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How To Choose A Theme For Your Shopify Store

 Gary,
 16 March 2020

If you’re setting up your Shopify store for the first time, or perhaps giving an existing store a facelift, one of the issues every merchant will encounter is how to choose a Shopify theme. We’re hoping this post will help with that decision making.

Disclosure: some of the links in this post above may be affiliate links – where they are they will be clearly identified by [Af]. This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, we will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, we only recommend products or services we use personally and believe will add value to our clients.

desktop, laptop and mobile phone screens showing spice pots website screenshot
spicepots.com which we created using the Pixel Union Grid theme

With more than 3,000 apps in the Shopify app store, merchants have a bewildering array of apps to choose from, though each one has a specific function, so finding what you want is simplified.

With themes the issue is much harder. The Shopify theme store has more than 100 themes available – a much smaller number than apps – but every theme effectively does the same thing: present your storefront! Once you’ve spent more than in hour looking at theme it’s easy to become ‘theme blind’ and they all merge into one, so how do you choose between them…

Think about your target customer

Whilst it’s easy to go through the store listings and choose a Shopify theme that stands out because you like the look of it, don’t be tempted just to pick that theme but think about who your target audience is and what will appeal to them.

For instance, if your target market are in an older age bracket they’re likely to be shopping using a tablet device, and will also find it harder to read very small condensed fonts and hit small button targets – if you select a theme which works exceptionally well on tablets and has a larger layout (fonts and buttons) by default then you’re heading in the right direction.

Interesting reading on senior users here: https://uxdesign.cc/a-guide-to-interface-design-for-older-adults-31109468d46d

Think about functionality

Themes don’t change the fundamental operation of Shopify, but they do offer different sections which can be inserted into a variety of pages.

Some of the differences can be small, but may be essential for you – if you have a large library of Vimeo content that you’d like to use to showcase your products then you’ll definitely want to select a theme which has a video section which supports Vimeo (not all of them do!).

Budget

There’s no doubt that budget will be a consideration for many, however, we believe that an online store should have the best storefront it possibly can – and a Shopify paid theme will be a significantly smaller investment than bricks and mortar!

Shopify free themes are a great starting point though they do look a little ‘basic’; paid themes tend to give more options for customisation and will have been designed by a graphic designer so look great out of the box. The best themes usually have at least 2 and up to 4 variations on the theme.

Reviews

We’d always suggest reading the reviews to see what other users are saying but do take them with a pinch of salt. However, if multiple comments mention poor support or the same errors then this is a red flag.

Be critical in your own thinking – if the errors reported are all to do with only one module, say, video and you”ll never use video on your store is the error important to you? It might be symptomatic of general support though (see next point).

Longevity of support

If you’re considering a paid theme then you definitely need to think about this up-front: how good is the theme for general updates, bugfixes, new features, and long term support by the developers?

Many people don’t think about this from the start, but how will your theme be supported if Shopify release a new version? One possible example here is how Shopify will react if Apple release a new OS version which affects how Shopify behaves on iPhones. Shopify will, of course, know in advance about Apple’s plans and be developing their new version to release alongside Apple’s update so that iPhone users won’t be impacted. Shopify regularly update the developer community of its own plans – are the theme developers up to date and planning their releases likewise, or will your store stop working when a Shopify release comes along in the future?

Check out support documentation for release notes. You may need to look on the developer’s own website for this. Ideally you want regular releases and up to date release notes. For us as Shopify developers ourselves this is crucially important. One thing that Shopify is currently not great at is notifying you that a new version of your theme is available. We check every month for updates and apply those updates to ensure stores are all up to date and running smoothly.

Some theme developers we favour – Pixel Union and Out of the Sandbox offer a theme updater, which is very useful for non-developers, and will keep your theme up to date for you.

Support

Finally, how is the theme supported by the theme developers? Is it clear from the documentation how to get in touch if you have a problem? Are the theme developers responsive to questions/issues?

There’s nothing wrong with contacting them with a question to gauge response – if it takes a week to reply is that responsive? What if they appear inflexible and unhelpful: we don’t find that a great start to a long relationship!

Conclusion

With many themes to select from, choosing the right one is an important step in setting up your storefront. Choose a Shopify theme wisely! Remember you can always try before you buy by adding the theme to your store and seeing how it feels with your products.

Verdant Spark are Shopify partners. If you’d like help with setting up your storefront, installing and customising themes, or general Shopify assistance give us a shout in the form below!

 

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