When it comes to building an ecommerce website, two very popular options for small online stores are WooCommerce and Wix but which one is the better option? For this post, I am going to be looking at the self-hosted wordpress.org version of WooCommerce.
WooCommerce vs Wix – What is the Difference?
WooCommerce is basically the official ecommerce plugin for the WordPress CMS (both are ran by the same company Automatic), the WooCommerce plugin can be used as a base for a variety of different ecommerce websites. Wix is primarily a hosted website builder that can be used to build an ecommerce website by installing the Wix Stores app.
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Making a direct comparison on pricing is very difficult as they operate in different ways.
WordPress & WooCommerce are open source, meaning that the software is free to use but you will need to arrange your own hosting and dependant on requirements, can range from a few dollars a month to thousands.
As Wix is fully hosted, you get the website builder, Wix stores app, hosting and support all included for a fixed price monthly package.
Now you may notice that the Wix prices above are different to the ones advertised on the Wix website, this is because the prices above are what you pay if the packages are paid for on a month by month basis and the ones promoted on the Wix site are if you pay for the packages annually.
But with WooCommerce, your eyes aren’t deceiving you, it is free to use and unlike many WordPress plugins, there isn’t a premium option for this plugin and anything you want to add to WooCommerce comes in the form of additional plugins.
With WooCommerce, there is no free trial and if you want to test it out for yourself, you need to buy some cheap hosting and then install WordPress and WooCommerce to see whether or not you like it.
Wix offers a 14 day trial on their business and ecommerce packages but they also allow you to have a free plan for life but this is limited on features and although you can test the Wix Stores app, it won’t be usable on the front end of your site.
One of the main selling points of any ecommerce platform is the features that they offer for their users, so what do these two platforms offer?
Standard features isn’t a particular strong point of WooCommerce as it is designed to add basic ecommerce functionality to a WordPress website, features can then be added as required by installing additional features, but as standard is does offer:
- Sell Physical & Digital Products
- Discount Coupons
Marketing & SEO
- Blog (WordPress)
- SEO Friendly URL’s
- Sales by Date
- Sales by Product
- Sales by Category
- Registered vs Guest Customers
- Amazon Pay
WordPress Plugin Library
As mentioned above, additional plugins are an essential part of the WooCommerce system and there are thousands to choose from, a search of the free WordPress plugin library returns over 7,000 results and there are many other free plugins outside of the main library and this selection grows even further when you factor in premium plugins.
One of the things that does make WooCommerce a unique proposition, is that you can use it as a base for a variety of different ecommerce businesses, including:
- B2C Ecommerce
- B2B Ecommerce
- Subscription sites
- Membership sites
- Multi-vendor marketplaces
- Catalogue site
This is something that isn’t available with other ecommerce platforms and the flexibility is a features within itself.
Due to Wix being primarily a website builder, many of the features of the platform aren’t specifically designed for ecommerce but once the Wix Stores app is installed, the combination offers the following features:
- Sell Physical & Digital Products
- Discount Coupons
- Create Promo Video
- Live Chat
Marketing & SEO
- SEO Friendly URL’s
- Custom Meta Data
- Send via Email Campaign
- Share Product to Social Media
- Sell via Facebook and Instagram
- Conversion Rate
- Purchase Funnel
- Top Email Campaign
- Wix Payments
Wix also offers an app marketplace but only a small selection of these will work with the Wix Stores app and this means that the amount of ecommerce functionality you can add is quite limited. However, many of the apps can add some useful general features to a Wix website.
Within the App Marketplace, there are a selection of both free and paid apps. Many of the paid apps will offer free trials or a free package but if you want all of the features, then you are going to have to pay and this is usually a monthly recurring payment.
One of the things that really does let the Wix platform down is the poor selection of payment gateways on offer and there are no additional ones available in the App Market.
Theme Selection & Customisation
It is very difficult to beat WooCommerce when it comes to theme selection as there are over 1,000 free themes with WooCommerce integration available from the WordPress theme library and this is expanded even further outside of the WordPress ecosystem as on Themeforest alone there are over 8,500 premium themes.
One of the main issues with themes for WooCommerce is that you don’t get the same amount of customisation options with every theme and it does depend on the theme developer as to what you can do in terms of design but one of the good things about WordPress being open source is that you get access to the source code and people with knowledge of HTML and CSS can customise themes as much as they want.
The main changes that are made to a chosen theme are done through the WordPress customizer, which is what can be seen in the image above but as mentioned above, the amount of options does vary from theme to theme but generally things like:
- Navigation menu locations
- Homepage settings
Are all changeable within the customizer and as it is a live editor, you can preview the changes before publishing them on your live site.
