WordPress or Magento: The Fringe Benefits of Working as a Web Designer

Today has been a really long day at the office.

We have had interviews with three new candidates for SEO positions in the company. We’ve talked SEO strategy. We’ve gotten a couple of video promotion companies underway. We’ve created a new reporting system for life insurance quotes. We’ve fixed our SEO Images plugin. We’ve done a detailed quote for a new e-commerce site. We’ve tested two potential CRM-lite solutions. We’ve unsuccessfully tried to invoice again (too much work to have time to invoice!).

Life is not easy at the front lines of the web wars.

But sometimes working on the web can be great.

Peter and I had to spend a half an hour going over the intricate workings of a good sample Magento site to decide if we wanted to build that shopping site in Magento or build a custom cart of our own in WordPress. Here’s the model Magento site:

sexy ecommerce
Sexy ecommerce: WordPress or Magento – definitely Magento
  • Splendid implementation.
  • Perfect design.
  • Wonderful proportions.
  • Incredible attention to detail.
  • Flexibility.

And I am talking about the code not the excellent photographs. It was easy to see all the different variations available of the items. Easy to navigage from item to item.

But digging deeper there’s a lot of fragile and browser dependent code here to troubleshoot. Keeping this site looking perfect and running right in five or six browsers is a serious undertaking.

PS. In the end we came down on the side of a preference for WordPress, as that’s what we can SEO and build in our sleep. If the client would prefer a dedicated Magento site it may happen.

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34 Responses to WordPress or Magento: The Fringe Benefits of Working as a Web Designer

  1. Y’all have any experience with this WordPress e-commerce solution?

    instinct.co.nz/e-commerce/

  2. We do not recommend WordPress e-commerce. It’s beginnings were promising, but the code has become complicated and buggy. WP e-commerce often loads very slowly. The pricing structure is annoying (modular). And the support/PR from Dan is intimidating and focused on blaming the user.

    We will be coming up with some other recommendations soon.

    In the meantime, we did write about WP e-commerce before it went off the rails.

  3. Chad

    I ran across your post on Magento and WordPress. I was close to the final stages of developing a website and store with WordPress and wp- ecommerce. I have been brought to a quick hault do to its issues and the fact that I need taxation by zip-code as NC has new tax laws. I have not found another WordPress ecommerce plugin that can tackle this out of the box. I tried eShop first but I ended up ditching it due to the taxing issues as well.

    I got excited when I saw the Magento WordPress bridge until I realized it wasn’t exactly what I was looking for.

    Have you guys been successful with anything else integrating a store in Word Press that has comparable feature to wp-ecommerce?

  4. Hi Chad,

    We ended up developing a custom solution based on Market Theme which is a very reasonable $55. There was a lot to change and add in the code but in difference from WP Ecommerce it was good code to start.

    You can see the working Toronto furniture rental site for an example of our finished work.

    If you have a budget and would like a hand with the project, let us know. We could sort your tax issue. We’ve done some work with zipcode dependent pricing.

  5. My first ecommerce experience has been with Magento and it has one big bad issue that won’t go away.
    It is absurdly slow. REALLY slow. I read that this was due to excessive database queries.

    It doesn’t matter how good it looks if people get bored waiting for pages to load.

    I might try out WP eshop instead…

  6. Tai,

    Magento doesn’t actually peform that many database queries – a huge portion are cached, the bigger issue is the CPU actually running apache/lighttpd.

    Trust me, it can be made plenty fast.

    And for the person who asked above, you can intergrate the two, we knocked up a guide.

    Its pretty simple, but works very well.

  7. Sonassi, that’s a lot of work for what can be done in Market Theme saving you running just a single CMS instead of two.

    Thanks for the guide for those who need it.

  8. I tried a different approach of integrating Magento and WordPress. In my setup, I only wanted to use Magento as my backend for catalog and WordPress pulling information from Magento thru Mage.php. Check my blog how I did it.

    http://mysillypointofview.wordpress.com/2010/04/08/how-to-use-magentos-session-within-wordpress/

  9. Chlorella

    We’re still speculating whether it is worth using Magento for an ecommerce site of 10-20 products. There are at least 5 ecommerce plugins available for WordPress and one of those should be able to do the job. Any more thoughts?

  10. For 10 to 20 products, you’d be mad to use Magento. Avoid the other (mainly difficult) WP ecommerce plugins and use the simple and powerful MarketTheme.

    We packed about 1200 products into one of our Market Theme shops and no issues.

    Magento is great but it’s really like trying to go for a Sunday drive in a eighteen wheeler. Horses for courses.

  11. Sonassi

    You would be mad not to use Magento – think of it from a scalability and fulfilment (CRM) perspective.

    The number of products shouldn’t dictate what cart system to use, but the functionality required, what the cart can offer, your anticipated level of sales and how you intend to fulfil them.

