What do we do, when we enter any offline public place, be it theater, French bakery or a museum? We look around and evaluate what we see. We take in with a single glance the décor, colors, layout, cleanliness, the appearance of other visitors and myriads of other factors.

Our brains are equipped with a super-powerful calculator, which in a couple of seconds analyzes our surroundings, does the insanely complicated math and presents us with a very simple statement somewhere in the range between ‘Oh wow…’ and ‘Oi, yuck’.

The same evaluation happens when we visit e-stores and our brain in bare seconds makes the decision on whether to stay or continue cruising the Internet. 

It’s extremely rare when a visitor enters an online store for the first time and has no doubt that this is the ultimate place to shop. However, if they decide that they like what they see, feel at ease while searching for the products, can quickly find where everything is located, they will remember this visit.

Design is critical when it comes to attracting attention, inspiring confidence and in the end, enabling a purchase.

Well, what is a fresh entrepreneur to do, if they have everything ready to set up a Shopify store, but have no web-designing skills? And they aren’t all that interested in learning skills necessary to create a gorgeous storefront?

The good news is you don’t need to spend big money to hire a big-shot web-designer. With the right Shopify theme, you can create displays for your products, rivaling not just the best brick-and-mortar shopping emporiums, but also huge online marketplaces. It can bring you quality design, efficient functionality, and just a level up in your online store. All without scrambling your brain over the murky waters of coding.

However, due to the vast choice of available apps, this decision can be baffling and overwhelming. Therefore, we’ve worked hard at hand picking all kinds of information, recommendations, warnings and life-hacks for you. So, let’s look in details at all facets of choosing a theme to create a killer impression and get supreme functionality.

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Before the curtain raises and you get down to looking for that elusive perfect theme that would suit your online store without a single wrinkle, arm yourself with some knowledge and practice.

Get acquainted with Shopify

Whether you’re totally new to Shopify or already have some experience, we recommend playing around with their free default theme to get some first-hand knowledge in regards to functions, styling and configuration options. It would allow you to narrow down your initial expectations and set clearer goals.

Consider your brand

Think carefully about what brand feeling you wish to evoke and try to visualize suitable color schemes, fonts, and design elements. Would it be urban-style with steampunk hues of steel and monochromes? Or pastel pinks, pearly grays, and elaborate cursives? It all depends on the branding, so start brainstorming.

Outline must-have functionality

Try to think what kind of campaigns you would like to run, what kind of promo actions seem appealing to you and what tools and services you need to make day-to-day operations run smoothly and effortlessly. Consider the amount of social media engagement, the ways of presenting the imagery, and amount of automation you want to use in your strategy.

Choosing Your Shopify Store Theme

 

Plan your budget

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Shopify is famous for offering a lot of choices and that applies to the cost of themes as well. The prices range from zero to almost $200. That means you have to carefully think about what you want, make a list and then narrow it down to what you need. In other words, referee the fight between ‘must-have’ and ‘nice-to-have’.

Like almost everything in our life, we get what we pay for. We’re not saying that free themes are somewhat bad or inferior, far from it. In fact, in some cases, a free theme will be the most reasonable choice. Bottom line is, if you plan for something beyond basics, go for the premium themes. Since they usually provide expanded functionality and flexibility, the chances are good that with them you’ll find a lot of your must-have features.

Factor in your inventory

It’s important to survey the number of products you have at your disposal now and how many you plan to sell, once your store takes off.

If you’re crafting and selling a small number of unique pieces, you don’t need a theme, which is geared for displaying hundreds of categories and collections. Along with advanced searching and navigating, there’s a number of options, which benefits sellers with a big variety of offerings you simply have no use for. On the other hand, you’d need your homepage to be as stunning as possible.

Good news is that there are many amazing themes to choose from. You can search the main Shopify theme store or explore themes from trusted developers, such as Shopify Themes by Outlane.

Type of products

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Consider the industry mold you’ll be dealing with. Unless you sell custom-made shoelaces with rhinestones or spare parts for ice-yachts, most Shopify themes will have you covered. While there might be some degree of overlay in regards to suitability for a certain industry, finding a theme that would precisely match your offerings can lend you an impressive competitive edge.

For example, fashion and beauty products are best served with a lot of photos, demonstrating all hues and best features. If you’re selling gadgets and hi-tech devices, your products should positively shine in sleek and minimalist design.

Aesthetics

First of all, steer clear of letting your personal likes and dislikes cloud your judgment when it comes to evaluating your theme. Stop thinking about what you think about it and start analyzing whether it’s suitable for promoting your brand.

Don’t think about whether you like the theme. Instead, decide if it’s going to be a fit for your brand and has appeal for your customers. You may like a theme with some high-tech flashy features, but what will your customers think?

Because your clients can’t get a real feel of the products, they’re forced to depend on the visuals to get some experience with them. This means you need the persuasive power of imagery at your disposal. You must be able to display high-resolution photos of your flagman products and implement promotional campaigns with video.

