Shopify & Ecommerce Ramblings

A blog about building and extending awesome Shopify stores

Turbo Theme

Premium Plus (or Premium+) is how we refer to the Turbo theme by Out of the Sandbox.

Not because of Shopify's Plus plan for merchants —although that is who the theme was originally created for— but because if a paid-for theme in the Shopify theme store is referred to as a 'premium' theme, then Turbo needs to have a classification that accurately portrays the tier in which it resides. Currently it is the only theme in this top tier category that we're aware of.

Things have become significantly easier for us these days in choosing a Shopify theme for a store build. Essentially it boils down to the following two options:

  1. Turbo by Out of the Sandbox — for most merchants
  2. Custom designed and built theme — for merchants with very specific requirements

Almost all of our store builds over the last year or so have been one of the two options above.

That's not to say that you can't have a successful store operating on another Shopify theme —even a free one— but when it comes down to it, if you're looking for a theme that is versatile, customizable out of the box and contains features that other themes rely on apps or significant customization for, then Turbo is... well... a no brainer.

Turbo Theme Seoul

By the same token, some merchants who think they need a custom designed theme can actually achieve what they need with Turbo too. Not all of them of course, but a lot of them can have a completely unique looking store with Turbo at the base and tap into all the benefits of this richly featured premium+ theme.

Those for whom Turbo is not a good match would include:

  1. Specific workflow(s) that require a unique layout that Turbo does not lend itself to well.
  2. Very specific branding requirements that Turbo does not cater well for.
  3. Very small budgets where a free theme would make more economic sense and still cater for the merchant's requirements.

Currently a vast majority of merchants opt for Turbo and to explain why and also illustrate why this is not a bad thing (you don't want your store to look like everyone else's) I thought to put together a list of primary reasons why you should consider it as the frontend system for your next Shopify store (re)build.

Speed

As the name suggests, Turbo is a theme built for performance. If serving your products to your customers quickly is important to you (it should be) then Turbo has you covered with it's exceptionally quick browser loading and effective caching.

Header Customization

Very few (if any) other Shopify themes give as many options to customize the header of your store. The placement of the logo, the ability to have navigation left, right, top and bottom and with all the extra bits and pieces it caters for, you won't need to go scouring the app store to add a simple promo bar to your shop.

Mega-Dropdown Navigation

With most themes you'll need to make use of an often buggy or restrictive 3rd party app for a mega-dropdown. With Turbo you get a bunch of versatile, robust and feature rich mega-dropdown options. This has been of massive benefit to us as experts and our merchant clients where we no longer need to diagnose bugs, waste time with slow support nor have to uncomfortably explain styling or functional limitations where an app runs outside of the theme.

Home Page

If you're familiar with Shopify's concept of "sections" you'll know that most themes come with a bunch of pre-sets that you can use on your home page. Turbo comes with almost 20 customizable options including recently viewed products and Google Maps. There are photo galleries, featured promos and logo lists. You'd be hard pressed to need something that the theme doesn't already have as an existing available section.

Product Pages

As the part of your site where the magic happens (purchases) you want to be able to give your customers what they need to make that buying decision. From full width banners to tabbed content and a myriad of other options not found in any other premium theme, the product page in Turbo is unmatched by it's competitors.

Collections

As with the rest of the theme, there are elements to Turbo that you simply won't find in other themes. It comes with fully functional sidebar filters which is normally achieved via an app or significant custom work, product sorting, and even color swatches below the product thumbnails. Full width banners on your collection pages are also a reality with Turbo.

General & Global Features

Areas like the footer which is significantly more versatile than what other themes offer, the ability to integrate your social channels effectively, Mailchimp, image galleries and more, there is really very little reason to purchase another theme.

Summary

As I've attempted to articulate in this article, at the time of writing, chances are very good that you'd be doing yourself and your ecommerce business a disservice if you go with another Shopify theme (other than a custom one if you need it).

I'd even go so far as to say that it stands head and shoulders above the rest of the themes in the Out of the Sandbox stable which are all exceptional themes and we know them all inside and out. In short the reason for this is that while they're (Retina, Parallax, Responsive & Mobilia) awesome themes, they follow Shopify's mandate of simplicity which is fine for beginner merchants except that when your needs become more demanding, redesigning your store will be a must.