  12. I disagree Sonassi. Why use Magento if it is huge overkill for the job? That said, if Chlorella is planning to sell millions of Euros of 10 or 20 products, then the cost and trouble of the solution become moot.

  13. Chlorella

    Thank you guys.
    I had a go with Magento and the admin bit seems daunting. It does a lot more we really need but of course if the site grows Magento sounds like a good solution. However, being on a tight budget and without much time left, is it worth even trying Magento? How hard would it be to incorporate our site’s new design into it? We wouldn’t like to use any ready made themes as we have our own design.

    WordPress really rocks when it comes to customised templates. Alex, I hadn’t heard of Market Theme but there’s so many e-commerce and shopping card plugins out there that I would need a week to try them all. We need Paypal, World Pay and Secure Trading so not sure how the Market Theme can deal with those.

    I also tried to install Magento and I was shocked by how big the application is. We run out of the 500MB of webspace on our server so I didn’t manage to install it. WordPress just takes up 10-20MBs with its plugins installed. We definitely are not planning to sell millions of products, a few hundreds per month if things work well. Any thoughts?

  14. Hi Chlorella,

    Your experience with Magento parallels ours. With Magento, you are talking about at least $100/month of hosting (retail, if you have an existing powerful server you can probably carry it without extra cost) to have it run at all reasonably. Which is fine with a huge project. But it doesn’t suit small projects at all.

    We did try all of the WordPress ecommerce and shopping cart themes before settling on Market Theme. Much the easiest to customize. The code is simple and clean.

    Other plugins were either too complicated, poorly supported or just plain badly coded (of the well known WP Ecommerce in particular, which has an awful license to boot).

    Please come back and let me know how it goes.

  15. Sonassi

    With all respect due to WordPress – we love it, it is brilliant at what it does, and it does blogging.

    You want an e-commerce site, why use anything other than an e-commerce platform to build it upon?

    Building a Magento store may be expensive, but it is a no-brainer. You are making a website to make money, the average ROI for our e-commerce stores has been 3-4 months. So whilst spending a reasonable amount in the beginning may seem a little daunting – it will pay itself back in no-time.

    I guess it is all about the level of confidence you really have in your business and whether you actually want to make money from it.

    Ps. You don’t have to be selling “millions” per month (quite a ridiculous statement to make) to be using Magento – simply wanting to sell over the internet should be qualification enough.

  16. Hello Sonassi,

    I’m sorry but you are hopelessly biased here as a Magento developer. WordPress can do a lot more than weblogs.

    You might want to have a look at just a few of the varied sites we’ve developed entirely in WordPress:

    * Canadian life insurance – insurance
    * Vancouver real estate – real estate
    * Toronto furniture rental- ecommerce
    * New York stories – literary publication

    Why on earth would someone want to get involved with a behemoth like Magento for basic shopping cart and checkout?

    I find your remark about level of confidence to be both offensive and stupid. As an example, a client with our WordPress shopping solution had return on investment in two months, can manage her own site and is making a fortune.

    Tell me, do you drive a Hummer to the supermarket as well?

    Why would anyone want one of your overpriced, high maintenance hybrid Magento sites when they could have one of our trim and lithe ecommerce sites which covers site and shopping in a single CMS?

  17. Chlorella

    Hi guys,

    The war is really on! I feel I am somwehere in the middle but at the same time I really like the advantage of developing the site quicker on WordPress.

    I disagree with Sonassi that WordPress is just doing blogs. I have used it in many web sites but never as an e-commerce site with shopping cart, paypal etc.

    Alec, I would like to ask you whether the sites you mentioned are 100% customisable through a CMS or not. If the answer is yes, did you use some other plugins (e.g. Pods) to develop the CMS side to your clients? Or can the market theme deal with all that?

    I can’t wait for the version 3 to find out whether the core cms features will be part of it or not.

  18. Hi Chlorella,

    It’s core clean WordPress but with lots of custom coding where necessary. Many of our plugins are in public release:

    Market Theme can do a lot but there are elements that you’ll have to custom code. But only the parts you need. Much better to have to add a little bit than to be carrying 50 extra kilos around your midriff.

    From what I understand the core CMS features are coming in WordPress 3.

  19. Chlorella

    Thanks Alec,

    I tried a few free plugins (Welcart,ZingiriE-shop, WP-Ecommerce) and either they were not doing what I need or I didn’t like the way the work. I did find out though, apart from the Marktet Theme, 2 other paid ones which I haven’t tried yet and I would like to ask you what your experience is about them:

    1.Shopperpress (seems big and with many interesting features)
    2. Shopp (also interesting but coudnl’t find a proper demo)

    The problem with WordPress 3 is that noone knows when it’s going to be ready.

  20. Hi Chlorella,

    Shopp made our shortlist. Shopperpress didn’t (back then they had a license of $199 per website) which was pretty unfriendly. Shopp is GPL under the commercial gloss which helps. Shopperpress it turns out it as well. Shopperpress is again a theme. Shopp is a plugin. Shopp is very actively developed and the developer is friendly and responsive.

