Choosing a suitable Shopify theme for your online shop should always be an essential step on your eCommerce journey. 94% of online shoppers shape their first impression looking at the design of a web store only, and 38% of users discontinue their browsing on a website if it's unattractive. That's why a powerful Shopify theme matters to a successful online business.
“But, what should I do?”
“How to choose the right theme for my store?”
“I’m not tech-savvy, how should I know if my theme is good enough?”
We understand that it's not easy to find a proper theme, especially, it must be a theme that can support your store in the long run. You need to look at the factors such as features, site performance, user experience, mobile-friendliness, etc. It’s daunting, isn't it?
But don't worry because, in this article, we're going to help you out. Although there's no specific formula for a “perfect-match" Shopify theme, we hope that a clear and thorough guide can make the decision-making process less burdensome.
Scroll down to get the Shopify theme guidance PDF.
- Before You Start The Whole Thing
- Start The Shopify Theme Plan
- 1 - Know the features you need
- 2 - Narrow down to the top 5 must-have features
- 3 - Calculate your budget
- It's Time To Search Your Theme
- Where to find the theme?
- What to read and look into before choosing?
- Put the suitable Shopify themes into your cart
Before You Start The Whole Thing
Preparation, knowing who you are and what your business is doing are very important.
Now, some of you might think: “Oh... this slogan again!", but believe us, this is a helpful stage to get you closer with the Shopify theme that you need. In particular, what should you do?
Have a proper brand scheme
Brand identity has a dearest-and-nearest connection with your store design. It drives the design all the way to the smallest details, from your slogan and logo to bigger factors like your products, services, and even larger, “mission”.
So, you’d need to look at:
- The industry you are in. For example, your products are clothes and accessories, you care about clothing businesses; you’re selling cosmetics and skincare items, you're a part of the health and beauty industry.
- Your product types. So, your products are clothes, but they are fitness and sporty leggings and crop-tops; or you are selling digital products (arts, courses, etc.) or services (home services, consultancy, and so on)
- Your business scale. Do you have large inventories? Do you sell one product or more than 100 products? This is crucial because some themes are designed to support stores with 100+ products while others don’t.
By understanding these factors and sketching your business plan, you will have a clear picture of how your store design should be (colors, fonts, general layout, etc.).
Look at the websites of others
Learning from others is good when you don’t know where and how to start. So, this is a step when you do research carefully on your competitors. It's essential to help you get the feel of Shopify, in general, but at the same time, know what other people are doing in your industry.
When you browsing their stores, pay attention to your own scrolling experience and take some notes about it:
- How do their stores look?
- What are the similar things you can find among different stores in the same industry?
- What are the unique parts of each store that you found?
- How do the sites perform? (speed, navigation, checkout, etc.)
For example, what do you see on the homepages of the clothing stores that you've visited?
Do they often display big hero banners on top? Do they focus on visuals and show many large image modules, featured collections, and products? How do they place their CTAs on the homepage?
By asking these kinds of questions, you are getting the necessary insights to hatch out a visible idea for your store look.
Don't know where to find your competitors? Here are several ways:
- The Shopify Successful Stories. This is a great source because you can find Shopify stores by category (sport, clothing, home, art, etc.) and read interesting and successful stories from other merchants who are doing in the same industry as you.
- Get the data from websites such as Built With or CartInsight.
- Search on Google with simple phrases. For example, “Shopify stores in Clothing industry" or “Shopify stores in Food & Beverage"
Cool tip: If you want to know which Shopify theme your competitors are using, you can check out the Shopify theme detector by PageFly - which can help you quickly identify the theme being used in any given Shopify Store.
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Start The Shopify Theme Plan
1 - Know the features you need
After having done some research, looking over others' websites, and taking good notes, what you should do next is to ask yourself which features are crucial to your store and brand. The thing is, there are so many features and functions to consider, right?
It's okay, let's break it down into the fundamental elements, you will find it easier to keep track.
Header & Footer
Header and Footer are two primary factors of a website. When a visitor land at your store, the first thing they see is the header. When they finish scrolling a page, the footer is the last part that contains other useful information about your website.
Well, sometimes you can disable the header or footer, but in general, every Shopify theme has the configuration for these elemental sections.
Now, what you should pay attention to is:
- Menu bar: Do you need a mega-menu? Do you have a large inventory and need a theme that can support a great number of collections and categories?
- Sticky navigation option: Does this functionality have to be available? A fixed menu bar is often recommended because it's good for navigation.
- Diversity in options: Do you want a wide array of custom choices for the Header and Footer? For example, the language and currency selectors (in some themes, this function will be in the general settings), overlaying header, adding collection or product images in the menu items, newsletter signup in the Footer, etc.