Turbo allows any merchant from Basic to Plus to set up a performance oriented storefront with significant room to grow.

If you're interested in having us help you set up or customize your Shopify store whether on Turbo or something else, feel free to check out our services here.

If you're interested in purchasing Turbo, we can give you a 20% discount on the purchase price if you email hello@shopcreatify.com and request the discount code.

Turbo Theme

Premium Plus (or Premium+) is how we refer to the Turbo theme by Out of the Sandbox.

Not because of Shopify's Plus plan for merchants —although that is who the theme was originally created for— but because if a paid-for theme in the Shopify theme store is referred to as a 'premium' theme, then...

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A slightly belated notification, but here is our third appearance on The Unofficial Shopify Podcast where Kurt and Ross talk about how customizable Shopify really is. The misconceptions around the concept and some of the truths about how capable the platform truly is are discussed in this 41min chat.

Listen now

A slightly belated notification, but here is our third appearance on The Unofficial Shopify Podcast where Kurt and Ross talk about how customizable Shopify really is. The misconceptions around the concept and some of the truths about how capable the platform truly is are discussed in this 41min chat.

read time.

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Customized Shopify

Can Shopify be customized?

When I say customized, I don't mean just enlarging the logo or aligning some text differently and changing the font. I mean significantly customized like where functionality that is completely foreign to the theme, or some type of workflow that is completely different to the way "most" people do it?

Interestingly enough and contrary to popular belief, the answer to that question is yes. Yes it can and no you're not necessarily restricted to how things work in the themes you've seen powering the many thousands of Shopify stores. Of course there are limitations... it is a SaaS platform after-all, but when there is a will, there is often a way.

At ShopCreatify we deal with a massive variety of inquiries. Some are so small that we may refer them on to the brilliant folk over at HeyCarson and some are better suited to either a bespoke solution or a different platform, but there is an enormous area in between where Shopify really shines.

A lot of our daily work is spent investigating, designing and building these customizations and it is currently the area we're most adept and experienced. We therefore put together a page that will undoubtedly grow over time giving some more detail around what these types of jobs often entail.

You can view this page (with case studies) on Shopify customization here.

Can Shopify be customized?

When I say customized, I don't mean enlarging the logo or aligning some text differently and changing the font. I mean significantly customized like where functionality that is completely foreign to the theme, or some type of workflow that is completely different to the way "most" people do it?

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A lot of what we do on a daily basis at ShopCreatify is spotting and fixing things on storefronts that are causing the merchant's business "pain".  A frequent pain experienced by them —especially once their traffic starts to increase— is the amount of time expended on responding to emails and sitting in phone calls.

Reduce the Ecommerce Noise

It will of course depend on the type of product you're selling and the nature of your business, but it's fairly safe to assume that the more automated things can be, the better for you and your team to grow the business.

An overabundance of customer support calls and support requests can result in an overwhelmed support or sales crew. It can also result in your customers not being attended to as quickly as they'd like and could even cost you sales.

Thankfully, having more requests than one can handle is something we consider "a good problem to have" and it's one you'd rather experience at some point in your store's growth than not. The reason it's good is that there is definite interest in your product and it's a direct opportunity for you to improve your storefront and increase sales.

    Step 1 — Ask Why

    As is best practice in this industry, it's always good to start by asking why. Why are you receiving so many support requests and questions?

    If there are a lot of questions before the customer has made a purchase, it's probably safe to assume that your store is not providing the customer with enough information to buy.

    If there are a lot coming in after purchase, then you'll need to take census of why this is. It's possible that the information presented to the customer after they've ordered is insufficient or just not clear.

    Take note of these points in the process where the customer is reaching out to you as they will dictate the content you need to produce and measures you can put in place to prevent this unwanted noise.

    Step 2 — Assess your Options

    There are usually a few ways of resolving the situation and the methods mentioned below are not just either/or options and perhaps your store could benefit from implementing them all.

