Should You Use Shopify or a Custom Website

shop logo

The choice of Shopify vs. a custom website comes down to the tradeoff between paying someone to do it well (but not perfectly) for you, vs. doing it all yourself.

For e-commerce - Shopify's fast to set up and it gets the job done.

They've clearly thought a lot about how to make it easy for the small business owner, and the process is streamlined, fast, and effective.

You choose a theme to customize your shop, and before you know it, your shop is up.

The upside is convenience and trust: you know it's implemented in such a way that your site could get a huge surge, and withstand it.

The downsides are a few.

One is that your shop now looks like lots of other shops, in fact almost exactly like other shops using the same theme.

There's also limits in customizability, that Shopify's format imposes on you.

If you want to do some kind of bot or advanced UI that people can use to interact with your Shop - that will be hard, on Shopify.

If you were interested in maintaining it yourself - if you look at Shopify themes+total cost and think it's not worth it, or if there's functionality that's missing that you need to have - you could do it yourself.

One special upside people often don't consider is, if you have multiple ideas, if you code it yourself, you can copy your template over and over for each new project and save big bucks, vs. paying for multiple Shopify shops (or, what most people would probably do, just going with one idea).

The downside of DIY is you've got to anticipate everything yourself, and maintain it. It's not enough to know plain HTML and CSS.

Want someone to be able to fill out a form and send it to you? That will require some coding.

You've got to set up the domain name, code the pages, set up the routing, possibly and API too.

But it can be done - and there are consultants and freelancers who will do it for a very competitive rate.

In 2020, a typical implementation for such a shop might be a React app, with Stripe as your payment processor.

The cost comparison is this: Shopfiy costs $29/month and DIY costs about $2/month, hosting it yourself.

The credit card charges - about 2.9% per transaction - are pretty much the same whether you use Shopify or the DIY solution, which would be Stripe.

29 dollars a month for the year is about 350 dollars. So you could think of that as your yearly budget.

Notice that, if you're reasonably sure your shop will still be there, that's a 1000 dollars.

Some pre-made React templates with a lot of functionality can be bought online for about the cost of a year of Shopify, like this one.

Creative Tim template

So, think hard about your needs, scope out how much it would cost to do it yourself vs. Shopiify, and make the choice that makes the most sense for you.