Shopify vs WordPress — Which is Best?
We follow a strict honesty policy. However, to fund our work, we use affiliate advertising links on this blog.
Shopify vs WordPress — which is best? This is a question a lot of businesses (particularly startups) find themselves asking, and in this post I’m going tackle it in depth.
Read on for a full examination of both platforms and their key features; and the reasons why you might choose one of them over the other when building an e-commerce site.
By the end of this comparison, you should have a much better idea of which platform will serve your business’ needs best.
Let’s start with a quick overview of both platforms.
What is Shopify?
Shopify is a web application that has been specifically designed to allow merchants to build and launch their own online store.
It provides a range of templates that can be customised to meet individual businesses’ branding requirements, and it allows both physical and digital goods to be sold.
One of the key ideas behind Shopify is that users without any technical or design skills can create a store themselves — you won’t have to know how to code in order to use the platform.
However, Shopify also allows you to edit the HTML and CSS of your website, which means that those who do have coding skills will be able to customize their stores more extensively.
Because Shopify is a ‘hosted’ solution, everything runs on Shopify’s servers. So, you don’t need to worry about buying web hosting or installing software anywhere — the idea is that pretty much everything you need to build and run your store happens ‘out of the box.’
(That said, you can customise a Shopify store to meet more bespoke requirements through the addition of apps — more on which later).
Shopify is a software as a service (‘SaaS’) tool — this means that you don’t own a copy of the software, but pay a monthly fee to use it instead. Being a web application, it runs in the cloud — so as long as you have access to a web browser and the internet, you can manage your store from anywhere.
What is WordPress?
There are two different versions of WordPress available:
Hosted WordPress — available at wordpress.com — is, like Shopify, a software as a service (SaaS) tool. You pay a monthly fee and you get access to a broad range of features which enable you to build and maintain a website.
It’s less of an ‘all-in-one’ solution than Shopify however, as users need to use third party tools like Ecwid, WooCommerce (or indeed Shopify!) to add e-commerce features to it.
Self-hosted WordPress is a piece of software that you download from wordpress.org and then install on your own web server. It’s open-source, meaning that the code behind it is freely available and may be easily tweaked.
In practice, this means that sites built with WordPress can be customized to the nth degree — it’s an extremely flexible tool that, in the hands of the right website developer, or via the installation of the right plugins, can be adapted to meet the requirements of any web design project.
You can install WordPress on your server for free, but there are hosting costs, domain registration charges and potential plugin / development costs to consider. We’ll discuss all this in more depth later on in this post.
This Shopify vs WordPress comparison is going to focus on the self-hosted version of WordPress — the idea behind this is to let readers evaluate how an ‘all-in-one’ hosted solution (Shopify) compares to an open-source platform requiring more hands-on configuration (WordPress). It also reflects the fact that most professional WordPress e-commerce setups involve the self-hosted version.
What sort of users are Shopify and WordPress aimed at?
It’s probably fair to say Shopify’s main audience is comprised of users who are lacking two things:
web development skills
a budget to hire somebody to build their store.
Those types of users often turn to Shopify precisely because the platform allows you to create an online store without coding, and because using it doesn’t require a big upfront investment.
WordPress, by contrast, caters for a wider group of users:
web design novices
users with web development skills
users with the budget to hire a developer.
Like Shopify, WordPress is suitable for users who are relatively new to web design, and not particularly tech-savvy — it is certainly possible to create and maintain a WordPress site without needing any coding skills, particularly if you’re happy to use a ‘visual editor’ interface for WordPress like Divi. Users who don’t want to go near any HTML or CSS can avoid doing so with WordPress.
But I’d argue however that in most cases, more configuration of WordPress is needed before you can publish a website — and that depending on what you want to do, setting up a WordPress site can involve a steeper learning curve than building a Shopify store.
The second audience that WordPress caters for is users who have a lot of web development experience: they’ll be fine using WordPress to create the site they need.
And the third audience is users with a large budget — this cash can be used to hire a WordPress development team to build an entirely ‘bespoke’ website that runs on super-fast servers.
The word ‘bespoke’ is important here, because it underlines a key difference between WordPress and Shopify — that although it’s possible to modify Shopify in a lot of ways (through coding or the addition of apps), there are more limits to what you can do, and you are always going to have to host your site on Shopify’s servers.
How many people use WordPress and Shopify?
When choosing a website building solution, it’s really important to get a sense of how many people use it to create their sites or online stores.
This is because generally speaking, if a particular platform has a large userbase, you will find that there are far more support options, resources and apps / plugins available for it online. There will also be a smaller chance of the platform ‘disappearing’ and taking your website with it!
The latter issue is particularly important for users who are considering using a fully hosted solution like Shopify – such companies can and do encounter financial difficulties, and can close product lines as a result (the disappearance of Magento Go is a well-known example of this).
A large userbase minimizes the risk of this.
The good news is that WordPress and Shopify both enjoy a lot of popularity and have large userbases. Depending on who you believe on the internet, there are 75-90 million self-hosted WordPress sites in existence; and according to Builtwith.com, Shopify powers around 2.6 million stores.