WordPress also includes a page builder called Gutenberg, which uses blocks and this allows you to create custom blog posts and pages for your site and WooCommerce comes with a standard set of blocks, so that you can sell directly from your blog posts if you want to.
Wix has one of the larger selections of free themes of all the hosted platforms out there with just over to 80 to choose from that are compatible with the Wix Stores app, there are also a few third-party developers who have build some premium Wix themes and the pricing very much depends on the developer.
When it comes to customising these themes, Wix offer two tools, the ADI tool and the advanced editor.
The first and easiest to use is their ADI (Artificial Design Intelligence) tool, which has been designed so that users can quickly and easily makes changes to the look and feel of their site.
This tool gives you lots of control when it comes to customisation and is arguably one of the best tools in the industry. What makes it stand out from the rest is that it can be used on every page of your site, meaning that you can create a truly custom looking website.
The second tool is the advanced editor and while it offers some very good features, it almost offers too much in terms of customisation and you can make minute adjustments to where elements of your website are located and you can easily spend/waste a lot of time making small changes that will have little to no impact on your site!
So, for most users, the ADI tool is going to be more than enough but the advanced editor is required as this is how apps are installed and configured on your site, some ecommerce features in of the Wix stores app can only be set up using this editor and knowing which tool you need to be in to achieve what you want can be a little confusing.
For new users, support can be hugely important in helping you get up and running with your site but what do these two platforms offer?
When it comes to support, WooCommerce isn’t great due to it being open source!
Support for the main WooCommerce plugin is pretty much non-existent from the developers but they do have some useful documentation and the only way to get support is to purchase a premium plugin or theme but you then only get support for what you bought, not the site as a whole.
It is very much the same for plugins and themes purchased from third-party developers and hosting providers will generally only offer support around the hosting, not the site, although some hosts that offer managed hosting do include this as part of the monthly fee.
There is a community forum on WordPress, that can be a good place to ask questions (just don’t expect an immediate response) and also find answers to questions.
But the one good thing about WooCommerce being so popular is the amount of information and guides out there to help you set up plugins or do things within the platform. A quick Google search will generally give you the answer to most of your problems.
On the surface, the support options available from Wix look really good as all English users get 24/7 support (support times for other languages vary) and they offer phone, live chat and ticket support, which all sounds great!
The problem comes with actually trying to contact the support team as Wix has done a very good job of hiding this in their help section and unless you know where to look, you will have a fun time trying to find it.
Once you find the contact support page, their AI bot will try and send you to one of their documentation articles, which I should add are useful and well written and only by saying no to all of the bots suggestions, will it actually show you how to speak to someone!
I don’t like that they have tried to hide these options from their users and this has led to frustration for many users and feedback from users have said that once they actually reach a member of the support team, that the quality of the support can be hit and miss.
Hosting & Performance
Usually this section of a comparison would be looking at how the hosting environment of the platforms compare across a selection of performance tests but this is not possible due to the way they are hosted and below I will look at the pros and cons of both:
• You choose which host you want to use
• More control when it comes to optimisation and performance
• Can move website to a new host
• Can work out cheaper, depending on the type of hosting you choose
• More onus on the site owner when it comes to performance, reliability and security
• If the site stops working due to a platform, plugin or theme issue, it is down to you to resolve it
• You are responsible for the maintenance and keeping the site updated
• Things like optimisation, performance, updates and site security are handled by the platform
• You can contact support to get help when fixing issues on your site
• Leaves you to focus on the business aspect of your site
• You are tied into the platform and can’t just up and move your site to another host
• Less control over your site as you can only do what they allow you to do
• Can work out more expensive on a monthly basis
So as you can see, there are quite a few differences between the two types of website and it depends on you and your experience and ability as to whether you want to go the self hosted route, where you have more control but also more responsibility in managing the site or go for the hosted option that leaves you to focus on the business side of things but give up some control and freedom?
If you want to see how well Wix compares to other hosted ecommerce platforms in terms of performance, check out my Fastest Ecommerce Platforms post.
Ease of Use
Now I do know that ease of use is subjective to the person using the site so the following is just my opinion and should only be used as a guide.
Due to WooCommerce being self-hosted the process of getting started with the platform is a little more complex than other platforms as you need to:
- Buy hosting
- Point your domain name to the web host
- Install WordPress
- Install and activate the WooCommerce plugin
Now there are some really nice web hosts out there who will help you with most of this process but it still can be a little daunting to anyone new to building an ecommerce website.
