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Woo vs. Shopify, The Definitive Discussion
03 Apr

So, as per usual, I was chatting with someone about the inner workings of WooCommerce. In this case, it was Patrick Garman. Reason being, I get a lot of questions of whether or not a business should use Shopify, or WooCommerce. For me, the answer is simple: with WooCommerce, you own your shit. That alone is enough reason to end the conversation. However, let’s take it a bit deeper. More often than not, this boils down to technical expertise vs. convenience.

Please note that some text has been redacted and replaced with equivalent statements, omitting references to individuals or projects.

cally
Hey Patrick amigo, quick q for you..

I’m working on getting a pretty good sized retailer onto WooCommerce. They’re very much a recognized brand. However, for bandwidth/usage it’s not too intense1.

cally
They asked about “clunkiness” in WooCommerce, and I was wondering if you had a chart, or threshold where you start to see this?

pmgarman
Really depends on the site and how it’s built, to be honest REDACTED [we’ve built and run WooCommerce sites with databases over 100GB in size, which ran better than some sites that have databases less than 1GB].

Do you have new relic or anything running?

cally
It’ll be built from scratch and put on an entry level dedicated box at WP Engine, so we could run New Relic.

At this time they’re contemplating platforms, and it’s between Woo and Shopify.

They’re familiar with REDACTED. 😉

pmgarman
Well if you need to bring in some expertise,
I’m not longer at REDACTED 😉 REDACTED is my sole focus.

cally
I saw.
I creep you once and a while, y’know? 😉

pmgarman
Ha keeping tabs on me

cally
Lol
Mostly wanna know what you have your hands in!

pmgarman
We’re working with REDACTED on their managed platform and part of that is *the* feature plugin for custom order tables

cally
Deep down tho, you still hardcore Woo? Or, if a large brand lands on your doorstep, would you ever recommend Shopify? What would that tipping point be?

pmgarman
Just to start 😀

cally
I’m like 100% against Shopify, lol. But I haven’t put it all into words yet.

pmgarman
I work heavily on both now, depends on their level of customization and how much they want to “manage” it

cally

*the* feature plugin for custom order tables

You’ve always got your hands in something good!

pmgarman
It’s good for someone who has a simple site and doesn’t want to deal with the headache of WP/WC

cally

depends on their level of customization

How far can you customize Shopify? For example, could you easily add subscriptions, or multi-language as an add-on? I’ve never built on it.

pmgarman
multi language basically means you run multiple stores, thats essentially your only real option

customizations, you can customize the html essentially. and then whatever you can do via the API.

with enterprise “plus” plans, you can do a bit more. but thats minimum $2k/mo. and that is now going to go up a lot from my understanding

unless you are paying $2k/mo, your checkout URL is my.shopify.com or something

cally
Yea they’re definitely considering Plus, and it’s funny you mention price, because that is definitely an uncertainty I wondered about.

pmgarman
plus: it can handle a significant number of orders/min. REDACTED

con: all customizations are significantly more involved

cally
To me it sounds like the advantage of Shopify is:
– Allows for a lot of orders.
– No worries for maintenance

Is that about it?

pmgarman
apps have long term costs you can’t ever get away from. customizations of your own if it touches the API means you need to host and run your own custom application

yeah thats the main points

a lot as in, it handles the biggest flash seller in the world

cally
lolol
Good to know.

pmgarman
REDACTED

cally
So a very extreme edge case.
What about the payment gateway, too? I think they penalize you for not using their’s, correct?

pmgarman
they don’t “penalize” you, but, you don’t get the benefits their white label stripe offers.
stripe won’t even talk to you if you are using shopify, you *must* use their shopify payments

cally
I heard they add a % point for using a 3rd party.

pmgarman
which you don’t get your own stripe
yeah you have transaction fees unless you use theirs. but i’m not sure if plus changes that

cally
So the benefits really aren’t that much.
IMO
Then concerns if the company goes bankrupt, restricts features, etc. It’s a lot to pay for some convenience.