Given these numbers, WordPress is technically the safer bet in the longevity stakes, but Shopify is one of the most popular products of its kind and it is unlikely that it is going anywhere anytime soon.
This means that you can have confidence in building an online presence for your business using either Shopify or WordPress.
Pricing: how much does it cost to use Shopify and WordPress?
Shopify provides five pricing plans:
Lite: $9 per month.
Basic: $29 per month.
Shopify: $79 per month.
Advanced: $299 per month.
Plus: negotiable, but typically around $2000 per month.
There is also a free Shopify trial available, which lasts for 14 days. You can check this free trial out here.
As you might expect, the features you get access to on each Shopify plan vary according to the one you’re on, but a few key differences are as follows:
The ‘Lite’ plan allows you to embed products and product catalogues on an existing site (via a Shopify ‘buy button’), or sell via Facebook, but you don’t get a standalone, fully functional store on this plan.
Phone support is only supported on the $29 and higher plans.
The number of users who can access your account varies by plan (you get 2, 5 and 15 staff accounts on the Basic, Shopify and Advanced Shopify plans respectively).
Credit card fees and transaction fees decrease as the monthly plans become more expensive.
To get the most out of point-of-sale functionality, which lets you use Shopify to sell in physical locations, you may need to pay for a ‘Shopify POS Pro’ add-on ($89 per month).
The ‘Shopify Plus’ plan is an enterprise grade plan aimed at larger organisations, or those with more advanced requirements regarding APIs, server uptime and support.
(If you’d like a more detailed breakdown on the differences between Shopify plans, please check out our article on Shopify fees.)
It’s considerably harder to say how much a WordPress site costs to build – that’s because there are quite a lot of variables involved.
A common misconception is that WordPress is an entirely free option, but that’s not really the case. Although you can get the content management system (CMS) software for free, there are other things you’ll often need to pay for to get a WordPress-powered website off the ground, namely:
hosting — server space on which to install WordPress and store your site
a template — the design for your site
e-commerce integration — addition of tools that will let you sell products online
plugins — apps that can be added to your site to add more functionality
And of course, depending on your ambitions or technical skills, you may also need to pay for a developer to assist you with the build.
The one thing you’ll always have to pay for is WordPress hosting — without it you have nowhere to install WordPress. There are a wide range of options available on this front, but the basic choice you’ll have to make is:
whether you’d like to use a general-purpose or ‘shared hosting’ company (for example, Hostpapa) or
a ‘managed WordPress’ hosting provider (for example Kinsta or WP Engine) that specialises exclusively in WordPress hosting.
Managed WordPress hosting will usually give you a faster and more secure website, but it does come at a price.
For a small to medium-sized project it’s probably fair to say that you’d be looking at costs of between $4 for shared hosting (based on Hostpapa costs) per month, which compares favourably to the $25-30 per month cost you could expect for managed WordPress hosting (based on Kinsta or WP Engine costs).
Shared hosting can be ok for personal or small-scale projects, but business users are always much better off using with managed WordPress hosting.
With regard to the other factors, you can technically get away with using a free template, e-commerce integration, and plugins — but realistically, to get higher quality results it’s usually worth investing a bit in your site and going for paid-for options.
Below you’ll find some figures which demonstrate some costs that you might expect if you were building your site yourself:
Annual hosting, using managed WordPress hosting from Kinsta or WP Engine as an example: $300 (recurring cost)
Premium theme: $175
Annual cost for e-commerce integration (using Ecwid as an example): $180 (recurring cost)
4 paid-for plugins: $100
A WordPress maintenance service (these help you keep your site up to date with all the latest plugin, theme and WordPress updates): $50 per month.
Using this example, you’d be looking at an annual recurring cost of at least $1080 to run a professional WordPress site.
If you were to use a developer to help you configure, build and maintain your WordPress site, you’d have significantly higher costs — but in all likelihood would be getting a much better product.
In terms of how these sorts of costs compare to using Shopify, again we’re looking at a ‘how long is a piece of string’ scenario. But let’s try to come up with some examples!
At the lower end of the pricing scale, assuming you’re using the Shopify $29 ‘Basic plan’ plus one $10-per-month app, you’d be talking about a $468 annual commitment.
At the higher end of things, if you were on the Shopify $299-per-month plan, and using three $10 per month apps, you could end up spending $3948 per year on your site.
If your needs are simple then, using Shopify can actually work out cheaper than using WordPress, despite it being a ‘paid-for’ option and WordPress being an open source one. But equally, it can work out a lot more expensive — it really depends on how you set both platforms up!
The only way to work out which is more economical for you in the long run is to make a clear list of all your requirements and price them up for each platform as best as you can.
Pricing, however, should not be the only thing you think about in your WordPress vs Shopify decision-making process. It’s just as important — if not more important — to look at functionality and features.
Let’s do that now, starting with the visual aspect of things.
Quantity and quality
A key concern of anyone building an online store is: how professional will my site look?
Well, Shopify offers a classy set of templates – there are 9 free ones, and 72 paid-for ones available on the Shopify theme store (most of which come in 2 or 3 variants, making the numbers of templates available larger than the above figures suggest).
