Let me start by saying that while WordPress is a fantastic content management system (CMS) and blog tool, I don’t believe it should be used for eCommerce. While there are some great tools out there such as WooCommerce to bring eCommerce to WordPress, these should only be used to add a small shop to an existing WordPress website. I would never recommend building a new shop on WordPress. The main reason for this is that to get functionality anywhere near that which is available “out of the box” for a real eCommerce platform you need to be fully loaded with plugins which degrades the site performance and increases your hosting costs. WordPress is not an eCommerce platform, don’t try to use it as one.
For the purpose of this post, I will be ignoring the hosted solutions such as Shopify, EKM, Big Cartel, Etsy etc as these are lightweight solutions for smaller stores and not really what we are focussing on in this post.
Right, now we’ve got that out the way we’re left with 3 contenders; OpenCart, Magento and bespoke eCommerce development.
So, which eCommerce platform is right for me?
The decision of which platform is right for you boils down to a few key questions which can be answered before you start the project.
- What features do you require?
- How big is your shop?
- What is your expected traffic volume?
- How flexible do you need the platform to be?
- What is your budget for development, licensing, hosting, extensions, support etc?
- Are you happy with a template-based design or do you need something designed specifically for you?
OpenCart vs Magento
OpenCart and Magento are both extremely popular, open source eCommerce platforms. Both are written in PHP and come with a whole host of functionality “out of the box”. Magento is the dominant platform powering over 25% the top 1,000,000 global eCommerce website, beaten only by OpenCart in terms of total installations.
Both Magento and OpenCart are template based and can be customised with extensions and plugins. Both have a broad community of developers and designers and both support multiple languages and currencies without additional plugins so if you need to be up and running quickly and trade in more than one country then either platform is a great option.
Magento comes with a slightly heavier footprint than OpenCart meaning you’ll need to pay a bit more for hosting and support tends to be slightly more expensive than OpenCart due to the complexity of the platform, however Magento will also scale extremely well and will handle just about all the customers you can throw at it without breaking a sweat. Magento is also owned by eBay, who knows a thing or two about eCommerce.
An example of a site we built in OpenCart would be Missy Empire. This is a site which was originally built in WordPress and WooCommerce but as demand grew they needed to switch to a more heavyweight shopping platform.
Bespoke eCommerce Development?
We’ve talked a lot about the merits of using OpenCart or Magento, but there is a 3rd option and that is to develop a shop from scratch. Why would you do this? Well, there are many reasons.
Firstly, when choosing an existing platform you are choosing something that has been designed as a “one size fits all” product which means there will be a whole plethora of features and functions which you just won’t need or use. On the flip side of that, there will also be the need to add plugins and extensions to get some of the functionality you do like adding PayPal support or shipment tracking or any other feature that does not exist as part of the platform. All of the features and plugins need power and memory to function which means your site will need some serious horsepower to run.
By developing a bespoke site you benefit from having a site that looks exactly how you want it to look with no compromise, a backend administration system tailored to your exact requirements and a lightweight framework that means your site loads instantly and can serve many more customers than a Magento or OpenCart site on the same hardware.
An example of a bespoke shop would be HomeyPet. They needed a shop added to their existing website and web portal system and they needed to link to specialised 3rd party APIs and automate order and payment processing so it made sense to build a bespoke shop right into their existing workflow.
Which solution is right for me?
Well, that depends on your needs. If you are comfortable with Magento or OpenCart and have products that fit well with those systems then there is no need to develop a bespoke site. Or if you have specific requirements that cannot be met by another platform, you need a very specific design or you want a backend built around you then you should consider the bespoke route.
We’re more than happy to have a chat and discuss which option is best for you and would never try to sell something unsuitable for the job so give us a call on 01772 393026 for a no obligation chat to see how we can improve your online sales.