Whether starting an ecommerce website for the first time or it’s time for your growing online store to have a complete website upgrade, getting the theme right is a make-or-break decision. Truthfully, the basic design, function, and economics of your ecommerce theme are essential to your future sanity and success. So, let's talk about the most important things to consider.
Selecting a Shopify or BigCommerce theme
Ready to dive into the world of ecommerce themes? Remember, it's not just about looks – we need to think about how the theme works for your store, too. Let's explore the essential factors that'll help you pick the perfect theme for a smooth, fun, and successful online shopping experience. Grab a cup of coffee, and let's uncover the secrets to making your online store truly shine!
#1 Remember that your products come first
The first order of business is to make sure that your products look their best on your Shopify or BigCommerce site. As a rule of thumb, consider the level of detail in a theme as the inverse of your products.
What does that even mean?
If you sell visually simple products like lotions and creams, books and training materials, or software and services, then a more feature-packed theme will do nicely.
On the other hand, if your products are visually interesting, you will want to go with as clean and straightforward a theme as possible because the products provide all the visual interest you need. This is true for fashion, art, furniture, photography, and other visually detailed products.
The same concept holds true for color: If bold colors are an important attribute of the products you sell, you want your theme to be light and neutral. That’s why most art exhibit walls are flat white – no one sees the wall because they are supposed to look at the art hanging on it.
Our first example, Wild Hand, is a yard supplier on the Shopify platform. Since design and understanding the visual impact of the products are the priority, notice how the theme sits WAY in the back with sparse black and white elements. You get to focus on artfully photographed product images — with some bright splashes of color — just as it should be.
Contrast that website with this one … store.BenJerry.com sells merchandise for the iconic ice cream brand (you know you want some now). The theme is simple, but they do not need a modern style. The site is about tasty fun. Background colors actually support the brand well.
One additional note on style: remember that you have a logo. That might seem obvious, but you do not design branding and logos to fit or look good on your theme. That’s backward thinking. You create a logo to establish your brand. You need to pick a theme and use colors to complement and highlight your envisioned brand.
#2 – How many products will you be selling?
Some themes work really great, supporting hundreds of individual products (SKUs). Others just simply don’t do that nearly as well.
Part of the complication is that you must think a bit ahead of yourself. You don’t want to build a new site now and then have to redo it again in six months because your product line is expanding.
As you search for your theme, keep your vision for the business firmly in mind – don’t get dazzled by a new or trendy design. Pick one that can take you where you want to go for the next three to four years, if possible.
NovaScotiaFisherman keeps it simple. They have just a few dozen products in their Shopify store, so keeping all of their goods in one big grid makes complete sense.
On the opposite end of the spectrum, AustinBazaar 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
If you are not planning on blogging for your business, go and read this other blog first. You’ll thank me later. If you ARE planning on blogging for your business, then we can keep moving along.
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. With the 2.0 themes, it’s really incredibly simple to create nice-looking blogs.
So, if you are planning on using Shopify, there are a few themes – even some free themes – that present blogs really well.
Here are three examples you can check out to get started:
- Publisher – free theme, quirky and blog-focused
- Symmetry by Clean Canvas – stylish
- Testament by We Are Underground – great for telling a story
#4 – Money matters
There are free and paid themes on both the Shopify and BigCommerce platforms. It is common for theme developers to build themes for both. Free themes are typically pretty good and you can do some Shopify theme customization rather easily.
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 and use its "vanilla" version
- You can have that stock theme professionally modified and customized to be more in line with your brand
- You can have a custom theme built from the ground up
Buying a stock Shopify or BigCommerce theme
On Shopify and BigCommerce, 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 the 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 your 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 VERY worth-while for larger organizations who know their business in and out and need sophisticated integrations with other business systems.
Custom themes can run anywhere from $5000 to well over $100,000, depending on your needs. 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.
Picking an ecommerce theme TL;DR
In the ever-evolving world of ecommerce, choosing the perfect theme for your online store is like selecting the perfect outfit for a night out – it must be stylish, functional, and leave a lasting impression. Keep your products in the spotlight, plan for your store's growth, embrace the power of blogging, and invest wisely in your theme to ensure a seamless shopping experience that showcases your brand's identity. Remember, the right theme can be a harmonious marriage of form and function, elevating your store from ordinary to extraordinary. Don't just follow trends; make sure your ecommerce theme is tailored to your unique vision, and watch your online empire flourish!