What you need to know when choosing a theme-based store

What you need to know when choosing a theme-based store

5 min read

How do you know whether you should choose a theme-based or custom designed store? What is the best option for your business and your customers? What will look attractive, be easy-to-navigate, convert well, and be easy to manage?

We take a deep dive into what your options are.

Questions to ask when deciding on a theme-based store

There are several questions that you can ask yourself to help inform your decision.

  • What is my budget? This is one of the most important questions to ask. While Shopify offers nine free themes, its premium themes are more dynamic and customizable. They range from $100 to $180 per theme, once off. Depending on what additional features you need, you’ll have to factor in app purchases or paying a developer for customized features.
  • What are my must-have features? Each theme offers a different set of features. Write a list of what your requirements are. When you go through the theme options, see if you can choose a theme that ticks as many of these requirements off your list as possible. If you can’t find a theme that has the features and functionality that you require, it might be an indication that you need to consider a customized store.
  • How many products do you have? Certain themes have been optimized for stores with very large catalogs, while others are more suitable for single or smaller product ranges. Be sure to do your research on which theme would be most suitable for displaying your products.
  • What already works? If you already have an ecommerce store, identify what works well. Try to make sure to maintain the same features when choosing a new theme or customizing your current one.
  • What do you sell and to whom? Keep the type of products you sell top of mind when choosing a theme. Do you need a highly visual theme where you can display large, striking images of your products? Or perhaps you need a theme where you can include more text details about each product. It’s also important to consider who your customers are and what type of customer journey they expect (and would enjoy) from your store. Make sure that the theme you chose lends itself to offering the kind of journey that will make it easy for your customers to buy from you.

Use a free Shopify theme when…

You’re a small start-up run from home with only a few products. You’ve been using social media platforms to sell your products but want to open an ecommerce store. You need to keep your start-up costs to a minimum.

If you fit this description, one of Shopify’s free themes will probably suit your needs. Browse through them to see which one matches the look and feel of your business and fulfills your functionality requirements.

Shopify themes are essentially a template and the great thing about them is that they are relatively easy and intuitive to use. You should be able to click around by yourself to set up a basic store that looks professional, operates well, and meets your businesses needs.

You need a premium theme when…

Your business needs to get its product to market quickly. While you do have some capital available to set up an ecommerce store, you don’t have unlimited cash flow. If this sounds like you, then a premium Shopify theme could work well for you.

Premium themes are easy to use by non-developers, relatively affordable and have more features than free themes. They offer several built-in features and are fully responsive and optimized, which make them a great option if you need to get your product to market fairly quickly.

Themes are a robust option for showcasing your products and offer many design options. This makes it more likely that you’ll find something that matches your business brand aesthetic so that your customers have a cohesive visual experience when visiting your store.

Do your due diligence when choosing a theme to make sure that its developers are available to provide support when necessary. Another reason to make sure that the theme developer is reputable is so that you aren’t left in the lurch if they close shop for some reason.

Feature options on premium themes may include homepage slideshows, integrated Instagram feeds, ‘quick buy’ buttons, embedded video. When choosing which theme to use, make sure it has as many of the functions your store needs as possible. Don’t ever assume that a store has certain features based on its price – always double check before committing to one.

Most themes are mobile friendly. However, if the majority of your customers make their purchases with a mobile device, then try to choose a mobile-first theme.

The drawbacks of premium themes

Unfortunately, there are downsides to premium themes. They can sometimes feel generic because they are made to be suitable for a large variety of different merchants and product ranges.

Themes seldom contain all the features that you’ll need. Remember to factor into your budget any additional apps that you will need to buy or have custom-made. Apps are normally paid for with a monthly subscription. Available apps include functions such as conversion optimization, upsells, fulfillment, customer support, inventory management, marketing, analytics and more.

Take into account the growth plan that you have for your business and see whether your chosen theme will cater for that type of growth. Despite this, the larger your store becomes and the quicker it grows, the more likely you’re going to be needing some sort of customization.

Any apps that aren’t part of the theme itself will need to be updated separately when the time comes to do updates. This could cause discrepancies in your store's code. If you’ve used a developer to customize certain parts of your store, you may need to enlist their help with this.

You’re ready for a fully customized store when…

You’re an established brand, with a relatively large product range, and you intend to continue scaling up. You want a store that not only demonstrates the uniqueness of your brand through its aesthetics, but also loads quickly, and has a completely optimized customer journey.

Someone with these requirements would do well with a custom-made Shopify theme. This means that a developer will code your store to look and function exactly as you want it to.

The benefits to this is that your store will be built from clean code. This basically means you don’t have to worry about theme updates only applying to the parts of your store that aren’t customized. You can also ask your developer to build it in such a way that admin and other day-to-day backend tasks are easy for you and your team to handle yourselves, without enlisting their help.

The drawback of a custom-made store is that it takes a long time to build and costs a lot.

A developer’s take on theme-based stores

At ShopCreatify we set-up theme-based stores, we build custom apps for existing themes, and we also develop and design fully customized stores. Making magic in Shopify and Shopify Plus stores is what we live, sleep, and breathe.

Get in touch with us if you’d like help setting up your store.

Gabi Falanga
Gabi Falanga

Hi, I’m Gabi, a communication specialist who loves writing about interesting topics. Follow me for more information.