    Our feature list could be met by Market Theme. We really liked working with Market Theme. Shopp was newer, bigger and full of undiscovered bugs when we made our decision (early in the development cycle). I didn’t like the extra charge per payway gateway (and there were only a few available back then).

    We preferred to go light with Market Theme and just code the extras we need. We had a very good experience.

    An argument could be made that one could go with Shopp for a larger feature set. Shopp has a major update coming 1.1 which is already in SVN. If I went with Shopp, I’d start my development in the beta version of 1.1.

  21. Chlorella

    Hi Alec,

    Thanks for sharing your experience and thoughts. I think that I’d rather use a plugin than a theme because we have our own design and it would make things easier. What I haven’t understood though is whether Market Theme is a theme as its name suggests or a plugin. If it is a theme then I’m afraid we will have to be tied up to their design, unless that can be easily changed from within their system.

  22. Tai

    After my third lockout from the Magento admin area I threw in the towel. Never again Magento!
    I like some of the WordPress selling solutions except I could not find one that supported customized tax rules.
    I think I found best ecommerce solution ever. Ubercart for Drupal. Solid out of the box and very very customizable.
    I recently developed a site with it and it went very smoothly. I am hooked on Drupal!

  23. Hi Chlorella,

    If you think about how themes work, they are made up of templates. You can have any number of templates within a theme. So effectively for a shopping site, there is no different between a theme and a template. When it’s a theme, the shortcodes are already built-in. It really just saves you the hassle of trying to build the shopping cart section of the theme yourself.

    It doesn’t make sense at first glance, but if you think more deeply about what a shopping cart is, it will.

    Hi Tai,

    Glad to hear you found a solution which worked. I agree, a year ago the state of Ecommerce on WordPress was dire, largely because of the presence of a prominent but awful solution in the market, WP Ecommerce.

    When developer realised just how awful WP Ecommerce is as a plugin (tax is just one of its problems) and started some alternative solutions, the WordPress shopping cart ecosphere is very healthy now.

    Totally agree about Magento overkill. Not suitable for organisations without dedicated IT departments.

  24. alan

    Magneto is too big and too slow.

    Also I don’t like the admin.

    You can build the same e-commerce site with WordPress and have it run fast.

  25. Vancouver Rich

    I’m with Alec. WordPress can be a powerful platform. No, it still can’t do everything Magneto can do, but it’s far easier to implement and more plugins are being developed all the time.

  26. I’m about to start selling freeze dried food on my wordpress site, but I don’t want to use paypal for merchanting. Does Market Theme integrate with any other payment processors?

  27. By now, I would think so. If not, you can write your own payment integration script, or we could write it for you (as a paid engagement of course).

  28. Phoe

    JiGoShop is the new kid on the block, and fixes a lot of woes with Wp-ecommerce.

    Also, WP-ecomm is itself now quite new.

    Magento is useless.

  29. Magento is useless is a pretty harsh statement. For a large enough shop with very specific shipping and tax issues, Magento can provide a comprehensive solution. For most shops, Magento is serious overkill though.

  30. Hi Alec

    I am specing a site Private Sales or Flash Sales site where will have plus 100 000 members. We need a lot of customisation, fast cart given that 1% may buy at the time any deal open. I have come across al the work being done via Magneto Entreprise at $12000 per year. (The cost is not the issue). I have also done research on http://groupbuyingsite.com They have a well recommended wordpress theme & plugins.

    Personally I prefer wordpress as I am very familiar with it.

    My question; stated negatively: Is there a point where wordpress will not do the job?

    Have fun and thanks for the article and your responses to the questions.

    Johan

  31. Hi Johan,

    I can’t see any reason why WordPress couldn’t run the largest possible deal site. Probably lighter weight than any Magento configuration at scale, when coded properly.

    Changing the look and adding new features will certainly be easier.

    Making the web work for you, Alec

  32. Hi Alec

    Thanks. That’s what I expected you to tell me ;-)

    But it does not make my task easier yet. I need to motivate this to our board and I have nothing but my own bias towards wordpress. And some impressive growth figurs for Magento vs oscommerce (nothing like this for wordpress as there’s no common category to compare) http://blog.templatemonster.com/2010/04/12/magento-beats-oscommerce-comparison-research/

  33. Hi guys, nice to see a discussion not entirely driven by promotional agendas…
    I am running an E-Cig blog with a web store running on ‘ECWID’. It seems reasonable, but I don’t really like it, and my visitors do not seem to be buying anything-which is the acid test! I think this is because they have to set up two accounts, one for the Blog home site, and one for the ECWID store.
    Does this MarketTheme offer easy configuration for people who are not PHP wizards?

  34. Hi Michael,

    Setting up ecommerce properly is just not that easy.

    But MarketTheme was the easiest one we found. Having dual login sounds like a nightmare. I’d drop that ASAP.

    Making the web work for you, Alec

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