Over the past month, I have been working on a project that needed to convert a site over to Shopify. As the majority of our sites are based around our bespoke CMS frameworks - built in Expression Engine and Craft, it is not often that I get to play with Shopify. With this project specifically, I learnt a lot about the e-commerce solution on this project and so I thought I would share my thoughts on this matter!
One of the main reasons for switching this site to Shopify was due to the variety of add-ons available in Shopifys App Store. Shopify offer optional add-ons made by themselves, but the majority are third-party based. With app-specific rating systems and detailed documentation, this allows you to browse through the most reliable and user-friendly apps - which most fall under. Installation of the apps is a simple one-click process, making it easy for even the client to do this. Once installed, it is then the case of going to the App page in the Shopify CMS where all installed apps are collated into a grid for the client to go in and change the settings per App.
With such a wide range of apps to choose from, it can allow the client to include some very handy features into their site on both the front-end and the back-end.
Here is a list of some stand-out Apps I have come across so far:
- Stock Sync - Allows the client to automatically update product stocks offline via a CSV file so that the companies stocks are in sync with your external source.
- MailChimp for Shopify - Quick and Easy way to link people who complete orders / sign up to the newsletter from the shopify framework into your own MailChimp Campaigns
- Klaviyo - Simple to use email template creator with strong custom design capabilities
- Store Locator - Exactly what it says on the tin... creates a simple, interactive stockists map.
- Localize - Translates your stores content in a matter of minutes.
One thing I personally am not very keen on with Shopify is the styling and aesthetic functionality in Shopify. Using frameworks that are template based means that you are limited to customising the site. It is great if you want to add simple styling to your site with the click of a button. The majority of themes are fully responsive making them mobile and tablet friendly too, which is essential today. So it's not all bad!
There is the option to edit the themes templates in the CMS, however without a good understanding of coding websites, editing the templates in through this would not be advisable. If you wanted to get really smart about things, you could create your own theme from scratch, but this would then make sure you question why you don’t just get the whole site built from scratch…
Shopify provides you with hosting as standard which helps tick one job off the list, all you have to do is purchase a domain and point it to the server. Nice and easy. The only niggle is that they do not provide email hosting, this has to be done externally.
The process of adding products to the site is a breeze. A stand out area that I noticed when adding products was the product variant input section. I have noticed in other systems that this can be quite overwhelming with complex input fields that are poorly designed with little hierarchy. Shopifys execution of this is extremely user-friendly though. They include all the mandatory fields but do it in a very simplistic, segmented manor.
In terms of adding the rest of the content across the site, it is simply the case utilising the functionalities include in Rich Text Fields. This is where the limitations of Shopifys content and layout begins. Whereas with ExpressionEngine or Craft, you have the ability to add custom fields anywhere you like, meaning the design of the site can be very flexible. This isn’t the case with Shopify, which may be fine for some people, but here at Shape we like to make things a little bit different with every project so this upsets me a little bit..!
The final area I feel is worth mentioning is the Site Overview functionality built in as standard in Shopify. There are some very powerful and data-heavy sections which allows the client to see an in-depth overview of the website as a whole. Within this area, you have to ability to view some of the following statistics:
- Top Products
- Top Countries
- Top Device Types
- Social Referrers
- Top Search Terms
- Marketing Campaigns
- Traffic Referrer Sources
So as you can see, there are good and bad sides to this system, and it all just depends on what you're looking for. The limitations of what you can do with Shopify bodes well for the user in a sense that you are not bombarded with information in the backend and it can be super quick to setup. But if you wanted to give your project that little bit more with custom designs and content, it may not be for you.