Keep in mind user attention spans, which are getting shorter due to over-abundance of images surrounding us online and offline and consider the use of flashy banners, engaging GIFs and special effects. Even if you can’t see yourself doing this today, think about tomorrows and plan ahead.

Last but not least, check how the product image thumbnails are displayed.

Analyze your content

Look at what you plan to show to your customers, and therefore need to add to your website. Evaluate the amount of text, photos, and video you want to display. Then look at the theme keeping all those factors in mind.

Does the theme offer enough free space for you to show all the text? Will it be easy to read, if you plan on using some fancy fonts? Perhaps the theme is leaning too much towards ‘picture-first’ approach and doesn’t offer enough in terms of playing with text overlays. Maybe it doesn’t support blogging and the blog is an inherent part of your marketing strategy. Make the list of your content elements and try to match it with what the theme offers.

Suitability for branding

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Today customers do judge an online store by its cover, and in the veneer, every element counts – imagery, style and especially branding. It’s the ingredient that can make your greeting cocktail heady enough to attract the visitor and persuade them to stay and have a look around. Consider the elements of your branding and try to visualize how they will fit in the theme design.

Another thing you need to think through is how ‘busy’ and ‘crowded’ your online store will look. You can change colors and fonts, but if you have a ‘busy’ style in mind (an elaborate logo, a large amount of content on the homepage, etc.), then a theme with a lot of free space is clearly not for you.

Try to make a checklist of what you consider crucial branding elements and see how they can be blended with a theme.

  • Will your logo be easily noticeable on top of this theme without any tweaking?
  • Do your brand color palette, signage, and letterhead go well together?
  • Does the theme offer everything to flatter your branding, display it to the full advantage and perhaps even expand a bit?

 

Mobile-friendliness

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Today you simply can’t afford to have your beautiful online store display as something shrunken and unattractive on smartphones.

A successful online store needs to be ‘the one to rule them all’, meaning it must look immaculate on whatever device the customer is using. Imagine a scenario when someone visits your store while sitting behind his desktop, likes everything and (hooray!) buys something. Then they share their joy with a friend, who’s commuting from work and gets an unhappy emoji and complaints as an answer because the store wasn’t mobile responsive. The result is a loss of not one, but two customers.

Add to the equation improved search engine rankings and the potential future scalability, and you’ve got yourself a key factor. So, check whether the theme is responsive and ask yourself the questions along the following lines:

  • Will the shopping cart display and work smoothly on a mobile?
  • Will the website navigation be obvious and clear on all devices?
  • How do product photos look on the smartphone?
  • Is the size of buttons sufficiently large?

 

Intuitive Design  

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After attracting and luring in the customers, you want to set them at ease and start guiding them towards purchasing. Which means you should be looking for a Shopify theme, which offers a clear layout with obvious navigation on all the stages of the shopping journey.

Shopping must be effortless and shouldn’t require your clients to spend time figuring out where everything is. Look for the themes which offer opportunities for categorization, with clear paging structure and support of placing the most important links on the main page. What else should you be looking for?

  • The structure should be well defined and neatly organized.
  • It shouldn’t be different from the standard layout, which people expect to see. To paraphrase the famous saying – ‘when shopping, unfamiliarity breeds contempt’ 
  • Design should be compatible across browsers, mobile-friendly and SEO-optimized.
  • CTA buttons (such as ‘add to cart’) must be easy to find.

 

Less is better in terms of weight

Or in other words, after narrowing it all down with listed above criteria, try to look for ‘light’ themes. Avoid Shopify templates, crowded with many elements like fancy scrollbars, live banners, excessive animations, and other atypical special effects. Yes, these types of elements might help you to initially attract some visitors, but would the same visitors stay and shop, if they find your website too bulky and slow?

As we have already stated, buying must be an easy process and everything on your site should be centered around improving the shopping experience and conversion rates. Think about your own online shopping experiences and you’ll realize that loading speeds can make or break a purchasing decision. So, look for themes which make all stages of customer journey in your store quick and easy, starting with them landing on your homepage and progressing towards the shopping cart.

Summing it up

It goes without saying that every business is unique and deserves an exceptional look and functionality. It’s equally true that there’s no ‘one size fits all’ strategy for picking a theme. There’s only one person who sees most clearly all factors that must be considered and also understands how those reasonings must be prioritized, and that’s you. However, being an entrepreneur, you are forever busy and already juggling in your head all kinds of concerns and considerations.

Thus our list, which can be used as a funnel to simplify and narrow down the choice of a Shopify theme. We’re sure that with the above advice and tips you’ll be able to find the perfect theme.

 I Hope these tips will be useful to you! This article was brought to you by Outlane – premium Shopify themes developer.

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Content marketing guru at MailMunch. I’m passionate about writing content that resonates with people. Live simply, give generously, stay happy.