What is the difference between PayPal Website Payments – Standard and Pro

We are frequently asked for assistance in helping businesses move from PayPal Website Payments Standard (WPStandard) to Websites Payment Pro (WPPro).  Often the cost of doing this can be quite expensive and there is an understandable “sticker shock”.  WPStandard is so quick and easy, and therefore both inexpensive and simple for the “do-it-yourselfer”. There is an expectation that WPPro will operate in a similar fashion. It does not, and this becomes a stumbling block, both in trying to understand how it works and how to make use of its features. The attraction of WPPro is that it has a lot of features that allow you to appear more professional and gets past a number of confusing situations for the customer with regard to credit cards and PayPal accounts.

So, why the  difference in operation and cost?

Let’s start with an analogy.   You want a model antique car to put on your shelf. You have two choices – You can purchase that model car complete and shrink wrapped.  Just open the box and put it on your self, or you can purchase a kit in which you need to spend hours assembling and painting.  It may be that the shrink wrap car looks more “toy like” or “common” and not quite what you want on your shelf.  The kit allows you to put extra effort in making the car look special or more “custom”. The downside of the kit is that you need to spend hours on assembly and it is very tedious and careful work.

This is the same difference you face with WPStandard vs. WPPro.

What is PayPal Website Payments Standard?

WPStandard is the shrink wrap solution. PayPal provides everything and all you have to do is create the buttons. There are a few other enhancements that require a bit more setup but the basics are pretty easy and quick. Everything revolves around “making buttons”, this is the core concept.  PayPal also supplies a “virtual’ shopping cart that you can add you logo and do some very simple colors schemes. There is no real cart in the same way that a more traditions shopping cart is designed.  This is a great start,  but like the model car there is a down side: It has limitations on how “custom” it can look.  The whole buying sequence can be “clunky” by some and often confusing to a “credit card” customer because PayPal places emphasis on their standard PayPal accounts.  PayPal did an excellent job, that is not the problem. The problem is that in creating a shrink wrap solution that is “simple” it must, by definition, have limitations.  It is the nature of the beast.

What is Website Payment Pro?

WPPro was developed to allow  developers to integrate PayPal services seamlessly into their solutions. What you get with WPPro  is a “box of parts” (in programming lingo this is called an API – Application Programming Interface) and about 4 different manuals. Each manual covers a different part of the system. They are:

  • PP_WPP_IntegrationGuide – Overview of all the parts and how they integrate.
  • PP_Sandbox_User_Guide – For testing your solution.
  • PP_NVPAPI_DeveloperGuide – The underlying API (Application Programming Interface) used by WPPro.
  • PP_ExpressCheckout_IntegrationGuide – More details about Express Checkout and how to integrate it with other payment systems.

This can be nothing short of overwhelming.  WPPro has two basic components: Direct Payment and Express Checkout.  Direct Payment allows the customer to use their credit cart and is very similar to other payment vendor solutions. Express Checkout is designed to  integrate PayPal accounts into any payment solution. At this time, our understanding is that you are required to use Express Checkout with your Direct Payment. What this means is that you can not use only the Direct Payment part of WPPro without also implimenting Express Checkout.

Do you really need to know all of that “stuff” to use WPPro?  Actually no, there are two ways you can use WPPro:

  1. Plugged into a standard shopping cart.
  2. As a tool for building a custom purchase system.

Next we will discuss those two options.

PayPal WPPro in a Standard Shopping Cart

In this case someone else has used the WPPro API to do a general integration into their shopping cart.  This is a good solution if  the standard shopping cart format works for your needs and the shopping cart of your choice supports WPPro (Most do, but not all, check first). Basically the only thing you need to know about WPPro is how to generate the needed settings for the shopping cart.   This can also be a challenge, so SonicWebTech as a Quick Start package can get you “up and running” for around $295.00.  Later you can have it customized to meet unique needs. It is important to select a cart that is easy to work with and you have access to the source code. SonicWebTech has some reviews of open source shopping carts here:


This link has an extensive review of 4 different shopping carts and provides a good sampling of what is available.

Our installation and customization packages are here:


It is important to understand that the customization of your cart can become quite expensive.  There are some short cuts that can keep costs down, but as in all short cuts you have to compromise. Basically this would involve finding a “theme” provided by that shopping cart system that very closely matches your needs.  Make a few color changes and stop there.  Going beyond that point starts getting very expensive.  Keep in mind that you can customize these carts to a point where they nearly match your website.

WPPro as part of a Custom Purchase System

This is always going to be a more expensive route and is probably a lot more than you where expecting. It is hard to explain all of the complexity in programming a custom solution. We are often told that   “All I need is….. that should be simple, right?”

Actually, WRONG!  At this point we loose you because it is hard to understand how “simple” requires so much work and complexity.  To understand this, think of your car.  Your car appears to be very simple: sit down, turn the key, grab the steering wheel and push the accelerator. That it!  But wait, did you look under the hood?  One glance and you know this is not simple, and the first time it breaks your pocket book also knows it  is not simple, ouch!  Now go to a custom car show and ask someone what a custom car costs.  You will  hear numbers like $100k, $300k and more.  This is the same car, functionally, as the $20k car you can get from your local dealer.

