Shopify vs. Woocommerce vs. Magento: Which Has the Best Community?
When you choose an ecommerce platform, you’re not just committing to the CMS and the payment terms— you’re also becoming a part of a broad community encompassing everyone who uses it, talks about it, and gives advice about it.
And since there’s a lot of overlap in functionality between the best platforms, one platform can get the edge over another purely by virtue of having a bigger and more vibrant community and doing what it can to support those users.
So among the three top contenders of Shopify, Woocommerce and Magento, which one has the very best community? Since they’re all competing in the same market, it’s very interesting to see how successful they’ve been in keeping their user bases happy staying where they are. Let’s go into some more detail.
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Introducing the contenders
First up, we have Shopify, an ecommerce site builder that was first released back in 2006. Through it took a while to really make progress, it has seen phenomenal industry-leading growth in recent years, and in many ways has become the ‘default’ option. Still run by its founder Tobias Lütke, the company continues to pursue its original mission of making commerce better for everyone.
Brands that use Shopify include Budweiser, Red Bull, and Colourpop, but the entrepreneurial focus of the software lends itself better to use by startups or SMEs, so you’ll find a very broad range of retailers relying on Shopify.
Next up, we have Woocommerce, a free ecommerce-focused plugin for the massively popular WordPress CMS. Despite being a relative latecomer (having only been launched in 2011), it has swiftly become the most widely-used ecommerce package in the world off the back of the comparable dominance of WordPress.
Because it’s a user-friendly self-hosted solution, Woocommerce is chiefly used by businesses that want to keep complexity and costs down, though it can be scaled up to enterprise level if needed — see brands like Airstream or GhostBed for examples.
Lastly, we have Magento, a powerful and open-source ecommerce platform that was launched in 2008 by Varien, Inc (the company rebranded under the Magento name in 2010). Though there is a self-hosted version, Magento is largely used at an enterprise level, and is phenomenally powerful when used correctly — but it’s far from being the most accessible.
Owing to its complexity and flexibility, Magento is a popular choice for businesses with the patience and resources to completely customize it and thus take advantage of its huge feature set. Numerous top brands rely on Magento for their stores, such as Nike, Ford, and Agent Provocateur.
How these platforms are viewed
Regardless of whether they’re still warranted today after countless updates and revisions, these major ecommerce platforms have all attracted labels over the years that identify them as best or worst at X or Y. Here are the most commonly accepted:
- Magento is often touted as the ‘mature’ ecommerce enterprise option.
- WooCommerce is considered the most SEO-friendly choice for self-hosted sites.
- Shopify is the click-and-build king and the best overall choice for entrepreneurs.
Regardless of the accuracy of these perceptions, they have certainly influenced the circumstances in which these solutions are recommended, thus affecting the communities that have formed around these platforms. As such, there may be an element of the self-fulfilling prophecy at work here, with people advocating for particular systems for certain purposes because they’ve never really tried alternatives.
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Their user communities
From a community standpoint, Shopify’s industry-leading 24/7 customer service might seem like a double-edged sword. On one hand, a user’s subscription provides them with access to expedient expert support and a huge array of resources — on the other hand, the ubiquity of the support service isn’t conducive to conversations, as people who can get their questions answered through a live chat system don’t need to discuss them on forums!
That said, this arrangement actually serves to bolster the community through freeing it up to focus on ecommerce strategy in general and specific things that can be achieved through Shopify. Through official Shopify forums and countless Shopify-focused Facebook groups, users have plenty of options for getting some feedback on their tactics.
Woocommerce has a lively built-in community derived from its WordPress base. While there is a basic support system in the form of a facility to submit a support ticket, it isn’t all that great, and users primarily congregate in forums and social media channels to solve configuration problems and exchange tips.
Something that really helps the Woocommerce user community is the open-source nature of the software, because anyone with a good suggestion or a fix for a lingering bug can submit their proposal to the community and possibly see it implemented through democratic approval.
Lastly, Magento (with its two configurations) has a fairly diverse user community, ranging from tech-savvy self-starters to conglomerates with expansive budgets. Subscribers to the paid Magento plans do receive good tech support directly from the company, though it isn’t quite on the level of something like Shopify.
You’ll find that almost everyone using Magento has to rely on support from the community or a dedicated developer from time to time because official documentation isn’t great — with so many old versions still around and supported, it can be hard to tell when you have the right information.
Their developer communities
Every one of these three systems can be manually extended, and each has a robust development community, though Shopify brings up the rear in this area because it’s not open-source and can’t be completely stripped down (it uses a custom-made templating system called liquid to allow users to add to their stores).
While Shopify and Woocommerce have partner programs to encourage web developers to focus on (and advocate for) their platforms, Magento has more in-depth developer certifications — as such, though it takes longer to become a Magento developer, the typical developer is going to have a very strong understanding of the system.
Woocommerce developers are the easiest to find owing to the overlap with WordPress. Magento is open-source, and thus developer-friendly, but the complexity and number of versions still in use (plus the ability of big corporations to use in-house developers) can make it tricky to find a good Magento developer.
Their community events
Each one of these CMS companies has invested substantially in both large and small-scale community events — hosting busy national conferences on occasion, and arranging myriad local meetups and forums.
Shopify hosts a huge developer and partner conference called Unite on an annual basis, recapping progress, announcing plans for the coming year, and generally giving Shopify merchants and associates a chance to get together. Because Shopify has a strong marketing department and positive word-of-mouth, its events tend to be very well-attended.
Woocommerce sometimes runs a conference called WooConf — it has taken place three times so far, with the inaugural edition in 2014 and two subsequent instalments in 2016 and 2017. Despite its immense popularity, it’s a little unclear what future plans are for the event, as there will be no WooConf in 2018.
Magento presents an annual conference called Imagine (the first was held in 2011), and since the company is now owned by Adobe, it’s reasonable to assume that it will get bigger in future. In addition, there is a nonprofit organisation called Meet Magento that works to arrange local Magento Live events to introduce people to the platform.
Which of these platforms has the best community?
There really isn’t a satisfying answer to this question, because it entirely depends on what your intentions, interests, skills and inclinations happen to be:
- Are you looking for general entrepreneurial support and advice on how to grow your business? The Shopify community is your best bet for that.
- Do you want to build your store piece by piece and figure it out as you go? The Woocommerce community is full of people who’ve done just that.
- Confident in your basic level of technical understanding (or simply in possession of deep pockets)? You’ll find a lot of value in the Magento community.
Every one of these three leading ecommerce systems offers a strong community with a unique set of strengths and weaknesses, so there’s no disastrous choice. Just think carefully about what you want, and pick the system (and the community) that will suit you best.