Need an e-commerce website a little more flexible than Shopify

If you’re presently using Shopify and starting to find the number of add-ons is starting to become unmanageable, you’re not alone. Many businesses start with Shopify (and other as-a-service platforms) when they launch. They then find the system doesn’t do exactly what they need and start looking for alternatives. In this article, we are going to explore some of the options you may wish to consider.

Why did you start with Shopify?

If you’re like most businesses, you picked Shopify because it’s easy to use and the price point means there was very little up-front cost. As software developers, we’re well aware of the attraction. We are also aware that not all businesses need all the features or benefits or are able to customize the software.

Where does Shopify become annoying?

Often where you start is far from when you end up. A low monthly cost, with minimal upfront costs other than some time needed to set things up (which is about normal for any e-commerce system). Where this catches clients is the “there is an add-on for that”, which costs another USD20 per month, then another and another. All of a sudden, you’re spending a few hundred dollars each month just to keep the lights on. Then you find something you really need, let’s say to talk to another piece of software, or customize something, you cannot, or you can, but at a cost. You start questioning your decision.

Don’t get me wrong, there is nothing wrong with this, it’s how companies make money, but it’s not exactly what you signed up for initially. You thought you were making a great decision, and you were, at the time. Your needs have changed, so your solution may need to change, and that is OK.

What alternatives are there?

First, it’s good to write down a list of what you have and what you want or need. This will help you pick the right solution, or at least start looking for the right vendor or solution. Let’s explore a few options:

  • WordPress – extremely flexible system with lots of plugins, such as WooCommerce, to do most of what you’ll be doing in Shopify. This platform is very user friendly.
  • Magento – one of the best supported 100% e-commerce solutions. Magento has a lot of functionality, but beyond the open-source version, licensing can be stiff.
  • Drupal – similar to WordPress, Drupal is very flexible. There is a lot of functionality out of the box, and plenty of plugins available to get it to bend the way you want it to.
  • OpenCart – another popular e-commerce platform. This is favoured a lot by those who are cost-conscious, as it can give them a lot of flexibility with the right developer.
  • Custom – this comes in various forms. For Bravesight, we have Pages, our CMS and integrated eCommerce Platform. It’s very flexible and intended for larger e-commerce sites with integrations to back-office systems. These options always provide vendor lock-in, but this is often not a problem as the work the vendor does with clients often requires a lot of domain knowledge and clients don’t move often (or at all). We’ve got e-commerce clients from 20 years ago, and they’ve evolved over time as we have.

We build many sites using Pages, as we focus that on larger B2B configurations where e-commerce is more about making things easier for customers to order, and to speed up order shipments. For off-the-shelf solutions, we are most familiar with WordPress and WooCommerce.

WooCommerce is a great product with plenty of add-ons available to extend its functionality quickly. Often there are annual licenses for plugins, but they minimize the amount of development needed but give more flexibility when things need to be customized to meet your exact needs.

We have seen many setups of WooCommerce. It’s usually straightforward to set up well. When we have seen Magento and Drupal e-commerce sites, they can be set up quite differently. OpenCart installs we have seen are often heavily customized and very out of date. This leaves much to be desired for the security of customer details and orders.

If you’re looking to switch your Shopify (or other e-commerce) site to WordPress, give us a call. We’ll talk to you about your options and can put together a package to meet your needs.

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