Ways to create online stores: from SaaS to custom development

Material prepared by our partners shop-express.ua

Online shopping is faster and more engaging, and it is the easiest way to expand your business and attract new customers. Therefore, developing and launching an online store is a necessity in modern business. There are many ways to create an online store. For a successful start, as well as for the development and expansion of your business, it is important to choose the right way to create it. It should match the scale, goals, and prospects of your project. 

What framework should you choose to develop an online store?

The basis for creating an online store can be a ready-made platform or a customized one. The choice of a particular method depends on the specifics of the business, its scale, and type of interaction, as well as the company’s budget and plans for the near future. For example, a sole proprietor who has previously sold goods through an Instagram page will have completely different needs from a manufacturing company or a dealer that sells wholesale and retail goods on a large scale.

The most popular methods of creating an online store are development based on an open CMS, on a SaaS platform, or custom development.

An online store based on an open CMS: pros and cons

A ready-made content management system allows you to manage all the functionality of your website – customize menus, edit texts, and fill in product cards. Additionally, you can create plugins and modules to expand the functionality. This method of creating an online store has the following obvious advantages:

  •  Most open-source CMSs, such as WordPress, Magento, or Joomla, are free. This is a huge advantage for entrepreneurs who do not have a large budget for website development;
  •  The flexibility of these platforms and the ability to add plugins allow you to customize any functionality you need for trading; 
  • The popularity of CMS, which means that you can always find support from more experienced users and get clarification on any issue.

But these systems also have disadvantages, including:

  • Complexity. To work with a CMS, you need a certain level of technical knowledge and skills. Even if you have a team of developers, they need to set tasks and check the quality of their work.
  • Unforeseen expenses. Despite the fact that the platform itself is free, additional plugins may need to be purchased. Unscheduled adjustments to the company’s budget are not always appropriate.
  • Vulnerability to cyberattacks. The security of an online store is a very important factor! You should pay maximum attention to regular updates and security measures, especially if you work with a CMS.
  • Incompatibility of individual modules with the main platform due to bugs and flaws.
  • Many modules have limitations in the choice of payment systems or the number of payment integrations.
  • Inflexible search functionality. Most of these systems have standard search functions that cannot always be adapted to the specifics of the assortment.
  • Inability to adjust the design of the website. In this regard, CMSs are usually quite inflexible, so most entrepreneurs sooner or later look for a new, more flexible framework for their online store.

An online store based on a SaaS platform: pros and cons SaaS

(Software as a Service) is a cloud-based service that can be used to create a website and/or an online store. Just like CMS, a SaaS platform allows you to build an online store and add the necessary functionality, without needing your own software for this. The difference lies in the fact that this method of development does not involve purchasing the service but rather paying for its use and for technical support services.

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SaaS platforms have the following advantages:

  • Like CMS, they are quite affordable, although not free. At the same time, these platforms are more predictable. The fee for using the service is relatively small, regular, and does not come with surprises such as paid plugins. Often, platforms have special offers that can significantly reduce the cost of an already inexpensive website. In particular, the Shop-Express platform, together with its partners, provides exporters under the Ukrainian Export Development Programme with favorable conditions for creating an online store and further organizing sales abroad; 
  • Technical support. All updates, improvements, and bug fixes are handled by the platform developers. They fully maintain the platform and its components, as well as provide prompt round-the-clock feedback. This makes SaaS platforms many times more reliable than free CMS; 
  • Quick launch. A website can be created on such a platform in a few days without any special knowledge in this area. It is enough to choose a design and fill the site with content. The longest period for creating a website on a SaaS platform is within a month if it involves a customized design; 
  • Fully integrated functionality. To add a particular function to the website, it is enough to “enable” it in the administrative panel.

The only disadvantage of cloud services is their limited scale. This solution is the best for small and medium-sized businesses but does not always withstand the load of a large marketplace. You should also keep in mind that your website will be updated and maintained according to the rules and schedule of the platform developers. It is advisable to discuss this issue with them in advance.

Individual design of an online store: pros and cons

A custom website is a unique solution developed for the needs of a particular business. Such a resource requires considerable funds, a lot of time and effort, but it has obvious advantages compared to the above methods:

  • Unlimited scale. This is especially true for large businesses that find an off-the-shelf SaaS platform too small; 
  • Unique website design, which is possible only when developing from scratch;
  • Unique functionality that best meets the needs of your business;
  • The ability to fully control the work of the website.

The disadvantages of custom design include:

  • Cost. Custom design is much more expensive than a ready-made platform. The more complex the functionality and integrations, the higher the development cost will be;
  • Much longer implementation. Such an online store is developed for at least a month, and sometimes the process can take several months if there are any problems. 
  • Control of the website is entirely your responsibility. Technical support, regular updates, bug fixes – all these require a team of specialists. Therefore, before ordering a custom website, it would be prudent to ensure that you have the staff that can perform these tasks.


In order to choose the right way to develop an online store, you should understand its needs, capabilities, and sales volumes. If you are just starting to sell online, or if your online store is the next step after selling on social media, a SaaS platform will be a good solution—it is more stable and reliable than a CMS, and much easier to maintain. Custom development is suitable for those who want to expand their business, maintain their store on their own, and have no restrictions on functionality and scale.

Material prepared by our partners https://shop-express.ua

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