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Marriage Story: Why Page Builders Are a Perfect Match for Shopify Free Themes

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Many of us thrive on independence and hold that spirit so dear to heart. Why do we need a stranger to suddenly get in our way while we are perfectly fine doing what we’re doing?

Free Shopify themes are that self-sufficient kind of guy. They are so effortless in flaunting their stable system and making a fully-functional storefront.

Until one day, love comes along.

Just like any other guy in a boy-meets-girl story, they stumble upon the realisation that love is a multiplication kind of math. Shopify themes don't need someone to complete them, but a partner so they can together leverage each other’s strengths.

Page builders come in gracefully to impress with their simplicity and flexibility. The two concepts are wildly different, yet are strikingly similar in some ways.

It’s not ½ + ½ = 1. Page builders for Shopify free themes make 1 + 1 greater than ever.

>>> Check out the review for Expanse Shopify Theme 


Theme, Template and Page Builder - a Shopify encyclopedia in basic English

Reddit topic

Shopify community topic

So, what is...what?

A ‘theme’ is a set of HTML/CSS codes that decide the complete design of a website. A theme is made up of different templates.

Templates create layouts for different pages of a website. Different pages can have different templates. A page layout can be adjusted by changing template’s code.

That’s not very lovely, is it? Let’s put it into perspective by looking at the Shopify context.

For Shopify, themes and templates are modelled on a house structure.

Themes act as the roof and the foundation of the house. Similar to themes as in general context, a Shopify theme consists of a set of codes which compulsorily consists of 7 folders. These data determine and keep fixed the header & footer and basic functions of an online store.

Shopify 7-folder theme codes

Templates play the ‘body’ role of the structure. Each template is fixed for a page, so in the Shopify context, a page can represent a template. Layouts of such templates, or pages, can only be changed by coding.

So, where is the so-called page builder in this organisation?

Shopify page builders can be understood as the worker that helps decorate the house. A Shopify page builder is not a built-in part of a theme, although it influences templates of the theme.

By building a Shopify page, the application automatically modifies the coding of the templates in the backend with no actual coding work being done by you. Simple. 

A page created by PageFly is synced with Shopify’s backend and makes a template

PageFly template codes

All in all...

For a Shopify theme, you get what you’re given. The theme gives you a toolkit to set up a basic online store layout with simple features like a menu, product listings, cart page and so on. And that’s it.

Shopify page builders cannot replace the core features of a theme, yet they make themes more complete.

How ‘complete’ is a Shopify free theme?

The Shopify Theme Store includes more than 100 free and premium themes that are professionally predefined for your online store.

The designs can fit a variety of stores from different industries.

Shopify Theme Store

A Shopify account can hold up to 20 themes. If you reach your plan's theme limit, then you need to remove a theme before you can add a new one.

As a theme itself, a Shopify free theme comes with irreplaceable core values, forming the backbone of an online store.

Some inseparable parts of a theme: the Menu, header & footer, product listings on the product page/collection page, etc.

Shopify Theme basic features

Without a Shopify theme, an online store would be nothing more than a bunch of text and images tied together for show.

Although most people wouldn’t hesitate to walk away from the free and cheap themes, I would say that Shopify free themes are hidden gems lying in waiting. Try to make the most out of them, and you’ll realise just how diverse Shopify free themes can be.

Shopify free themes

So what’s the problem with our Mr. Charming?

We can build a store out of a Shopify free theme, but the question is, can we build a store that sells?

After fresh-new merchants finish inserting pictures and text into their first Shopify free themes, they might start wondering what makes their store more appealing and drive better traffic. It’s sad but true that “Can I put a countdown timer here?” or “Can I put a Mailchimp form there?” does not work on Shopify free themes.

Paid themes are a big investment and present greater risks as well. Who can say for sure that after getting the exact layout from a fashionable paid theme, merchants wouldn’t want to alter the storefront in a few days? The market doesn’t have much waiting time for a theme, while the cost of hiring a freelancer coder and changing a theme is increasingly high.

So, is a Shopify theme complete? Sort of. 

Can we make it even better? For sure, yes. And it all starts with a Shopify page builder.

What makes a page builder perfect for Shopify themes?

Page builders are the muse of Shopify.

Store design service providers account for nearly 45% of Shopify’s 4,000+ apps, in which the page builders rank in the top six sub-categories that have the most apps.

