It's no secret that each of us judges a book by its cover - even if we like to tell ourselves otherwise. The same rule applies to the appearance of an online store. Image-rich websites that are easy to use, aesthetically pleasing, and guide their users through every desired step almost automatically lead to better conversions.
With Shopify, you can create just such online stores. The only question is whether to use a pre-built theme or build a completely custom theme. In this article, we'll look at the pros and cons of both, explain what questions you should ask yourself when deciding, and which merchants rely on which type of theme.
If you need help with your Shopify store design contact us and we'll be happy to help.
Prebuilt Shopify Themes
One thing in advance: Since the Shopify Unit 2021 we know that Shopify Themes will change a lot and with the Online Store 2.0, "Sections everywhere" and meta fields a big plus in flexibility will come. This can already be seen in the new theme Dawn. These features will be rolled out to all Shopify themes in the future. We will report about it soon on the Latori blog!
Since all customizations exist in the beta version so far, in this post we will go into the Shopify themes as we know and can find them until today. Shopify gives online merchants everything they need to create a lucrative online store - pre-built themes are one of them. Currently, there are 81 templates in the Theme Store, nine of which can be used free of charge. The rest range in price from 100 to 180 USD. These templates are quite respectable and offer responsive and modern frontend views. What are the advantages and disadvantages of these ready-made templates and who are they suitable for? Let's take a deeper dive.
Advantages of ready-made Shopify themes
Design, texts, images, styles can be customized quickly and easily
Designs look good and usually require little customization
Go-live can be enabled quickly
Disadvantages of ready-made Shopify themes
Less flexible and customizable, needs programming to implement certain wishes
Designs are used by many stores and can quickly appear generic
May require adding more apps
Custom development may increase costs
What can be customized in ready-made themes?
You can also edit pre-built themes at any time via the theme editor and thus change the appearance of your store. For example, you can decide how the home page should look and how it should be built, you can add or remove sections. The handling here works very simply by drag and drop. Fonts, styles, colors and images can be swapped at any time.
Premium themes also offer more variations and more options for customization.
However, prebuilt themes can also be modified at the code level and customized to some extent. This involves intervening in the CSS, HTML, or Liquid files of your theme to change the layout of the page or add special elements. Moreover, an existing theme can be enhanced with additional features by adding third-party apps. However, as time goes by and the number of such apps increases, this may not only have a negative impact on the page loading speed, but also become more expensive in the long run as the fees incurred add up.
For whom are ready-made themes suitable?
Are ready-made themes more for small companies and self-programmed ones more for large ones? No, this decision can't be made quite so sweepingly. Our experience has shown that both startups and established, large brands rely on the ready-made themes. The decisive factor is how much budget a company wants to or can spend on web design and what long-term goals are being pursued.
Nevertheless, companies that want to test a product idea, want to get to market quickly, or simply can't devote too many resources to a good web design, rely on the straightforward and ready-to-use Shopify themes. If adjustments to the code do need to be made, hiring Shopify experts is the perfect middle ground to get the maximum customization out of it. Latori has also done this job for many customers in the past.
If you decide to use a ready-made theme, you should pay attention to a few things so that you don't have to switch again later and have double the work. For example, if stores have large catalogs with many products and need a good search function, themes like Empire or Warehouse are suitable.
Always make sure that all the basic functions you want are present and that mobile use is also excellent.
Very important: take a close look at the header and footer of a theme and decide afterwards if this template is suitable for your purposes. From experience, we know that it's these two sections that can take the most time to customize and change. A conversion eats up a lot of time and budget in the worst case.
Who uses ready-made themes?
Many Shopify merchants and retailers use pre-built themes. Most of the ones we work with use Launch, Empire or Warehouse. Latori customers like Coeur de Lion, Crazy Chair (Warehouse), Dear Reality (Launch, but customized), Harper Collins and CORA use the themes available in the Shopify Theme Store.
Reading tip: We explain what really makes good store design in this blog post.
Custom Theme Development
If you don't want to compromise and demand a very high level of individuality, you can create your own theme. This works with Shopify via Theme Kit. In this article, we have already taken a closer look at the professional theme development at Shopify. Let's now take a look at the basic pros and cons.
Advantages of developed themes
Unique look, for brand reinforcement and recognition
Fast loading times
No additional apps needed
Code can be cleanly optimized
(Almost) any desired feature can be implemented
Scalability can be better ensured
User journey of the site can be better optimized
Distracting factors can be eliminated so that customers only have eyes for the products and essentials
Disadvantages of developed Shopify themes
Time consuming and costly
Requires much more time for communication, design approvals, the design process, testing, and implementation
Requires the collaboration of experts
A quick go-live is usually not possible
What can be realized during theme development?
The individual theme development leaves almost no wishes unfulfilled, as work is done directly in the code and functionalities can be programmed for it. From search functions, configurators, product and category pages with special variants and filtering to a completely individualized frontend including user guidance, everything can be made possible. Thus, the own brand can be presented individually and also wholesale buyers can be addressed more specifically.
For whom are Customized Themes suitable?
Generally, a custom theme is suitable for any business, large or small. The decision for it depends entirely on the requirements for your own online store and how much you are willing to pay for the web design.
How does the process work at Latori?
After you have decided on a custom theme and let us advise you, we clarify all important information such as goals, target groups, desired functionalities, products offered, necessary categories, etc. in further discussions. Then we develop your template with the help of Themekit and Git in the Latori Development Shop. In an additional staging store, we show you the drafts so that you can give feedback without the theme already being live. Only when everything is customized according to your wishes, we transfer the self-developed Shopify theme to your store.
Who relied on Customized Themes for Shopify?
Many of our Shopify or Shopify Plus customers have relied on custom theme development to showcase their brand. The Mister Spex subsidiary Lensit relied on customization as well as the internationally known company Juwelkerze or Asphaltgold. Shape Republic also gradually moved from a pre-built theme to a completely customized solution.
All questions clarified? But how do you decide now?
In conclusion, to help you make your decision, we would like to review all the aspects you should consider and provide questions for you to answer for yourself.
What is your budget? How much money you can mobilize for a theme and the web design will largely determine which variant you choose. A few hours of an expert's working time go into a custom template.
What already works? You already have an online store with a theme and want a change? Think about what already works, what features you miss and whether you like the navigation so far. True to the motto "never stop a running system", you should not change anything that works flawlessly and is well received by customers. Make a note of such aspects. Chances are good that the Theme Store contains other themes that cover exactly these elements, but provide a fresh look overall.
What do your customers like? Don't be afraid to ask your customers what they like most about shopping in your store. These opinions are important for the adjustments in the design. Try to put yourself in your customers' shoes and offer them an optimal user experience.
What are your competitors doing? For this you need a good old competitor analysis. Look at your competitors' sites to find features that might be of interest to users, or to avoid mistakes made on those sites.
How big is your product catalog? The size of your product catalog is usually an important factor in deciding which theme is best for you. Certain themes are designed with specific industries and catalog sizes in mind. So think carefully about what would be suitable for you and your product selection.
Half the work is done if you ask the right questions. For everything else, the team at Latori is happy to help and advise. Just contact us today and we'll answer your questions about theme development with Shopify.