Making Shopify Work With WordPress

Saying you are going to make WordPress Work With Shopify is one of those mysteries of 2017 in setting up a medium sized e-commerce site. You want to do both apps, but truthfully you really needed to do just one!

When it comes to e-commerce, CRM and marketing automation, we are moving further and further towards singularity when it comes to cloud-based solutions.

I came up with the word singularity, because for most e-commerce operations the one app fits all would seem to be the best way to go. Years ago Volusion was that solution for small to medium size biz in my mind, in the early cloud-based market for e-commerce. That’s because Volusion really could do everything including product pages, searching, shopping cart, checkout, email marketing, reporting and do it on some server out there that you don’t manage yourself.

But what happened along the way is a bunch of new-fangled players jumped into the cloud-based e-commerce market with newly written code and Shopify emerged as the king of the cloud-based e-commerce road. I am of course leaving Magento, Prestashop and 3DCart and similar products out in the cold because they were or are late to the cloud game. That just means those other e-commerce products are loaded onto your web server, which also means you would need a serious techie around…pretty much with those solutions. With Shopify, literally anybody without tech skills can sell things.

It’s the DIY e-commerce that Shopify brought to the table, where all the web tech programmers were fired and a simple marketer can push buttons and sell product. All you need to set up Shopify is a person great at Photoshop graphics, a good marketer who was good with the numbers and can write content. If you have all the skills yourself, then you are all set!

All the tech integrations on Shopify are done through Apps. That means some group of guys, probably in Serbia or India made the little piece of add-on software that you would need to do x, y or z function on Shopify. A good example would be promo system or recurring payments or any kind of common add-on functionality you would need. And trust me there are like 100 great ones out there. So in essence Shopify works similar to open-source software (WordPress is the king of these open-source platforms, which we will get to in a moment).

Two truths are apparent when it comes to cloud based solutions for small to medium and some large corporations. One truth is that you can accomplish a tremendous amount of complexity with low cost and powerful solutions like Shopify. It’s a nobrainer. The second truth is a bit more complicated, because by using Shopify you are pretty much flying blind, but flying well enough until there is a dink in the process and then you spend a lot of time trying to do something it that Shopify was not meant to do originally and spend all your time working with the app makers, who typically can fix the bugs.

Regardless, most any common e-commerce process you want to carry out with Shopify is possible. And very complex issues can be dealt with by hiring one of these app makers. So as I found out on my last job/gig, Shopify is a great platform for getting up and running fast and selling e-commerce software.

The Power And Awe Of WordPress

Let’s just start with saying that WordPress as a CMS is by far the most used web page and blogging platform around. Probably 75% of content on the web is now generated by WordPress. I did not say WordPress is perfect…but because it has all the market share, and more recently WordPress plugins have come in all kind of programmer killing Plugins you can pop in and do most anything. So, the bottom line is you want, I mean you have to, work with WordPress, if you can. Let’s just say that the things you can do used to cost hundreds of thousands of dollars to build just 12 years ago, but today you get that functionality in WordPress for free or pay $9 for the upgrade!

So here’s the conundrum. And I am going to use Draxe.com as the example site. These guys know what they are doing, in fact, most of the world knows that Shopify is a great, low cost and powerful option. They also know that WordPress is a great, low cost powerful option as well. Great sites want both. But the fact is they don’t play together nicely. That means you really should live with just one or the other. Trying to do both has it’s negative consequences, but the power of each is worth the pain!

Draxe.com has pretty much implemented WordPress as it’s blogging system and Shopify as it’s store. Negative part of that is you need to keep two separate domain names, like draxe.com and store.draxe.com. So, that is not a good thing. And the big problem will of course be that there are separate cookies on both systems. That means your analytics may get all fudged up. That simply means you don’t know exactly where your traffic starts and ends and you can’t assign Adwords PPC paid traffic to specific sales. It makes data collection difficult at best.

At my last gig we had the same problematic situation, but staying with both Shopify and WordPress was our desire. I mean they are both great apps. So, what we did is we kept WordPress in place as both the main pages, product pages and the blog articles. Draxe.com had to move their store product pages into their store. Where I was working we did not. We were able to figure out how to keep the product pages in WordPress. When you clicked add to cart there is a URL you can use to add that product to the cart. If you are doing this, the key is to use the variant number! This way of having the products on WordPress and the cart on Shopify can actually work. Take a look at https://oceanblueomega.com.

We were able to integrate everything together nicely between the two technologies, but there was an additional price to pay, the cart on the WordPress site would never show the totals in the cart, because that cookie or javascript would be on a different server. That may actually be solvable if you have a tech team. And there were automatic product pages created by Shopify that needed to be linked carefully back to the WordPress site. Anyway, we got it all working…

So why did we not move the entire site into Shopify? Well, that is a good question. We just could not give up the power of WordPress. Sometimes you have to find a middle solution and this was one of those cases. Shopify had templates, there are like 10 good Shopify templates you can work with. That would mean you have to do some serious design work. However, with WordPress the templates that you can add are futuristic, sophisticated and blow away Shopify. Yes Shopify is a great app, but when it comes to inexpensive and powerful design, WordPress template makers are pretty killer app stuff.