About Woo scalability, progress is being made then, as you’re working on it now?

pmgarman
the benefits to the lay person is “you dont have to manage your site, they do it for you” where WP/WC you *really* have to manage it. you need someone monitoring it if you are doing any sort of volume or want to run it right, you need to deal with updates/etc

cally
Okay, so assuming they have a Saucal or Patrick Garman, they’re covered. Plus, all the benefits of full flexibility and ownership.

Patrick Garman REDACTED

pmgarman
yeah basically
tl;dr – if you are paying more than $2k/mo to run your site (hosting and maintenance), then it’s worth considering, if you have a simple site that doesn’t require much customization.

without plus you can’t even use the discounts api
so you can’t create coupons unless you do it by hand
$2k/mo to have the power to import coupons

at the end of the day i’ve worked on the largest WC site ever, and now the two largest Shopify stores ever. I’ve broken things on both, Shopify has banned my API keys because i was stressing things.

cally
Lol, you’re the man.
And that’s at current pricing. If pricing goes up at Shopify, things change.

What are the two sites on Shopify?

pmgarman
Which, it is going up
i don’t know if they have publicly said it or not. plus is now also a transaction or % based model

cally
You know by how much?

pmgarman
let me look it up, i can find out from some other people. REDACTED was grandfathered in

REDACTED was #2 at shopify, REDACTED was #1

cally
That would be great. And, is it okay if I share this information? Ofc, I want to ask you first.
Dude, how do you land these all star customers?

pmgarman
REDACTED wasn’t a client, REDACTED was my full time job, REDACTED was under the umbrella of REDACTED and REDACTED was the second brand. REDACTED < i built that site

cally
I’m gonna wear a Patrick Garman t-shirt at WooConf2

pmgarman
theres a lot of separation and similarities at the same time. but at the end of the day architecturally what my role became when on shopify was connecting things together and building internal tools and applications

ha you should. some mindsize jerseys, garman on the back

cally
hahahaha, i was thinking more like those rapper t’s.. your face on the front.
Maybe wearing a crown ?

Notorious B.I.G.

my role became when on shopify was connecting things together and building internal tools and applications

And these were hosted off-site, therefore putting you back in the realm of maintenance, etc.

pmgarman
haha

yeah it was a custom application that i developed myself (built on laravel spark) from the “ground” up

thats how we did reporting, i exported all shopify data through the API, thats why ops hated me

would run 20 threads of API calls

cally
wow, so exporting the data pounded the API and they didn’t like it..
ha damn.

pmgarman
their API kind of sucks for large data

cally
Metorik for that type of thing.

pmgarman
yep – which doesn’t support shopify, yet
bryce has promised me an API 🙂

cally
lol

So, there you have it. Whether you like it or not, you’re going to need some technical chops. Might as well suit up, or let us handle it. Trust me, it’s a lot better than censorship, or this.


  1. I have a breakdown of this, but I cannot share it all. However, per day, it’s estimated to be 600-800 page views and 30-40 orders. 

  2. I guess you’ll know how to find me! 

WooCommerce Subscriptions and Payment Gateways, Who Manages What?
21 Feb

We had a question come through, followed by a tweet. The tweet went on it’s own tangent talking about things not previously discussed, however it did raise a good question about payment gateways and WooCommerce Subscriptions.

Q:
I was always under the impression that in Subscriptions, it does not set up a recurring profile on the payment provider, rather Subscriptions sends single charges each month to the payment gateway1. I know at least it’s that way in Stripe. But I had a guy come through, and said I was wrong for PayPal.

A:
You are right for almost all gateways. With PayPal Standard (and one or two other gateways, like WorldPay), the only option is to create a subscription at the payment provider. With all other gateways, including PayPal Reference Transactions (also built into Subscriptions, but requires special approval from PayPal’s end before it can be used) we just need a payment token, and can do everything else ourselves2. Although that said, for PayPal Reference Transactions, the “token” is actually a billing agreement, so the custom can still cancel/suspend that billing agreement at PayPal. AFAIK, there is no PayPal product which does not allow the customer to also manage the recurring payments. Something like PayPal Pro, which is just a credit card gateway, might do that though. But in those cases, you’d just want to use Stripe or something better anyway.

So there you have it. If you’re using PayPal Standard, or 1 or 2 other gateways, the subscription is managed on their platform. Otherwise, it’s managed within Subscriptions directly. And by “manage” I don’t mean it’s storing credit card data locally.