A page builder profile: PageFly - the number one Shopify Page Builder and the top 8 most reviewed app among 4,000+ apps on the Shopify App Store.

PageFly App Lising

Most page builders share the common drag-and-drop system, requiring users with no coding skills to design their storefront. Regardless of what Shopify theme you’re using, you can always integrate it with a page builder.

Not only is it compatible with different themes, page builders can juggle multiple roles in the relationship. They are just never boring!

A Theme Editor

Shopify themes might get overprotective sometimes - they provide you certain limitations to the layout and ask you to play by the rules.

Shopify themes limited features

Shopify basic elements

As a theme editor, PageFly enables you to have fun with the store’s looks by structuring your page any way you want.

PageFly layout

Have had enough of just text and pictures? Add product details, videos, Q&A, forms, icons - you name it!

PageFly - limitless experiments with elements

PageFly elements

How you dress reveals a lot about your personality. In this case, I think page builders are 100% dressed to nail any concept. This open mindset will help your storefront handle any uncertainty coming from the ever-changing market.

But before any of that, let’s clear up some doubts here.


Reddit page builder load speed


Reddit page builder load speed

...and this

Shopify community load speed

Reputation might have taken a wrong turn for page builders. Third-party apps can possibly impede the performance of your pages due to inefficient code, bulky files, too many redirects or errors in server location and performance.

Visit PageFly Academy to learn more about page speed optimization.

However, there are builders behind page builders. As for PageFly - one of the best page builders for Shopify - our developers have gone out of their way to make sure newly created pages on the platform don't affect the store's speed.

Let’s take a look at a demo store by PageFly.

We test it on Google Page speed on a regular basis, and the results are consistently good.

PageSpeed insights

PageSpeed insights

This score is determined by running Lighthouse to collect and analyze data about the page. A score of 90 or above is considered fast.

Measured by Page load time app on Google, 0.99 second is how long it takes for the demo store page to load. When it comes to reaching a good loading time, Google shows that 53% of mobile visitors leave a site that takes longer than 3 seconds to load.

On that note, PageFly also provides the Lazy Load option, which helps you to optimise the page loading speed. By using Lazy Load for your page, you can see 10-30% reduction in the page loading time.

A Marketer

What sets a good Shopify builder apart from the average one is the ability to yield traffic and sales. I’m not talking about the homepage, I’m talking about landing pages in general. This is the page your visitor lands on when coming to your Shopify store, making their first interactions and potentially becoming a good lead.

Capturing customers’ attention at early stages is of great importance. That’s what a page builder is born to deal with.

It’s pretty cliché to assume that a landing page must always be a home page. Those in need of a dress for the party tonight might be bored of visiting homepage to homepage of numerous stores, just to find themselves among a large ocean of distracting details.

Who needs a lengthy story about the brand here, really?

How about this?

PageFly store sales item

That’s a regular page created by the page builder PageFly.

Instead of directing customers to a certain kind of page like Homepage or Collection Page, merchants can wear the creative hat in building their own pages. By understanding the search intent of the customers, you can connect them with the right landing page.

Sales items and countdown timers are two recommended examples that amplify “fear-of-missing-out effects.”

Some other interactions to boost sales:

  • Analytics for tracking
  • Smart forms
  • In-page HTML, CSS and JavaScript
  • Built-in animation
  • Custom hovering effects

Remember to optimise your page across multiple devices! You can read our detailed instructions on a responsive landing page here.

A Finance Manager

Page builders save costs in the long run in comparison with purchase of a customised theme. My suggestion is sticking to a free theme and a page builder as alternatives to a Shopify paid theme that charges over $140.

PageFly has a free plan. Paid plans can be downgraded anytime and the pages would still remain live in the dashboard.

Every month you have to pay $29 for a Shopify basic plan subscription, while PageFly serves you happily ever after with access to one of all their templates and features available for free.

So, let’s become a match-maker!

Stage 1: Seeing

  • Visit the Shopify theme store and download the free themes that feel right to you
  • Install PageFly

Stage 2: Dating

Stage 3: Engaged

Consider scaling up your business with PageFly advanced plans

Stage 4: Married

  • Track performance of your pages and elements with PageFly 2.9.0 Analytics. Feel free to contact us 24/7 if you need additional support
  • Spread your happiness

Do you know that PageFly has an affiliate programme for match-makers?

Marrying more Shopify stores to PageFly can actually get you good credits and a considerable side income.

Join PageFly Affiliate Programme

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