Lewes Builder

Marc Cable, Lewes Builders, needed a new website. Here we have created a simple clean and modern looking brochure website, incorporating a news section, galleries of differents works and contact details.

Simple – Clean – Efficient.

Toby Pentreath is a talented photographer based in Bath. Dark Star Design build a portfolio website with an eCommerce Print Store. We integrated his shop with Instagram to enable his followers to find and purchase prints with ease.

I am addicted to paragliding!


And I love the XC Tracer vario. Tim is the UK dealer for XC Tracer and was selling the vario’s via a Facebook Page and word of mouth. I contacted Tim and set up a simple E’comm store with email. I received a nice new Vario in return! Thanks Tim 🙂



Become a Personal Trainer


Pro-Fitness Academy is an online learning platform to gain level 2 and 3 personal trainer qualifications. Ex-professional football player, Andy Smith, came up with the idea just before COVID struck. Andy is highly qualified and an expert in nutrition, health and fitness. His work in the community and as a Personal Trainer is his passion.

I was originally approached to build a brochure website for Andy himself. Once that was completed Andy told me of his idea. A year later he had signed up a number of paying students to the Pro-Fitness Academy online platform.


The Pro-Fitness Academy website is entering it’s next phase of development later this year and with a significant investment we look forward to the relaunch in spring 2022.


Full write up coming soon….


WordPress vs Shopify

A question that comes up often in discussions about Ecommerce websites “What’s better, WordPress or Shopify?”.  There is no black and white answer. Both have their pros and cons. What will be best for your business depends on many different considerations.  Often a major deciding factor will be the budget. It’s essential not just to think short term, but carefully consider the long-term implications of your decision as well. 

I received an enquiry from a new startup company, Tigermoth Coffee Roasters, looking for a quote to help set up their new coffee subscription online business using Shopify.  I am a WordPress developer. I was recommended to them by a previous client, I replied saying that I have heard lots of good things about Shopify, I am sorry, but I could not help at this time. However, if you were to consider using WordPress for your platform choice, I would be delighted to help. The reply asked, “What’s better, WordPress or Shopify?” So I did some research. First, I asked them about the project as if I were preparing a proposal, all the standard questions about their business, websites they like and dislike, etc.


Pros and Cons


Shopify is great if you know nothing about websites and want a quick solution to selling online.  The websites look great, secure, work well, and you have access to excellent customer service when something goes wrong. Shopify Plans start at £29 per month if you want a website. On the surface, that sounds great, nice and cheap to get started compared to the quote I’d give for a WordPress/WooCommerce site that I would develop.

Looking a little deeper into Shopify, the most significant difference between the two platforms I found was the pricing structure.

WordPress and WooCommerce are free, open-source pieces of software. There are thousands of plugin’s, and you can achieve any kind of website with every imaginable feature possible…..if you have the know-how.  You will need to sort out hosting, emails and security for yourself.  However, once it’s all set up, it’s relatively easy to edit and maintain. You own the website you have invested time and money to create.

On the other hand, Shopify is a subscription service where you pay a monthly fee and a percentage of your sales for leasing the website.  Like WordPress, with Shopify, there are different themes to choose from, free and premium. There are plugins available for further requirements like subscription payments or integrations with accounting software or CRM’s etc.

With the information I received from Tigermoth, I thought I would go to Shopify and see the cost for them both short term and long term.  

The brief was to achieve a website initially selling three or four different types of coffee.  There was a need to emphasise selling subscriptions, different delivery periods, different subscription lengths, different grinds and payment option to pay per delivery or upfront for a subscription length.  They wanted the sales to report directly into their Xero accounting software. In the future, there would be a need to add coffee equipment for sale. The website itself was to be straightforward, clean and easy for the user to buy a coffee subscription. The majority of websites Tigermoth sent as examples of desirable sites were built using the Shopify platform. Searching the internet, I found very few examples of coffee subscription sites using WordPress. It was going to be a challenge to demonstrate the positives of WordPress for this case.


Build Cost for Tigermoth Coffee


Initially, the client was planning to go with Shopify under the impression that it would be within their ability to set it up. But without any experience, reaching out for advice beforehand was wise; I believe I helped them avoid some huge pitfalls and save an enormous amount of their time and money. But, for this demonstration, let’s assume the client would be able to complete the site without hiring a Shopify developer to assist. (Shopify and WordPress both charges for plugins and costs in dollars, and transaction fees are in pounds – generally, there are VAT charges, so it more often than not works out the price in dollars is equal to the same number in pounds. I will assume pounds for this exercise even though it’s advertised in dollars on respective websites. For this article’s purposes, roughly working with figures from month three and assuming this averages out per month for the first two years—£ 2500 in sales with 250 orders. Originally I used a slightly higher sales estimate.)


