Choosing the right eCommerce platform for a business is challenging. There’s no shortage of options out there, but that’s also a part of the problem. With so many options in the market, you’re probably experiencing decision fatigue and having a hard time picking the best one.
So how do you choose? Here’s an easy way. Look for a platform that’s packed with eCommerce functionality, customizable, secure, and, most importantly, open-source.
Why open-source? Because open-source software provides business owners with control over their website code. The alternative, software-as-a-service (SaaS) platforms, black box the website code and only allow merchants to operate within the confines of their tools.
In this article, we compare the two popular open-source technologies to help you figure out which is better for your business — WordPress or Magento.
What is WordPress?
WordPress is a PHP-based open-source content management system (CMS) used by 44% of websites on the internet today. To say that it’s popular is an understatement. Its closest competitor, WiX, is only used by 7% of websites globally.
WordPress is distributed under the GNU Public License, allowing its users to use and modify the software for free. Its worldwide popularity and open source license have fostered a massive ecosystem of plugins and themes, allowing users to build virtually any type of website they desire.
It’s worth noting that WordPress, unlike Magento, isn’t a dedicated eCommerce platform. WordPress is a CMS that lets you build and manage a website without knowing how to code.
Its eCommerce functionality comes courtesy of WooCommerce, an open-source plugin. WooCommerce simplifies the process of starting an eCommerce website by adding essential commerce features to WordPress websites.
What is Magento?
Magento is a PHP-based open-source software used by businesses globally to create attractive and feature-rich websites. Magento isn’t a traditional CMS like WordPress.
Instead, it’s a dedicated eCommerce platform that allows merchants to create, manage, and scale their online business operations. Magento is licensed and distributed under the OSL v3.0 allowing merchants and developers globally to use and customize the platform for free.
Like WordPress, Magento is one of the most prominent open-source platforms worldwide, with a diverse global community of developers contributing to its success. It has a thriving ecosystem of themes and extensions, allowing merchants to build functional yet high-performance websites.
As a dedicated eCommerce platform, Magento packs a powerful punch. It offers advanced eCommerce functionality and has a modular architecture allowing developers to extend core functionality and customize the platform entirely.
Unmatched extensibility, limitless scalability, and innovative functionality are a few reasons why Magento is considered one of the best eCommerce platforms worldwide.
Which one is better: WordPress or Magento?
To figure out which one is better, let’s go over the following aspects and compare how both platforms stack up:
- Ecommerce functionality,
- Ease of use,
- Total costs of ownership,
Starting with the most important aspect, let’s review the eCommerce features offered by both platforms.
WordPress offers all essential eCommerce features you might need from an eCommerce platform, including:
- A feature-rich shopping cart,
- support for unlimited products,
- shipping and tax configuration,
- coupons and discounts,
- customer management,
- and a store dashboard.
It supports several product types, including simple, variable, grouped, affiliate, and virtual products. It also offers helpful inventory management features like backorders, email notifications for low/no stock products, and hiding out-of-stock items on the front end.
However, it falls short of crucial eCommerce features like sequential order IDs and visual product swatches. Its order management functionality leaves a lot to be desired. Although it allows store managers to update order status, it doesn’t have in-built support for creating shipments and uploading tracking information.
Magento covers all the bases and offers virtually everything an eCommerce store may need, including:
- A powerful shopping cart,
- unlimited product support,
- multiple shipping methods and tax configurations,
- conditional coupons and discounts,
- detailed analytics and reporting,
- multistore and multilingual support,
- and a user-friendly store dashboard.
It simplifies business management for store owners through its built-in payment, shipping, and tax integrations. Magento also comes with Adobe Stock integration allowing store owners to access high-quality media assets for their websites.
In addition to supporting the same product types as WordPress, it also supports using Bundle products allowing merchants to offer customizable product kits. Magento offers virtually everything you need to start and run an online business.
Which one’s better? While WordPress does an excellent job of offering eCommerce features, it lacks support for sequential order IDs and product swatches. Magento is the better platform when it comes to eCommerce functionality.
Ease of use
When selecting an eCommerce platform, choosing one that’s easy to use can help you reduce administrative problems and simplify your day-to-day business management.
WordPress is extremely easy to use, and the strongest testament to this fact is its popularity. It allows users to install, update, and uninstall themes and extensions from the admin panel. This simplifies performing routine store administration and eliminates the need to access the server.
Day-to-day business activities like the product, customer, and order management are also easy to manage with WordPress. It offers several free and paid page builders that can be used to customize the store look and feel.
However, the WordPress invoicing functionality leaves a lot to be desired. For example, it doesn’t support issuing or exporting orders, invoices, or packing slips as PDFs, something that’s essential from an administrative point of view.