Once you have installed and activated the WooCommerce plugin, you will be taken through a very short set up guide, which all it does is configure your basic settings and once this is done, you are kind of left to figure it out for yourself, fortunately, there are lots of good WooCommerce Tutorials out there that take you through the complete process.
Using WooCommerce is very simple as it integrates seamlessly with the WordPress dashboard and once the plugin is installed, it will add 4 headings to the main sidebar navigation menu:
- Main WooCommerce Heading
These headings are also prominently featured towards the top of the navigation menu, which makes it very easy to access your WooCommerce store and it doesn’t take long to work out where everything is and how to get to it but following a tutorial does make the process a bit easier.
There are two ways that you can get started with the Wix platform:
- Start a free Wix website and install the Wix stores app
- Take a 14 day free trial of the business packages
If you want to test out all aspects of the Wix stores app, then it is worth taking out the free trial as you are limited as to what you can test on the free site.
Whichever sign up process you decide to use, on the first sign in, you can go through the Wix ADI (Advanced Design Intelligence) set up and this will take some basic information from you and build a basic template for your website.
Once you have gone through the set up process, you will be taken through to the main Wix dashboard and when you first sign up, you are greeted by a short set up guide, which takes you through the basics of setting your store up, such as
- Adding a Product
- Choosing a Payment Method
- Setting up Shipping Options
Further down the dashboard homepage are additional prompts for things to set up for your store and some of these are very helpful.
While this is helpful for new users, the Wix dashboard does feel quite cramped, with lots of information being thrown at you at once, there are also pop ups that appear with certain headings or text and these can be quite distracting when you are trying to get things done on your site. Sometimes less is more and I feel that simplifying the Wix dashboard would be an improvement for Wix.
Adding and Managing Stock
Being able to manage your stock efficiently and effectively is a hugely important part of running an online store and for me there are three main areas to this and they are:
- Adding products
- Organising your Products
- Managing your inventory
The add new product page in WooCommerce is very easy to use and is based around the classic post/page creator in WordPress. There is the options to add full and short descriptions as well as a main featured images and additional images.
To add product information, there is a tabbed section below the main description that allows you to add pricing, inventory and delivery information along with any product attributes that you have created.
Organising your products is also very easy and uses a category system that allows you to make both parent and sub-categories which makes create a very good hierarchy for your products. The add product page is very simple, all you need to do is name that category. If you want to, you can add a description and images to the categories.
You can manage a lot of your inventory directly from the product overview page using the quick edit option including price, quantity, category, SKU number, sale price and product title and URL. This makes updating your inventory very quick and simple to do.
Wix have opted for a single page layout for their add new product page but before going through to the page, you first need to select whether it is a digital or physical product as the two pages are slightly different but the single page is simple to use and well laid out.
With Wix, organising your products does feel quite limited as it only allows you to create parent categories. You can work around this with the navigation menu but it doesn’t work in the same way that a proper parent/child category system does.
A relatively recent addition to the Wix platform is a bulk inventory management tool, which is a welcome change but it is just limited to updating stock quantity levels and any other changes such as pricing, needs to be done on a product by product basis.
WooCommerce – as standard, order management is pretty poor with WooCommerce and an additional plugin is required, especially if you want to print off order invoices or packing slips for physical products.
However, WooCommerce does allow orders to be managed in bulk or individually and the process is very simple but if you want to export your orders in CSV format, then you will need to install an additional plugin.
Wix – Unfortunately, I was unable to test the Wix order management system out as it wouldn’t allow me to create a test order. If I do get to try this out, obviously I will come back and update this post.
• Free to install and use
• Large selection of themes and plugins
• More control over your site
• Easy to use dashboard
• Does need a couple of plugins to really work properly
• No technical support
• Can be expensive if you need to use paid plugins
• ADI set up
• ADI theme customisation
• Dashboard set up guides
• Wix App Market
• Add/edit product page
• Hidden support contact details
• Poor Performance
• Not that easy to use
• Lack of sub-categories
WooCommerce vs Wix: Which one is better?
Honestly, neither would be my first choice for building an ecommerce website but I would summarise it as this:
If you are brand new to building websites, then Wix is going to be the easier option out of the two to get started with as much of the technical aspects such as hosting and maintenance/updates are taken care of for you. You just need to work on the design of your website, add your products, set up payments and shipping and you are good to go.
If you have used WordPress before, then WooCommerce is going to be the better option as you are already familiar with how to set up WordPress sites and Woo is just an extension of that but for new users, the learning curve is quite steep but you do get more control and flexibility over your site.
But as I said, neither would be a go to choice for mw and dedicated ecommerce platforms such as Shopify offer a much better all around package.
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