So Many Shopify Theme Choices!
When setting up a Shopify store one of the first critical things you need to do is select a Shopify Theme. The choice has a direct influence on the look, feel and functionality of your site. As such, it will have a dramatic impact on how customers perceive your Shopify site, the products you are selling and the overall sales performance of your site.
Customers will typically make a judgement call on if they want to do business with you in under 60 seconds or less. They are heavily influenced by the initial look and style of a site to establish that first level of trust. This perception of trust evolves as the customers shopping experience demands change during the journey of finding and selecting a product to buy, the sales conversion process and finally checkout.
For successful online selling you also have to ensure your store also portrays the image you desire. It is your brand after all - and you need to nurture it carefully.
With the selection of a Shopify Theme being so important and having seen people struggle in making a choice we have put together this Shopify Theme selection guide to help.
Don't worry though - if you choose the wrong theme all is not lost. You can easily swap out a theme for an alternative as all of the product, collection and other store configuration settings will remain intact. All the other aesthetic elements such as styles, colours, images and image sizes will need to be re-addressed.
So the the preference is to get the theme selection right first time around. Saving you potential rework or loosing customers because of a poor initial theme choice.
So how do you make sure you select the right theme?
Choosing a Shopify Theme
With the daunting array of different themes available from the Shopify theme store and other providers, any help to reduce the number to select from is useful.
While this post is not a prescriptive guide or guarantee that your choice is the right one - it should give you enough guidance to get pretty close.
So let's gets started.
Define Your Theme Requirements
The first thing you need to do is create a list of your Shopify sites requirements. Some will be obvious, but more importantly, there are others you may not have considered that will have a big impact. We will cover each of them in turn and outline why they are important. In the end you should have a checklist for making a good Shopify theme selection.
You may have already done some research and have heard many competing arguments on what you should focus on first. Our preference is for the following order:
- High level aesthetics
- Aesthetics/Functionality at a deeper level
We prefer to look at "High level" aesthetics first as potential customers will make an assessment of your Shopify site within the first 60 seconds on whether that like what they see and whether to continue. They are effectively judging a website by its cover - that veneer of imagery, branding and style that the customer first sees. If you don't engage them at this point it will be a much harder sell.
With the high level aesthetics out of the way you need to focus next on the functionality side of your requirements.
The site needs to provide the functionality you need to ensure you get a good conversion rate and resulting sales.
Lastly are the deeper aesthetic / functional elements that will really make your Shopify site sing. eg, Product image zooming, shipping calculations, product comparisons etc.
High Level Aesthetics
In this section we cover the high level aesthetics you will want to consider when selecting a theme.
Big Hero / Full Bleed Image
Do you want a big hero image displayed at the very top of your Shopify site?
These can look great for the right type of product and industry. Make sure you are prepared and have your own high quality image resources to replace those used in a theme you may be reviewing. It is easy to be taken in by a theme because of the nice imagery they use, but you will need to replace those images with your own.
Only some themes provide this kind of capability and as such it will instantly help in creating a shortlist of viable themes to consider. Some free Shopify themes that offer this capability include the Brooklyn or Boundless themes.
Look at the logo image placement of each theme. Will the theme accommodate your logo in the way you desire. Take into account position, size and colour of your logo to ensure it will sit well within the overall theme design.
Do you have a preference for where the navigation menu is displayed on your site, be it horizontal or vertical. Do the menus need to expand/collapse or drop down?
If the menus need to expand then consider how many levels it needs to support. Drawing up the hierarchical structure of how you want the navigation to work in your site will help in better envisaging your sites navigation requirements and what will work.
Do you want your Shopify site to consume the full width of the view-able area or be restricted to a smaller fixed width portion? Full width pages typically require large, high quality images to make them look great. Also, make sure you have good images to make them work for your Shopify site.
There are many different layouts designs to choose from when selecting a theme and your customers may have a preference for a certain layout style. A lot of the themes can be grouped into one of a few typical layouts style. While the examples below are way oversimplify some themes, it is still a good way to quickly eliminate some that don't meet your layout criteria.
Not all themes have a footer or provide much functionality in the footer section. Footer are extremely useful and can be utilised for many functions from additional content, secondary menus, contact details, newsletter, social integration connections etc.