All these templates are professionally designed and easily edited. Importantly, they’re also responsive, which means they’ll automatically adjust themselves to display nicely on any type of device – mobile, tablet, desktop etc.
With these templates, you can be pretty confident of solid support (either from Shopify in the case of the free templates, or a Shopify-approved supplier in the case of the paid-for ones).
If that range of templates isn’t enough, you can buy other ones from third-party Shopify theme designers — popular options on this front include Shoptimized and Theme Forest.
However, the number of Shopify templates available pales in comparison to the huge number of templates available for WordPress.
Although it’s hard to put a precise figure on the number of WordPress themes in existence, we can confidently talk about thousands, both free and paid-for.
(You can buy WordPress templates from the official WordPress theme directory, or third-party stores like Template Monster).
Because Shopify is designed very much with non-technical users in mind, it’s probably fair to say that the Shopify templates are a little bit easier to customise, but tweaking a well-constructed WordPress template shouldn’t involve that much of a learning curve.
For me, WordPress is ultimately the winner in a template shoot-out — the sheer quantity of themes available ensures most users will have plenty of high quality options to choose from.
This wide choice does present a couple of downsides however:
- it will be harder to choose a template
- you need to ensure that you choose a ‘safe’ one.
Getting a ‘safe’ template means sourcing it from a reputable source — some WordPress templates contain malicious code which can compromise the security of your site.
This is not something you really need to worry about at all with Shopify templates, so long as you buy your template from the official Shopify theme store.
(If buying a Shopify template elsewhere, the health warning about malicious code applies here too of course).
Behaviour / performance on mobile
As discussed above, all officially-supported Shopify templates are responsive, meaning that they will all adjust themselves automatically so that they display correctly on any device.
In this day and age, it isn’t at all hard to locate a responsive WordPress template, but you will need to double check its suitability across devices before installing it: there are still a number of templates kicking around which aren’t suitable for all devices.
You can also use Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) on both Shopify and WordPress. AMP is a Google-backed project which drastically speeds up the loading of your pages on mobile devices by stripping out certain bits of code; using it gives your content a speed bump and can improve its visibility in search results.
To get AMP functionality working on both platforms though, you’ll need to install a third-party app (Shopify) or plugin (WordPress). With Shopify, this means installing something like Fire Amp; various plugin options exist for WordPress.
One nice aspect of using a Shopify AMP app like RocketAmp is that you can be confident that it will display all your content in AMP format when necessary – i.e., not just static pages and blog posts but product pages too.
With WordPress, whether or not you can get product pages to display in AMP format will depend on the both the e-commerce and AMP plugins used.
Now: let’s take a look at ease of use.
Trying Shopify and WordPress out for free
You can try both Shopify and WordPress for free — this is a great way to see which platform works out best for you.
Shopify offers a 14-day free trial, which you can access using this link.
With WordPress, you can download the CMS for free (but remember you’ll need somewhere to host it.
Interface and ease of use
The basic layouts of the Shopify and WordPress interfaces are similar enough, in that the left-hand side of the screen is used to host a menu from which you can select pieces of content to edit or settings to tweak. Shopify’s is arguably slightly more contemporary and ‘clean’ in appearance.
Both platforms also take a similar approach when it comes to editing and publishing content – you locate your content and edit it in the back end; you can then preview or publish it.
This differs from the approach taken by some other platforms – notably Squarespace – which display a more ‘instant’ or real-time view of your edits (this is because such platforms allow you to work ‘on page’, with your changes being displayed in situ and in real time).
However, you can use visual editor plugins and apps in WordPress and Shopify respectively to create a similar ‘drag and drop,’ real-time editing interface; this may appeal to people who are relatively new to web design.
The thing to watch out for here though is ‘bloat’ — some of these visual editors can slow down your website by adding unnecessary or badly-written code to proceedings. This in turn can have a negative impact on SEO and usability.
Shopify’s interface is very intuitive for anyone interested in building and managing an online store – and this shouldn’t come as a surprise, because the platform has been designed with that purpose entirely in mind. You can manage products, collections and sales channels with ease.
It’s hard to make a direct comparison with WordPress in this front, because in order to sell products, you will need to make use of a third party plugin such as Ecwid, WooCommerce, Easy Digital Downloads or WP E-Commerce.
We’ll discuss these in more depth later on in the review. But first, a look at content management.
Content management in Shopify and WordPress
When it comes to management of static pages and posts, I’d argue that WordPress beats Shopify fairly comprehensively.
First, and very importantly, WordPress comes with content versioning — every single version of a page or post can be stored on the system and you can roll back to any of them at any point. Shopify doesn’t let you do this (unless you’re happy to pay for a third-party archiving / backup tool like Rewind).
Second, WordPress allows you to use categories and tags in a much more flexible way than Shopify (you can also create your own custom content types in WordPress). This allows you to present your site content in more relevant ways to users, who can also filter it more easily to meet their needs.
And third, WordPress’ recent introduction of a new ‘block-based’ editor, Gutenburg, gives you a bit more flexibility over how you lay out pages than Shopify’s slightly-dated ‘WYSIWG’ editor.
