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Shopify Templates: An In-Depth Guide to Picking the Right Shopify Theme

Ecommerce

Site Optimization

Cydney Hatch

May 25, 2018

As an ecommerce retailer, you are always looking for ways to improve your online store. In 2018, one of the most effective ways to do this is using visuals—particularly the visuals and templates you use in your online storefront.

Why?

Unfortunately, physical storefronts have a leg up on ecommerce businesses in some ways because customers have the opportunity to physically view products in person, touch them and observe the quality.

It’s hard to compete with that in a digital store. As the owner of an online business, this is the challenge that you face: recreating the visual elements of your products and store experience in a technological way.

But, if you are struggling to create a strong visual experience for your customers, don’t sweat it!

The good news is, with the right Shopify templates, you can feature your products in a way that lets you compete with and even beat the brick-and-mortar experience.

In this article, I am going to review what makes a great Shopify template work so well and take an in depth look at several Shopify templates you can use to create a killer impression for your digital storefront.

Fair warning, though. This article isn’t going to be some “look how pretty this template is” listicle. There are plenty of those out there.

While we will cover a lot of different templates in this article, the goal of this post is to help you identify a template that will deliver results for your business, not just look nice.

What to Look for in a Shopify Template

The look and experience of your online storefront matters just as much as its functionality, particularly nowadays when 38% of people will leave a website if they find the layout unattractive or difficult to navigate!

So in this case, looks are everything…

Before we get into the details of how to pick Shopify templates, here are basic necessities your ecommerce storefront should have:

High Quality Visuals

Quality photography and video—particularly for products—is an incredibly important part of a good Shopify template. Why?

Your visuals help your customers decide if they want to purchase a product. Since they can’t see the item first-hand, photos are the only real experience a customer will have with your product prior to making a purchase, so it’s crucial that your visuals are high quality, clear and engaging.

Sadly, balancing quality and quantity is a struggle most ecommerce businesses face, especially with mobile. Out of 50 popular online retailers, around 25 percent provide only one photo for each product and they lack interactive media like image zoom.

As customer attention spans are shortening, it’s important to grab their interest in a matter of seconds when coming to your site storefront. For that, you’ll want to look for a template that allows you to offer promotions.

A big fat promotion slapped on your home page can really help draw customers in to browsing and buying something on your digital store.

On top of promotions that will invite customers to purchase, it’s important to have high quality banner images as well as snappy taglines that will introduce your storefront in an exciting way.

Here are some things to consider when it comes to picking Shopify templates for featuring photo and video in your ecommerce storefront:

  • Does the template allow the use of GIFS and/or short videos to display products?
  • Is there a place for promotional images specially geared towards products desired for promotion?
  • Can you share snappy taglines in readable fonts?
  • Can you create photo galleries to highlight product features?
  • Does the template offer a zoom function for product phos?

Mobile-Experience

People now use their mobile phones to shop more than they use desktop computers, so you need a Shopify template that is designed to provide a great mobile experience.

Here are some things to consider when it comes to picking a mobile-friendly Shopify template:

  • Is the shopping cart experience seamless and easy to use on a phone?
  • Is the site navigation clear on mobile?
  • How do images look on mobile?
  • Are buttons large and easy to use—especially for people with large fingers?
  • How quickly can users scroll through the template?

Intuitive Design

A good Shopify template should easily guide customers to the products they want and through the purchasing experience.

Poorly structured storefront sites don’t result in sales and conversions because they don’t make the shopping experience easy. Your ecommerce site should be categorized, site pages should be clear and your customers should be able to easily get the information they need to purchase from you!

Shopping is hard enough without having to fight your way through the store.

Here are a few things to consider when it comes to visual navigation options in a Shopify template:

  • Can you include links to important pages on the main page?
  • Is the template organized in a neat and intuitive way?
  • Does the design naturally guide people through your site?
  • Does the template make it easy to find key action buttons? (like “add to cart”, etc).
  • Is the template cross-browser compatible, mobile-responsive and SEO-friendly?

Easy Checkout and Functionality

The biggest thing that will hurt your sales is a terrible checkout experience. You could easily be losing more than half your customers if your checkout is poorly designed.