Ok, so why am I writing this article. One is to say that Shopify and WordPress can work together. The other is to say you don’t have to invest any time or money into programmers to get your ecommerce site off the ground. You need designers and marketers. You can email me at dan AT startuppop.com if you have questions about how we made this work.

On Words: Web Linguistics

People ask me questions about this piece of technology and that piece of technology. What i am often asked, even by experts themselves, is whether this is the right term or not.  This is for a technology discussion or a pitch.  Either way, there is some confusion about the difference or use of the words.  For instance Plugin vs. Add-on.

I am putting together a list of used and mis-used words that I am hearing a lot of in Internet ventures, from Angels, VCs and just kids playing with web sites.  These words have become interchangeable within each group, mainly because the general population really does not see a difference, but tech people know there is a difference.

I know I will embarrass myself here because there are sticklers who are more specific about these words and their use.  I am just pointing out the blurring of the lines and how the web has changed the language and meaning of these words for users, who find themselves having to explain things to people on calls to their technology companies whether its the phone company, cable or third party provider.

Words have a funny way of changing over the years.  I am writing this blog entry as would William Safire in the New York Times Sunday addition I used to read as a kid.  He would cover all the new words he has heard and give a history to where they came from in their origin often citing the Oxford Dictionary.  I read it every week carefully.

Plugin, Add-on, Extension

All three words seem to convey the same existential meaning, a piece of a software that creates new value that can be added or not added to your existing piece of software.  This is not the same as an App.  These are extra stuff.  I am sure they had historic meanings for each and when they first came into use.  And of course WordPress uses Plugin and Joomla uses Add-ons.  Quite honestly these 3 are becoming completely interchangeable.

Feature, Function

Somewhere along the way, while programmers know technically what a function is, the actual user does not see the difference in these things that you get when you plugin or add-on stuff.  They just see a new piece of working software that does something.  For end users these words are synonymous, though programmers would beg to differ.

Widget, Drop-in

Once again thank WordPress for coming up with the word Widget, which is a little different than a feature.  These are things that you put in your software yourself and they go to work.  There are occasionally drop-in apps around that kind of work like a widget.  The widget reference I think is different than other extension type applications, in that it is specific to a place on the page.

Pop-up, Pop-Under, Light-box, Hover

These are things that just annoy us that show up when we arrive or leave a website. I am including a Light-box here, because that is a thingy that shows functionality as well, but takes over your screen with a dark silhouette in the background.  The Light-box is a pop-up of sorts, but it uses a local function, so it is technically not a pop-up.  A hover, as you know comes up with a mouse on-over.  These 4 words have kind of merged into one thing for users, extra things or functionality that occurs on an action.  But users like everything don’t always get the difference.

Template, Theme, Skin, Brand

What has happened with these four words is they have come to virtually mean the same thing to people, whereby the look and feel or Brand of the software can change, yet the guts or application remains the same.  Everybody talks about where to get their newest theme.  Yet, we know as programmers that a template is more than just a visual  But what has happened in WordPress is Themes have programming in them.  So the lines are getting blurred.

Program, Application, Platform, System, App

Most of these are old technology words.  That have various technical meaning to programmers, yet to the user, there is no difference.  These words refer to the computer program.  Even the word App has now on it’s own come out and stands for specifically a Mobile or Smartphone app.  The word Platform for PHP and .Net programmers has come to mean which method they are using to program…  Not important to end users though.

Smartphone, Tablet, Ipad, Iphone, Mobile, Cellular, Cell

Even I, having worked for a cellular phone company for 10 years at one point, I see the words merging here.  We know there is a difference between Tablet and Smartphone, but have you see the Ipad Mini or the Galaxy S4. What is happening is all these words refer to some type of nice UI device you can carry around and get to your stuff, surf the web, make a call, etc.  Does it really matter in the end what you call it all, as long as it provides what you are looking for.

Cloud, Hosting

I have myself been guilty of merging these 2 words of late.  The word cloud has come to mean, in my eyes, now pretty much all hosting.  I am completely technically wrong, but am I theoretically wrong?  Not sure. I have put down cloud on a couple VC pitches recently and I am just waiting for somebody to challenge me.  They haven’t.  They get it.  Cloud is inclusive of hosting (in my eyes).  You can argue with me if you want here!

I probably missed a few item here or there.  But hopefully you get the overall drift of these words. They have meaning for everybody in several ways, yet they are merging in meaning overall.  Within the programming world, you have specific conventions, but in the outside world of everyday people, they are just terms we use to help us communicate, so what if accidentally call your Nexus an iPhone?  You will just nod your head, and say “yes”, you meant my Iphone?