I hope that clears things up. Cheers to the team at Prospress for the answer. 😉


  1. By no means are we implying storing credit card data on the local server. This is a question of using a token and where and when charges are authorized from. This is explained in the answer. 

  2. This is what I was referring to. 

Toronto WooCommerce Meetup: February 2016 Recap
16 Mar

Toronto WooCommerce Meetup - February 2016

February 27, 2016 marked the inaugural Toronto WooCommerce meetup.1 A meetup where shop owners, developers and budding online entrepreneurs can come together to learn and share stories.

I was eager to get the first meetup started.  I wasn’t sure what topics people would want to discuss. Consequently, my objective was to identify what people were interested in. With this, I would craft an agenda for the coming year.  Giving me ample time to prepare material, and find the right guests.

These are not definitive and will change, however we will follow a progression.  Without adieu:

1 – Starting with Woo: What platform should I use?

We’ll compare shopping cart platforms (primarily Shopify) and the pros and cons of each one. Then, we’ll get started with Woo to start selling online. You’ll be introduced to setting up a theme and installing plugins as well as the best resources for WooCommerce help.

Focus: beginner.

2 – Charging taxes: What are the rules?  

Which countries do you charge tax? Who do you remit it to?  How do I configure the tax rules in WooCommerce?2

Focus: intermediate.  

4 – Using WooCommerce for invoicing.

Running a services business?  Would you like an integrated invoicing system to your website? Learn how to use WooCommerce for invoicing your customers.

Focus: beginner/intermediate.

5 – Configuring multi-language for WooCommerce.

Find out which plugins to use, and what to look out for.  This is geared for those who sell in more than one language.

Focus: intermediate.

6 – WooCommerce plugins 101.

Get started with building your own WooCommerce plugin.  Do’s & don’ts and best practises.

Focus: advanced.

7 – WooCommerce theme development 101.

Get started with building your own WooCommerce theme.  Do’s & don’ts and best practises.

Focus: advanced.

8 – eCommerce marketing.  

How to setup a sales funnel and drive traffic to your website. Learn techniques to keep your visitors engaged and turn them into customers.  We’ll also discuss how to setup Google Analytics on WooCommerce.

Focus: intermediate.

9 – Using Amazon with WooCommerce.

During this session we’ll discuss Fulfillment by Amazon (FBA). All the ins and outs of drop shipping, products, reviews and more. Then, we’ll show you how to integrate your Amazon products into your WooCommerce store for greater effect. A special guest from Ordoro will speak.

Focus: intermediate.

10 – Scaling WooCommerce.  

What happens when you have 1000’s of customers or orders? How do you scale up your website so it’s stable and fast?  We’ll be having a special guest speaker Patrick Garman discuss from his experience with ColourPop.com.

Focus: advanced

11 – Selling themes and plugins.  

Want to develop plugins and themes and make some money in the WooCommerce marketplace?  We’ll have special guest Adam Pickering from Astoundify, who is one of Envato’s top selling authors.  He’ll discuss best practises and some of the challenges he’s had making world class themes for sale.

Focus: intermediate

If you’d like to see any topics up here, post them in the comments below. We’re looking forward to a great meetup with excellent content. Thank you!


  1. What is now Toronto’s go-to resource for all-the-things WooCommerce. 

  2. This will require the help of an accountant. If you know the answers to these, please holla at me

You know how I know you’re a n00b?
09 Feb

I see a lot of agencies these days pivoting into WordPress (WP).  For example, I listened to a podcast for an unnamed company that specializes in Magento development.  When I searched for the interviewees Linkedin profile, I noticed his profile listed “Creative eCommerce Company, *Magento and WordPress1.  This is after hearing an interview, where he specifically said “the majority of what we do is Magento.”  So, why is WordPress listed?

Well, that’s where the money is. So, people feel the need to jump ship.  Unfortunately, knowing WordPress takes time. Experience needs to be built.   Though most say they have skills, they really don’t.

Anyhow, back to my point.  You know how I know you’re a n00b?  capital P dangit.