Functionality is the key to a good checkout experience. This can include account logins—especially through social media check ins—obvious buttons, clear cost breakdowns, shipping calculations and follow-up purchase materials buyers can use to learn more.

Here are some things to consider when it comes to cart checkout for your ecommerce storefront:

  • Are the checkout buttons overwhelmingly large and in your face?
  • Can customers quickly get a clear picture for their expected total cost?
  • Is the checkout process speedy and intuitive?
  • Are shipping times, products and timelines displayed in easy-to-find, readily accessible places?

7 Killer Shopify Templates to Consider

So, now that we’ve covered what to look for in a good Shopify template, let’s take an in-depth look at 7 free and paid Shopify templates that meet these criteria.

Now, every business is different, so you may not find your ideal template on this list. However, my goal is to help you find a Shopify template that will help you get the results you’re looking for, so I’m going to do a detailed analysis of these 7 templates. This should give you a great feel for what you should be thinking about as you evaluate different Shopify templates.

Before we begin, it’s important to note that all Shopify themes in Shopify’s online store come with the following features (to look for Shopify templates on the official Shopify Theme Store click here):

  • Customizable content sections on home page
  • Mobile-friendly design
  • Search engine optimization
  • Social media icons
  • Drop-down navigation support
  • Built-in styles and color palettes
  • Free theme updates
  • Free stock photos by Burst
  • Shopify Team help if you run into problems creating the storefront

While all that is certainly a step in the right direction, simply having a “mobile-friendly design” isn’t the same thing as having a well-designed mobile experience. What matters is execution.

With all that in mind, let’s take a look at 7 of the best Shopify templates on the Shopify store:

1. Brooklyn (Free)

Functionally, Brooklyn offers a straightforward and informative user experience. The storefront pages are listed clearly in a side scrolling bar and they are clear to understand.

Brooklyn’s contact page is simple, clean and direct. They also list phone numbers, addresses and store hours to help customers understand the best ways to contact, visit and communicate with the store.

It is also helpful that this shopify template lists payment options at the bottom which helps customers know their planned payment options are available through this ecommerce storefront.

2. Minimal (Free)

“A simple, clean design that keeps the focus on your products.”

View Demo Here

Minimal is a beautiful, trendy shopify template that looks great on any device.

Loaded with key features designed for flexibility, Minimal allows you to customize your storefront with multiple layout options, product views, navigation styles and font choices. Minimal also has three style options: Vintage, Fashion and Modern.

The vintage style gives a mod vintage and compartmentalized style while the fashion and modern are more clean, minimal and bright.

Some of the best website features are:

  • Product Zoom: Give customers a closer look and extra product details when they hover over an image.
  • Product Filtering: Allow customers to filter products by type and sort by best sellers and price on the collection page.
  • Home Page Slideshow: Showcase multiple product or brand images at the top of your home page.
  • Related Products: Display products from the same collection on your product pages so customers can continue shopping.

Where Minimal Shines

Minimal does an amazing job of focusing on the product experience. It is high quality, stylized and offers engaging options for featuring products.

For example, placing products on a sleek white background looks high quality and focuses user attention on the products themselves.

When looking at specific products, Minimal does a great job at presenting the products in a meaningful way. They have zoom capabilities that make seeing the quality of the product easy.

Minimal also has helpful product descriptions, quantity scroll bars and social media share buttons. All of these features are quick and easy to navigate which makes the shopping experience that much nicer!

The main page for Minimal is clean and easy to navigate with the drop down page menu. All of the pages are categorized for an easy experience to find that you are looking for!

This Shopify template also offers informational pages and banners you can use to further improve the customer experience.

FAQs are popular pages many customers like to check out when buying things online. Whether it’s questions about quality, shipping times, locations, sales or other procedures, why not answer them all in one place?

Creating an FAQ page not only saves you time responding to emails, it also creates added trust from customers by instilling a sense of transparency.

Visual banners are a great way to share these information packed storefront pages through quick clicks and navigation on the home page.

“About Us” and FAQ banners are an easy way to navigate customers to information they need! Minimal does this in a visually appealing way that engages customers like the photo below.

Like most Shopify templates, Minimal also shares their hours, location and contact information creatively and easily. It also lists their payment channels which helps customers prepare for payment and letting them know what the ecommerce storefront accepts.

