What is Shopify?

March 12, 2019

1:34 pm

Shopify is an ecommerce website builder. Its software allows users to bring their business ideas online, and run their own store with ease.

Better still, according to's extensive tests, Shopify is the top website builder available today. It scores highly in all the important categories: It's easy to pick up, packed with useful sales and reporting features, and comes with a great customer support team.

Here's our guide to the Shopify service. In it, we'll explain how it works, what makes it such a useful option, and which pricing plan might be the best fit for you.

In this guide:

Shopify Website Builder

Shopify's website builder functions like most online site builders: You sign up for an account, pick a website template, tweak it using a drag-and-drop editor, then pay a monthly fee to keep the website up and running.

However, as the name may suggest, Shopify stands out for its ecommerce functionality. Put simply, it's a great way to build an online store.

Let’s take a closer look at the features and merits:

  • Shopify is an ecommerce website builder – It's a simple tool that lets you create a great looking online store from scratch. Websites that sell things need a lot of features you just won't find on a news site or blog, and Shopify offers them all: These include a storefront, a range of product pages, a shopping cart, and digital transactions.
  • It has a range of price plans – With three price plans, Shopify offers a tier to suit anyone, from hobbyists to those chasing multi-million-dollar revenues.
  • It lets you create all sorts of ecommerce sites – The Theme store offers over 100 professionally designed templates, which can help your site stand out from the pack.
  • Shopify is easy even for beginners – You don't have to be a website expert to create your own online store: Shopify's intuitive design means anyone can figure out how to get started.
  • It lets you track inventory – You'll want to know how much you're selling through your online store, and Shopify's detailed reporting features will keep you updated throughout the day.
  • Shopify is the best ecommerce website builder we've tested – Plenty of website builders offer ecommerce functions, but Shopify's overall quality stands out.

Want to learn more? Check out our full Shopify review

How Does Shopify Work?

The fundamentals of using a website builder really aren't very difficult to figure out. Our best advice? Read through this quick list, explaining the steps you'll need to take. Then, just jump right in!

  • Creating an account – You can create an account within minutes, and browse through the online dashboard to find a list of subcategories that will help you manage your online store. This list includes Orders, Products, Customers, Analytics, Marketing, and Discounts.
  • It all ‘lives' online  – Shopify isn't downloaded to your PC. Instead, you can login and access everything within a browser, making it easy to access from any device and impossible to accidentally delete.
  • Templates will get you started – No one wants to pore over every single line of code needed to create a website. Pick one of the templates, and you can have a streamlined site that's almost entirely ready to go.
  • Price tiers differentiate different needs – If you're a small website, you'll want the Basic plan, but if you operate a larger business, there's a plan for you, too.
  • Hosting costs are included – Build an online store with Shopify, and your service will include ecommerce hosting along with unlimited bandwidth.
  • Shopify keeps inventory for you – You'll be able to keep track of your sales, find out which traffic sources lead to the most sales, and work out which marketing campaigns result in the most sales – finally answering once and for all whether all those Facebook ads are really worth it!
  • You can create your own domain name – You can register a .com domain name through Shopify for an additional cost, or you can transfer one you already use for free.
  • Shopify offers abandoned cart recovery – Ever accidentally closed a browser window, only to lose all the items you had added to your online shopping cart? It's a bigger problem than you might think, and Shopify's software ensures every customer's shopping cart stays full until they're ready to check out.

Learn more – How to Start an Online Store

Is Shopify Good? has independently tested every major website builder on the market, evaluating the quality and quantity of their features, their overall value for money, and the variety of support options they give their clients. Shopify passed our tests with flying colors.

In fact, we'd rate Shopify as the number one ecommerce website builder in the market. In our tests, we pitted Shopify against the likes of BigCommerce, Volusion, Squarespace and Wix. Despite this competitive market, Shopify rose to the top in our assessments.

See our review highlights below:




Overall rating4.5 starsShopify is great in all of our categories — especially when it comes to the range and quality of its sales features.
Website features4 starsShopify's websites are incredibly easy to customize and make your own. Its templates and use of third-party apps make editing and changing every aspect of your site very straightforward.
Sales features5 starsIf you need to sell products across multiple platforms, Shopify is the ecommerce builder for you. It can integrate more sales channels than any other ecommerce platform, and will let you sell everything from physical products to services and digital products.
Ease of use4 starsWhile there are loads of complex sales features, accessing them is easy thanks to its straightforward navigation and easily digestible explanations.
Help and support4 starsIf you happen to get stuck with Shopify, it has an almost unparalleled range of support options. It has 24/7 phone and live chat support, while also offering customer forums and video tutorials. There's also tools such as ‘Rewind', which can restore your site to an earlier version in case something goes wrong.
Value for money4 starsShopify is a little bit more expensive than some other ecommerce website builders on the market, but given the quality of its sales features and its wide-ranging abilities, it proves to be good value for money.

Click to Try Shopify for Free

How Much Does Shopify Cost?

Shopify earns money through two different revenue channels. First, there's the monthly fee that users pay in order to keep their online store up and running. And second, Shopify charges a small percentage of the money paid for every credit card transaction that goes through your store – unless you're using Shopify Payments. The exact percentage varies, depending on which plan you choose.

As we touched on earlier, there are three pricing plans: Shopify Basic, Shopify, and Shopify Advanced.

The basic plan is great for a small store entirely operated by just one or two people: It only offers two staff accounts, and it doesn't support some of the more advanced features including gift cards and hardware support. The main plan supports five account holders and offers a full set of features, making it particularly suitable for a large website. Finally, the advanced plan supports 15 accounts and includes a few additional features, though perhaps not enough to make its significantly higher price tag appealing to anyone but the biggest stores.

To learn more, check out our in-depth guide to Shopify costs. For an overview, though, here's a graph charting all the features and prices to expect from each price plan.

Cost (paid monthly)$29$79$299
Cost (paid annually)$312$852$3,192
Domain included
Staff accounts2515
Abandoned cart recovery
Gift cards
Online credit card rates2.2% + 30c1.9% + 30c1.6% + 30c
In-person credit card rates1.7%1.6%1.5%
 POS app
Hardware peripheral support

Get started with Shopify today!

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Adam is a writer at and has worked as a tech writer, blogger and copy editor for the last decade. He's also a Forbes Contributor on the publishing industry (and Digital Book World 2018 award finalist) and has appeared in publications including Popular Mechanics and IDG Connect. When not glued to TechMeme, he loves obsessing over 1970s sci-fi art.