Is this making a bit more sense?

Maybe some numbers will also help.   The core code that talks to PayPal and processes the needed requests, replies and error handling is about 1,000 lines of code (same as a small 17 page book).  The code that then translates that to your customer on their web browser is about 2,500 lines of code ( about 37 pages in a book).  Add the configurations files and you have about 4,000 lines of code or a 60 page book.  Think for a moment how long it would take you to write a 60 page book.

At this point the temptation is to find “someone” that will do it CHEAP. This is very similar to hiring your nephew that just had basic auto shop in high school to build that $300k custom car for you.  What will happen most often is that you will be burned.  The common stories we hear start like this: “They said they could do this for $XXX, I paid a deposit, and now they won’t return my phone calls.” or “They finished the project but there were problems, and  now they won’t return my calls.”  What happen?  My guess is that they discovered it took a lot more work than they expected and they are now cutting their losses. Sadly, the reality is that you did get what you paid for.

So, the bottom line is this: To get a quality custom solution, expect to start between $2.5k ($1,500) and $6k, for really custom solutions it could go higher.  If this number scares you or is out of your budget, then you need to go back to WPStandard until your business can support a more custom solution.

There are some unique situations where you can keep it under $1k. Generally that involves using a standard solution that is being sold as a package. SonicWebTech has solutions like this for standard donations or subscriptions. As long as you can live with a very “general” solution that will get you started.  Some examples of general solutions are here:


Is there other ways to keep my costs down?

Yes there is.  Basically you have to be willing to do a lot of preparation and clearly define and specify what you need. The more specific and detailed you are the less time is spend “consulting” and the more time is spend “building”. Consulting is not free, and you must realize that the cost of this special help can be as much as a third to half of the cost of a custom solution.  So the savings are significant.  The problem here is that you may not “know what it is that you don’t know”.   This leaves you lost and in need of more information.   You have two directions:  Google and a lot of reading, or purchase one of SonicWebTechs “Needs assessment” packages. Or, if you have the need for just ongoing assistance and not a formal structure, our general Consulting packages may be what you need.


Summarize my options.

Stay with Website Payments Standard.

This is a viable option if your business is just beginning and money is tight.  You would really like to appear more professional but the bottom line is “the bottom line”.  A major danger of small business get trapped into is the desire to grow faster than the cash flow will support.  There is nothing wrong with keeping it simple.  There are ways to “jazz it up” a bit more and a good place to start is the PayPal community help forums. There are a lot of questions and answers you can browse and search, as well as ask questions.   Of course in a pinch you can always pay a Certified PayPal Developer to help you over a difficult spot.

Use WPPro, but stick with a standard shopping cart.

You may have to make some compromizes, but it is a very good “step up” from  WPStandard. The challenge is if you have some unique way you want to sell your product or service and you want that uniqueness to stand out.  Other times this can be the perfect solution.  If it is not, you may still need to go this route until your business can afford a more unique solution. Also remember that it you choose the right shopping cart, it can be later customized to meet many of your unique needs. This is where the selection of the cart is critical. SonicWebTech has some reviews of open source shopping carts to help you make the right choice here:


Use WPPro and develop that custom solution, but make sure that you use a professional.

Professionals are not cheap, if they were they would not be in business for very long, nor will they be in business later when you need them. Select your provider like you would select your doctor. The first question should NOT be cost, if it is you should go back to WPStandard right now.  The first question is do they have the skills and how do they conduct their business.  How professional is their website (that is not cheap if done correctly), do they have demos running for you to review, are they  a Certified PayPal Developer. Look for reliability and breadth of knowledge, also review their team and make sure that these is the team you need for your business. This is a company that will become a strategic partner of your business.

The SonicWebTech Team has extensive breadth of knowledge and experience. We are proud of what we have to offer your company and invite you to review our team here:


Wrapping it up

Hopefully you have a better understanding of why the move from WPStandard to WPPro is such a big step. We are constantly looking for ways to make that transition easier and more affordable.  It is a challenge to create general solutions that really meet a wide range of needs.  Fortunately, if your needs fit into the traditional shopping cart format, there are some really great shopping carts that are inexpensive if you stick to the basics. We would really like to hear from you and let us know if this article answered your questions about WPStandard and WPPro.  Leave a comment, please.

This entry was posted in eCommerce, PayPal and tagged , , , by John Moore. Bookmark the permalink.

About John Moore

John Moore is the co-founder of SonicSpider, LLC in San Diego County, California. John is our head Internet developer, overseeing the direction of our technical services. He has been programming in a variety of languages for more than 25 years, first as the owner of the consulting and system architect/design company, Micro-Phyla Systems, which provided services to enterprise level companies, and then as a principle with SonicSpider LLC. SonicSpider has two primary divisions, SonicWebTech for programming, ecommerce solutions, and general web oriented technical assistance - and RightStart Websites, specializing in WordPress, which provide low cost web packages and website enhancements that can span your needs from "do it yourself" to "do it all for me". John is also a PayPal Certified Developer and has extensive experience with many payment gateway solutions. View John's Google Profile+ What's Your Author Rank?
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