Our experience of rebuilding a store in Shopify: Should I switch my shop from WordPress to Shopify?

Graphic comparison of WordPress and Shopify with their logos displayed on computer monitors, highlighting the debate for online store management

By Gareth Henry   |   Last Updated 8 December 2023

Shopify has been doing some very aggressive marketing in Australia and established a real brand with the majority of ecommerce stores seemingly using it. According to BuiltWith [1], 21% of ecommerce stores in Australia are using Shopify, with an additional 5% using Shopify Plus, compared to 17% of ecommerce stores using WooCommerce.

Despite WordPress’ (and for ecommerce, WooCommerce’s) stranglehold on agencies and developers due to its friendly development environment and understandable, customisable architecture, Shopify caters to shops that want to deal with the business logic, not the development logic.

You don’t want to log into your website and be greeted with software update notifications, monitor your hosting resources, or generally be distracted by the myriad of technical issues that confronts us when operating a website.

So it begs the question: As a business owner is it time to switch and enjoy a better website experience?

First, let’s start with the nuts and bolts in what separates Shopify from WordPress, and that is the underlying backend programming language each uses.

1. PHP vs Liquid

Infographic comparing PHP and Liquid syntax highlighting the differences between the two web development languages
A side-by-side comparison of PHP and Liquid, showing a visual representation of the complexity of PHP against the streamlined approach of Shopify’s Liquid for online store work.

When editing the WordPress backend or creating a plugin, PHP is the language used. This is a well establish web development language that has been around since the 1990s, and there is a vast pool of developers familiar with it.

It can be very powerful, but very complex even for experienced developers. And so when working with the shop part of WordPress called WooCommerce, small jobs can take a longer time than expected to complete.

Shopify instead has a Ruby on Rails bespoke language called Liquid, with less developers familiar with it so you may have a harder time finding a developer (however that is changing).

As Shopify is built for well, online ecommerce, we’d expect it to be superior when working with customisations to the shop. And we find that is true. It is a more lightweight language that limits some web development functionality, in order for shop specific customisations work easier for developers.

2. However, everything must be coded, even titles for themes

Illustration of a toolbox symbolising the need for developers when customising Shopify's restricted theme options
The complexity of modifying Shopify themes requires unlocking a developer’s toolbox, unlike the ready-to-alter settings of WordPress

Now, unlike WordPress, where all settings and code can be easily accessed via the backend admin panel, Shopify caters to shop owners by burying most of the development UI tools deep in the customiser code section.

This is fine if you’re happy with the standard templated theme options you’ve inherited. But sooner or later, you are going to find your theme is quite limited in a number of aspects. Otherwise, well, it’d look like WordPress on the backend in the sheer number of options presented, and that is not the way of Shopify.

So in summary, in WordPress as a webmaster, I can change things easily to suit with the tools available (like a website builder), but with Shopify we must hire a developer (and designer) to make simple changes on the frontend and backend.

Do you have the budget for this? And this is the issue with Shopify. It is fantastic for simple shops with very low budgets and low needs (and don’t mind using something straight out of the box), or you’ll need to spend a small fortune to fund the website that you actually need to get that amazing Shopify experience.

With WordPress, you get a messy backend, slower website due to non-optimisation, and the chore of updates and testing. But you can often simply find a free plugin that fixes the issue at hand, instead of hiring an expert Shopify team (like us!).

Advantages and Disadvantages of Shopify: Automations & Usability vs Customisation & Control

An image of a secure safe with the Shopify logo, representing the closed nature of data control in Shopify compared to WordPress
Unlike WordPress, Shopify’s platform keeps your data under lock, symbolising limited access and control for users

Now having a platform that controls the end user experience does have its bonuses, much like the Apple vs Android debate. Sure, with Android you can customise everything, but people still love Apple products even though they have a more limited experience.

And that’s what we’ve found with Shopify. Plugins tend to be much simpler and suited to one purpose, allowing more automations, less options, and less conflicts in general. But not always. The options for migration, revision history and backups with Shopify are really limited, or not transparent at all, compared to WordPress. And apps that handle it, or any app for that matter, can be horrifically expensive compared to their WordPress counterparts.

Also with WordPress, we control the server and can customise all the server operations. On the other hand, with WordPress we are responsible for software updates, conflicts, and weird compatibility issues we need to test for.

Lastly, do you want to own the data or website itself? Well, you may find unlike WordPress, it belongs to Shopify, which is a pretty immense issue. You simply don’t control Shopify or their server which is an issue if you start to breach their terms somehow or expect them to change server settings for you, you may be out of luck.


Illustration of a business owner at a crossroads, deciding between a path labeled WordPress (WooCommerce) and another labeled Shopify
The critical decision for e-commerce business owners: Sticking with WooCommerce or moving to Shopify

Overall, I’d say Shopify is appropriate for small business owners starting up who want a clean backend UI but be prepared to spend a lot more than you may think for apps and custom development and design. If you have an established WooCommerce store already, keep it. I don’t see the advantage of transitioning, just a lot of headache and work.

It’s sort of like changing from Android to Apple. Apple is great and trendy, but don’t expect to be able to do everything, or cheaply at all if you do want something custom.

If you plan on growing larger and having a decent market share, I’d consider you stick with WooCommerce or your own custom setup for now. Only if you truly are seeking to become a market leader may Shopify’s system clearly exceed WordPress.

Looking for some inspiration for your WordPress website? Check out our blog posts:

WordPress Blog Examples: 30 Most Beautiful and Popular WordPress Blogs in 2023
2024 Shopify Showcase: Top Store Examples & Website Success Stories


[1] BuiltWith: https://trends.builtwith.com/shop

Gareth Henry is the founder and Managing Director of AppSalon, a digital marketing agency in Sydney, Australia.

Gareth saw an important mission that needed doing in Australia - AppSalon's mission has been to provide world class, user centric design and SEO for websites, that assures small business success with client acquisition.

Gareth's marketing background is of an SEO specialist the last decade, with countless top 3 ranks for major commercial terms, such as skip bin hire, fish for sale, crystals for sale, and many more.

However, he realises not everything is SEO, and seeks mastery with website design, conversion optimisation, and content production, so a businesses brand and website can deliver beyond simply creating traffic.

This year has been a tremendous learning curve with AI and building web apps, and so now gen AI capabaility is part of the toolset Gareth delivers.

Gareth is considered an authority on creating websites and web apps that people adore, and is happy to provide insights to both established business owners and brand new hobbyists.


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