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Shopify vs WordPress: Which Is Better For Building Your Online Store?

ShShopify vs WordPress: Which Is Better For Building Your Online Store? This is a question a lot of businesses 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 ecommerce site.

By the end of this comparison, you should have a much better idea of which platform will serve your business’ needs best (and what the best alternatives to either platform are).

Let’s get started, with a key question…

What’s the Difference between Shopify and WordPress?

Shopify is what’s known as a ‘website builder’. So to understand what Shopify is, we first need to know what a website builder is.

A website builder is an online tool that helps people with limited or no technical knowledge build their very own website. They then pay a small fee each month to the website builder platform in order to keep their site live.

Shopify is built specifically for ecommerce, so it’s only ever used for creating online stores (as opposed to blogs or online résumés).

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 (‘themes’) 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 don’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

Hosted WordPress — available at — is, like Shopify, a software as a service (SaaS) tool.

For a monthly fee (ranging from $4 to $45) you get access to a broad range of features which enable you to build and maintain a simple blog, website or ecommerce site.

Self-hosted WordPress

Self-hosted WordPress is a piece of software that you download from 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 a huge 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 just about any web design project.

You can install WordPress on your server for free, but there are hosting costs, domain registration charges and potential development costs to consider.

(I’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 ecommerce 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, significantly, 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 can be 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.

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 usually 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, apps and 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 happening.

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 internet statistics company, Shopify powers around 3.7 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 highly unlikely that it is going to disappear anytime soon.

This means that you can have confidence in building an online presence for your business using either Shopify or WordPress.

Now, let’s take a look at pricing.

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