A common question that the Geeks get asked is “which self-hosted software is best for building an online store”? We’ll address that question shortly, but let’s not get ahead of ourself. First, let’s make sure you understand the difference between “hosted software and self-hosted software”.
Hosted Online Stores: This is where you can build a website on the software provider’s servers. If you choose this option you’ll be setup very quickly and you won’t have to find a web host as this is taken care of for you.
The down side to these solutions is the cost of hosting and sales commissions can really add up! In addition, there is often much less design flexibility and when you outgrow the software, it can be a massive headache moving to a new provider.
Examples of hosted solutions include eBay, Volusion and Shopify.
Self-hosted online stores: With this option you’ll decide on which shopping cart software best meets your requirements (such as Magento or WooCommerce). Once you make a decision, you’ll then need to choose a web host who will store your website data for you. Choosing this option requires a little bit more work at the start of your journey.
The benefit of this option is having much greater design flexibility, lower costs, no commissions on what you sell, no price increases as you add more products to your range and if you decide to move to a new provider, you have full control of your data.
Examples of self-hosted solutions include Magento, WooCommerce, Opencart and Zencart.
Which self-hosted online solution is best for you?
For newcomers to the online sales world, it can be overwhelming as there are so many choices which vary significantly in ease of use, features and price. The best choice for you will depend on what you’re hoping to achieve, your levels of technical ability and budget. In saying that, having used a lot of different software to build eCommerce websites we believe there are two options which are excellent choices for a large majority of users out there – Magento and WooCommerce.
We’ve compiled a review of Magento and WooCommerce below which we hope will help you make an informed choice. Feel free to give the Geeks a call on 1300 722 504 if you’d like to discuss your website requirements.
Overview: Magento, an eBay owned company, is the leading eCommerce solution with 240,000 merchants worldwide using the software. It is free, Opensource software that allows you to build powerful online stores. If you can imagine your online store, chances are Magento can make it a reality.
Skill Level Required (if not using a developer): Intermediate to Expert.
Popularity: Around 30% of top 100k eCommerce websites use Magento.
Pricing: Free Community Version plus an option for large enterprises to purchase an Enterprise Version which is around US$15,000.
Recommended Hosting: Magento is resource hungry and Host Geek therefore recommend opting for a Magento VPS Hosting Plan as a minimum (avoid shared hosting if your budget permits). You can view the full Magento server requirements on their website here.
Features: Out of the box, Magento provides a stunning range of features which are scalable and flexible. To check out the full range of features visit their features page. Although Magento has loads of features included in their free offering, most users end up spending additional funds on Extensions to increase the store’s functionality.
Setup: Magento has a setup wizard which makes installing the software simple. However, once you’re setup it becomes a bigger challenge to make changes and alter settings. For those that don’t have a reasonable level of technical expertise (or the budget to pay someone that does have these skills) you might struggle with this software.
Overview: WooCommerce is a relatively new shopping cart having been launched in 2011. It comes in the form of a WordPress plugin and is very popular with WordPress users thanks to it’s simple setup and intuitive nature.
Skill Level Required: Beginner through to Expert.
Popularity: Around 8% of top 100k eCommerce websites use WooCommerce.
Pricing: Free – Opensource.
Recommended Hosting: WooCommerce is simply a plugin for WordPress – this means there are fewer server requirements in comparison to Magento. If your server supports MySQL and PHP you will be unlikely to have any issues. For smaller online stores, you can get away with shared hosting; however, as your website visitors increase and your store increases its products you’ll start to experience growing headaches and a VPS or VDS plan will be required.
Our WordPress Hosting plans are ideal for online sellers as our plans save the headache of having to perform software updates. You can view the full WooCommerce server requirements on their website here.
Features: With the free WooCommerce plugin you’ll be able to start selling quickly and easily. WooCommerce is compatible with a huge range of WordPress themes so you should be able to find a design that looks professional with relative ease.
On the negative side, there are a lot of basic features that you may require that don’t come with the free version of WooCommerce. For example, if you want to setup recurring payments or you want to take payments directly from credit cards rather than using Paypal, you’ll need to buy a WooCommerce Extension. The last time we checked, there were 326 available extensions with only 35 of them being free.
Setup: If you’ve used WordPress before you’ll find setting up WooCommerce very simple. It is simply a case of installing the plugin. Even those new to WordPress will find setting up a website with WooCommerce very intuitive. You can change a wide range of shopping cart options and alter the look of the cart fairly easily and if things get too tough, there is a very helpful community forum. There’s also a huge number of developers available that you can outsource if you get stuck (for a price).
The Final Verdict
When building an eCommerce store, it is hard to go past Magento for a compete package. The wide range of features and professionally designed themes will really help the chances of making your online store a success. It should also be pointed out that Magento was specifically built for online stores – it can therefore handle large stores with ease, so long as the hosting is sufficient.
On the other hand, if you’re new to online selling and you don’t have a huge number of products, WooCommerce will do fantastic job and it will be a lot easier to use.