Shopify has a lot of themes to choose from and great documentation and support. Instead of purchasing the themes on Shopify’s Theme Store, I would recommend themeforest.net, they have great themes for $59 instead of  the $160 on Shopify. There are free themes, however I like the flexibility and support I get from purchased themes.

This is a great article on Shopify’s features and why it’s rising to the top of the heap for ecommerce web builders.

You could produce an ecommerce website with Shopify without any web development experience, however there are some things to keep in mind if you take this approach.

Shopify is proprietary, which means if you build with them you’ll want to stay with them. If you decide to move your shop elsewhere, you need to start over. However, it looks like it will be supported, scaleable and around for a while, so it’s a good choice even if it is proprietary.

Shopify templates are a great starting point, however if you don’t know html or CSS (code for styling) it would be practically impossible to customize the template beyond what comes out of the box. You would either need to choose a template that is structured exactly as you need it or pay for support. The themes have “customization” options, and some themes are more flexible than others, but the 3 themes I worked with had very limited options. For instance, if you wanted something different in the footer than social media options or links, it’s very difficult to change unless you are comfortable with their proprietary coding “liquid”.

Also, because it’s proprietary, unlike open-source WordPress, documentation and reviews are limited. This may change as Shopify gains in popularity, for now I found it difficult to even shop for a template because reviews are slim or nonexistent.

If you only have a small number of products to sell, Shopify has the ability to create Buy buttons that can be placed in your WordPress website turning your existing site into an ecommerce site.

We work a lot with WordPress, and the best WordPress templates have drag and drop page layout options that makes it very easy to design a site exactly as you want it to look. In Shopify, I ended up designing all the pages by coding them with html. It was time-consuming and a pain, it felt like WordPress 5 years ago.

Even though we always use responsive and mobile-friendly templates the Shopify template I used wasn’t completely great on mobile. I find this with WordPress templates too, but now I know which ones translate better to mobile. Again, I spent a lot of time doing media queries in CSS so there weren’t huge gaps in spacing and type that was too large and clunky.

There are free and paid “apps” to extend the capabilities and make Shopify easier to design with. However, all the apps I needed were on a subscription plan, most starting around $10 a month (in addition to all the other fees). I think it’s a rip-off to have to subscribe if you only need it for a short while to format your site.

Overall, Shopify is a great tool in the web design arsenal. I think there is room for improvement, but with 243,000 online shops and $14 billion worth of sales, it’s off to a great start.