When I work with new clients' websites, the top question I always get is whether WordPress or Shopify is the right platform. Both are two of the most popular and robust players in the industry, each with millions of users.
That being said….nine times out of ten, I do not recommend working with either WordPress or Shopify. Why? Because both platforms fall short in their ease of use, design customization and flexibility, content management, and maintenance.
Of course, there is no single solution that fits all when it comes to choosing a web platform. It always comes down to the features and functionality that is needed.
What do I recommend instead? Webflow—a newer, modern platform. You can read more about Webflow here. But for now, let's get into why I do not recommend WordPress or Shopify.
WordPress and Shopify are template-based website builders, meaning available templates restrict design customizability. In a template, there are pre-designed visual styles and layouts, allowing you to select different configurations for your site. Sure, you can change color schemes, fonts, and arrange content blocks, but that's about it. You're locked into the design limitations that were set by the template's creator.
Templates boast simplicity and ease of use but are challenging if you want to customize everything because doing so could compromise your site. Issues pile up quickly if you don't know what you're doing. You can still achieve high levels of customization, but that's probably because you have coding experience. Most of us aren't developers, so unless you hire one, you're forced to stick within the template boundaries.
Difficulties in customization become apparent when designing responsively for different screens and devices. Shopify falls extremely short as they merely display your site on mobile, rather than letting you customize it, let alone for different screens. Again, you have to settle for the responsive layout behavior as determined by the template's creator.
It's also common among Shopify customers to want to customize the look and flow of their checkout. This is only possible in the Shopify Plus membership, which can be $2,000 a month! More on costs in a later section.
Content management is Cumbersome
Content management is critical when adding and maintaining website content. User-friendliness and experience play a significant role as well, an area that WordPress and Shopify have never excelled in.
The CMS in WordPress and Shopify are defined by templates of course—you have to tailor your content to fit those templates. The process of managing this content (blog posts, products, team sections, etc.) requires various steps or pages to go through, from logging in to a host or cPanel, to navigating through a dashboard, to getting into your CMS collection.
It's not the most straightforward experience. Shopify is more streamlined to navigate, but WordPress is notorious for having a convoluted system.
Plugins Are a Nightmare to Maintain
The single biggest reason why I do not recommend WordPress or Shopify is due to their reliance on third-party plugins. Plugins are great add-ons that extend the functionality of WordPress and Shopify sites but can have several negative impacts on your website.
Because WordPress is an open-source platform, the code and its app developers are free to design and contribute their projects to the community. As a WordPress user, you integrate with several apps with different functions; it's a fact of life.
The concern is, you don't know what kind of code has gone into each of those apps—if you're not a developer, how can you tell if it's clean or bloated? It's known that adding various plugins can inevitably slow down your site.
Users who suffer from site speed often end up installing yet another "speed optimization" plugin, without ever truly knowing if that has resolved the issue or not.
Third-party plugins are constantly being updated, which only exacerbates the problem. As you maintain your website, WordPress users have the daunting task of dealing with asynchronous plugin updates.
This is in addition to continually updating the WordPress installation itself!
As WordPress sites expand and become more complex, their vulnerability to cyber-attacks also increases. There are multiple levels in the WordPress system, which unfortunately equate to numerous entry points for hackers.
It is the responsibility of the site owner to purchase and correctly configure SSL security and protect all pages.
Shopify is a step up in security and maintenance because it is a closed platform and managed privately. They include SSL security but also rely heavily on plugins, which lack the ability for site owners to customize the look and feel to match their brand fully. You never know what you get with each plugin, and can result in a disjointed site experience.
WordPress users may find relief in regards to plugin management, as the Shopify updating process is better automated and managed. But adding more Shopify plugins means increasing your subscription cost.
Costs Can Add Up
WordPress can be the most economical solution, as WordPress itself is free. All you need is your domain name and you some basic hosting—which can be as low as $3/mo. Expand into WooCommerce, and your costs will increase, requiring you to pay for plugins. Need to accept PayPal? That's $79/year. What about subscriptions and Google Analytics tracking? Go ahead and add $278/year for these two.
Shopify is an attractive option at $29/mo to start. As a past Shopify user myself, I quickly found that $29 only covers the bare-bones functionality and is not enough for average stores.
You will inevitably need to add plugins, each of which will have a subscription cost attached to it. Before you know it, your monthly Shopify subscription is $200/mo.
For both platforms, let's not forget about the cost of templates. Templates range from $25 and can go as high as $400 for premium ones.
I stated in the beginning that I recommend Webflow. For reference, a basic website starts at $12/mo, with e-commerce plans starting at $42/mo. Webflow integrates with other services like Mailchimp, Facebook, Zapier, etc. too; however, these integrations come straight from the original SaaS companies themselves, rather than third-party distributors. Premium template designs are available without the need to purchase.
Ask yourself what you require and what you prioritize in your website. I'm not here to hate on WordPress and Shopify.
I have used both platforms personally and professionally, but since I discovered Webflow, I have never looked back. It has limitations as well but works perfectly for my purposes and my clients.
If you're looking for an economical way to host a website without many customizations choose WordPress.
If you have a complex e-commerce business that relies on flexible logistics and fulfillment options, Shopify wins hands down.
If you're looking for a custom, design-first, experience that's more enjoyable to maintain, Webflow will be perfect.
Want to learn more? Contact me below, and I'll help you decide on the best solution.