If you’d like to avail of some of this kind of drag-and-drop style content editing in Shopify, you’ll currently need to invest in a third-party app. Examples include Buildify ($12.99 per month) and DragDropr ($19.99 per month).
However, Shopify recently announced that the new version of the platform — “Online Store 2.0” — will feature a drag and drop system for editing content. This should arrive at some point in August 2021, and looks set to make content manipulation a lot more straightforward.
When it comes to content management of the e-commerce side of things, again it’s quite hard to make a direct comparison between Shopify and WordPress.
This is because e-commerce is not available ‘out of the box’ with WordPress, so how the two platforms stack up against each other in this regard will depend on the e-commerce app you choose to power WordPress (more on this decision shortly).
What it is possible to say is that managing products and collections is extremely straightforward in Shopify. Because it’s a dedicated e-commerce application, a lot of thought has been put into this, and it shows.
And worth a particular mention are Shopify’s ‘automated collections’ – these allow you to use rules (based on things like product title, price, tag etc.) to create collections. This can save HOURS of time (or days if we’re talking about a large store).
Download our free e-commerce e-kit
For a limited time, we’re offering our readers some excellent free tools. Sign up free to immediately receive:
- our online store comparison chart
- a downloadable cheatsheet on how to create an online store
- our SEO, blogging and ‘how to start a business’ cheatsheets
- extended free trials and discount codes for essential business apps
- our latest tips on e-commerce and growing a business
View privacy notice.
Of the two products under discussion, WordPress is definitely the more flexible of the two. It’s been around longer and is much more widely used as a platform than Shopify, meaning that the number of templates, plugins and integrations for the platform dwarf what’s available for Shopify.
Additionally, the open source nature of the platform and the fact that you have total control over your own hosting means that WordPress can be manipulated to create bespoke websites more easily than Shopify.
That said, Shopify’s app store contains an impressive number of apps (there are over 6,600 available) which allow you to significantly extend the functionality of a site built on the platform.
You also get access to your store’s CSS and HTML on all $29+ Shopify plans. For most users, this will be more than enough flexibility; and for more advanced or corporate level users, it’s likely that the enterprise-grade Shopify Plus plans will meet their requirements.
Now, let’s drill down into e-commerce functionality in Shopify and WordPress.
Shopify video review
Full Shopify review
E-commerce functionality in Shopify and WordPress
Many readers of this comparison review will be looking specifically at how WordPress and Shopify compare in the e-commerce functionality department.
And frustratingly, it’s difficult to come up with definitive advice on this. This is because – and as discussed earlier – WordPress doesn’t have an e-commerce tool built-in. You have to use a third-party option.
You could argue that this gives Shopify an immediate advantage when it comes to e-commerce, because it’s a dedicated online store builder, and accordingly pretty much everything you need to get your store up and running is provided out of the box.
For a full overview of all the e-commerce functionality you get with Shopify, I’d suggest reading our full Shopify review.
But for the purposes of this comparison, I’ll just say that Shopify is one of the most solid, fully-specced options out there for building an online store.
The key benefits of using Shopify for e-commerce are that
- the dropshipping options are extensive
- the built-in point-of-sale features (which let you sell products in physical locations) are extremely strong
- the automatic tax calculation features are a huge time saver for users in the US, EU and Canada
- it’s very easy to set up an online store with the platform.
On the downside:
if you intend to sell products that come with a lot of options, Shopify is not as flexible as it could be — although you can sell an unlimited number of products, each can only come in 100 variants and with a maximum 3 options (that said, apps do exist which remove these limits)
capturing custom data via non-standard fields (for inscriptions, messages etc.) is not terribly straightforward
quite often in Shopify, you have to buy a third party app to get the functionality you need.
Whilst Shopify is definitely the better ‘all-in-one’ e-ccomerce option, the e-commerce options are ultimately more extensive with WordPress, because you have much greater choice regarding the exact technical solution used for online selling.
To add e-commerce to a WordPress site, you need to use a third-party plugin. Some of the best known include:
Easy Digital Downloads
Unfortunately, with the exception of Ecwid, we don’t have reviews of all these products available just yet. So, if you’re going down the WordPress route, it will be a case of trying to do your own research online to work out which is the best fit for you.
To help you with this though, here are a few key questions to consider during this process:
Is the pricing of this solution competitive?
Is it easy to use?
What payment gateways can I use with it?
How many product variants and options can I use?
What are the SEO features like?
- Is it good for dropshipping?
Does it facilitate point-of-sale transactions?
Does it facilitate selling in multiple currencies?
Does it facilitate AMP on product pages?
Is there a mobile app available for it?
For the record, Shopify scores highly on all these fronts – with the exception of product variants and options (which as discussed above are a bit limited, although you can use an app from Shopify’s app store to increase flexibility on this front).
Shopify’s multi-currency selling features could be a bit easier to set up — unless you’re on a Shopify Plus plan, you have to add a multi-currency app and/or a geolocation app to facilitate this.
Of course, there’s always the option of using Shopify as your e-commerce solution for WordPress – its $9 per month ‘Lite’ plan allows you to embed products and a simple shopping cart system on an existing WordPress site.
