Shopify Review 2013 – Nutshell
Shopify happens to be one of the most popular hosted shopping cart software in the market. This ecommerce solution is so simple to use with its clean and clear interface. The solution’s 7 step by step guide from beginning to end helps to lead new merchants to set up their online store in an easy to understand manner.
O, Yeah! So easy to understand and use, our Shopify review shows that new beginners do not have to worry about getting lost in the process of setting up their online store. Trial store comes populated with samples so that merchants get a better idea on what they need to change. Templates offered are beautiful and professionally done. Pixel sizes for banners are clearly stated. Offers domain registration service. Great selection of apps for merchants to pick.
O, No! While there were a few glitches when it came to changing template, this is nothing serious. However, please note that free templates offered by by Shopify are very limited. Subscription pricing is reasonable although the solution takes a cut in terms of transaction fees. Be ready to pay for the apps that you need for your business as some do not come cheap and those offered for free may not be what you are needing for your online business. So merchants may end up paying quite a bundle for the apps that they need.
TEDN Overall Shopify Review 2013 Score: 7.8
Signing up with Shopify for a free trial store was pretty easy. The ecommerce solution generates a trial store within seconds for new merchants. New merchants or sellers are guided each step of the way on what they need to do to get the store running with Shopify outlining 7 steps comprising of adding Products, Design, Content, Payment, Taxes, Shipping and Domain.
New sellers who click on the ‘Go to the products page’ link will be guided on where exactly to click on the screen with a black window arrow pointing to the top of the navigation bar.
The process was easy as the Add Products page was clean and not complicated. The default template that comes with the free trial store makes any product that is uploaded look good. New merchants could add a few products to see how they look in their new store or they could click on the ‘I’ve completed this step’ blue window at the bottom of the page to move on to the next step – Design.
Shopify Theme Set Up
Again, merchants will be guided on where to click – Theme > Theme Settings. This is where users could make changes to the current template of their store. However, most new merchants may want to have a look at other Shopify templates that are available. This could be done by clicking on ‘Shopify Theme Store’ at the bottom of the page.
At first glance, it may look like there are a lot of designs to pick from especially when you keep scrolling down and the solution keeps adding new designs to look through. Upon closer look, some of the designs are actually repeat designs.
Useful Tip : So that you do not keep scrolling down like a never-ending spiral, just click on either free or paid and decide whether you want to view only main templates or those that come with mobile.
Shopify pricing range for paid themes are around $80 – $180. Some come with mobile designs while others do not. For merchants who just want to pick a mobile design for their store, it will cost $80. Merchants who prefer to use free templates may be limited by the selection of free themes available. So if you want a better template, you’d have to pay for one or have one custom designed.
There is also a sort feature which will show ‘Most Recent’, ‘Price’ (low to high and vice versa), ‘Most Popular’ or ‘Alphabetical’ if you want to have a look at the themes. I like the idea of ‘most popular’ as it gives merchants a chance to see which theme is picked the most. There is also a Premium Themes selection.
Once you’ve picked the theme of your choice, just enter in your store’s URL. You have a choice to publish the new theme on your store to make it live or to keep the existing template (I’d go with the latter just in case the new theme does not look that good!)
Important Note : It took quite a long time for the new theme to upload (definitely more than 5 minutes!). I left my computer running for the whole night thinking it needed some time to upload to a new theme. Unfortunately, what Shopify could have done to improve this scenario would be to automatically re-direct merchants back to their store after the new template has been uploaded instead of leaving the page hanging like the below.
Anyway, you could pick a few free Shopify themes for your store without publishing them as you may want to see a comparison on what your store looks like. Once you’ve decided which theme suits your online business best, then you could just click on ‘Publish This Theme’.
Bear in mind that Shopify will allow you to publish the theme as your main site or as your mobile site. That way, you could choose one theme for your main and another different theme for your mobile site. That’s quite good thinking so that it allows merchants to have some variation in designs.
It’s also easy to preview what your mobile site will look like by clicking on the Preview button next to the theme that you’ve selected.
Note : Also, depending on which theme you picked, those that come with banners will have the banner size in pixels displayed. This is a plus point as it saves merchants time to figure out what is the size of the image that they need to upload into the banner field. The current one that I picked shows the banner size as 877 x 347 pixels.
Custom Design Themes
However, if you are totally not interested in any of the pre-designed themes offered by Shopify, you could always contact any of their approved expert designers to have your very own custom designed theme created to match what your business is all about.
Important Note : Prices will range depending on which designer you choose. On a project basis, we’re looking at around $400 to $4500 while the hourly rate is from $80 to $100 per hour. The Setup rate is $500 a pop. These designers have their own sites mentioned while reviews by their customers are clearly posted. This is quite risky since you wouldn’t really know how much exactly it will cost to have a custom theme created neither would you know how many hours is required to get the job done. Other shopping carts like InstanteStore charges a flat rate of only $397 for a custom designed template with a 100% money back guarantee and unlimited revisions. So you might want to consider the terms carefully before signing on looking at the charges.
