First impressions matter, right? When a potential customer engages with your brand, the first point of contact is critical in their decision to learn more.
Your website design, navigation, and layout could win—or lose—a customer for life. That’s why your online store is an important step in launching a new brand or rebranding an existing one. When you arrive at this stage, you’ve (hopefully) already completed the most challenging step: establishing who you are, what you stand for, and a visual system that communicates that identity. With a clear brand design under your belt, you’re ready to translate that into a website.
A website template is a blank canvas not meant to box you in but to empower you to design your own website with no coding skills needed.
For most, a highly customized and expensive from-scratch website isn’t attainable. Most brands start with a website template (or website theme) and tweak it to suit the brand’s needs.
How do you choose the right one for you? Here, we’ll give you the tools to pick a template that provides the features you need to run your business. Start with our interactive quiz, then read on for tips about getting the most from your theme.
Pick the best website template for your online store
Choosing the best website template should consider your industry, product, budget, brand style, product catalog size, and specific feature needs. Those features may include video embeds, a built-in age checker, a flash sale countdown timer, or a layout that prioritizes brand storytelling.
If you haven’t done a branding exercise to establish your brand story, start there first. It will help you answer some of the questions we’re about to ask you. All set? Take our quiz to reveal your personalized result.
Hopefully your recommendation is a perfect fit for your brand. If not, play around with different options in the Shopify Theme Store. Shopify stores have access to 100+ fully customizable ecommerce website themes to suit any brand. Themes allow you to get started inexpensively (no need to hire a pro) and quickly (coding skills aren’t necessary).
If you’re starting up on a $0 budget, we’ve recently introduced four free themes that are supported by Online Store 2.0. They all have unique features and are a great starting point if you’re still unsure:
- Dawn is our most versatile, great for all catalog sizes and industries
- Crave is a bold theme that works well for food and drink brands
- Craft is a clean and minimal theme for maker brands that highlights storytelling
- Sense is a soft and fresh theme with powerful product page options
All themes are free to try (some are free forever), and you’ll only be charged for paid themes if you launch them on your live store. Remember that even if you start with a small budget and a free theme, you can always update later as your brand grows.
Customize your theme with flexible designs
Let us first say that you should forget everything you know about website templates! A website template is a blank canvas not meant to box you in, as you may suspect, but to empower you to design your own website with no coding skills needed. In 2021, Shopify announced the launch of Online Store 2.0, which includes an improved theme editor and a suite of new themes with tons of flexibility.
As you upload your brand assets, your site transforms into a custom experience that is unrecognizable from the template you started with.
Within Shopify’s theme editor, you can DIY professional-looking ecommerce design with no skills needed. Drag and drop sections to customize product pages and other parts of your websites even more. As you upload your brand assets—lifestyle photos, product photos, videos, your logo, and more—your site transforms into a custom experience that is unrecognizable from the template you started with.
Each Shopify theme comes built in with an extensive font library, and some have curated color options. A refined palette helps eliminate an overwhelming amount of choice for beginners building a website. More advanced users can add external fonts (this may require some basic code).
You can tap into free stock photos from Burst that complement your product photos to fill in any content gaps. Think page headers, blog posts, or collection thumbnails.
Also, hiring a vetted designer or developer from the Shopify Experts Marketplace is another option if you need professional help to get your theme looking just the way you’ve envisioned it.
Superpower your website theme to do even more
All themes marked “Online Store 2.0” in the Shopify Themes store include moveable app blocks (think sections like copy and images) that support integrated apps from the Shopify App Store. If you choose a website template that checks most of your boxes but not all, you can insert apps to allow your theme to work harder for you.
Say you’re a salon that sells hair care products to clients online, but you also want to accept appointment bookings on the same site. Choose a theme designed for beauty businesses and install an appointment booking app to extend its functionality.
The Shopify App Store is packed with customer-facing plug-ins like product recommender quizzes (like the one we made here), virtual fit rooms, customer service chat bots, and customer-directed returns portals. Powering up your theme with apps allows you to create a truly personalized shopping experience.
If none of the themes and apps offer the experience you’re looking for, a Shopify Expert can help you take a basic theme even further, adding customizations for your specific needs.
Remember: your theme is just one part of a cohesive brand story
In many cases, a potential customer’s first interaction with your brand may not happen on your site. If they discover your brand on Instagram and, inspired to see more, land on a website that is at odds with their expectations, the relationship may stop dead in its tracks. While first impression matters, a consistent experience throughout the customer journey will build trust and loyalty.
Weave your brand story throughout all possible interactions with your audience while still being mindful of what works on each platform. Your website is just one piece of the puzzle. Choosing the right template as your jumping-off point will not only simplify the website design experience but set the tone for a long-term relationship with your customers.
Feature image by Adamastor