I could ignore a spelling mistake.  But saying WordPress2, instead of WordPress?  There is a function inside of WP that corrects this exact fuck up. So, you know how I know you’re a n00b?  Because you don’t know WordPress functions.

Peace.

Kanye West Mic Drop


  1. This is written with a lowercase p. 

  2. Again, with a lowercase p. See what’s going on here? 

Stop twiddling with CSS, do some math
28 Sep

I’m not sure what it is about web design (maybe it’s all industries), but there always seems to be a group of people who think they can do everything. Those guys who should be doing their job, but instead are trying to edit their own website to “save money.”

So, let’s figure this out. Saucal will bill you $200 per hour to make changes. Most small changes will take us less than an hour. So, $200 + tax, finished.

Let’s assume a sales rep decides, instead of making calls, or you know, improving his pipeline, he decides to edit a website. From our experience, they’ll contact us for a ton of information, and attempt to get started. Usually within 1-2 hours we get an email saying “the site is broken, can you fix it?” So, we do (because we have tons of backups in place). From there, they usually twiddle for at least 5-10 hours, usually to no resolve. OR, they do come to a resolve, and they’ve produced an abomination.

So, let’s do the math:

  1. Hourly rate for the sales rep (lets guess) at $25 an hour. At 5 hours, this is $125, at 10 hours, this is $250 (I’m not even going to factor in payroll taxes, etc, so the real cost to the business owner is closer to 2x).
  2. Potential business lost because your sales rep wasn’t doing his job: tough to measure, but as a business owner you should be thinking about this.
  3. Quality of your website: it’s gone down. This is an accumulative thing, yea. Wanna know how much it’s gonna cost for us to fix it in the future?

Seriously, people: just pay your web developer and focus on running your business.

Stop asking me for login information!
04 Jun

We get some customers who say, “Hey, I (or sometimes, their cheap Team B web developers) would like to make some changes to the website. Can you give me the login information?”

Previously, I’d say, “Sure, it’s yours after all!” (When in fact it isn’t: I’ll explain issues of ownership later.) I’d think, “Freedom to the people!” and hand it over.

For your own sanity, don’t ever do this. Inevitably, the following day, pages of content we had strategically placed would be gone, to be replaced with, “blah, blah, blah.” I’d guess they were “just testing things out.” Thank God we keep a disgusting amount of backups. This causes more problems than you might imagine:

Problem 1: The site looks like crap.
This stuff is in our portfolio, so stop making us look bad. We give you art – you poo on it. Rlly.

Problem 2: Your search engine ranking will suffer.
We don’t just place stuff here and there: we’re strategic about it. If you start toying with your content, just watch your search engine rankings and impressions go down. Trust me. If you don’t, go try it yourself. (I’ll just revert to an older copy anyway.)

Problem 3: Only n00bs edit on live environments.
This is a tough one for some people to grasp, as they have no clue how software development works in the real world. Let me tell you how it works: we have two servers: a live server (the website) and a staging server (where we make changes before putting them on the live site). You never edit on the live site because if it goes down, you can be shit out of luck. Nobody cares if it’s the staging server, in fact, you rejoice. That’s how things are done. No ifs, ands, or buts.

Problem 4: We can’t manage your code.
We have a system for managing code: it’s called Git. If you edit the live site, our Git repository doesn’t sync properly (and it’s a pain in the ass to fix). When code is edited… ok, I’m gonna stop here as this explanation is overly technical. However, in summary: any developer worth their salt knows this, and it’s how everyone builds.

Back to the issue of ownership. Imagine you’re a contractor building a house, and you need to add a fridge and a stove. You’re not going to make those from scratch. You buy them from Samsung or whomever. The reason being, it’s easier and more cost effective. So, when I’m building you a website, I reuse elements from other sites. It’s quicker and it saves you money. (If you don’t like this concept, you’ll have to pay for it.) To accomplish this, we issue an ongoing, royalty-free license of our work for you to use. You can do as you wish with it, but you do not own it. Kk.

Solution
So what happens if you don’t own anything? If you want to edit things, we approve the changes. Cool? As easy as that sounds, I still have to give Team B staging access and Git access. Most of them only get as far as staging – but hey, that’s still a win. 😉