    Product Information

    This one should be fairly obvious, but it's surprising how many merchants attempt to trade on extremely lean product information. Your product description is not only for SEO and often your customer will still be in the researching phase of buying. Make sure your product information is as detailed as it needs to be so that it leaves no questions unanswered.

    Depending on the amount of and type of content you have for your product, there are always ways and means of presenting it to your customers better. Some themes come with novel and simple methods of showing more information without creating cluttered looking product pages. A good example of this would be the Out of the Sandbox themes (Yes, that is unashamedly a referral link. Their themes rock!) where a simple HTML tag in your description's source code will split your content and allow you to add a wealth of additional information below the integral images and add-to-cart area. You can learn more about his here.

    Description Split in Shopify

    A lot of merchants also implement additional lifestyle imagery, tabs for additional product information, videos and really any other content that will help explain and sell the product to their customers. A great example of this is Fuego Living's product page where they've significantly expanded upon their product so that the customers know all they need to know before placing their order.

     Good Product Information

    This is an area where the theme you're using could offer you all you need to plump out your description, but if you need help, feel free get in touch with us.

    FAQ Page / Knowledge Base

    Putting together a good FAQ page and or knowledge base is worth the effort. You can and probably should even go the extra mile of implementing a solution that is better than just a simple list of questions & answers.

    Before diving in blind though, make sure that the content going into your knowledge base is a direct reflection of what your customers and prospects are actually asking. Prioritizing the most frequently asked questions and making them most prominent is wise and increases the chances of them being found.

    There are even apps like Help Center where you can offer a far greater customer experience, include a search function and it also makes it a lot easier for you to build and manage your FAQ. At the time of this writing, this app is also free.

    Here's a great example of how Watchers Store makes use of the Help Center app:

    Watchers Store Using Help Center

    Taking things to the next level you could also make use of the ZenDesk Guide offering that comes with their support package. The Zendesk family of products may actually solve a number of issues mentioned in this article.

    Contextual Guidance

    In the process of shopping, sometimes you need to ask the customer questions. Whether it's a measurement that allows you to send the right product and reduce the possibility of returns or just an aspect of your product that is not widely known, it's wise to implement measures that make the reasons completely clear to the customer.

    A good example of this and a relevant solution for this kind of issue is including an inline help feature. In the example below, you can see that the customer has immediate access to additional information around why certain things are being asked for prior to being able to add to cart.

    Below is an excellent example of inline help where the customer can quickly and easily click on "View our Size Guide" to ensure they order the right fit.
    In context help in Shopify

    Whether it's a tooltip, a modal popup that is launched or even a link to a page with more information (ill advised as it takes the customer away from the product page), this form of contextual guidance will prevent your prospect from picking up the phone to ask you why and in so doing, distracting you or your team from growing your business.

    Relevant Information Pages

    Depending on the product you're selling and the types of customers you're trying to attract, it would be wise to build pages that speak directly to them. An obvious example would be where your customers are likely to be in a demographic where tech savviness is possibly quite low. In these instances, a page documenting the process of adding a product to cart and checking out would go a long way to reduce telephonic walk-throughs or manual orders.

    There are obvious pages that you should be sure to include on your store like shipping information and returns policies but if there is something very specific about your product that justifies it's own page, be sure to include it and make it easy to find.

    Videos

    Being that customers seem to often not read the words you carefully crafted, often a video is a preferred medium for getting the message across. 

    Videos can be implemented at almost any point on a Shopify store using a Youtube embed code and producing them has never been easier. There are a number of tools for both Mac and Windows for you to use and there are plenty of articles online explaining how to do it well.

    Live Chat

    This feature has been left close to last specifically. Of course if you have not implemented as many measures currently within your means to prevent questions about your product or service, this feature is simply going to cause you more noise.

    Also, live chat is going to require someone to monitor it at least some of the time if it's to provide value. If you've done a good job of putting together a comprehensive knowledge base and your store's content has all of their questions already answered, your live chat interactions should be quite brief and the person handling the task can treat it more as a personal "visitor's guide" role than a sales role. Your virtual information desk.