Make sure the theme has the features you are looking to put in your footer
Homepage Layout Sections
The homepage layout for Shopify themes are typically comprised of a number of discrete sections with each section supporting different types of content and data eg. plain text and HTML, image sliders, products, collection, blog summaries etc.
So when selecting a theme it does help to have a pretty good idea of what you want to display on the homepage. With this in mind you will then be able to identify how many sections you need on a homepage as a minimum and the type of content you want displayed in each section.
The types of sections typically provided with a theme include:
- Content - Plain text and image content that you can add to your Shopify site. If you are familiar with HTML then you can also drop down to that level and even finer control of the content displayed in this section type.
- Image - Provides a place to display an image on your homepage. They can range from big hero full bleed images through to small image displays
- Video - Provides a place to insert video content, typically hosted on YouTube, Vimeo or other video streaming providers
- Slideshow - Allows you to upload a number of images which are then displayed in a slideshow fashion to the user.
- Featured Collections - Provides a summary view of product collections that you want to feature on your home page.
- Featured Products - Provides a summary view of specific products that you want to feature on your homepage.
- Newsletter - Offers the user a newsletter subscription area for your site.
- Recent Blog Posts - Displays a summary of recent Blog posts from the Blog section of your site.
Some themes might provide more elaborate types of sections to suit specific needs but the ones listed above are the most common. The implementation of those sections can also vary from theme to theme so keep an eye on those as well. One good example is the slideshow section where the number of images, how the images transition, text overlay support will differ for each theme.
Also keep in mind that there are also limitations on the number of each type of sections allowed on a homepage. Some themes on support one instance of a section type to be used on a homepage. So for example, if you need a theme with more than one content section then make sure you find a theme that offers that capability.
Does it feel right?
This might sound weird and somewhat subjective but at the end of the day you are looking to evoke an emotion from your customers - one that engages and appeals to them at an emotional level. In addition to being clear, concise, attractive and easy to use.
If you can look at a design from your customers perspective and get an instant good feeling for it then you are on the right path.
It is a given now that any theme selected must be a responsive design. This means it will support many different device formats, including mobile devices. Having a responsive design also meets Google mobile friendly website requirements to ensure your website will have the best chance of ranking well in search results. Fortunately all of themes found in the Shopify store are responsive. If you are considering a theme outside of the Shopify store then make sure you verify for this.
Each theme will respond to a mobile device layout differently, so it is also important to check not only that a theme is responsive but also how the responsiveness of the theme is implemented. Some are better than others.
Use the mobile view option provided when previewing a theme our simply resize your browser to test the responsiveness of the theme
The theme should also be fast and lightweight. Themes can be implemented in a number of ways that include many fancy animations and effects. While this may look great you still need to make sure it will not make your Shopify site slow and un-responsive by having unnecessary features, especially on a mobile device. A slow site will turn a potential sale away from your site very quickly.
Number of Products and Product Categories
The number of products you will be selling can have a big influence on the theme selected. If you are selling a small number of items, with intricate detailing or design then you will want a theme that supports large imagery. Something like the Brooklyn or Boundless themes.
Sites with a lot of products should have smaller product images, complex navigation and product filter options so the customer can quickly review a number of products at the same time and locate the one they are after. If you have a lot of product or product categories then the navigation options need to remain nicely grouped and structured to make the navigation and selection process as easy as possible. The last thing you want is to select a theme that will only show your products as one long menu with 50 plus items in it.
If you are selling a lot of similar products then a product comparison feature would also be of considerable use to a customer in helping them make a buying decision.
Type of Products
The type of products you are selling will also have an influence on the theme selection process.
Fashion, clothing or cosmetic based products are better served by themes that have large imagery and typographical style, something that will captivate and intrigues the potential customer. It leads the customer in through your brand journey to experience the unique products you offer.
Whereas a site selling multiple products needs to be more formal and structured and needs to allow the user to quickly navigate and find the product they are after from the myriad of other products in your store.
Also consider the quality of your product images, if you have high quality images then you will want a theme that takes advantage of that. Alternatively, if you product images are small, and of low quality then you might want to consider a theme where the product images displayed are a bit smaller and so will be more forgiving of the poor image quality.
Content or Product
If you need a site that is mostly content focused, in that it requires regular content updates in web page content, images, blog posts, newsletters - then this will play an important role in your theme selection.
