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Shopify website builder review 2021

Advanced ecommerce solutions for stores of all sizes

Shopify logo
(Image: © Shopify)

Our Verdict

As the world’s most popular ecommerce platform, Shopify naturally offers a great selection of tools to help you create a powerful online store.

Pros

  • Excellent selection of apps and extensions
  • Streamlined mobile management app
  • Beginner-friendly store management dashboard

Cons

  • High transaction fees with third-party gateways
  • Expensive compared to some other options

The best website builders tend to be versatile, beginner-friendly platforms that are designed to help you create a new blog, online store, or any other type of site. Some builders are designed specifically for ecommerce, and come with a selection of dedicated online selling tools. 

Shopify is one of the latter, and indeed you may already have heard of it—it’s the most popular online store builder, and a favorite among those entering the ecommerce space for the first time.

Shopify review: Snapshot

In our Shopify review, we take a closer look at the excellent range of online selling tools this platform brings to the table. As you’ll see, Shopify offers absolutely everything you need to create, market, and manage an online store, along with a flexible editor, a selection of free and premium themes, and more. 

Score: 4.5/5

Read on for the full review. 


Shopify's competitors

How does Shopify compare to its main competitors?
ShopifyWeeblyBigCommerce
Score4.5/54/54.5/5
Pros- Excellent selection of apps and extensions - Streamlined mobile management app - Beginner-friendly store management dashboard- Backed by the power of Square payments - Ecommerce focused website builder - Excellent store templates- A huge range of ecommerce tools - Excellent third-party marketplace integrations - Huge app and extension libraries
Cons- High transaction fees with third-party gateways - Expensive compared to some other options- Limited design flexibility - No ecommerce with the free plan- A little complex for small stores - No native mobile app - Limitations with low-end plans
VerdictAs the world’s most popular ecommerce platform, Shopify offers a great selection of tools to help you create a powerful online store Weebly is known for its attractive themes and excellent ecommerce tools, but the restrictive editor will bother some usersIf you want to build a large online store backed by the power of an ecommerce giant, BigCommerce could be your best option
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Key features

As one of the world’s most powerful and popular ecommerce platforms, Shopify offers an excellent selection of selling features. We’ve outlined a few of the most noteworthy ones below. 

One thing that we love about Shopify is its highly functional mobile app. This is designed to help you manage your store on the go, and it comes with a surprising number of advanced tools. 

For starters, the Shopify app enables you to manage product listings from your mobile device—take photos and upload them directly, edit prices and product descriptions, and add new products where required. You can also manage and fulfill orders, access detailed data and analytics, and create notifications for specific occurrences. The app is available across both Android and iOS devices. 

Data collection and report generation are two things that Shopify does very well. Even the most basic plan comes with analytics tools you can use to make informed marketing and other business decisions. You can access these via the Analytics tab on your store dashboard. Change the reporting time period, view data in a clear, visual format, and generate advanced reports for even more insights.

Shopify: key features and highlights

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Shopify's analytics settings

The analytics tab collects and visualizes store data (Image credit: Shopify)
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Shopify's app store

Browse the Shopify App Store to add functionality to your site (Image credit: Shopify)
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Shopify's list of third-party marketplaces

Shopify lets you sell through a selection of third-party marketplaces (Image credit: Shopify)
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Shopify's homepage for its mobile app

Shopify comes with an excellent mobile management app (Image credit: Shopify)

Those who want to sell via marketplaces such as eBay, Amazon, or Google Shopping will love Shopify’s selection of third-party marketplace integrations. Connect your store to these marketplaces with the click of a button, and ensure you’re driving as many sales as you possibly can. 

If Shopify’s native features aren’t enough, you can add extra functionality by installing apps from the Shopify App Store. There are thousands of apps available, covering everything from dropshipping to marketing and customer retention. Be careful, though, because app subscription fees can quickly add up. 

What’s new? 

Shopify is an extremely popular ecommerce platform, and it regularly updates its services to ensure you’re getting the best possible experience. One of the most notable recent updates was the introduction of Online Store 2.0. 

This is designed to change the face of ecommerce. Shopify was already the world’s leading online store builder, and the new theme and app creation tools will enable developers to create even more advanced resources for store owners. 

Another recent announcement concerned the Shopify checkout, which previously couldn’t be customized on any significant level without a large amount of technical knowledge. Now, though, you will be able to configure many more aspects of your store’s checkout, which is something that many users will love.

Pricing

There are three standard Shopify plans available, along with a simple Shopify Lite and an advanced Shopify Plus plan. There’s also a 14-day free trial, and you won’t have to add payment details to access this. What’s more, you will benefit from a 10% discount with annual payments, and a 20% discount with a biannual subscription. 

The cheapest Shopify Lite plan ($9 a month) might seem like a great option, but it only enables you to add a buy button to your existing website. You won’t be able to access the store builder or any advanced management tools. 

The Basic Shopify ($29 a month), Shopify ($79), and Advanced Shopify ($299) plans all provide full access to the store builder, along with increasingly advanced features. Shopify Plus is an enterprise-level option designed for large online stores.

Shopify's pricing plans
Plan type / FeatureShopify LiteBasic ShopifyShopifyAdvanced ShopifyShopify Plus
Cost per month$9$29$79$299From $2,000
Cost per year$108$313.20$853.20$3,229.20From $24,000
Store builderX
Staff accountsNA2515Variable
Inventory locationsNAUp to 4Up to 5Up to 8Variable
Third-party transaction feesNone2%1%0.5%Variable

Testing Shopify

In order to comprehensively compare Shopify to the competition, we analyzed a series of its features and tools to see how it performed. This included creating a store via the Shopify website builder, and the management functionality open to ecommerce users, because these two factors are key when taking ecommerce website building into account.

