Shopify is a store builder more aimed towards people who have their own stock to shift but also offers digital distribution services. In a nutshell it’s a pretty good program but costs can rapidly rise, most notably because they take a per transaction percentage which over time can mount up, especially when combined with membership fees, themes and app costs.
You will get the advantage of a free trial to start Shopify, the initial tutorials are quite easy to follow, if a little long winded, but this is probably just to account for as many levels of expertise as possible. A point in their favor is that they offer some fairly handy videos as part of the tutorial process so you’ll be pretty hard pressed to not know how to complete a specific section or task. Like many similar services it works around choosing a template and populating it with graphics and information, in general this is easy enough and most of the instructions are pretty clear. The system also populates new stores with dummy data so you know what, and where, to change things.
The templates themselves drastically differ in quality. Some are really design work, they look great and can be easily modified with your own products to suit, others look really generic but again this is less a specific criticism and more a downside of Shopify catering to such a wide potential audience. One of the biggest problems is that themes can be very expensive, granted they look fantastic but you can very easily spend over $100 on just one theme, that’s not the kind of money some people are going to be willing to invest before things even start.
There is a very nice theme filter search so you can eliminate the paid or high priced ones however, I recommend starting with a free theme you can always upgrade later should you wish it.
One other problem with the Shopify stores is that sometimes the banner requirements mean your site isn’t quite just set up and go. IF you’re left with a huge hole in the page because you don’t have a specific large product image you can rapidly end up dropping back, undoing all your work and having to choose a new theme. I strongly recommend you check all themes for required banners before proceeding with a new site so you don’t get caught out down the line. Shopify does offer the ability to use custom templates but unless you can do this yourself you are going to end up spending $400-$1000+.
Adding content to the stores is easy enough, there are definitely a lot of ways to customize stores with content, pages and blogs, most of these are very easy to set up but can take a while to fill in, I recommend you prepare things like an about us page and shipping info before you start so these can be pasted in later.
Setting up payment gateways is also fairly easy, you can put PayPal details in, bank details, you can even set up a Cash on Delivery system but you will need to fill in Refund, Privacy and Terms of Service policies.
One thing Shopify are strict on is tax rates you’ll need to make sure you correctly sort these. There is a fairly easy process to guide you but you will still need some knowledge of your local tax setup.
Something of a mixed blessing to the Shopify platform are the Apps. Functionality wise its probably one of Shopifys strongest points, the apps are varied and generally good with lots of cool additional features you can implement into your store. The downside? They cost more money, on top of paying for membership, paying for themes and paying a percentage of your sales you have to pay for each app, some apps are even pay per use. Personally I think that’s insane, you could really lose money that way.
Shopify has some fantastic features but ultimately its for people with the capital to properly invest. It’s a premium piece of software and it shows in the price tag and quality of the themes. If you have your own stock and are looking to shift volume maybe the investment is worth it for you but if you’re just setting up you may find costs for this are simply too high.