In this case you need to look for a theme that will support you in creating, managing and maintaining that content over time. New Standard is one theme that might suit your requirements for this type of Shopify site.
What are competitors doing on their website that you would like to emulate. Look to see if you can accomplish the same function and features in the themes you are considering.
At this stage you may have already shortlisted a number of themes that you are interested in.
To really get to know a theme you need to start playing around with each themes options, either via a demo or previewing it on your own Shopify site. Start looking for other elements that make each theme stand apart. Look for capabilities that meet some of your more specific requirements or offer just nice to have features.
Some examples of features you may want to look for include:
- Product display layout design
- Product comparison
- Related products
- Product swatch option selections
- Product images zoom support
- Mouse over effects
- Newsletter integration
- Social network integration
- Blog summary
- Contact form
- Custom cart options
- Mega menu support
Choosing a Theme
After you have considered the points above you are now in a position to short-list a number of themes in the Shopify store that meet your requirements. Listed below are some other factors to help identify one or more suitable themes.
The first thing you need to do before selecting a theme is define your budget. If you have $0 then your still in luck as there are many quality Free Themes on offer to choose from. Alternatively if require a theme will more capabilities then you may need to consider a Premium Theme, typically they come in at less than $180.
If you still can't find a theme that meets your needs then investigate using a third-party theme outside of the Shopify store or use the services of Shopify Partner to enhance an existing theme further or create a brand-new one. The key take-away here is understanding what requirements you have for your Shopify site and working within your budget.
The type of industry your store is pitched at can have a big influence on the design you choose. A perfume or fashion store will have a very different look and feel over a camera or electronics Shopify site. Fortunately in the Shopify Theme store you can filter the available theme's by industry type.
Keep an open mind while a perusing the other themes to see if there is an opportunity to retrofit a theme. It may offer the opportunity to have your site stand out from your competitors in a different but good way that still works well.
Third Party Themes
It is highly recommended to source all your themes from the Shopify theme store as all themes submitted to Shopify are carefully vetted for quality and functionality.
Saying that there are a number of quality third-party theme providers which are worth investigating if you cannot find what you want in the Shopify theme store.
Some of them include:
Good Theme Settings / Options
Ensure the theme provides good control over the different theme elements and sections via the Theme settings.
Make sure the theme comes with supporting documentation. Also make sure the documentation is of a reasonable quality and addresses all of the features and capabilities it lays claim to. Some themes documentation is much better than others.
In addition to documentation the theme should also be well supported. All of the free themes from the Shopify store are supported by Shopify, so typically there is no issue there. The Premium themes are also partially supported by Shopify with a commitment by the theme developer to fully support the theme. This is a requirement of being listed as a Premium theme in the Shopify store.
Third-party theme providers support levels may vary, so spend some time investigating what that experience may be like.
Customer Feedback / Reviews
All of the theme on the Shopify store have customer reviews and feedback which can offer invaluable insight into how well a theme works and any issues that people may be experiencing with it.
Evaluate the Theme
If possible spend as much time as possible evaluating a theme by previewing the theme in your store beforehand - go through all aspects of the theme eg. Product browsing, Cart experience.
You might also find useful this feature comparison matrix of all the free Shopify Themes in the Theme store. More details on this can be found here - Free Shopify Theme Comparison Matrix.
It is also a good idea to only use a theme that has been available and used for more than 3 months. This way they have had time to iron out any bugs and issues with the theme beforehand. There should also be some meaningful customer reviews and feedback to refer to at this stage.
Run a shortlist of themes you are evaluating past colleagues and customers and ask them for an honest assessment. Which one would they prefer and why?
Review other Shopify sites using the same theme
If possible try and find other Shopify sites that may be using the same theme. This will give you further insight on how someone else has made the theme their own, review how they have used the themes capabilities along with offering ideas for your own Shopify site.
For a good reference to other Shopify sites refer to the Shopify Pinterest board
We hope the above guidance will give you some food for thought when setting up your Shopify site and make the Theme selection process a little less arduous.
Don't be afraid to experiment and you can always change your theme later on if you really need to.
If you still have questions or just need a Shopify Partner to help select and setup a Shopify site for you then contact Going Square and we would be more than happy to discuss how we can assist.
If you just can't find a theme to meet your specific requirements or have just outgrown your existing theme then Going Square also offer custom theme development services to help make your Shopify site yours.
The Going Square Team