Choosing An eCommerce Platform

Choosing An eCommerce Platform

When you need to build an online store with eCommerce for your business, which do you choose: Shopify or Drupal? The answer is, well…it depends! So, we spoke with front-end and back-end developers, as well as clients about their experience using both platforms. We gathered their reasons for preferring or recommending one over the other. This is to help current and future Product Owners as they set out to develop their online stores.

When you plan to build your business’ eCommerce website, there are two questions you should consider for this blog’s pros and cons to add up.

  • Is this a content website that also includes eCommerce (Drupal)
  • Is it an eCommerce site that also includes some basic content (Shopify)

What we found was that it generally boils down to the size of the company and whether you’re building a straightforward eCommerce site. If you will also need a lot of custom, frequently updated, content pages, that changes things. While both can handle a large inventory of products, only one can handle massive amounts of content updates with ease. Equally, one has a baked in-store, and the other is nearly all custom built. There are certainly reasons to prefer one over the other for your business needs and goals, and that’s what we’ll explore in this blog.

Online Stores: When to Choose Shopify or Drupal

There are more than two solutions to developing eCommerce sites these days, including WordPress via their plug-in Woocommerce. That said, when it comes to business solutions that include eCommerce, we tend to choose between Shopify and Drupal. The choice from there is directly related to four main requirements. Evaluating the budget available to create the online store is a major step. This can be assessed based on the size of the company and its anticipated/projected growth via its online store. It also depends on the level of custom content and/or design that is required.

How To Pick The Right eCommerce Platform

We’ll go into further detail about the pros and cons of both Shopify and Drupal’s platforms for eCommerce below. Depending on your perspective, some features for both might be of value to certain businesses, while others a drawback. For example, for small to medium-sized businesses, the start-up costs of Shopify are more approachable than Drupal. However, depending on the marketing necessities of the project as it relates to content creation and moderation, this can be a bit more cumbersome in Shopify. This may end up costing a client more via their time and payroll in the long run. Again, this depends on the complexity of the content. As building an online store is so efficient with Shopify, it may be the best choice for your bottom line.

Another example that is business and marketing dependent, is the customization needed, whether for functionality needs or branding. In Shopify, it’s pretty simple to do theme customization, however, what you are able to customize is somewhat limited. In other words, there is plenty to consider when you’re deciding between Shopify or Drupal. Most of which will be dependent on factors unique to your business.

Pros Of Shopify’s Platform

There are surely more pros to Shopify than what we have listed below. This includes the design looking beautiful on both desktop and mobile. That said, the items below are of the highest priority to developers, as well as client users we spoke with.

Shopify Store and Product Management – Ease Of Use

  • Shopify is very user-friendly. This is important if the client will be updating the store and products, as opposed to a Webmaster or contractor.
  • Shopify is geared directly toward shop owners who want to manage their online business in one place.
  • Shopify has a better user experience to manage products, customers, and orders.
  • When a client needs a clear-cut eCommerce solution with a couple of extra basic pages such as “About Us” and “Contact Us”, Shopify is great.
  • Shopify is particularly good to use for small businesses just starting their eCommerce sites that are planning to grow their online stores exponentially.
  • System-wide Shopify updates are easier on the client. This is because Shopify mostly does updates silently in the background without really affecting the client or the user’s experience. Themes, features, and functionality will generally remain the same. There have really only been two major updates in the last 10 years that required some businesses to rely on a Shopify developer for custom theme updates.

Shopify Value – Cost

  • Shopify has better value. It’s great for a straightforward eCommerce store that doesn’t have much complexity around the user types or the content workflow.
  • The start-up costs to develop an eCommerce site are far lower with Shopify. eCommerce is baked directly into their product as the main appeal to their platform.
  • Updating and running the online store is very user-friendly so upkeep is generally not very costly.

Shopify Functionality – From Developers

  • Overall, Shopify has better documentation and a smaller learning curve. This allows developers to get started editing on existing themes and building new themes right away.
  • Beginner Front End Developer Perspective: “I prefer developing in Shopify. Since I’m not very technical, but I feel more empowered to create functionality on Shopify out of the box.”
  • Seasoned Front and Back End Developer Perspective: “Shopify is designed to be a mostly pre-rolled solution for businesses that want to start selling online. In a lot of ways the foundation is already there.”
  • Seasoned Front End Developer Perspective: “I prefer Shopify for eCommerce sites. It’s very easy to theme product pages and the backend business logic is handled by Shopify’s codebase.”

