Picking the Perfect eCommerce Theme for your Shopify or BigCommerce Store
Whether you are starting your eCommerce shop for the first time or it’s time for a complete website upgrade, getting the theme right is numero uno. There are a lot of articles out there to help you choose the perfect Shopify theme or BigCommerce Theme for your store. But things change all the time and the advice of two years ago just is not as relevant today.
For example, if you look at articles from a few years ago, everyone was talking about the importance of making sure that your theme was mobile-responsive right out of the box. This is still very important, but ALL themes created in the last few years have that feature built in. And images have taken over the web in a really powerful way. So all the major theme developers have also built-in great image management tools to make sure that they look great.
The advice of yesterday also focused on have a variety of good apps and a solid community of support for the themes. But if you are building out your store on Shopify or BigCommerce, this solid app developer and support community are two of the reasons you probably chose those platforms in the first place. That means that we can skip things like that for the most part.
That frees us up to talk about things like the basic design, function, and economics of your eCommerce theme that are important to your future sanity and success. Yes … having the wrong theme can drive you a little crazy and we want to help you avoid all that mental stress.
#1 – Remember That Your Products Come First
Have you ever seen art hanging on the wall and you liked the frame but hated the picture in it? I had a friend one time buy a piece of art at an estate sale because he liked the frame. He threw the picture away (it was a creepy painting of a clown from a do-it-yourself kit).
Think of your ecommerce theme as the canvas and frame from your products. The first order of business is to make sure that your product look their best on your Shopify or Big Commerce site. As a rule of thumb, think of the level of detail in a theme as the inverse of your products. If you are selling visually simple products like lotions and creams, books and training materials, or software and services then a more ornate theme will do nicely. Even solid color page backgrounds might be appropriate.
But if your products are visually interesting themselves, then you want to go with as clean and simple a theme as you can fine because the products themselves provide all the visual interest you need. This is true of fashion, art, furniture, photography, and most other detailed and visually interesting products.
The same holds true for color. If bold colors are an important attribute of the products you are selling, then you want your theme to be light and neutral so as not to distract. And besides … some colors just do not look good together. That’s why most art exhibit walls are flat white – no one sees the wall at all because they are supposed to be looking at the art hanging on it. Makes sense, right?
Here’s our first example, FirerclyCurious.com is an art and design retailer on the Shopify platform. Since art and design are the priority, notice how the theme sits WAY in the back in sparse elements of white, gray, and black. The first things you see are products and design images … as it should be.
Contrast that website with this one … store.BenJerry.com sells ice cream (you know you want some). The theme is simple, but they have no need for modern style. The site is about fun tasty fun. Background colors actually support the brand well.
One additional note on style … remember that you have a logo. I know that sounds funny, but you do not design branding and logos to fit or look good on your theme. That’s backwards thinking. You design a logo to establish your brand. You need to pick a theme and use colors that compliment and highlight the brand you have envisioned.
#2 – How Many Products Will You Be Selling?
Some themes work really great supporting hundreds of individual products (SKUs). Others just don’t do as well. And you have to think a little bit ahead of yourself. You don’t want to build out a new site now and then have to redo it again in six months because your product line is expanding.
As you are searching for your theme, keep you vision for the business firmly in mind – don’t get dazzled by some darling design. Pick one that can take you where you want to go for the next three to four years, if possible. Shopify even does a really good job of allowing you to search their theme store for small inventory themes and large inventory themes.
NovaScotiaFisherman.com keeps it simple. They have just 28 products in their Shopify store, so keeping all of their goods in one big grid makes complete sense.
But … AustinBazaar.com has hundreds and hundreds of products in a bunch of categories. In their BigCommerce shop they need to focus on organization so that the guitar players do not end up looking at drum kits, because that NEVER works out well for anyone.
#3 – Blog Blog Baby
You are reading the TaskHusky blog, right? We spend a lot of time and attention on our blog for a lot of reasons, not the least of which is that we are passionate about what we do. But it also cannot be denied that content marketing is awesome and powerful for building a business.
If you are not planning on blogging for your business … well, stop right here and go read this other blog first. You’ll thank me later. If you ARE planning on blogging for your business, then think about that right now.
All major eCommerce themes on the Shopify and BigCommerce platforms support blogging. But we have to give the edge to Shopify because their blogging development is just further along. So, if you are planning on using Shopify, there are a few themes – even some free themes – that I think really do a good job of presenting blogs well. Here are three examples you can check out to get started:
Boundless – free theme, clean and modern
Vogue, by Pixel Union – stylish
Palo Alto, by Page Mill Design – great for telling a story
#4 – Money Matters
There are free and paid themes on both the Shopify and BigCommerce platforms. It is not uncommon for theme developers to build themes for both. The free themes are actually pretty good and you can do some minor customization rather easily (change background color, increase font size, etc.).
When it comes to paid themes, there are really three paths to go by. You can buy a stock paid theme from either the Shopify or BigCommerce theme-stores. You can have that stock theme professionally modified and customized. And you can have a custom theme built from the ground up.
Buying a Stock Shopify or BigCommerce Theme
On both Shopify and BigCommerce, stock paid themes run from about $140 to $240. There is a good selection and most have customizations and built-in versions to change the layouts. You will find that they theme developers offer basic support for their products and have good documentation to help you navigate and get set up.
Buying a Stock Theme with Professional Tweaks/Modifications
Most merchants purchase a stock theme and just need a little help installing additional apps, doing updates and upgrades, making customizations, or improving conversions so they can focus on their products and delivery. It’s a great way to make sure that you store is not purely “cookie-cutter” and to get the additional features and performance you want in your store. You get all the benefits without the stress. Heck, that’s even our business model. If you want to get started, go here and create a task. Tell us what you want to do … we’re happy to help.
Building a Custom eCommerce Theme from the Ground Up
Building a custom theme solution is not for the beginner or intermediate merchant. It is VERTY worth-while for larger organizations who know their business in and out and need sophisticated integrations with other business systems. Customer themes can run anywhere from $5000 to well over $100,000 depending on what you need. We are covering it here just to be thorough. But if you want a reference for a custom theme developer, let us know and we can point you in the right direction.
eCommerce Theme Summary
Getting your theme right is job number one. You don’t have over-complicate the decision, but you need to consider a few things:
Products Come First – Remember that you are not choosing a pretty theme … you are selecting the right frame for your products.
How Many Product Matters – Some themes are great for smaller inventories and some are better for larger one.
Content Marketing – If you are going to make content marketing a part of your business plan – and you should – then make sure to choose a theme with a good-looking and easy to use blog feature built in. Read this article again if you still need to be convinced.
The Economics – Free themes are available and they are pretty good. But we recommend buying a good value paid theme and keeping a few dollars aside for custom tweaks. It’s the best combo of good business investment and good design.
Thanks for reading!