The Shopify dropshipping starter kit
If you’re interested in dropshipping, I’d recommend that you take a look at Shopify’s dropshipping starter kit — with this, you get 14 days of free access to Shopify plus lots of bundled resources and tools that show you how to launch a successful dropshipping Shopify store.
You can access the starter kit here.
SEO in WordPress and Shopify
Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) is vital to the performance of any website.
Without good visibility in search results, you can’t really expect much in the way of traffic or sales. Yes, you can use Adwords to drive traffic to your site, but a decent placement in organic search results is in most cases vital to the long-term success of an online business.
If we’re talking about general content (static pages and posts), I’d argue that WordPress is definitely the winner in the SEO department in a WordPress vs Shopify shootout.
For a start, WordPress allows you to install Yoast, one of the best SEO tools available. This tool analyses your content in some depth from an SEO perspective, and outputs a list of key steps you can take to improve the quality of your pages and posts.
On top of that, it allows you to create SEO-friendly sitemaps and set canonical URLs to avoid duplicate content (something Google very much approves of).
WordPress is also better for creating clean URLs (short, simple URL structures that Google likes).
And because a WordPress site can be hosted on any server, you can choose a super-fast one; you aren’t restricted to the shared hosting on Shopify (which, whilst generally acceptable from a speed point of view, is not necessarily the fastest available). ‘Page speed’ is important because it’s a ranking signal, with faster-loading sites given preference in search results.
To get a decent page speed in WordPress, you will definitely need to go for a professional setup like Kinsta or WP Engine; cheap shared hosting services don’t tend to deliver super-fast loading times.
How good the e-commerce SEO side of things is on WordPress, however, depends very much on your chosen e-commerce solution. When you’re deciding which solution to go for, some key things to watch out for are:
How editable the titles, meta descriptions and alt text are on your product pages
How ‘clean’ you can make the product page URLs
How fast your product pages load
Whether or not you can use AMP to display products
You should ensure that whichever plugin you use to handle e-commerce on your WordPress site is robust with regard to all of these.
Turning to Shopify, the SEO features are generally strong. Using SSL is straightforward; editing alt tags and meta descriptions is a simple process; you have full control over robots.txt; XML sitemaps are created for you; 301 redirects are automatically created / suggested every time you change a page name…all really good stuff. There’s also a new site speed report available from Shopify that helps you improve your pagespeed, which can be beneficial from an SEO point of view.
Importantly, Shopify sites can be constructed so that they meet Google’s new ‘Core Web Vitals‘ requirements — this is not the case with a lot of similar hosted website building tools. Core Web Vitals are a set of targets relating to the speed, responsiveness and visual stability of a website; and sites that meet them can receive preferential treatment in Google search results.
And, although you can’t use Yoast on Shopify sites, there are quite a lot of SEO apps for the platform available that perform a similar function.
My main reservation regarding Shopify SEO is that you can’t get the URLs quite as ‘clean’ as you might like.
This is because the platform adds prefixes to them, i.e.,
/pages/ before pages
/posts/ before posts
/products/ before products
and as mentioned above, Google prefers a more simple URL structure.
It’s not ideal, but it’s not a showstopper either, and Shopify stores are perfectly capable of ranking well despite this.
Note: for more in-depth information on SEO, I recommend reading our Shopify SEO tips for Shopify-specific advice, or our general tips on how to increase your site’s visibility.
Blogging in WordPress and Shopify
Blogging is an often overlooked — but vitally important — aspect of running an online store.
This is because blogging is absolutely essential to successful inbound marketing – a sales strategy where you use quality blog posts to drive traffic to your site, which in turn generate purchases made by engaged readers.
Both WordPress and Shopify provide blogging functionality, with WordPress’ being significantly better.
This is because WordPress:
allows you to keep an archive of changes to existing posts
allows you to use categories and tags in blog posts (Shopify just permits use of tags)
permits the creation of posts with clean URLs (as discussed above, Shopify prefixes blog posts with ‘/posts/’ which isn’t as clean as we might like and thus not 100% ideal from an SEO point of view).
WordPress’ edge in this area isn’t surprising really, as the platform has a long history as a professional blogging solution.
Need help with WordPress?
If you’re thinking about using WordPress to create a website, we can either assist you with your build or put you in touch with best-in-class specialists. Don’t hesitate to get in touch for more information on how we can get your WordPress project off the ground in a professional, cost-effective way.
Contact us now.
A core part of running an online business is email marketing — creating e-newsletters and sending them to your mailing list is vital to generating sales.
To this end, Shopify have recently introduced a new feature, ‘Shopify Email,’ which allows you to perform email marketing directly within the Shopify interface.
As things stand, this is a pretty basic email marketing tool, which simply allows you to send branded e-newsletters; in other words, don’t expect Mailchimp or Getresponse style automation features just yet.
But it will definitely come in handy for some merchants, particularly those who like to manage all aspects of their online business in one place.
The best thing about the new Shopify Email feature is its price. You can send up to 2500 emails for free as part of your Shopify plan, and if you go over that limit, you can expect to pay an additional $1 for every 1,000 emails you send.