    Hide Your Contact Number

    This is certainly a controversial piece of advice if I did not disclaim that you should probably not do this if you do drive sales through received calls. If however you —as a lot of ecommerce merchants do intend to reduce human contact and increase sales then having your telephone number made available only once all other means have been exhausted could be a wise approach.

    Removing your number entirely is almost certainly bad advice for your store since it can reduce the perceived credibility of the company if no number is available, but doesn't mean you need to make it easy to come across. A lot of sites not just ecommerce ones implement an "ask your question first" methodology where only if the knowledge base gives them no joy do they get a number to call, email address to send to or even a form to fill out.

    Only you can make the decision on whether or not this will cost you sales or allow you to focus on growing your business while having no negative impact on sales. For example, perhaps a lot of the calls you receive do not convert into sales making them a waste of time and cutting them out altogether is only a good thing.

    Conclusion

    As can be seen, there are a number of solutions to the client noise debacle. There are undoubtedly others, but with the measures above implemented you'll have laid a good foundation not only in noise reduction but possibly also see an increase in conversions.

    If you have any questions about what is mentioned in this article or need some help in setting up any of these measures, please feel free to reach out to us. We don't mind the noise.

      Reduce the Ecommerce Noise

      A lot of what we do on a daily basis at ShopCreatify is spotting and fixing things on storefronts that are causing the merchant's business "pain".  A frequent pain experienced by them especially once their traffic starts to increase is the amount of time expended on responding to emails and sitting in phone calls.

      read time.

      Read More

      Recently it came to our attention that some of our best work and by far the majority of our work over the past two years as Shopify experts has been done using themes developed by one particular theme house. 

      It's pretty obvious if you look around our site, but that theme house is Out of the Sandbox.

      Not only do their themes stand head and shoulders above the rest in pretty much every way, they're also really (really) popular among Shopify merchants... for some very legit reasons.

      Why Out of the Sandbox Themes?

      To start with, speaking as an "Ecommerce Specialist" turned "Shopify Expert" turned "Shopify Expert + Out of the Sandbox Specialist", I'd list the top 5 factors of declaring this combination ideal in the Shopify ecosystem as follows:

      1. Their themes are visually beautiful
      2. They provide excellent, prompt support
      3. The themes have a solid codebase and great documentation
      4. The themes have comprehensive and intuitive options (theme settings)
      5. They regularly update & improve their themes

      Those primary factors aside, there are also other reasons that lead up to them being in the position they are where their offerings are superior and ultimately why we're choosing to specialize in them.

      Maturity

      Out of the Sandbox are industry veterans with a pedigree in Shopify Theming spanning back to 2011. It's not only their longevity on the platform that matters though, but perhaps more their considerable success and the maturity of their products acquired in that time.

      They have earned the right to brag about having developed some of the most popular premium themes on a platform with close to 400,000 merchants at the time of this writing. A feat that undoubtedly came with countless complicated technical and creative considerations and more support tickets than most mortal beings would be able to handle in a lifetime.

      Having taken that feedback, refined their themes based on real world merchant successes & failures, frustrations & moments of jubilation, they're now honed selling tools that expertly leverage the Shopify platform for optimal ecommerce performance.

      Resonance with Store Owners & Buyers

      Since partnering with Out of the Sandbox in 2015, it's been quite apparent that a majority of store owners inquiring about our services had either already chosen one of the Out of the Sandbox themes, or it was on their shortlist. In the instances where the store owner went with another theme for whatever reason, it almost always ended up being a sub-optimal experience for both the merchant and us.

      Based on this fact alone, it would likely be a wise decision to only do store builds on their themes, but it actually goes deeper than that. 

      Given the past couple of years of exposure to many Shopify themes, including a few bespoke themes that we created, it's a lot clearer now what makes a theme OK, what makes it good, and what makes it great.

      We actually made a business call very early on in ShopCreatify to strictly not take any store build project with a theme that was not acquired through the official Shopify theme store. The risk is just too great that the quality of the theme and support thereof would be lacking. In ecommerce, your store is your business' lifeblood and saving a few dollars for a free / non-official theme is not worth the risk. Witnessing issues that others had (and still have) concreted this as a very wise decision and we still strongly advise store owners and other experts against doing this.