Working with Magento requires some level of technical proficiency and familiarity with the command line interface. This is because even routine tasks like updating and managing themes and extensions can only be carried out by accessing the server.
While this helps improve its security, it complicates the process of managing extensions for Magento users. However, Magento offers some of the best product, order, and customer management features in the industry.
It allows merchants to manage orders, invoices, shipments, credit memos, and billing agreements and provides them with insights into the past orders, current shopping cart, and wish list of their registered customers.
Which one’s better? While Magento offers a lot more functionality and makes it easier to run an online business, WordPress is better at providing its users with ease of use with routine activities like installing and managing themes and extensions.
Total costs of ownership (TCOS)
Although both WordPress and Magento are open-source, there are several associated costs like hosting, customization, and maintenance that contribute to the costs of running an online business.
According to WooCommerce’s documentation, it requires a minimum memory limit of 128MB to run smoothly. Considering other applications like PHP and Nginx needed by WordPress, you can operate a small WordPress website on a $10/month droplet on DigitalOcean.
The WordPress ecosystem offers thousands of free themes and plugins, allowing its users to build websites on a budget. There are over 58,000 free plugins and 8,000 themes on the official WordPress.org website.
The average WordPress theme or plugin subscription costs between $99 and $199 annually, and a custom build can cost anywhere from $5,000 to $15,000 and above. Further, maintaining a WordPress website generally costs between $20 and $200 per month (or more) — this cost varies based on the setup and size of the store.
Magento’s official documentation clearly outlines the minimum server requirements for running a Magento store. Based on their recommendations and accounting for all associated software required to run a Magento store, you would need a server along the lines of the $40/month droplet offered by DigitalOcean to operate a small, low-traffic store.
With over 3,800 extensions on the official Magento Marketplace, Magento has a well-rounded product ecosystem. Although the cost of an average Magento theme or extension is around the same price as WordPress, most Magento extensions offer lifetime free updates with every purchase making them more cost-effective in the long run.
The cost of a custom Magento build ranges around $20,000 or higher, and maintaining it can cost anywhere from $2,000 annually to $20,000 and more. Magento is a complex platform and, therefore, costs more to build and manage.
Which one’s better? Both platforms are entirely customizable and scalable. However, the costs of owning a WordPress website are lower than Magento.
Ecommerce platforms process customer and payment information daily. Therefore, security cannot be an afterthought. Let’s review the security features offered by both platforms.
WordPress and WooCommerce by themselves are highly secure. Starting with version 3.7, WordPress introduced an option that allowed WordPress websites to perform maintenance and security updates automatically.
However, being the most popular platform globally comes with its share of risks. WordPress is one of the most targeted platforms globally. Hackers are constantly looking to identify and exploit vulnerabilities in the platform.
According to WPScan, there are currently over 22,790 WordPress-related vulnerabilities. However, only 5% are related to the core application, while the rest are courtesy of its massive ecosystem of plugins and themes.
Magento has several advanced security features built into the platform. The latest versions of Magento require two-factor authentication for admin users and enable strict content security policies by default.
It also offers several advanced security features like session validation and uses a 256-bit Advanced Encryption Standard key to encrypt all store data. Like WordPress, the vulnerabilities in Magento are often introduced through third-party extensions or user errors.
Magento’s core development team works hard to keep the platform secure. To help merchants keep their stores secure during peak shopping periods, Adobe introduced security patches allowing them to install security-related updates while deferring other less time-sensitive updates.
Which one’s better? While both platforms are secure by themselves, Magento is a smaller target than WordPress and has fewer known vulnerabilities.
Here’s how you choose
Choosing WordPress or Magento is like choosing between a Prius and a Tesla. Both are successful platforms, but it all comes down to what you need.
WordPress is the better option for you if you’re a small business with simple needs. It offers simplicity, customizability, and a smaller learning curve.
But for those that are looking for a dedicated eCommerce platform capable of supporting their business for years to come, Magento is the best option. It offers industry-leading commerce functionality, complete customizability, and a secure platform that’ll keep your customer information safe.
If you need help with re-platforming to Magento or building your first website, you can access a range of Magento-related services at Staylime to help you build an attractive website and leverage the platform effectively to grow your online business.
Jan Guardian is the Chief Business Development Officer at Staylime, a Magento design and development company headquartered in Redwood City, California. He is a Member of the Magento Association and an Adobe Sales Accredited Magento Commerce professional.
Jan is responsible for developing and leading the sales and digital marketing strategies of the company. He is passionate about eCommerce and Magento in particular — throughout the years his articles have been featured on Retail Dive, Hacker Noon, Chief Marketer, Mobile Marketer, TMCnet, and many others.