This makes the pricing extremely reasonable by comparison to a lot of standalone email marketing tools; however, you will need to bear in mind that a dedicated email marketing solution will currently provide you with a LOT more functionality.
As for WordPress, you won’t find any built-in email marketing tools available for the platform at the moment. But it’s easy to connect any of the major email marketing solutions to it, via a variety of plugins (Gravity Forms is an excellent plugin for doing this).
A key alternative to WordPress and Shopify — Squarespace
WordPress and Shopify are two of the best-known website builders, but there are alternatives available.
A competing product worth investigating is Squarespace. This platform comes with a wide range of templates, email marketing tools, excellent blogging and gallery features and the ability to host a pay-to-access members’ area.
Squarespace’s e-commerce features are not quite as advanced as Shopify’s (the main omissions are the ability to sell in multiple currencies and dropshipping functionality) but they are very easy to use.
You can get 10% off any Squarespace plan by clicking this link and entering the STYLEFACTORY10 code if you upgrade to paid plan.
Site maintenance and security
Other than keeping content and products up to date, Shopify users don’t have to worry too much about site maintenance. All the technical aspects of running a website (software updates, hosting, server configuration etc.) are taken care of by the company.
With WordPress, it’s a completely different story: you are in charge of ensuring that
you’re using the most up-to-date version of WordPress
your server has been configured correctly
your plugins and themes are all up to date.
Although some of this can be handled automatically, it’s still something you need to keep an eye on — if you end up with an out-of-date version of the WordPress software or a plugin, your site is much more vulnerable to being hacked into.
With hosted solutions like Shopify, the bulk of the responsibility for security lies with the companies who provide them.
In other words, if you’re a Shopify user, it’s in large part Shopify’s responsibility to ensure that the system doesn’t get compromised, your site doesn’t get hacked and backups of your data are made.
You obviously have a responsibility to create strong passwords and not share them with others, but the technical side of security is essentially Shopify’s problem.
With WordPress, if you’re not paying a developer or agency to maintain your site, then the ultimate responsibility for security belongs to the end user: you!
This means it’s your responsibility to ensure that your version of WordPress is up to date, along with any plugins or themes you are using. Failure to keep on top of this aspect of site maintenance can make a WordPress site very vulnerable to being hacked (which can have very serious implications if you are operating in the e-commerce sphere).
You’ve also got to be aware that some WordPress themes and plugins can contain malicious code which can compromise the security of your site, so you need to be very careful about which ones you install.
And finally, you’ve got to ensure that you’re regularly backing up your site (helpfully, various plugins are available to help automate this process for you).
Support with WordPress maintenance and security
If you are thinking about going down the WordPress route and want to make sure your site is set up correctly, or have an existing WordPress site that you’d like to perform a security audit on, do get in touch.
We partner with some excellent developers who can ensure your site is extremely robust from a security point of view. You can contact us about this here.
All that said, a well-constructed, well-maintained WordPress site will be extremely secure.
However, I think it’s fair to say that Shopify sites are probably less vulnerable than WordPress ones, simply because there’s less scope for users to neglect security on their site or add dodgy code to it.
And if something does go wrong, then Shopify’s team have a responsibility to help resolve the problem.
Finally, a quick note about SSL: a free SSL certificate is provided with all Shopify sites, meaning that your visitors are browsing your site on a secure connection. You can of course install SSL certificates on WordPress sites too — but again, it’s your responsibility to sort that out.
Control over your content
If you use WordPress, what you put on your site is, generally speaking, entirely up to you. If you use Shopify, you’ll need to be aware that Shopify can remove content (or even your whole site) if it conflicts with their acceptable use policies.
Admittedly, a company that you’ve paid to host your WordPress site with could also take your site down if it didn’t like what you were publishing — but in that scenario, you would have more options: you could move to a more liberal hosting provider, for example.
On a related note, it’s easier to get content out of WordPress than it is from Shopify, thanks to built-in export tools that facilitate the export and backup of content.
In Shopify, although you can export your product data easily (to CSV format), you can’t migrate static pages and blog posts – you have to manually copy and paste these somewhere…which feels rather antiquated.
(That said, there are paid-for apps available from Shopify’s app store which do provide workarounds).
WordPress ultimately gives users more control over their content than Shopify, and depending on the nature and size of your site, this issue should not be overlooked.
GDPR compliance in Shopify and WordPress
I’m not a legal professional, so please note that the below comments on the topic of GDPR do not constitute legal advice — they just reflect my take on the situation regarding GDPR for website owners.
As a result of the GDPR laws introduced in May 2018, building a website now involves meeting a lot of new legal requirements regarding data protection and privacy for EU visitors to it.
There are quite a lot of these requirements to be met — so it’s a good idea to speak to a lawyer regarding what to do — however, for me there are probably four particularly important boxes for website owners to tick off:
Always process and store data securely
Provide appropriate website terms and conditions, privacy policies and cookie notices
Get explicit consent from people signing up to mailing lists via your website that it is okay to send them e-newsletters
Provide a means to opt in or revoke consent to use of non-essential cookies on a website (with that consent being logged).
