Last updated on 5th October 2023 at 13:57 by Alex Nicholas
Choosing the right eCommerce platform for your website from the start is crucial for the success of your online business because getting it wrong will cost you thousands of pounds in development time and/or re-platforming, and amongst the most important aspects of eCom is speed.
In my opinion, both Shopify and WooCommerce are pretty much equal when it comes to speed and how fast they are, what makes make the difference is how well your theme is developed and whether or not you're doing the basics such as compressing your images.
Both Shopify and WooCommerce (WordPress with the eCommerce plugin) are popular options as eCommerce solutions and both of these platforms share similarities, so selecting the right solution involves evaluating each platform in objective ways that suit your needs.
And if you want more information, check out my Shopify review to get a detailed breakdown and my opinions on it.
But please trust me when I say you need to get this decision right from the beginning. I speak from experience when it comes to choosing the wrong eCommerce platform. I started with Magento back in 2012 which was one of the biggest mistakes I made when I first set out because it was (and still is) a resource-hungry platform that needs a dedicated server and a skilful developer.
Neither of which I had! My developer(s) couldn't fix basic problems and I was using a shared web hosting service (I learnt the hard way). Both of these problems are not an issue with Shopify and WooCommerce because they're either handled for you or quality hosting is cheap and development is straightforward.
Find out at the bottom of this short article which platform I would (and do) choose when developing and growing an eCom business.
Passing speed tests
There's been a lot made of things like Google speed test tools and Core Web Vitals, and although you should focus on building a fast website, you should be doing it from a customers point of view rather than a “my site hit's 100 in this test” point of view.
Both Shopify and WooCommerce do well in these speed tests but are often slowed down by plugins and apps which add additional requests on the server.
There is a ranking boost for having a fast site, but it's marginal a best and a pointless time soak at worst.
The reason you need a fast site is that it will convert buyers better, which is the whole point, isn't it?
And without going into too much detail, some of the most popular brands on the internet have ridiculously poor Google page speed test scores but have really high conversion rates due to the structure and flow of their themes and sites in general.
Self-hosted vs hosted solution
Each content management system (CMS) has it's pros and cons, and although I'm not going to go into detail about what they are in this article, I will say this, with Shopify you have no choice as to where your site gets hosted because it's a hosted solution that has it's own CDN and network of servers. Shopify essentially handles it for you.
And whilst there's nothing wrong with the hosting that Shopify provides, you simply don't have the option to change it even if you wanted to.
It is however hosted on very good servers so you don't need to worry about things like software updates, reliability or knowledge of the tech that a server setup might require.
On the other hand, with WooCommerce you have to sort out your own hosting because it's open-source software that requires web development. It essentially needs a framework, design and then building in addition to hosting via a reliable server.
Access to your server
Unfortunately with Shopify, as I've just pointed out, you don't have access to your server whatsoever, which can be an issue if you want to study the server logs to find out exactly what people are doing on your site when they get there. And this includes bots that crawl your site from companies such as Google.
This is an advanced type of analytics that in all honesty isn't needed on the vast majority of sites but does come in handy when you're scaling your organic traffic as your site grows.
You will (or should) have access to these files with a good WooCommerce web host.
Having a fast and reliable host is not just important for speed, it's also important for security because a server that's set up specifically for the platform you're using will have fewer vulnerabilities.
It's also essential to choose an appropriate SSL certificate for the security of your WooCommerce store due to the fact that you'll be operating in the YMYL space (your money or your life) which means you'll be processing credit card and personal details and data.
Shopify offers this out of the box with each pricing plan so you can simply forget about whether or not the servers are set up to maximise performance and security.
You also don't need to worry about the SSL certificate because Shopify takes care of this for you, too, meaning you can get on with offering your services whilst offering payment options like credit cards, debit cards, PayPal, Alipay, and more.
Shopify vs WooCommerce which is better
When considering the best eCommerce tool choice for your online store, it's important to evaluate your overall business needs, long-term goals, and of course, the theme's SEO features.
In my opinion, Shopify is faster to set up and easier to use since it's a hosted platform that comes with built-in caching and super-fast servers, which ensures faster loading times.
WooCommerce is a self-hosted platform, so you'll need to handle all the hosting and security aspects yourself as a basic requirement.
Both eCommerce platforms offer beneficial SEO tools like SEO plugins that handle things like image optimisation which will compress and speed up load times.
Shopify also has other helpful integrations with things like third-party dropshipping apps and omnichannel sales which means you can sell your products straight from various social media channels like Instagram, while WooCommerce has been around longer and as already mentioned is open-source, therefore has deep integrations with things like enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems.
The speed of an eCommerce platform is very important, but remember it's not just from a ranking point of view, but from a conversion point of view.
Shopify is known for its scalability, while WooCommerce is more flexible and customizable. Both platforms offer Cloud, IaaS, SaaS, and security protocols to ensure fast and secure browsing.
Which is faster – picking a winner
In my opinion, Shopify is the eCommerce shopping platform of choice when it comes to speed and overall performance, which is born out of it's growing popularity with over 1.7 million active stores. It's also what I personally use for my eCom projects.
And like WooCommerce, Shopify is very well supported so if you ever run into a problem there are many developers that can help you, along with the help you get from Shopify itself.