No doubt that clean online store design sells. But looks seldom seem to come up in the heated competition between Magento and Shopify in the online sales platform marketplace.
Plenty of blog space is dedicated to the benefits and downsides to each platform. Hot topics include functionality differences, cost of ownership and integration ability. Design is often overlooked.
In my opinion, Shopify as an entry level platform for smaller ecommerce ventures is unbeatable. It has so many advantages for the aspiring store owner. However for an online venture becomes larger and starts to expand beyond basic product sales the balance starts to swing towards a self-hosted solution like Magento.
There are some practical limitations that come with ownership of a Shopify store. These include limitations in custom product search configurations, configurable (variants) limitations to less than 100 sku's and limited checkout customisation.
Besides some practical limits, there are definite barriers to the kind of free format design Magento offers. Yes, there are thousands of themes to chose from but any real theme adjustments require a knowledge of Liquid, the templating language Shopify uses to for customisation.
But even then, there are some hard limits.
In my experience, the last and most telling hurdle to cross when trying to achieve a world-class home page design is white-space spacing. All great looking web pages have spacing that is close to perfect.
The judge of spacing is your eye. It does not need to be trained or schooled in how much white space there needs to be; it just knows! This often happens as a subconscious judgement. Your eyes produce a design report that is instant and irrefutable. You KNOW when something looks pleasing, you dont have to think about it.
In September, I did a review of a website that was custom built in Magento, against a Shopify clone that had the distinct advantage of having to copy an existing work.
I think it ended poorly for Shopify. But you can make up your own mind by reading about it here: