My “go to” apps are Mailchimp, Product Reviews and Order Printer.
- Support. I’ve found the level of support for Shopify to be superb, and that’s just from me requesting features from a developer point of view. They’re always quick to respond on email, and really want your input on making their product better. My clients have also been in touch with the Shopify support team and had nothing but good things to say.
- Community. There’s a great community forum around Shopify, and chances are if you’ve got a question, it’ll have been answered there.
These are the not-so-good things I’ve found about Shopify
Unfortunately it can’t all be smooth sailing, and there are a few little irks that frustrate me with Shopify. I’ve notified the Shopify team about a few of these and as they’re always rolling out improvements for the system, I’m hoping that some of them will be addressed soon. None of these were game changers for me, but they might be for you…
- You can’t have sub-categories (or “collections” in the Shopify vernacular). This is a bit of a bummer as I really wanted to subcategorise my jewellery “Jewellery > Necklaces”, “Jewellery > Brooches”. Instead, you need to create all collections as top-level items and then just fib a little in your navigation.
- The front-end (admin facing) theme customiser isn’t as good as it could be. This is just me being a spoilt and picky developer, but I can certainly see room for improvement here.
- The basic order printer is very basic. I use integrated labels to ship items (so I print out an order on one piece of paper that has labels for you to peel off with the address) and needed a way of customising the invoices to work with this. In the end, I needed to use an (albeit free) app to achieve this level of customisation.
- Email isn’t supported through Shopify so you do need to have email hosting elsewhere. You can either use Google Apps, or a small hosting package through a host of your choice (I always recommend Krystal or A Small Orange).
- The blogging system on Shopify isn’t that great, but it’s not built to be a blogging platform after all. For my clients I tend to build a blog subdomain running WordPress.
So there you go! That’s why I moved my shop to Shopify and why I’m very happy with the service they provide. I’ll continue to recommend Shopify to my clients, and hey, if you want to hire me to help you set-up your own Shopify store (even if it’s just getting you going with a default theme) then do get in touch!
Disclaimer: I’m a Shopify Partner, this means that if you sign-up for Shopify through any of my links then I stand to get a monetary bonus. I do honestly love the service though, which is why I use it for my own product based business.