Cons Of Shopify

We aren’t excited about pointing out what a client might not like about a platform we are proud to use. That said, we value transparency far more and these aren’t necessarily cons for every business model by any means!

Shopify Content Creation and Updates – Ease of Use

  • Shopify is limited when it comes to adding tiers of different user types. This can be an important feature depending on the nature and size of your business.
  • This may not be the best choice if you are expecting a lot of content updates. A complex content workflow for publishing and/or updating large quantities of content can be cumbersome.
  • If you need to create complex content and design regularly, this can be challenging with the provided WYSIWYG. This is not to say you can’t make anything that looks interesting and unique, but many design tactics aren’t accessible.

Shopify Functionality – From Developers

  • Except for the theme layer, Shopify’s codebase is proprietary. A developer can access data from it through an API, but can’t edit the codebase directly. You also cannot manipulate how the data is stored.
  • It’s challenging to make content pages with multiple different layouts in Shopify.
  • Enabling the client to create their own pages with different layouts is difficult.

Pros and Cons of Shopify Conclusion:

While there is a chance the client will find updating content pages somewhat challenging. It’s become clear that Shopify’s product sales and updates are extremely intuitive and efficient. Equally, the cost to get started and maintain Shopify remains low which is often a high priority.

Pros Of Drupal for eCommerce

Just as we said about Shopify, there are many reasons to choose Drupal for your company’s online platform. Whether you need eCommerce or not, they’re both solid CMSs. For the purposes of this blog, eCommerce will remain our focus.

Drupal Store and Product Management – Ease Of Use

  • Drupal as an eCommerce site is really useful when there are multiple types of customers. For instance, if there is a subscription site for content, but there are several levels of subscribers where permissions need to be clearly outlined, this is far more straightforward in Drupal to accomplish.
  • In many ways, Drupal can create a better admin experience for content updates. While it does take extra development work to build a completely customized back end, this is more possible using Drupal.

Drupal Content Creation and Updates – Ease of Use

  • Drupal has greater utility and practicality for multiple content types, taxonomies, and overall content updates.
  • It is probably better suited for companies with highly customized business logic. This generally means that a lot of web content is being produced and published via a specific internally established workflow.

Drupal Functionality – From Developers

  • Drupal is open source, so the codebase is visible and extensible by the developer.
  • Seasoned Front End Developer Perspective: “Drupal is better for eCommerce sites that also have heavy amounts of content. This is because it’s easy to create new content types with unlimited fields.”
  • Seasoned Front and Back End Developer Perspective: “When a client requires a complicated and/or unique way of conducting business with a highly customized front end, Drupal.”

Cons Of Drupal as an eCommerce Platform

While there is not a plethora of negatives to using Drupal for an eCommerce site, the ones that are listed below are often the hardest to overcome – budget. That said, if Drupal is what you require, there is definitely incredible ROI (return on investment).

Drupal Value – Cost

  • eCommerce is possible and will work, but it is added functionality for Drupal. This requires a good amount of custom coding, which is costly.
  • When Drupal does core updates, which happen on a regular basis, they still require a developer to do them. At the very least, it requires someone who is comfortable with the command line in Drupal’s interface. This is not common for a typical client user seeking to maintain their own website.
  • Essentially, from the foundation on up, Drupal will be more costly to develop because almost all features are built custom on the front and back end.

*Mixed response of pro/con: While the Platform updates can be cumbersome and expensive, they are worth it because the functionality and security updates are always very impressive.

Pros and Cons of Drupal Conclusion:

Having everything custom-developed can be awesome because you’ll have something built precisely to your business needs and goals. This includes your specific design as it pertains to all marketing and branding efforts. Drupal can also handle large quantities of content, as well as eCommerce. However, you’ll pay more for a Drupal site at the beginning of the process, and when you require updates. For many businesses, this budget is doable and makes complete sense. For others, this can be where they hit a wall and seek other options.

Build Your Online Store

Shopify is easier to build simple things in, but Drupal makes building complex things possible.

If you’re ready to build your eCommerce website, whether on Shopify or Drupal, Daggerhart Lab will make it happen. Our Developers, Designers, Content Writers, and Project Managers have extensive experience across both of these platforms and beyond, including WordPress. Contact us and let us know what you’re looking to have developed, and we’ll go from there!

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