Which e-commerce site would you recommend? Is it better to have a site that starts as a blog with a shopping cart added, or an e-commerce site with a blog added?
I’m currently recommending BigCommerce.com as the number one best eCommerce platform in 2013. It’s an online shopping cart/ecommerce platform that performs well, looks great, and has a standard HTML/CSS backend theme structure. It’s an example of an e-commerce site with a blog added. It’s a managed site that you pay monthly for, rather than a self-hosted site like WordPress, osCommerce, or Magento Community, but it’s not much to pay for the amount of support and consulting that comes with that fee. I’ll discuss more on this later. For now, let’s look at the number one blogging platform, WordPress, when ecommerce is added.
WP-Ecommerce is the most popular ecommerce plugin that runs on WordPress, but I don’t recommend it. I have experience using it myself and from helping clients with it. It does work most of the time, it’s just that when it doesn’t, support is hard to come by. It’s also hard, but not impossible, to make it look good. CSS and theme elements have a lot to do with that, but the plugin has it’s own CSS too, which makes it harder to configure. If you are deadset on using WordPress as your platform, consider Woocommerce first because of all the great themes and support available for it, but if you truly want to self-host, consider Magento Community instead. You might also want to consider osCommerce (read my comparison of Magento vs. osCommerce). Self-hosted ecommerce packages are not easy. If you don’t want to pay someone to support it (or to put it another way, if you want to support it cheaply), what I am recommending right now to clients is BigCommerce.com.
BigCommerce is easy. Software and hosting are managed for you, it has integration with Google Shopping, is SEO friendly, loads super-fast, has blogging functionality, and has gorgeous themes. For a low monthly rate you also get support and some initial consulting. Compare that with hiring a web designer like me and/or hosting it yourself. The bottom line is that WordPress is not an ecommerce platform, it’s designed for blogging. Although it is powerful enough to run an ecommerce site, it’s not its specialty and it will always be harder than a platform designed for ecommerce. For a second hosted solution, consider Shopify. It’s slightly more expensive than BigCommerce and uses less ‘open standards’ of coding, but if you like it better, it’s still a great shopping cart system.