      Are there other good themes out there? Yes, I'm sure there are but in our experience, even the other big sellers don't offer nearly as much as what the Out of the Sandbox themes offer. This invariably ends up in a frustrated store owner and the developer being forced to fit square pegs into round holes for them. It's not a situation either party wants to be in.

      Real World Experience

      Given the number of stores we've setup using Parallax, Retina, Mobilia, Responsive and more recently Turbo, it's safe to say that we know our way around the themes by now.

      Out of the Sandbox Shopify Themes

      The components and elements that can go on the product page template, the collection page, home page, contact page, the abilities and limitations of each template and piece of functionality, the work-arounds and enhancements that we've already done and don't need to "figure out" are all quite clear to us now.

      Due to this "focused experience" on this fine selection of extremely versatile themes, we're confident that a store build using one of them can be done far more rapidly and effectively than we could with an unfamiliar and potentially inferior one. Most -if not all- trial and error (depending on use case) has already taken place in our many real-world client store builds... who are currently transaction millions of dollars through their ecommerce storefronts. 

      "ShopCreatify is our preferred partner when it comes to setting up a shop with our Shopify themes. They know our themes better than anyone and are an absolute pleasure to work with."
      Brad Miller — Founder of Out of the Sandbox
      Full disclosure: Yes, those links to Out of the Sandbox are all referrer links since we're partners of theirs. It has no bearing on cost to the store owner, but it allows them to track any sales we send to them. If you click through and buy, it does moderately benefit us, but we'd far prefer to help you build your store so take a look at our solutions page if that is something you need.

      Out of the Sandbox Shopify Themes

      Recently it came to our attention that some of our best work and by far the majority of our work over the past two years as Shopify experts has been done using themes developed by one particular theme house. 

      read time.

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      Although published over a year ago now, this is a great video that explains what Shopify is, who it's for, how it's ecosystem works and what the vision is. It provides some great insight into the what, the who and the why.

      Shopify Roadshow Video

      Although published over a year ago now, this is a great video that explains what Shopify is, who it's for, how it's ecosystem works and what the vision is. It provides some great insight into the what, the who and the why.

      read time.

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      Further to our previous appearance on Kurt Elster's unofficial Shopify podcast back in June, I was invited back this month and this time we spoke about the concept of using Shopify as a wholesale platform.

      We delved into the aspects around wholesale online like whether or not to use a separate instance of Shopify for your wholesale needs, pricing tiers, wholesale customer registration and more. 

      ► listen to the podcast here.

      Further to our previous appearance on Kurt Elster's unofficial Shopify podcast back in June, I was invited back this month and this time we spoke about the concept of using Shopify as a wholesale platform.

      read time.

      Read More

      One of the more frequently asked questions when we're setting up ecommerce stores using the hugely successful Parallax theme by Out of the Sandbox, is how to size the banner images.

      Being that the parallax effect itself requires some overlap for it to actually function, it becomes hard to decide on the correct size of your banner images and where to place your important content.

      This can make it difficult to brief your photographer or graphic designer, so we set out to simplify the matter intelligently.

      The most important things to realize are that:

      1. The image will be horizontally center aligned.
      2. It will very likely be cropped on the sides to accommodate the specified height of the area.
      3. There will very likely be under lap at the top and bottom (for the parallax effect).
      4. We honored Out of the Sandbox's recommended banner size of 1600 x 805px so we're always working with the optimal image size.

      In an effort to illustrate the display of your banner image on various devices, we made screenshots of three of the most common devices.

      Screenshots of the super imposed banner images on the Parallax theme by Out of the Sandbox for Shopify.

      1. For desktop sizes we chose the current most popular size of 1366 x 769px and then for the big screen users, we chose 1680 x 1080.
      2. For tablets we chose the iPad screen size at portrait and landscape.
      3. For mobile phones we chose the iPhone 6 screen size at portrait and landscape.

      We then super imposed the actual banner image over the screenshots in Photoshop and faded them a bit to see how they're placed. You can see below how the banners are positioned by the theme in each device's screen size.

