8 questions to ask before buying a new Shopify theme
Buying a new Shopify theme is a big deal. With so many themes to choose from, and so many points to consider—from features to functionality, from visual design to the reputation of the developer—it's easy to get overwhelmed.
Whether you're starting a new store, upgrading from a free theme to a premium theme, or simply looking to switch up your existing theme, there are several important questions you should ask yourself to ensure you're making the best decision—not only for your business, but for your customers.
Before we go any further, it's important to keep in mind a couple key points:
First, no matter what theme you choose, its success is ultimately going to come down to your images and other content. The world's most beautiful, well-built Shopify theme isn't going to look good if the images are sub-par.
Second, as scary as it may seem to change your theme, remember that it's never too late to change it again, or change it back. Yes, you want to save time and money by getting it right the first time, but there are no fatal mistakes here.
Now that that's out of the way, let's get to those important questions.
What are your must-have features?
This may seem obvious, but what we actually need often gets overshadowed by our desire for something shiny and new. Make a physical list of your must-have features to help you visualize your priorities and see what you truly need. We promise it will come in handy later.
What's your budget?
A new Shopify theme can run you anywhere from zero to a few hundred dollars, with certain customizations costing even more. There's nothing wrong with choosing a free theme, especially if you're just starting out, but paying a little extra for a premium theme is a great investment in the long run.
What's already working?
This is for anyone who already has experience running an online store. As the saying goes, "If it ain't broke, don't fix it." If there's something you really like about your current theme, make note and be sure your new theme delivers that same functionality.
Do you like your current theme's navigation? Have you had success with its Instagram integration? Do you like how the product pages display? Great, because chances are there's a new Shopify theme that can deliver similar functionality and still give your store a refresh.
Don't be afraid to ask your customers what they like about shopping in your store. There is real value in their opinions, and they will often point you in the right direction when it comes to store design.
What are your competitors doing?
This calls for some good old-fashioned competitive analysis. Take note of what your competitors are doing and try to determine what's working for them. Also see what's not working so you can learn from their mistakes.
Once again, there's no shame in taking inspiration from your competition (just don't cross over into plagiarizing). As product designers, we can tell you this is common practice, with the idea that over time we are all helping our respective industries evolve for the better.
And if you find an online store with a design you absolutely love? It's not that hard to find out which theme or platform a store is using.
How big is your product catalog?
The size of your product catalog is usually a big factor in determining which theme is best for you. Certain themes are designed with specific industries and catalog size in mind, so make sure to do your research.
For instance, powerhouse themes like Superstore, Turbo, and Empire are optimized for stores with large catalogs, and include enterprise-level features like product filtering and live search. On the flip side, simpler themes like Startup and Launch are more suited to single-product stores and smaller catalogs.
What are your featured products?
Ecommerce is not immune to the Pareto principle, which explains that you're going to have a couple of products that sell better than everything else.
Use this to your advantage. Think about your most successful products and their strongest selling features. How do you plan to convey that information to your customers?
If you sell highly visual products, for example, it probably makes sense to grab a Shopify theme that features beautiful, full-width imagery. If aesthetics aren't as important to your value proposition, you may want a theme that lets you tell a compelling story, or perhaps feature a video on the homepage.
What is your ideal customer experience?
Put yourself in the shoes of the customer. What about a store's design sets you at ease and pulls you in? Is it multiple images of every product so you can see it from all angles? Is it a lengthy description or bullet points that tell you everything you need to know about the product? Is it the ability to easily contact a store representative and ask for more information about that product?
Whatever makes your products special, you don't want your customers to miss it. Try to find a theme that lets you create an environment that nurtures that special something. You have the power to create an amazing shopping experience for your customers, so keep them in mind as you search for your new theme.
Who made the theme? Who supports it?
You wouldn’t buy a car from a dealership without doing due diligence. You want to know that if your transmission dies, you’ll have the support needed to get back on the road. Better yet, you want those issues to be prevented before they happen. The same goes for buying a Shopify theme. You don’t want a lemon.
Reviews are readily available through the Shopify theme store and on developers' websites. Be wary of websites that have only positive reviews. No product is 100% perfect. Similarly, don’t let one or two bad reviews deter you. Use them as an opportunity to see how the company has responded to the issue.
Find more helpful articles in The ultimate guide to starting an online store.