How do you create a store with Shopify?

Shopify's page for adding products to a new store

You will be prompted to perform specific actions to set up your store (Image credit: Shopify)

To get started with Shopify, we recommend taking advantage of the 14-day free trial. Create a new account, and then answer a few questions to ensure you are provided with the resources you need. 

Next, you will be taken to your Shopify dashboard, where you will be prompted to perform specific setup actions to get your store up and running. Add your first products, customize your theme, connect a domain, and start your first marketing campaign to drive your first sales.

Shopify's website editor in use

The Shopify store editor is a little on the basic side (Image credit: Shopify)

A default theme will be installed to begin with, but there are numerous options to choose from. Navigate to the Themes tab via the menu on the left of the screen, and hit the Customize button to begin personalizing your store.  

Unfortunately, the Shopify editor is quite basic. Your layout will be quite confined by the theme you’re using, and it can be a little confusing to get started. On the plus side, you can add your own content, add or remove sections and elements as required, and edit your site’s code to fine-tune your design. 

What options are there for ongoing management?

Shopify review

The Shopify dashboard includes a range of ongoing management tools (Image credit: Shopify)

If you decide to use Shopify, you will benefit from an excellent selection of ongoing management tools. These include elements ranging from marketing to analytics, and everything in between. 

On the left of your Shopify dashboard, you will find a list of menu options to help you manage your store. Use the Orders tab to view and fulfill new orders, take care of what you’re selling via the Products tab, and view information about the people who have made a purchase from your store in the past via the Customers tab. 

Use the Analytics tab to access a range of information about your store and its performance, and use this information to inform marketing decisions and launch new campaigns via the Marketing menu. Add specials via the Discounts tab, and integrate third-party apps with your store, to ensure you have the exact functionality you require.

Alternatives to Shopify

There’s a reason why Shopify is the world’s most popular ecommerce platform. It’s beginner friendly, easy to use, and has excellent online selling tools. 

In addition, it comes with a 14-day free trial, a selection of online store templates, and streamlined store management features. Prices start at just $29 a month, although you will need to pay significantly more to access advanced tools such as multi-currency support or a third-party shipping calculator. 

BigCommerce is arguably Shopify’s biggest competitor, although it tends to target those creating large stores. It’s an excellent option for enterprise-level clients who anticipate high sales volumes, but it comes with plenty of tools for smaller customers as well. 

Prices for a BigCommerce subscription start at $29.95 a month, which is only slightly more expensive than Shopify. You will have access to 170 store templates, but while many are free, the price of some of these can stretch to hundreds of dollars each. Find out more about this ecommerce builder in our full BigCommerce review.

If you’re looking for a cheaper option, we’d recommend considering Weebly. It was acquired by payment processing giant Square in 2018, and contains a great selection of ecommerce tools for novice users. 

Prices start at just $6 a month, and even the most expensive plan comes in at just $26 a month—cheaper than Shopify’s most affordable subscription option. One thing to note about Weebly is that it offers quite limited design flexibility, but the professionally designed templates are excellent. Read our Weebly review to learn more.

Shopify's features compared to the competition
ShopifyWeeblyBigCommerce
Templates8150+170
Free domainNoYes, with high-end plansNo
SupportEmail, live chat, scheduled phone callbacksEmail, phone, live chatEmail, phone, live chat
Basic plan$29 a month$6 a month$29.95 a month

The verdict

Shopify is by far the world’s most popular ecommerce platform, and one would expect it to offer excellent service across the board. Our analysis revealed a few small flaws, but we didn’t come across any major deal-breakers. 

For one, Shopify offers excellent value for money. Its cheapest Basic Shopify plan comes in at $29, which may seem a little expensive at first glance, but it has an excellent range of online selling tools. 

On top of this, you will benefit from the beginner-friendly editor. It doesn’t offer the best design flexibility we’ve seen, and you will be quite constrained by the theme you choose, but you shouldn’t have any trouble putting together an attractive store design. 

There are also numerous store management tools that will help you streamline day-to-day business activities. The analytics portal is excellent, and you can keep track of everything from orders to the performance of your marketing campaigns via the relevant menu options. 

At the end of the day, we’d recommend taking advantage of Shopify’s 14-day free trial, and testing the platform if you’re thinking about creating a new online store. Sure, it might not be the best choice for your needs, but there’s absolutely no harm in giving it a go. 

After all, there’s a reason why Shopify is so popular among online store owners and digital entrepreneurs. 

Further reading on website builders

If you're looking to find out more about Shopify, read our step-by-step guide on how to build a website with Shopify, and our comparison feature that pits Wix vs Shopify. Learn how to build an ecommerce website, and find out who the best ecommerce website builders are, and whether Shopify ranks among the best website builders or the best small business website builders.

The Verdict
4.5

out of 5

Shopify website builder review 2021

As the world’s most popular ecommerce platform, Shopify naturally offers a great selection of tools to help you create a powerful online store.

Daniel Blechynden

Daniel is a freelance copywriter with over six years experience writing for publications such as TechRadar, Tom’s Guide, and Hosting Review. He specializes in tech and finance, with a particular focus on website building, web hosting, and related fields.