November 15, 2022

e-Commerce - Webflow or Shopify?

"I'm building an e-commerce site... should I use Webflow, or Shopify?"
- Every designer everywhere

Webflow and Shopify are entirely different platforms, designed with entirely different priorities. Let's say we describe an e-commerce platform as having 4 primary aspects;

  1. UI design- the ability to create the look and feel you want
  2. UX interactivity- URLs, widgets, and more
  3. e-Commerce support- The nitty gritty of the payment process, what payment forms are taken, shipping calculation, tax calculation, customizable email notification, and order processing after the order is captured.
  4. Business logic, dev & integration- the ability to organize the system around your basic business needs.

I think of it like this-


Webflow excels at the UI designer experience and capability, but is relatively weak in other areas, like server-side dev support, UX features like CMS-populated autocompletes, and is has no 3rd component support or marketplace [ like Wordpress, Squarespace, Shopify, WIX do ).

So you can build the BEST-looking UIs, but you’re left to your own devices on wiring up actual functionality.

Shopify goes the opposite route. They’re very app-centric, where they provide excellent e-commerce support ( not perfect, but very solid ). But it doesn’t offer much in the way of “design” support. You choose a theme, and configure it. If you want it to work differently, you crack open the theme, setup a shopify dev environment, learn the structure, code in Liquid, etc. It’s a good design overall, but unless you’re happy swimming in source code, you’ll drown.

Pros invest the time to understand these differences so they can choose the right tool for the job. Maybe it’s both… design your layout in Webflow, and then turn it into a Shopify theme. Or build your site in Webflow, and integrate Shopify’s buy now button.

The challenge is, most real-world e-commerce projects seem to have requirements that look like this;


Read more about the pros and cons in this Webflow forum thread.

Key feature comparison

Bridging the gaps

For many, a hybrid site is the best current option, and there are two primary approaches to this.

Webflow site with Shopify buy button

Allows you to design the site in Webflow, and integrate Shopify into is for the ordering, cart, and payment.

I'm pleasantly surprised with the capabilities this approach offered.

Here's an example.

Use Webflow to design a Shopify theme

Another approach is to use Webflow's designer to create exactly the look and feel that you want, and then to export it as a Shopify theme that can then be plugged into the store.

This requires a fair bit of development knowledge. particularly regarding Shopify themes and the Liquid templatting language.

Check out Udesly too as a build path, too.

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