- Mobile header and footer layout: Do you need a custom layout for the mobile version? The theme should be mobile responsive because many people are now shopping on smartphones rather than desktops.
This is a really important part of your theme plan because the Homepage is the storefront. If done right, it can help you leave a fantastic first impression on your visitors within their precious 5-second attention span.
So, what features you should seek for your Homepage?
- Image optimization: Should the theme be optimized for images, especially large images and catalogs? Does it support image cropping or resizing options? Remember that imagery is vital in today's eCommerce; people visually judge your store first before any action is taken.
- Banners, slideshows, videos: These are common features that many Shopify themes offer. So, you pay attention to the image optimal options in these sections, CTA buttons or CTA links and advanced options for videos.
- The variety of content sections: Do you need a theme with many dynamic and outstanding content sections? Or you just need basic “Image with text" and “Featured collection or product” sections on the homepage?
- Mobile customization: Do you want custom choices for the mobile version? (for example, separate image options for mobile banners, mobile layout modification)
Collection page features
For collection pages, the features depend on the number of products you are selling. The more products you have, the more features you want to be available for enhancing the user experience. So, here are the most essential functions you should be mindful of:
- Advanced sorting and filtering features: Do you need customizable collection filtering? (For example, sorting out your product by brands, colors, types, etc.) Or you just need a normal collection with a basic sorting function? This depends on your product numbers because if your collection has less than 10 products or you’re running a single-product store, there's no need to have advanced filtering options for your collection pages.
- Product grid: Do you want a flexible grid view in which product images are customizable? Do you need extra functions such as “sale notice", “color swatches", “sold out”, “quick view", “quick shop”, “load more" or “infinite scroll"? Some themes offer you a variable range of choices while some just give you a simple collection, so you should consider carefully.
- Mobile responsiveness: Do you want separable functions for your collection on mobile? (For example, adjust the mobile layout, configure the number of products per row on mobile, and so on)
A premium theme like Pipeline with minimalism design can still offer advanced filtering for collections, but also give you options to make your store look simple and clean.
Product page features
Now, the product page is what you shouldn't overlook. It’s the page that draws your visitors to move deep down your marketing funnel and make a purchase. So, in your theme plan, you should pay attention to:
- Product image and description: How do you want your product images to be displayed? Do you need flexible options to show product variant images or videos? You want your product descriptions to be detailed, extensive, and well-organized, which features do you need to present them effectively?
- Product reviews: Reviews, feedback or testimonials are factors that influence people at a certain level in their buying decision. You should ask yourself if you need product review features available in your theme, or you will install a review app from Shopify.
- Custom options: Do you need many custom options from a theme for your product page? (Color swatches, custom request, countdown timer, size chart, etc.). This is based on your product types because, for example, if you sell clothing, the size chart is in need, but if you run a food and snacks store, the idea of adding a size chart doesn't make sense in this case.
- Content sections: Do you want your product pages to be more dynamic? Do you want to add video, promotion banners, or other content on your product pages? Do you want these features available in your theme or you can spend money on a Shopify app?
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Cart and checkout optimization
Cart abandonment is painful. One of the biggest reasons that lead to this phenomenon is the poor cart and checkout experience, so you should take these two features into account when choosing a Shopify theme.
The best way to help you find out which cart and checkout features is suitable for your store is perhaps trying to immerse yourself in the process of buying a product by yourself. By doing this, you will understand what is the cause of the cart or checkout abandonment.
Is that because the cart page is too slow to load, or is it so inconvenient to go to the cart page whenever you add a new item? Do you think it’s better if there's a pop-up cart where you can flexibly edit it? Do you prefer one-page checkout or one-click checkout? Are you irritated when being forced to create an account before checking out?
Asking yourself several questions before writing down which cart and checkout features you need at a Shopify theme will greatly help you in the decision-making step.
Speed is a factor you should put on your list. This is to remind you to pay attention to the loading speed review in the theme searching step later.
Although a theme is not the only element that can affect your store loading speed, you still need to consider it when choosing your theme. You can read some reports from Rvere, for example, to learn about the Shopify themes’ speed scores. Also, when looking at a specific theme, you should find the release notes of its latest versions to check if developers have done some CSS minifying actions to reduce the risk of slow loading speed that is affected by their themes.
2 - Narrow down to the top 5 must-have features
Once you've got a long list of features, just jot down to 5 must-have ones when you think of your website as a whole. No theme can cover all features you need, and you have to install some Shopify apps or do some coding to customize your store in certain situations.
