A quick Shopify review

A quick Shopify review

Shopify is one of the three core e-commerce platforms that we work with - the others being the more powerful Drupal Commerce, and the less powerful WiX Stores & other commerce options. This is a quick Shopify review highlighting some of its great, and not so great, features.

What's great about Shopify?

  • Shopify is super user friendly for clients, it's very intuitive and makes basic tasks a total breeze. You can set up a store, have your products up, have a privacy policy, and start accept payments very quickly.  It's much, much quicker to get a Shopify site up and running than it is to launch a more powerful solution like Magento or Drupal Commerce. So, if you don't need a world of flexibility and 'edge case' features it's a fantastic solution.
  • Its Liquid templating language is clean and intuitive - it doesn't take too long for most designers to migrate their skills from another templating language such as Smarty or Twig.
  • Speed of development is fabulous - the vast majority of set up is done by the Shopify installer, then it's just filling out the right details, loading the products and theming.
  • Development platform in the cloud - as a Shopify partner we have access to a development platform and can very easily migrate sites straight over when they're ready to launch.
  • Integrations - there are a lot of integrations with third party apps, these can save you time, money and pain. They still take time to set up, but often there is no need to have them custom written for your store, and many are free.
  • Theme settings - it's easy to set up a theme so that the client can make changes to colours etc in their theme.

So what's not to like about Shopify?

  • Theme settings - it's easy to set up a theme so that the client can make changes to colours etc in their theme. There's normally a reason the designer chose the colours they did, and this makes it a little too easy to destroy the design. I'm sure we all have clients that prefer pretty much everything on the page to be bigger, redder, and preferably on a sizzling blue background.
  • Their products limits are a little misleading. Each Shopify plan comes with a limit on how many products you can have - in reality it means SKUs, a t-shirt with 5 sizes and 3 colours adds up to 15 products. Shopify no longer limits the number of SKUs on each plan.
  • There is no way to run a local development or staging server so all developing & theming is done on the live site. Pass my cowboy hat please...
  • Managing categories can take users a bit of time to get their heads around as there's no real concept of hierarchy in categories and products.
  • Worse than that though is the Shopify 'implementation' of things like drop down menus. The lack of a hierarchy concept in the categories & products means that the system has no understanding of sub-menus. It's not a complicated hack to get them working, and Shopify have documented it well, but it's still a hack and isn't at all intuitive to the novice user that makes up their target market. This has been solved, and there is now a sensible drag and drop interface to manage your menu items.
  • Talking of blutack and sticky tape, the Shopify swatch 'implementation' is pretty awesome in its own way... This is also fixed now and it's easy to add images to your product variations.
  • Still on blutack and sticky tape developer experiences, inserting 'snippets'  of text into other content is not something you'd expose a client to. I'll stop it with the blutack comments now, but most developers seem to have a bit of a shudder at non-core Shopify features.
  • Poor discount structure - it's not a very smart system, and complicated discount structures aren't possible.
  • Single tax rate - in most countries different product types have different tax rates, there's no allowance for this in Shopify - you can tax everything or nothing.

Conclusion

In spite of the shortcomings we have no hesitation in recommending Shopify to clients in need of a good looking, well supported and cost effective way to get themselves an ecommerce presence.

The theming platform is solid, it gives you total freedom in the look and feel of the site.

Even when you factor in the monthly charges and % of sales a Shopify site is far cheaper than a bespoke system created from a Magento/Drupal Commerce base, and they offer unlimited bandwidth and 99.94% uptime.

If you'd like to try out Shopify please drop us a line and, if Shopify is the right solution for you, we'll get your site set up and get you started selling products online.