How much did this website cost: PLUS
At Lattimore and Friends, our two primary e-commerce platforms are WooCommerce for WordPress and Shopify and we are regularly asked by our agencies which platform we recommend for potential e-commerce clients.
Until lately, our (irritating) response would have been “it depends.” However in 2021 we can at least give some more clarity: “where possible, use Shopify.”
Shopify vs WooCommerce
There are really so few reasons to ever recommend an e-commerce platform that isn’t Shopify these days. Some of the huge advantages of Shopify include:
- Options at every price point
- £1k-4k – Customisation of an off-the-shelf theme
- £4k-8k – A bespoke Shopify theme
- £15k+ – Shopify Plus, perhaps using the Storefront API in a Headless set-up
- Linked to the above, it is great to be able to recommend a platform that can grow with a client
- A really easy to use e-commerce CMS with oodles of add-ons and extensions, covering everything from fulfilment to sales optimisation to POS
- Shopify handle all the hosting, security and speed optimisation, taking a huge technical consideration off of the client
WooCommerce on the other hand has much less to recommend it:
- It feels rather like a Swiss Army Knife – it can do everything so it doesn’t do any particular thing well, and is also rather overwhelming to use
- The UI for WooCommerce is very clunky, which doesn’t help with the overwhelm mentioned above
- It isn’t particularly cheaper than Shopify, not when you add in costs for hosting, WordPress maintenance, security, not to mention the various extensions for WooCommerce that have annual costs
That said, there are still some instances where we recommend WooCommerce over Shopify:
- “Content-first” websites – Shopify doesn’t handle “content” particularly well; its pages and blog functionality is clunky and limited. If a website is content-first (such as a magazine), requiring rich content management tools, and perhaps does some light e-commerce alongside (such as merch sales), than WordPress and WooCommerce are a great combination to minimise development and support costs.
- Legal reasons – For our US agencies, we have seen a drive to use WooCommerce for CBD clients as cannabis products are still illegal at the federal level, raising concerns that global platforms like Shopify will remove CBD shops
- A need for bespoke functionality – Sometimes clients will require some deep, bespoke functionality, such as a bespoke plug-in for integration with a fulfilment provider/internal system. True, this can absolutely be done in Shopify via developing a custom app, but it is a lot cheaper and easier to develop this in WordPress
- PHP, the programming language underpinning WordPress, has global support, with great developers available at reasonable prices, bringing costs down
- Being an open-source platform, with vast documentation and an openness to developers, it is easier to “get into the guts” of the WordPress installation and make the deep changes required
PLUS takes an approach to e-commerce that we are seeing more and more often – selling their products as individuals, or as a subscription. I would say 70-80% of our e-commerce projects have some variation on this model.
One of the major downsides to Shopify previously was how it handled subscriptions. As the Shopify platform itself couldn’t handle repeat payments, services like Recharge (https://rechargepayments.com/) and Bold Subscriptions (https://boldcommerce.com/subscriptions) appeared to provide this key functionality.
When a user purchased a subscription, they would be sent to a third-party checkout, on a completely different URL (often with different branding), creating a very fractured checkout experience. Considering checkout flow is one of the key areas where potential customers are lost, making this process any more complex than it has to be is a real issue.
However, all is now right in the subscriptions world! Shopify recently launched its Subscription APIs, allowing developers to use Shopify’s own checkout process to manage subscriptions. So far, only Recharge has fully taken advantage of this opportunity and is thus our recommended option for Shopify clients that need to offer subscription services.
I’m a huge fan of subtle mouse transitions and PLUS has a great one. This is the sort of low-cost, high-impact feature that we love at Lattimore and Friends. It is easy to implement from a web development perspective, and creates a really fun, immersive experience for the user.
A trend we are seeing more often is the replacing of static images with really short, repeating videos. Often times these will be short MP4s, due to their small size compared to a GIF at a similar resolution.
As with all kinds of motion on a website, we recommend their use sparingly – with a focus on creating an impactful experience. Making every single image a video means there will be way too much going on on the page, as well as potentially slowing down the website considerably – no matter how much you optimise a video file, it will always be bigger than a similar resolution PNG image. However PLUS uses them to bring to life features of the products and show them in use, which is great.
Animations via Lottie
PLUS uses a number of animations powered by Lottie (https://airbnb.design/lottie/), a brilliant tool to add animation to a website/app, built by Airbnb.
Having to hand-code animations is often crazy expensive for us but tools like Lottie are game-changing. It is often significantly easier (and cheaper) for our agency clients to create the animations themselves in AfterEffects.
Lottie then works with BodyMovin, an AfterEffects plugin, to export the animation information required (in JSON) that can then be integrated with Lottie into a website/app.
Our “house style” has always been very animation-forward, regularly using lazyLoading and subtle parallax effects to bring our agency clients’ designs to life, so it is great to do even more with animations (without breaking the bank).
A common request from our clients is to add an Instagram feed. On cost-sensitive projects we always recommend the following:
Our preferred Instagram feed plug-in for WordPress is Smash Balloon Social Photo Feed: https://wordpress.org/plugins/instagram-feed/ Especially in its Pro format, it is very powerful, easy to use and easy to customise as well.
Our preferred Instagram feed plugin for Shopify is Instafeed: https://apps.shopify.com/instafeed
It is really robust, very customisable and has a range of payment options.
We Want to Make Pricing Work for You
At the end of the day, we want to make website projects as easy as possible for our clients – so we’ll be as flexible as you need us to be.