Having many alternatives to choose from is better than having no or little choice, right?
Wrong! Well, at least it’s partly wrong. Having a lot of options might not always be a good thing. It’s easy to get ‘analysis paralysis’, being unable to make a decision since you want to make the ‘right’ choice.
With hundreds of themes to choose from, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed by so many options, each with their own pros and cons. Randomly browsing themes without any specific goal in mind will just make matters worse. Let’s put it this way. You’re planning to order some takeout. There must be hundreds of restaurants delivering to your place. But knowing that you want to have some Italian will cut down your options from 400 to 10.
In this article, I’ll lay out some of the most important factors to consider when you’re choosing a theme for your store, which will help you narrow down your choices.
Impress On The First Visit
You might have heard this phrase: “The first impression is the last impression”. There’s a reason why this is a cliche. Because it’s true. There’s a well-known study which shows that people judge strangers they meet for the first time in 7 seconds. Seems a bit quick, right?
Well, I’ve got some news which you probably don’t want to hear…visitors make a snap judgment about a new website they visit in just 50 milliseconds. Yep. You read that right. 50 milliseconds.
Put yourself in the shoes of your target customer. Think about the kind of experience you would want if you were looking for a store selling your products. Knowing this will form the basis for the rest of your decisions.
This is one of the most critical elements to keep in mind while choosing a theme. What kind of menus, links and other interactive elements would work best for your store? It’s highly advisable to keep an eye on design trends and not deviate too much. For example, having the navigation bar in a non-standard location (in the middle of the page) will hurt more than it helps. Avoid these common mistakes and you’re already ahead of the competition.
Navigation mistakes are costly, but they’re also easily avoidable. Simple things like using meaningful labels, keeping the filter menu short but effective and using clickable links instead of buttons (buttons hurt SEO since the button text is not search friendly) along with following design conventions go a long way in improving your store design.
Pick ONLY The Features You Need
Are you a fashion store looking for an image-driven theme? Or displaying brief descriptions on the collections page? What about your layout, do you prefer grids, rows or something else? Think about the features which would benefit your visitors. This ties in closely with the kind of brand you want to portray yourself as.
Be wary of themes that are feature-heavy, especially if you won’t be needing all features. Do you really need to show your Twitter / Instagram feed on your store website? Or want a dozen different types of menus? If not, then choosing a feature-heavy theme will be counterproductive since it’ll increase the page loading time (read on below). If you want a particular feature, it would make more sense to choose a theme which offers you most of the features you were looking for and then customize it or add an app which would fulfill the same role.
Choose How To Showcase Products
Another important factor to consider is the size of your catalog and what would be the best way to view them? You might have come across a beautifully designed store albeit with a handful of products. But the same theme might not perform as well for your store if you have a large product catalog. There are several themes catering to different catalog sizes. It’s highly recommended to choose one that suits your needs.
Also, consider the manner in which your potential customers will interact with your product listing. For example, fashion & accessories stores might prefer themes where customers can zoom in on product images. While some stores might prefer themes which offer a quick view from the collections /catalog page itself. There are a few options to choose from, so it’s up to you to decide the kind of experience you would want your visitors to have.
Speedy & Responsiveness
Having a fast loading website is extremely critical. And not just for the obvious reasons like better user experience. Longer load times will lead to your store experiencing higher bounce rates and lower the average time spent on your store. page. It has also been proved that longer load times have an adverse effect on your conversions. Google’s algorithm to rank pages takes the page speed into account. To put this simply, your page speed will affect your search ranking in Google.
With smartphones becoming better each year, there has been a noticeable shift in browsing patterns. More and more people are now accessing websites from their mobile devices. So make sure your theme will perform well on both mobile and desktop browsers.
Preview Themes On Your Store
Apart from Shopify’s own theme store, there are a few others like ThemeForest, and Out of the Sandbox, to name a few. Some even offer themes at a lower price point. It’s advisable to check out the demo that these themes offer, since just looking at screenshots of the theme is never going to be enough.
The themes on Shopify’s theme store even allow you to preview the theme on your own store and offer a free trial period, in case you change your mind later. I highly recommend making use of this option before making your final choice. Don’t be afraid to experiment and play around with themes.
Support & Reviews
While there are other theme stores which offer cheaper options, make sure you thoroughly read their support details and reviews. Check out some of the stores which are using that theme. Some stores like ThemeForest even have details like when they created and last updated the theme, software version being used, list of compatible browsers, and many more. When you come across a theme that hasn’t been updated for a while, be wary of purchasing it.
Shopify’s theme store works only with highly vetted developers. So you’ll not have such concerns when you choose a theme from their store. I can’t stress this enough…make sure you check out the reviews and other stores using the same theme. After all, it’s for your own peace of mind.
Check Out The Competition
It’s always advisable to keep an eye on your competitors. Different industries have different trends that tend to work for them. But it’s not just about observing these trends. Study the elements their theme contains, product listings (description, photography, price, etc.) and see how it all ties in with their brand identity. When you come across a poorly designed store, try figuring out what they’re doing wrong. On the flip side, also try figuring out which elements are working well for the successful stores.
The next article in this 2 part series will show you a couple of ways to discover themes: Searching the Shopify Theme Store and Using WhatShopifyTheme for quick results. Check it out if you want to be better equipped while making your final decision.
Free vs Paid
Yes, I know. This is should be one of the very first factors to consider, but I am mentioning it at the very end of this article. That’s because this is one of the last factors you should consider while making your choice. Paid themes tend to have more features, offer better support and have extensive documentation, among other reasons.
But if you do not have the resources to purchase a theme, no need to worry. Pick the free option that works the best for you. After you get your store set up and get some sales going, make sure you invest in a better theme. You might have the next million dollar idea, but if you cannot attract visitors and keep them engaged, you’ll be losing sales.
That’s a wrap…for now
Finding answers to all these questions might seem difficult. And it is. What works for one store might not work for you, even if you are selling similar products. Every store is different. Only YOU know what’s right for your store.
My final piece of advice would be don’t be afraid to make a mistake. It’s bound to happen sooner or later. Changing themes, later on, is just another headache. But analyze these mistakes and use it as a learning experience.