Shopify lets you the meet the first three requirements easily enough. Because it is a hosted, paid-for solution, the secure data processing and capture aspect seems to be Shopify’s responsibility (although as a business owner, you still have an obligation to ensure that any data captured via Shopify is done so legally).
Adding privacy and cookie policies to a Shopify site is straightforward too, but bear in mind that you will need to invest some time and money writing GDPR-kosher notices. Similarly, you’ll have to spend a bit of time ensuring that you build data capture forms that are GDPR compliant.
For the fourth requirement, cookie consent, Shopify isn’t so great. It doesn’t come with a GDPR compliant cookie notice generator, so you will invariably need to invest in a suitable app from Shopify’s app store or use a third-party tool like CookieYes to create a cookie banner.
In my view, cookie consent tools should be part of a core feature set for a hosted solution, and it would be good if Shopify could follow the example of rival BigCommerce and introduce this functionality out of the box soon.
With WordPress, although there are lots of plugins for capturing and storing data in a GDPR compliant way available, it’s entirely your job to choose the right ones and make sure your WordPress site is not doing anything naughty.
Ultimately, although Shopify is at pains to say that GDPR compliance is fundamentally the customer’s responsibility, it’s probably fair to say that Shopify takes on some responsibility for ensuring GDPR compliance, at least in the data capture and processing area.
With WordPress, you are a bit more on your own — but that said, because of the huge WordPress user base, there are lots of resources available online to help you build a WordPress site that is compliant.
Multilingual / multiple sites
Many businesses require multiple versions of their website — in different languages, or for different territories (or both).
WordPress is arguably a better solution than Shopify for this sort of thing: you can use either the WordPress Multilingual plugin or the WordPress Multisite version of WordPress to create multiple versions of a website in multiple languages. And some of the e-commerce plugins for WordPress (notably Ecwid and Woocommerce) can be configured to support multiple languages.
That said, Shopify lets you sell in multiple languages too.
However, limits apply to the number of different language sites you can create with Shopify — on the ‘Basic Shopify’, ‘Shopify’ and ‘Advanced Shopify’ plans, you are restricted to displaying your store in 5 languages. (Upgrading to Shopify Plus enables you to create 20 foreign-language versions of it).
When you enable multi-language selling in Shopify, a language ‘folder’ is added to your domain. So you’ll end up with www.myshop.com/fr/, www.myshop.com/de/ etc. If you prefer you can also host translated stores on country-level domains — myshop.fr, myshop.ie etc.
Ultimately the multi-lingual functionality in Shopify will be fine for a lot of merchants, but users with advanced requirements on this front will probably be better off with WordPress.
If you’re somebody who likes to edit your website on the move, then you will pleased to learn that this is very doable with both Shopify and WordPress (and on both iOS and Android).
The Shopify app is more focussed on e-commerce than the WordPress one, allowing you to manage your products and follow up with customers; by contrast the WordPress app is more focussed on content management, allowing you to create and edit pages and posts.
Whether or not you can manage the e-commerce side of things on your phone for your WordPress-based store will depend on whether the e-commerce plugin you’ve used to build it provides an app for this purpose (for the record though, Ecwid and WooCommerce both do).
It’s worth noting that in addition to the main Shopify app, there are a few others which might come in handy — a ‘point of sale’ app for merchants who sell in physical locations, along with a logo maker, a business card maker and a messaging app.
Support is an area where I think it’s fair to say that Shopify beats WordPress fairly comprehensively, particularly if you are building your site yourself.
When you buy a Shopify plan, you get support bundled with it. Live chat, email and phone support are included on all plans with the exception of the ‘Lite’ one (which limits support to live chat and email).
This means if something goes badly wrong with your store, there is somebody you can turn to.
(This is a particularly important thing to bear in mind if you’re building a site for somebody else. When you hand a Shopify site over to a client, so long as you’ve set things up right, you shouldn’t have to worry about providing ongoing support to them – that’s Shopify’s job).
It’s a different story with WordPress: if you’re building your website yourself with the platform and run into difficulties, it’s not obvious where to turn to.
You may find yourself sourcing help from a variety of locations: for example, the WordPress forums, a hosting company, a plugin provider, a friend who knows a thing or two about WordPress etc.
In my view, to end up with adequate support for a WordPress site, you ideally need to work with a WordPress designer or an agency specialising in WordPress development/maintenance and take out a support contract with them.
This does bring with it an additional cost, but on the plus side, it can give you a level of support that you are unlikely to ever receive from Shopify (face-to-face meetings, Zoom calls, a more personal connection etc.).
(Do contact us if this is of interest — we partner with some excellent WordPress agencies who specialise in keeping WordPress sites secure and up to date).
Shopify vs WordPress: the verdict
Ultimately, WordPress is unquestionably a better-established and more flexible platform than Shopify. It’s got a significantly bigger user base and a much greater selection of themes and apps to choose from; given the right skills and resources, you can basically build any sort of website you like with WordPress. That is not to say, however, that it’s right for every user— there are many times when Shopify will be the better choice, particularly for startups on a low budget or those lacking web design skills.
