How to Choose a Shopify Theme that Converts
A growing number of businesses are taking at least a portion of their trade online, and Shopify is one of the most popular options due to its power and flexibility.
The platform makes it easy for business owners to start selling online, but just having a store is not enough to be successful.
Attracting visitors and turning them into customers requires effective SEO, a fast-loading page, and an attractive, easy-to-use theme. The good news is that there are some great themes available both in the premium and free spaces that can form the foundation of a high-performing online store.
Before ECommerce was Easy
It wasn’t all that long ago that running an online store required having an expensive server and hiring a web developer to set up and maintain complex scripts. The idea of eCommerce was out of the reach of the average small business owner.
Fortunately, that is no longer the case. Today, numerous platforms are available that are designed to help business owners build an online eCommerce presence without requiring a substantial up-front investment in technology.
Those with some coding knowledge and who understand how to configure hosting accounts can use the Community Edition of Magento. This open-source shopping cart is free to use but requires a lot of knowledge to set up. The script is also resource-hungry, meaning that it requires a powerful server to run on. Most standard shared hosting packages lack the resources required to run it.
At the other end of the spectrum, there are tools such as Wix and Squarespace. These are drag-and-drop style platforms that allow business owners to get online quickly, using a What You See is What You Get (WYSIWYG) interface to design simple websites and stores.
When it comes to drag-and-drop website builders, simple is the operative word. While these platforms are easy to get started with, they are not well suited to larger organizations, so the websites created in these platforms can’t easily scale up as the organization grows.
These “cheap” platforms can also be more expensive than they first seem, as added functions come at a price. Worse, you don’t actually own the websites created in them. While the site may suffice for a very small business, companies often find themselves stuck with a site created in a proprietary tool that is almost impossible to move.
Shopify, in contrast, is a professional eCommerce platform that is designed to be easy to use but also to work well at scale. Many big brands use Shopify to power their stores, meaning that business owners can be confident that the platform they are entrusting with their online store today can support them for many years to come.
Shopify is easy to set up, but also gives store owners the freedom to customize their stores to suit their brands. Choosing a theme that reflects your brand image and that makes your products look good is an essential part of this.
How to Choose a Shopify Theme
Think of your theme as the “shop front” of your store.
The theme is the first thing that your users will see. A good theme will give users a sense of confidence and make them feel that your brand is trustworthy. But the wrong theme can drive your users away.
There are some impressive collections of the “worst websites ever” that showcase some really good examples of really bad design. However, poor usability and SEO come in many forms, and not all bad design decisions are as obvious as the ones shown on those lists.
While Shopify is easy to use, designing themes for it takes skill and coding knowledge. Shopify uses a coding language called Liquid for theme design, and new languages can be challenging for even experienced coders to learn.
There are huge databases of themes to choose from, including free and premium designs, giving store owners the chance to build something that reflects their brand. Not all themes are created equal though, and it is not always true that a premium theme is better than a free one.
Some store owners may need to modify the themes that they install to make them work well regardless of whether the theme was free or paid.
Let’s take a look at what makes a good theme:
1) Search Engine Optimization
A lot of novice designers create Shopify themes that look good, but are hard for the search engines to understand.
A good Shopify theme can be processed by humans and search engines alike. Common SEO issues with Shopify themes include:
- An inaccessible robots.txt file
- A forced hierarchical structure that impairs link equity distribution
- Using a CDN for all images, without proper optimization
- Product filter/tag pages that are poorly implemented, leading to duplicate content issues
These issues are complex and require an understanding of Liquid, HTML, and SEO to correct or avoid.
Look for a theme touted as being Search Engine-friendly, and ask a Shopify expert to audit the theme to ensure that your site is performing as well as possible in search engines.
2) Mobile Friendly
Mobile web traffic now exceeds desktop web traffic in many parts of the world.
Many consumers browse for products on their smartphones while using public transport or during their break times. If your website loads slowly on mobile connections, is difficult to read or hard to navigate because links and buttons are too small, then users will most likely hit the ‘Back’ button and find another store instead.
Look for a mobile-friendly theme that looks good on desktops, tablets, and smartphones. The minimalist theme Boundless is an example of a versatile, high-quality mobile theme that can be customized to suit stores in a variety of niches.
3) Active Development and Responsive Support
Shopify receives regular feature and security updates to ensure that users get the best possible experience and that their data is always protected. Sometimes, these updates may change how themes work.
When you are looking for a theme for your website, make sure that it is still actively under development, and that support is available. Some free themes are supported by Shopify themselves, whereas independent developers maintain others.
Be sure to read the reviews and make sure that you are not about to invest in a theme that could become out of date in a few months.
4) A Look that Reflects Your Brand
If you have a brick and mortar store or an existing web presence, you should look for a theme that can be used with your existing branding to maximize the benefits of brand recognition.
Shopify’s theme engine is quite versatile, and you can make a lot of changes to themes without needing to understand how Liquid works. For example:
- Replacing the logo in the header, assuming your own logo’s dimensions are similar
- Adjusting the background and foreground colors
- Changing fonts, as well as font sizes and colors
- Adding or removing certain content areas
- Adding social media links or links to your mailing lists
- Altering page text
- Changing pictures
- Changing the number of products per page
These changes should all be simple enough to do from within the admin panel of Shopify.
If you want to make more specific changes, such as altering the number of columns in a layout or the position of certain elements on the page, you have two options. Either look for a different theme that better matches your desired result, or call in some Shopify theme experts, like the team at Collide, to do the job for you.
5) Showcase Your Products
A good theme should be easy to work with and leave you feeling confident that as you add products, remove old ones, or change your stock, your website will always have a consistent look and feel that matches your brand and makes it easy for customers to find what they’re looking for.
For example, a theme for a car showroom would not suit a fashion boutique or a fitness supplement store.
Consider the content you want to show off. Do you need lots of large photographs? Will you be presenting endless lists of product specifications? Do your products require long descriptions?
Is the main purpose of your website to immediately put the products in front of the buyer, or are you planning to emphasize your blog/content site, with the products being just one small part of the site?
The right Shopify theme can help bring any strategy to life. Choose the theme that is closest to what you would like to see, and work with an experienced Liquid designer and developer to build a site that offers a good user experience.
Good store design reduces the risk of users bouncing, or abandoning full shopping carts. Start your Shopify store off in the best way possible, and you will have strong foundations for your online empire.
Finding the perfect theme can be hard. But you don’t need to settle for imperfection! Contact us to speak to an experienced Shopify design pro who can help you design a dream Shopify store that sells.