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What are the differences between WordPress & Shopify eCommerce Websites?

Greg Macdonald - LWDA Team Member


Managing Director


PUBLISHED:January 26, 2021

UPDATED:February 23, 2024

There are many off-the-shelf eCommerce website solutions available if you are looking to build an online store. Some are more accomplished than others, and after many years in the business, we tend to steer towards using either WordPress or Shopify for our clients.

Both platforms have their pros & cons, so we thought we’d write an article comparing WordPress & Shopify solutions, which we hope you will find useful.

But first, some background info…

What is a Content Management System (CMS)?

Both WordPress and Shopify are Content Management Systems. A Content Management System (CMS for short) is a portal through which a user can log in and upload or input content (images, text, PDFs, etc).

The CMS is often referred to as the ‘Back-end’ of the website. It’s the code which tells the website how to function. Where to access content, where to share content and how to interact with other platforms, such as MailChimp or PayPal.

However, you’ll need more than just a CMS to set up a website. You will need your ‘Front-end’ too, which is to say that your website will need a design for all the pages that you want to build for your content.

The front-end of a website is often referred to as a Theme, which can be added to your chosen CMS with a few simple clicks.

Both WordPress & Shopify offer free themes as well as premium themes which require a one-time payment.

It’s also possible to have your own theme designed and built for WordPress or Shopify. This is what we specialise in at LWDA.

CMS & Web Development

With the growing popularity of off-the-shelf CMS solutions, you would be forgiven for wondering why you should bother employing the services of a web design agency to build your website.

An off-the-shelf solution enables you to create a website quickly and cheaply. By choosing a theme for your design and uploading content, you could be up & running within a couple of days.

However, there are clear reasons why you should consider using an agency to build your website. Even if you wish to use WordPress or Shopify as the CMS.

5 reasons to use an agency to build your eCommerce website:

  1. The design will be unique to your brand – If you use an off-the-shelf theme, you will be choosing to launch a website that will look just like hundreds if not thousands of others. Having your own theme design specifically for your brand will enable you to stand out from the crowd.
  2. You can sit back and let someone else take the strain – Although off-the-shelf tools are made to be simple to use, there are many people that still feel uneasy when it comes to creating their own site and would prefer that an expert take the reins. Relieving a lot of stress in the process.
  3. You can save time and get on with running your business – A company does not run itself, so why add another task to your plate when you can have someone else take care of things for you? After all, time is money.
  4. Additional Functionality may require some expertise – Implementing non-standard functions can be achieved by adding one of the many plugins available for either platform. But these plugins often do not work perfectly with your chosen theme and so will require some expert knowledge to install and set up correctly.
  5. Expert support available via phone and email – Although hosted solutions offer FAQs and help via email, most do not offer the ability to speak to a human being. A good agency will always be happy to assist you with general troubleshooting and will respond quickly.

Differences between WordPress & Shopify

WordPress & Shopify have both been around for some time and although Shopify was built specifically with eCommerce in mind, WordPress has become a solid choice in recent years, largely thanks to the WooCommerce plugin.

So, how do you choose which platform is right for you?

The Pros of using Shopify for an online store

  1. Speed of deployment – You can easily set up an account with Shopify, register a domain and build your store under the same roof. This can also be said of (the hosted solution for WP websites), but not of (the free CMS which requires the user to download and self-host).
  2. No need for a merchant account – You can start selling straight away, accepting payments into your bank account using Shopify’s own payment gateway. They take a larger cut of your sales but remove the need to set up a merchant account with your bank.
  3. Plenty of plugins to add additional functionality – Although, as mentioned previously, you may require the expertise of a developer to set up your plugins. They also tend to come at a cost. Some with monthly fees.
  4. Selling through Facebook and Instagram included – With a little configuration, you can also sell through these popular social platforms using tools already available.
  5. No CMS updates required – Unlike, Shopify will never require you to update the CMS manually. Plugins may require maintenance, but your core site will be updated by Shopify themselves as well as the theme if you use one of their own.

Our bespoke theme for Beyl Skincare was created to the client’s specific requirements. With a minimal storefront and detailed product info on the inner pages, the site can not be mistaken for any other using Shopify.

Bespoke Shopify eCommerce Store for Beyl Skincare

The Pros of Using a Bespoke WordPress eCommerce Website

  1. You own the store and can move it anytime – Shopify stores must be hosted with Shopify, but WordPress websites can be hosted anywhere that offers compatible hosting. This allows you to hunt for more affordable hosting deals in future.
  2. Site Speed – Building a bespoke theme means not having to include all the unnecessary code that comes with a pre-installed version of WordPress, so the site will function faster, which is great for SEO.
  3. A larger community of developers – WordPress is currently the most popular platform for building websites with over 62% market share of all CMS websites. This has resulted in many agencies offering WordPress development as a service. There are far fewer expert Shopify developers.
  4. Bespoke plugin development – A larger pool of developers means that you have a better chance of making your website talk to any other service that you need it to. If a plugin doesn’t already exist, the chances are your agency can create one for you.
  5. Bespoke theme design – From when your customer lands of the home page, right through to checkout, a good WordPress design & development agency will be able to build a theme that is truly unique to your brand.

You can read more of our thoughts & advice regarding bespoke WordPress theme design here.

Our sister agency, Devstars, created this bespoke WordPress & WooCommerce site for Hadid Caviar in late 2020. The subtle animations and premium design target the luxury goods market perfectly.

Hadid Caviar Bespoke WordPress & WooCommerce eCommerce Website Design & Development

Using a Web Design Agency to Create a Bespoke Shopify or WordPress Website

Today’s eCommerce market is growing increasingly competitive. Companies are moving away from the high street to set up online-only stores, so you’ll need to stand out from the crowd if you want to get noticed.

It’s not enough to compete on price alone. You’ll need to project the right image with a professional-looking brand and website if you want your company to be a success.

When employing a design agency to take care of your branding and website requirements, you are accessing years of design & development experience.

Using an agency such as LWDA enables you to use this experience to create the best website possible for your brand. Carving a niche in the market and delivering a great online experience for your customers.

Feel free to get in touch if you’d like to talk to us about creating a bespoke website for your brand.

We’re always happy to discuss new projects and give our honest opinion on the best possible solution for your needs.

Additional Reading

If you are considering moving from Etsy to another platform, you may want to read How to migrate your website from Etsy to Shopify.


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