If content production and management is a key concern for you – for example, if you wanted to run a sophisticated magazine site with a store on the side – then there is a LOT to be said for going the WordPress route. Its blogging functionality, content archiving and content management system are all significantly more flexible and sophisticated than Shopify’s offerings in these areas.
It’s fair to say that WordPress has an edge in the SEO department too: the fact that you can use Yoast, choose your own hosting and create cleaner URLs for your content gives it a bit of an edge over Shopify.
But in many contexts, Shopify will simply meet the needs of e-commerce users better — particularly those without technical skills. That’s because it’s a tool that has been designed specifically to make building an online store straightforward, and it does an admirably good job of this.
Additionally, if you use Shopify, you’ll get support; relative peace of mind around security; and you won’t have to worry about the technical aspects of maintaining your website.
Finally, if you are new to the world of website building and absolutely determined to build your own online store, then I’d argue that Shopify is the easier, safer and quicker bet. There is a steeper learning curve involved with WordPress, and more configuration to do (especially on an e-commerce site).
If you have a decent budget and a good developer though, you’ll usually find that you get something better with WordPress; a site that is more ‘bespoke’ in nature and more precisely tuned to your needs.
Ultimately though, if you are intent on going the ‘do-it-yourself’ route, my hunch is that you’d probably get better results with Shopify.
Free downloads and trials
If you are interested in using Shopify, you can get a free trial here
or check the latest pricing here.
If you are interested in using WordPress, you can download it free here.
And don’t forget that we build both Shopify and WordPress sites — do feel free to contact us today to discuss your requirements!
Reasons to use Shopify over WordPress
Shopify is easier to set up and use than WordPress — you shouldn’t face much of a learning curve.
A lot of features which you have to source separately in WordPress are available ‘out of the box’ if you’re using Shopify – notably themes, e-commerce features and payment gateway integration.
Hosting is included with the product (with WordPress, you have to sort this out separately).
With Shopify, you don’t have to worry about the technical aspects of maintaining your site; if you use WordPress, you need to keep on top of this or your site will become vulnerable to being hacked.
Shopify is largely responsible for the security of your website – if you use WordPress, security depends on how diligent you are in updating your software and theme.
24/7 support is available for Shopify (via email, phone and live chat). By contrast, whether or not you can avail of support for a WordPress site depends largely on whether you have commissioned somebody to provide it.
Shopify is arguably a better option than WordPress for users who require an elegant but simple website delivered quickly.
GDPR compliance is arguably a bit easier with Shopify, as the company take on some responsibility for it.
You can easily try out the product for free — with WordPress, you’ll need to arrange hosting and download/install software if you want to try it out.
Reasons to use WordPress over Shopify
The software is open source and can be downloaded, in its entirety, for free.
You can build any type of site with WordPress; it’s a much more flexible platform than Shopify.
A much wider range of templates is available in WordPress than in Shopify.
WordPress comes with a more sophisticated content management system which, unlike Shopify, facilitates content versioning and archiving.
A vast range of plugins — paid-for and free — is available to help you add functionality to your WordPress website. Although you can also add functionality to Shopify sites via apps, there is a more limited range to choose from.
You have a greater range of options when it comes to e-commerce in WordPress than in Shopify.
The number of variants and product options you can use (without an app) in Shopify is a bit limited – many of the WordPress e-commerce plugins give you more flexibility on that front.
SEO features in WordPress are better than the Shopify
On a WordPress site, you have more control over your content — with Shopify, you’ll have to adhere to an ‘acceptable use’ policy and you may have trouble exporting some of your site content (especially where pages and posts are concerned).
You can export pages and posts more easily in WordPress.
WordPress is a better option than Shopify for creating multilingual or ‘multisite’ projects.
The product has a longer history and a significantly bigger user base than Shopify.
Alternatives to Shopify and WordPress
Shopify and WordPress are by no means the only options at your disposal when it comes to building a website or online store: there are a very large number of alternative solutions available.
On the self-hosted front, the best-known alternatives are probably Joomla and Drupal: very flexible platforms that host millions of sites worldwide.
With regard to hosted solutions, you might want to check out Squarespace or Wix, or indeed the hosted version of WordPress.
These are probably more geared towards ‘general use’ websites rather than e-commerce sites — a more dedicated hosted e-commerce solution worth investigating as an alternative to Shopify is BigCommerce, a very well-specced e-commerce tool that comes with some really great built-in functionality. Check out our BigCommerce vs Shopify post for more details on how it stacks up against Shopify.
To find out more about all these ‘hosted’ solutions, you might want to check out our Wix vs Shopify comparison, our Wix review, our Squarespace review, our Wix vs WordPress comparison and our BigCommerce review.
And finally, you always have the option of selling on Amazon. Our Shopify versus Amazon shootout discusses the pros and cons of using Amazon rather than an online store builder like Shopify as an e-commerce solution.
Got any thoughts on Shopify vs WordPress?
Have you any thoughts or queries on Shopify vs WordPress? Please let us know in the comments below. We read all questions and do our best to answer them.
Shopify vs Squarespace
WordPress vs Squarespace
Shopify Youtube video review
Note: this article is now available in French. Check out our ‘Shopify ou WordPress‘ comparison on the new Style Factory France website.