Shopify Cost 


Basic Shopify Plan – £29 per month plus (if using Shopify Payments) Credit card transaction rate of 2.2% plus 20p per order.

Recharge Subscription Addon – £60 per month plus 1% and 5p per sale.

Xero integration by A2X – £39 per month for 200 -500 orders per month

The total cost for the first year in fees to Shopify alone would be £3186 on a turnover of £30000, just over 10.5%.

Assuming sales would remain the same for year two—the cost after two years £6372.


WordPress Cost


The initial build and hosting costs with Dark Star Design including further development after launch to improve the site with feedback from real customers. £2904

Stripe Credit Card Processing fees – 1.4% + 20p per sale – First year = £1020

Total cost after one year £3924

Second-year cost of hosting and premium plugin costs £578

Total cost for year two £1598. The total cost after two years £5522

Immediately you can now see that over time Shopify has a substantially higher cost compared with WordPress.

Of course, this is a simplified example, and there are many more factors to take into account for and against both different platforms. As you grow, Shopify can become more costly; in general, WordPress costs will stay the same. Credit card fees will become cheaper with both platforms with higher volume.

I presented Tigermoth with my findings, and very quickly, they decided that Dark Star Design and WordPress was the way to go. Beatrice and Joe needed to focus their time on the coffee business, not building and maintaining a website. They are now growing rapidly and are on their way to having a successful business with numbers beyond the example shown above.


In Conclusion.


Shopify is an industry-leading E-commerce solution for retailers to get online quickly and cheaply, but customisation and scalability can be more challenging and costly. Shopify is an all in one package where you pay a high monthly subscription fee to lease your website.

WordPress is infinitely customisable and scalable, and it is the number one choice and longest surviving CMS for these and many more reasons. Hiring a WordPress developer to set up and maintain an e-commerce website could be more costly in the first year but potentially fifty to sixty percent cheaper to run than a Shopify site each following year. A WordPress website will be easier to scale with the business. 37% of all websites on the internet are WordPress websites. On that basis alone, I can conclude that WordPress is doing it right.


The Loft Workshop is a paraglider service and repair centre. Mike and Claire have been repairing and servicing paragliders since 1989 and have built a loyal following. The loft is the most experienced and highly rated centre in the UK. A paraglider pilot myself I was excited to take this project on.

I was initially approached at the beginning of 2021 to update the original website and to fix email issues. The website was a number of years old and while it functioned some elements weren’t working as they should. The loft was not receiving booking forms all the time, this is how a large proportion of their business came in. We agreed on a price and I set about fixing the emails and updating the site. It was during this time I saw a way of improving the workflow and reducing admin time. COVID had struck and paragliders were grounded. It was the perfect time to get our wings serviced. The Loft was overrun with orders and suddenly had a long wait time for services.

The workflow looked something like this:

This was required to be done three or four times a day every day. Very labour intensive.


So I built a new site and integrated it with UPS and their accounting software. If the customer requires a UPS collection, one click in the admin dashboard and the shipping labels are created and sent automatically and a pick up scheduled for the same or next working day. An account is created on the website for the customer where they can keep track of the progress, make payments, view invoices and service reports. Need the same service the following year reorder with one click. The loft can send a quote for approval, the customer can approve from their account by clicking the approve button. I developed a workflow and a series of automated emails firing out each step of the way so that the customer is informed of the progress, these extra emails can be opted out of also.

The result was a reduction of one and a half to two hours of admin each day. Not bad!


Andy Smith was working at Virgin Brighton when the announcement came that the club was closing and making its staff redundant. Andy was a master trainer with Virgin, and has several clients that wanted to keep training with him. Andy needs a system that would handle the booking and payments for his busy schedule. Dark Star Design built a scalable booking, membership and marketing solution. Prospective clients can book a free consultation. Training packs are sold on the website either by a subscription system, paid monthly by card or direct debit, or clients can purchase pay as you go training session packs. The training packs give the clients Personal Training Session Credits that are then used to book training sessions. Because some clients are paying different pricing for different needs there is a complex pricing structure handled by different membership tiers and voucher codes. We integrated the booking system with two-way sync to his Google Calendar. Andy can view his appointments and manage his availability via his smartphone with ease. Clients can manage their payments, subscriptions and appointments in their account area on the website, including easy appointment rescheduling. Andy also holds a Bootcamp on Sunday mornings and since Covid has affected our lives he facilitates online training via Zoom.

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