by Joe Callon
Your eCommerce store’s design is one of the most important aspects of your online business. It’s one of the first things your customer sees when looking to buy from you, so it’s essential to get it right.
Shopify’s theme store is home to over one hundred great themes, and it can be difficult to sort the good from the bad, so we’ve compiled a list of must-have features to help you identify the right theme for your store.
The first barrier to getting customers to buy is navigating to the products themselves, and when you’re stocking a large amount of brilliant brands, it’s difficult to keep your navigation down to a minimum.
It’s important to choose a theme that will allow you to have the least amount of ‘levels’ to your navigation as possible. For example, always prefer a theme that will support a megamenu over solely standard dropdowns, as this gives you the flexibility to display a lot more links in the same space.
Take the Starbucks example above, the menu provides an extremely simple navigation experience. This wouldn’t work with a single column dropdown, so instead of removing a number of links to shorten the navigation, they’ve opted for a megamenu and kept the same amount of choices.
If you still can’t fit everything you need in your primary navigation, every Shopify theme will also include a footer menu for any secondary links, such as links to your Delivery and Returns policies, and your store’s terms and conditions, so make sure you utilise these to keep the main menu as clean as possible.
Responsive without sacrifice
You’ll find that all of the themes on Shopify’s store are mobile-friendly, as this is part of the design guidelines that a theme has to go through before being accepted onto the store. However, it’s crucial to consider that in order to make their themes work on mobile devices, some developers often choose to hide certain features on smaller screens.
According to a review by Demandware, in Q4 of 2015, mobile accounted for 43% of eCommerce traffic, so there’s no question you need to be catering to such a huge portion of your customers, however it’s essential to make sure mobile users don’t receive a degraded or less impressive experience just because of the device they happen to be using.
That said, make sure the theme you choose doesn’t go overboard on bells and whistles, both on desktop and mobile, as this can heavily impact on your site’s load speed, and therefore potentially lose your customer’s interest as they wait, and therefore, lose you sales.
Large, beautiful photos/videos
Your product and lifestyle imagery give you the chance to showcase what you have on offer to your customers, so make sure that the Shopify theme you choose includes prominent, large imagery to make the most of this.
Additionally, if you’re ready to utilise video to promote your products and communicate your brand (which you can learn how to do here), ensure that the theme you’re going to use includes the functionality to embed videos directly into plenty of key areas around your store. This could include within your product page’s image gallery, or as the hero section of your ‘About Us’ page.
Similar to the previous point around not going overboard with your store’s features, make sure not to include every single image you receive from the brands you stock, otherwise your store is going to get bogged down extremely quickly. Include a decent mix of product and lifestyle imagery, making sure the customer can see what they’re buying from a few different angles. Similarly, whilst these images should be large, they shouldn’t take up too much of a user’s screen, as this will both be slow to load and potentially overwhelming.
A well-designed blog
Your new store needs to be able to hold all of your content marketing, so having a well-thought-out, well-designed blog is essential when choosing a Shopify theme. This is something that’s often forgotten by theme designers and developers, being tacked on to the end of their design process, so make sure you browse the theme’s preview store and see how the blog section is put together.
The blog should include the capacity to include tags with your posts for easy navigation and a bit of SEO assistance, as well as large, beautiful featured images (sound familiar?). Shopify’s theme guidelines also distinguish that designers should include featured blog posts - with featured images - on the homepage of every theme, so you’re also going to want to make sure that this looks good and will fit well with your imagery.
Good support and documentation
Running an eCommerce store isn’t just about keeping your customers happy, you need to make sure you, as a retailer, stay sane. If something goes awry with the theme you decide on during the tweaking/additional development stage, you want to make sure you’re going to have a good support network backing you up.
Every theme on the Shopify marketplace will include a link to its support and documentation, so make sure to check these out before making your decision. Take note of how thorough the documentation on the theme is, as well as how many forms of communication you can use to get in touch with the theme developer.
All of Shopify’s themes also include reviews, so read through as many of these as you can to get an idea of any problems other retailers may be facing post-installation. Reviews will also give you an idea of how responsive the support team is, as this is usually something people are very transparent about when leaving a review.
Which theme is right for you?
The most important thing to consider when browsing your options is whether or not the theme is right for your brand, and the industry you’re selling in. If you’re still struggling to choose the right theme for your Shopify store, or are convinced that it simply doesn’t exist, don’t hesitate to get in contact with us at Statement, we’ll be more than happy to discuss your options.