A colleage recently asked me what is the best theme to use for a Shopify store. I spent some time thinking about and responding to their question, so I decided to share the answer with everyone.
First off, there is no one 'best' theme that you should use for every project. Each store has unique requirements. Different themes have different focuses. So its important to match the store's requirements with the theme's focus/strength.
Shopify does not have a lot of themes given the size of its community - there's about 50 different themes for about 400,000 Shopify stores. I see this as a strength. First, there's a high bar to get a theme listed. So the quality is generally good. All themes are responsive, so you know mobile is supported (which is essential). Second, it means its easy to get familiar with many of them and let's you be confident that your favorites are the best choices for you.
Here's how I determine which theme to use for a store.
Project Agnostic Requirements
I start by evaluating the theme developer. Basically, you are evaluating support and technology. I work with Shopify stores and themes enough that I've already done this work. But here's the evaluation process I've already gone through:
- A very important one here is support. You are most likely going to go beyond the bounds of a theme. And the support you'll need includes documentation and email/chat. Its easy to scan the theme developers site and see how rich there documentation is or is not. And you'll quickly learn how responsive they are to support questions. And if their responses are helpful/collaborative or if their goal is to close the ticket or upsell you to their custom dev.
- Theme reviews and the developer's reviews on their other themes.
The Theme's Technology
- Are you comfortable with the framework they are using. Whether its Timber, Bootstrap or something homegrown, can you get your head around their code.
- JQuery. I'm probably going to be using jQuery. So does the theme. Great if they do and I don't need to add it. Bad if they do but are using an old version and I'll have version issues.
Store Specific Requirements
Once you have a set of developers that you like, its time to evalute store/theme fit. Here you are determining which theme has as many of the features that the store needs in order to reduce the amount of custom development that will need to be done. Here's the factors to consider:
- A top consideration is the navigation paradigm. While we can edit everything about a theme, I don't like to edit the navigation as the developer has spent a ton of time making it responsive. So determine what navigation you want first and then pick a theme that supports it. You'll be looking at the menu system. Does it have sub-menus, mega-nav, etc. Also, look at how consumers will be navigating collection pages.
- Sections. Sections are awesome and make it easy for the store owner to manage their editorial without a developer. So pick a theme that has as many of the section types that the store will need.
- Pages. Not many themes come with many page types. But more themes are adding them. For example, if you want an accordion FAQ, there are themes that have that.
When it comes to a theme, I am much more concerned about the discoverability of the products and the functionality of the site then I am about the design/layout. I find store owners may care about design but store customers care about finding and buying products.
One thing I don't factor in is the price. Paid themes are a great value and well worth cost if you are going to use the added features they provide. Theme pricing can vary between $100 and $400. To pay a developer to create a new template or section for your store that is not included in your theme will easily cost the difference in theme pricing. So I say it is better to get the more expensive, yet featured packed, theme now than it is to add development to the cheaper theme later.
There is no one 'perfect' theme. You should determine which theme developers you like due to their support and technology. And then pick the best theme from those developers based on features.