A Web Developer’s review of Shopify

A Web Developer’s review of Shopify

E-Commerce used to scare me…until now

So at the final months at my previous job, I was tasked with building an e-commerce site using OpenCart. I’m sure they won’t mind the free advertising, so check out Dental Association Gloves to see what I did. While I was first reading through the documentation, I was a little intimidated by it all. There are tax fields, supply numbers, and SKU numbers, entering all the products…needless to say there is a lot of things that go on in an e-commerce site. Once I was done with it though, I was a lot more confident in my ability to do something like this for a freelance client.

A few weeks ago, I recieved a call from a potential client (which didn’t turn out most likely due to money issues) that wanted to set up an online t-shirt e-com site. The catch was, he wanted to use Shopify. I had heard of it, but never used it so I dove in to see what it was all about by setting up a test account. Below is a short review with my brief time looking through Shopify.

No hosting for you!

The first thing that I looked for was, how do I install this on my server? Is there a one button install with my host, or am I going to have to do this the long way. After logging in to my control panel, I noticed Shopify was not in the easy install list. Damn. Ok, so I went to see how to install it on my server. That was when I got to the “Ah crap.” moment. You can’t. You want to use Shopify? You are on their machine. It also isn’t free, so I was not getting excited about using this cart. I was almost ready to recommend something else to the client, like OpenCart or Magento, but I decided to check it out some more.

Pay the poor bridge toll

The pricing isn’t all that terrible for a small online store. They have $29, $59, $99, and $179 plans which obviously add more features/amount of SKUS the higher the price goes. The most common is the Professional plan, which is the $59 price point. You get 5GB of storage, 2,500 SKU’s, unlimited bandwidth, and the transaction fee is 1% (the $29 plan is 2%). It is hard to tell if their prices are high or not without actually having a real store and using it day in and day out. What I can tell you is that ease of use of their interface justifies a lot of it.

Theming Shopify

Most of you reading this are probably curious about this part. How easy is it to theme Shopify? Easy. Even if you have never used it before, you will understand how to get in and change things, because you are able to get to all of the HTML. You can edit the stylesheet, write your own HTML and javascript…really I don’t think they could have made theming this any better. You can take a look at the image below to get an idea. The main theme template contains the header and footer, while all the other templates contain the content for each page. Which I should mention, you can have an umlimited amount of pages.

Shopify's interface

On top of being able to access all of the actual code, Shopify has created its own little programming language called Liquid. You can see it in the screenshot above. The documentation for writing it is well done, and actually writing it is not all that hard even if you have no programming skills. Which is good, because you can create a theme for a client without any back end help. Of course you could also just purchase a theme, or get a free one if you wanted to just get your store up and running.

Shipping, taxes and other important settings

I won’t go into much detail here other than to say, getting to these settings are a breeze, and actually setting them up is just as easy. You just need to know your tax rate and shipping fees. Otherstuff includes setting up a payment gateway, and possible order fullfillment. All of this is presented in an easy to understand way. I am very impressed with how Shopify has handled all of these things.

Additional features

Besides being an e-commerce cart, you also get a blog, the ability to add discount codes, and a bunch of what they call apps available in the App Store. Think of these as WordPress plugins. Some are free, some are not, but they all seem to add functionality to your store that can be very helpful. Things like social buttons, to Magento/WordPress importers if you are switching from them to Shopify…really a lot of cool stuff.

Shopify's App store

Final thoughts

A quick note, because I haven’t mentioned it is that adding products to your Shopify store is stupid easy. This cart seems literally built to be used by the average idiot. Which is amazing. Once you enter your products, you can then add them to specific collections like creating one for “Most Popular Items” or something like that.

I’m having a really hard time trying to come up with anything bad about Shopify, other than you can’t host it yourself and it not being free. Everything else feels intuitive and easy to set up. Theming is done really well, with the ability to add functionality writing in Liquid. There is really not much here to like. I’d be very interested to hear if any of you have used it and come into contact with some downfalls or concerns. So based on what I have seen and done with the limited time I spent in Shopify, I have to say it might very well be my go to cart. Other than price, the lack of hairpulling frustratoin is pretty much worth going with them.

Let me know of your experiences with Shopify!

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One Response to “A Web Developer’s review of Shopify”

  1. Ryan says:

    Hey, I can see why not being able to host Shopify on your own hosting can be frustrating. But the fact is that Shopify’s hosting is probably the same or better than what you would get from most hosting companies unless you are paying for a dedicated hosting option.

    I wrote this review on Shopify that gives some different angles on Shopify http://webeminence.com/shopify-review

    I have a video on there that shows how “stupid easy” it is to add products, as you say.

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