      Note: the parallax effect does not take effect on a mobile device, hence most mobile views (portrait specifically) are full height.

      To make things even easier, we then extrapolated this information visually into a Photoshop template that we can now use to prepare our client store's banner images quickly and easily. There is also significantly improved predictability over where their content will be displayed.

      Parallax Banner Positions in the Out of the Sandbox theme.
      The image above shows all of the view-ports on at once. It's unlikely you'd ever want to see them like this though. We therefore made each device view-port a separate layer set that can be toggled to see how your banner will sit on that device and orientation as seen below.

      Toggling Layer Sets in Photoshop for the Parallax Shopify Theme by Out of the Sandbox

      To make things easier for other Shopify Experts and merchants alike, we've also decided to make this PSD banner template available for purchase.

      Buy this PSD template now for only $10

      Note: If you're an existing ShopCreatify client, please contact us for a free copy of this PSD.

      We'd love to hear what you think.

      Out of the Sandbox' Parallax Theme banner template in Photoshop PSD

      Since we do so many store setups and customization work on the amazing Parallax theme by Out of the Sandbox, we thought it wise to address one of our most frequently misunderstood aspects of the theme. How to make your banner images fit and work well.

      read time.

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      Having somewhat recently joined a great group of Shopify experts in a round table type Slack channel, we were kindly offered the chance to participate in a podcast with Kurt Elster of Ethercycle.

      In this episode we discussed some basics of ecommerce since it's the topic I've spoken about at a number of Shopify events.

      ► listen to the podcast here.

      Having somewhat recently joined a great group of Shopify experts in a round table type Slack channel, we were kindly offered the chance to participate in a podcast with Kurt Elster of Ethercycle.

      read time.

      Read More

      Setting up online shops for other people is an interesting process. Nobody knows your business like you do, but wading through Shopify and trying to make sense of things while trying to ensure that all the necessary information and settings are in and configured correctly can be a real schlep. If you don't happen to know everything that is required and where it all goes it can be even worse. Luckily we've set up a few stores already, but even so, gathering all the required information has been a bit of a tricky one up until now. To smooth the process, we've developed version 1 of our Shopify Content Delivery Kit.

      Buy the kit here for only $29

      Defining the pain points

      Everything for a reason they say. The fact that we committed such a considerable amount of time and effort to developing this content delivery kit was due to the following pain factors:
      1. The time from signup to store launch was simply too long. Even for small stores.
      2. Our customers were struggling with some of the more technical requirements in preparing their store assets (products, pages etc.)
      3. It was too easy to miss simple small things that were only got caught in the pre-launch testing phase.
      4. The process was just too inefficient for my liking.
      To solve these issues we sat down and brainstormed a few solutions. We wanted things to be practical, not overly technical and ultimately a solution that removed any ambiguity from the process and guided our customers from start to finish.

      The Solution

      Ultimately we established that the best way to achieve these objectives was to create the following:
      1. A thorough Shopify content delivery guide detailing each aspect of the store setup requirements from start to finish. You can call this the central point of the guide package and it references all supporting files and processes.
      2. Simple form / sample documents that are completed / edited and returned to us for implementation into the ecommerce store.
      3. Refactored and simplified the Shopify product CSV into an easily understood spreadsheet for our customers to easily complete and return to us.
      4. Last but not least, a printable checklist so our customers can check off the items they've done, checked internally and delivered to us.

      Shopify Setup Guide
      The ShopCreatify Content Delivery Guide Printable Checklist and Guide open on an iPad

      We believe that with this brand spanking new content delivery guide package we'll be able to better serve our customers. At the end of the day we want to deliver speedy store setups that are well executed and allow our customers to start trading effectively and efficiently from day 1. If you'd like to find out more, please feel free to email us at hello@shopcreatify.com. You can also sign up for a 14 day free trial if Shopify here.

      Buy the kit here for only $29

      Setting up online shops for other people is an interesting process. Nobody knows your business like you do, but wading through Shopify and trying to make sense of things while trying to ensure that all the necessary information and settings are in and configured correctly can be a real schlep.

      read time.

      Read More