But selecting 5 key features and combining them with other possible ways to meet your advanced modification needs could be an optimal solution. When you think of the features that you must have and features that you can use Shopify apps, pay attention carefully because if you use too many apps, it will affect your store's loading speed in the long term.
Let's look at an example of Merchant A here:
Merchant A sells clothes, and they have a large inventory with many collections (men, women, kids, etc.). After merchant A’s done some significant research and created a list of what features suited to their store and brand, they find these 5 features are the most needed:
- Large image optimization: since merchant A’s store is a clothing brand, visuals are crucial to attracting visitors.
- Mega-menu: they have large catalogs, the menu bar should be able to support that.
- Advanced collection filter: it's better to have optimized filtering for collection because it helps visitors find what they want quickly when there's are so many products.
- Color swatches: merchant A's products have many variants in different colors, and having color swatches can enhance the browsing experience.
- Ajax cart: merchant A thinks an ajax cart is more convenient since users don't have to go to the cart page.
By doing this practice, it would be easier to evaluate your Shopify theme in later steps.
3 - Calculate your budget
You should have a range of budgets for the theme, not a specific number. For example, depending on the financial plan of your business, the acceptable price range for a theme could be 0-$100; $100 - $150, $100 - $200, or less than $300.
When estimating the price for the theme, you should think of the Shopify app you will use for the needed features (if possible), to calculate the cost for your business. For example, I choose the Supply theme; it's free, but I want the product page to have an optimized review section, I can spend $15/month on a highly-rated review app.
It's Time To Search Your Theme
Alright, this is the stage to get you closer with the “best Shopify theme”. Bring along your theme plan and go search for it.
Where to find the theme?
- Shopify Theme Store: This where you can find both free and paid themes, and they’re all approved and scrutinized by Shopify. The prices are often from $140 - $180.
- Theme marketplace: Themeforest, MOJO, TemplateMonster, etc. The prices on these marketplaces are more affordable, around $30 - $100
- Theme developers or companies: Ecomsolid, Booster, etc.
Or, if you find a favorite Shopify store at the research step and don't know which theme they’re using, you can use the Shopify theme detector by PageFly mentioned above to find out.
What to read and look into before choosing?
- Theme key features in the description: This is a must-read since it’s related to the list of 5 features you curated before.
- Theme support: Very important because if there's any technical issue during the time you run your eCommerce business, having support from the theme developers is a must. You should pay attention to the type of support (chat, email, phone, etc.), support docs, the period of support service (all themes on the Shopify theme store have unlimited support period from developers, while many themes on other marketplaces only have 6 - 12 months of support)
- Read testimonials and reviews: Looking at what others say about the theme (features, support, speed, and so on) can help you avoid choosing the improper one for your store.
Where? You can feedback on a theme on the Shopify Theme Store, or on the theme developers' website (if they have). It goes the same with those on the theme marketplaces.
There’re other websites or social communities that you can check out the reviews such as Reddit or Quora.
Or, you can read and watch PageFly's theme review series, we have both articles and videos to give you deeper insights, what are the pros and cons of Shopify themes' features.
- Try the theme demo: It's better if you can customize it in the backend interface to get the feel of its features. An advantage of the themes on Shopify Theme Store is you can have a theme trial for any paid theme; you just have to pay when you want to publish it. This mostly doesn’t happen with the themes on many other platforms.
Put the suitable Shopify themes into your cart
At this step, we recommend you should try from 1 to 3 themes and build a demo Shopify store in the backend settings (if possible) before deciding the final theme for your online shop. This is because there could be suitable free themes from the Shopify theme store for you to install and play around with them, instead of just focusing on the paid ones.
Okay, remember the Merchant A example? Now, we add some more details to help them find a suitable Shopify theme.
- Products: Clothing (large inventory)
- 5 Must-have features: Large image optimizations, Mega-menu, Advanced collection filter, Color swatches, Ajax cart.
- Budget: $100 - $200
- Support demand: unlimited support period, can be chat or email support.
After searching, here could be the best options that match their needs:
- Option 1: The Impulse theme on the Shopify Theme Store that can support all the main features at the price of $180.
- Option 2: The Ella theme on the Themeforest with the price of $79 but they just have 6 - months of support.
- Option 3: The Brooklyn theme on the Shopify Theme Store, which is built for apparel stores with a slide-out cart.
You can also check this list of free Shopify themes to have more options.
It takes time to look for the right Shopify theme for your business. However, we hope with this guide, the process could be less painful. When you have a detailed plan and try to practice this step-by-step, the suitable theme will be no longer that far from you. So, just keep it up!