After you’re done with the design and theme of your store and mobile site, you could click on the ‘I’ve completed this step’ blue link at the bottom of the page. This will prompt you to the next step of building your online store which is adding content in Blogs & Pages.
Shopify Blogs & Pages
There’s only 3 sections for merchants to fill up here. Pages will consist of your company’s ‘About Us’ information along with the ‘Welcome’ text that will greet visitors and customers who come to your store.
Shopify will guide you to create content starting with the About Us page. Again, the design and interface is clear and clean not to mention easy enough for anyone to use.
Once you’re done keying in the relevant information about your company, you can choose to have it published or remain hidden until you launch your store live.
Your welcome page does not need to be long either. Just greet your visitors well and have a short introduction about your company and what you offer.
Shopify also makes it easy for merchants to blog about their store’s products, add company news or just let people know about the updates of the company. What I like about it is the fact that everything is integrated well and easy to use. There’s also a link to Shopify’s Ecommerce Blog which I found to contain plenty of useful information that will be of great help for new and existing merchants. The key is to always keep learning.
Checkout & Payment
After you’re done writing all the content, the next step will guide you to set up the checkout and choose your payment gateway. Don’t worry if you if you do not know where to configure that if you did not follow the steps. Just click on Preferences > Checkout & Payment
Every trial store comes activated with PayPal Express Checkout by default. So if you have your own choice of payment gateway, make sure you edit and change the default if you’re not planning to use PayPal Express Checkout.
Accepting credit cards was quite simple and the ecommerce software was smart enough to detect your country so it will propose the payment gateway that is used in your country at the top of the drop down list.
And of course, if you need additional payment methods, there’s always Google Checkout.
For those who prefer to accept offline payment, they could easily choose from the Offline & Custom Payment Methods selection which accepts COD (Cash On Delivery), Money Order and Bank Deposits.
Note : Don’t panic if you don’t know what to write. Just click on the Generate buttons next to each policy and edit the contents to fit your company. Pretty easy right? Click on ‘Update my policies’ when you’re done to save it.
Setting Up Tax Rates
Next step would be to set up your tax rates. Again, you’ll be able to find it under Preferences > Regions & Taxes.
The solution is smart enough to detect your country based on your IP address so all you have to do is to select the option on whether you want to include taxes to your product price or even charge taxes on your shipping price. It’s easy to configure based on the state that you are planning to ship to. If you’re going to ship to multiple destinations, just click on ‘Add A New Destination’ to include in the relevant tax info. You could even enter in a Federal Tax Rate to charge.
Setting Up Shipping
The next step would be to set up your store’s shipping. However, for merchants who wish to use USPS, UPS, FedEx or other carrier that uses real-time shipping rates are required to sign up for Shopify’s pricing plan.
For those who do no wish to use any real time shipping rates, you could configure your own shipping rates based on your product weight or product pricing rate. The solution come pre-populated with sample shipping rates for both local and international destinations so all you have to do is to amend the rates accordingly.
Configuring Domain Name
The last step in setting up your online store would be to add in your domain name. You could do so by going to Preferences > DNS & Domains
While some merchants may prefer to buy their own domain names from external sources, I like the fact that Shopify offers a domain registration service for new merchants. You could check whether the domain name that you’re interested in is available or not. The solution will also offer several alternate domain name suggestions if the initial name is no longer available.
After completing these basic 7 steps, you could launch your store by picking any of the available plans offered by Shopify. And with a generous 30 days free trial period, it’s enough time to have an online store built, tested and ready to go.
Plus Point : All of Shopify’s plans come with unlimited bandwidth.
The number of SKU’s and storage depends on the plan of your choice.
Warning : Do be aware that while Shopify’s rates are quite reasonable, the company does charge a percentage of transaction fees for merchants who sign up for their Basic, Business & Professional Plans. Only the Unlimited Plan ($179/month) is exempt from any transaction fee charges.
Shopify App Store
Now one of the main reason why the interface is so clean and uncluttered is because new merchants have not gotten any apps yet from the Shopify App Store. This is basically where all the additional features, tools and software are located but they are broken into small chunks adding as a plug in. So if you need it, you buy or subscribe to it. Kind of like using Apple’s App Store.
Pros : Pay for what you need to use. Find it first and see whether it fits your business needs. Some apps come with a free trial period. Others may not. Some of the apps are offered FREE but these are usually limited.
Cons : You need to pay for what you need. It could be on a monthly basis or a one time payment. Check your budget and get the ones you need for your business. Some apps are PAY PER USE (so watch out!). You may discover that it’ll be quite a bundle which you need to pay after selecting really good apps for your online business.
Shopify is an excellent shopping cart for new merchants who are starting their own online business due to its easy to use features and clean interface. It is ideal for those who do not know much about programming as the steps provided are easy to understand. I like the fact that this ecommerce software guides the user in a step by step manner in helping them to set up their online store.