Using a map application for your ecommerce storefront also helps customers plan for their visit and helps sign in the address easily onto their phones if they want to visit your brick and mortar location (if you have one).

3. Showcase ($180)

“Beautiful and bold fullscreen imagery”

View Demo Here

Showcase is perfect for boutiques, artisans and visually focused ecommerce businesses. It showcases your products in a full image screen storefront.

Featuring overlayed multi-level menus, full-screen product galleries, retina display graphics and versatile options for customizing your store, Showcase is fantastic for showing off your products in a unique way.

Showcase is cutting edge and visually interesting which can be a positive or negative depending on the business. It comes in four styles: Native, Betty, Luna and Beard.

The main difference between the styles are stylization of website title and some are more feminine and masculine looking.

Some of the best website features are:

  • Built In Catalogs: Ideal for stores with a small number of products.
  • Multi-Level Menus: Feature a multi-level menu in a stylish overlay window to help customers easily navigate your store.
  • Large Imagery: Showcase high-resolution product imagery throughout your store.
  • Video Usage: Tell your story by featuring a YouTube or Vimeo video front and center.
  • Fullscreen Product Galleries: Showcase your products and photography in a fullscreen product gallery.
  • Sticky Navigation: Keep menus fixed to the top of your page as you scroll down.

Where Showcase Shines

Showcase does a great job at making navigation easy. The website has a sticky navigation bar that includes the shopping cart and makes scrolling and shopping easy and visually clear.

Having a clear shopping cart that follows you to every page regardless of scrolling helps customers be aware of their shopping items and nudges them towards making a purchase.

Showcase’s home page allows you to put quality product image of your products in large, eye-catching formats to create a stunning first impression. This is a unique feature that might set your ecommerce storefront apart from others. It can also be more appealing to younger shoppers who particularly enjoy strong visuals.

If you scroll down the main page you will see large, formatted scroll photos you can use to list “best selling” products. Using photos like this makes navigating shopping categories easy.

Another wonderful visual component is the red “for SALE” sticker you can use to mark discounted items. Sale items shouldn’t be buried in your site—they should stand out! Make em pop!

Yet another great feature of this Shopify template is the sorted drop down categories tab. By using this feature, customers can easily sort through the products as they desire whether its old or new, pricing, alphabetic or best selling!

Again, making the shopping experience easy and helping customers find the items they are looking for is a great way to increase your chances of making a sale.

One shortcoming of Showcase is the actual product pages, which aren’t quite as user friendly as those found in other templates in this article.

However, the product pages are very different and eye-catching, so if that’s a priority for your business, you may actually like Showcase’s unique approach to product pages.

As seen above, the item’s product photos are in a scroll gallery on the top while the sizing and other information is listed on the left hand side.

Although it is different than a typical storefront we see, this can add a new experience certain customers might enjoy. It all depends on your business!

Another area where Showcase really shines is in the social media department. Showcase is amazing at connecting storefronts with meaningful social media.

With this template, you can include social media photos showcasing products on Instagram. This helps customers connect with you on your social media channels which can then help them stay up to date on sales and events happening with your business.

Promoting your social media channels is a great cross promotional tactic that can drive sales and traffic to your storefront!

Lastly, like most Shopify templates, Showcase also shares their hours, location and contact information creatively and easily with maps and listed information.

Finally, Showcase also lists their payment channels which helps customers prepare for payment and letting them know what the ecommerce storefront accepts.

4. Icon ($140)

“Perfect for visually striking brands with image-focused content”

View Demo Here

Icon is a parallax Shopify theme packed with lots of features that allow Shopify storeowners to create unique shopping experiences with ease.

Icon includes helpful features like a sticky header, sticky sidebar, parallax scrolling images and much more. Icon has three styles: Dolce, Yves and Christian.

The main difference between the styles are stylization of the website menu bar and overall coloring.

Some of this template’s best features are:

  • Sticky Navigation: Keep menus fixed to the top of your page as you scroll down.
  • Instagram Feed: Share your latest Instagram posts in a full-width feed.
  • Slideshow: Showcase multiple product or brand images on your home page.
  • Product Quick View: View product details in a popup so customers don’t have to leave their current page.
  • Multi Column Menu: Feature product images in a large, multi-column drop-down menu.
  • Parallax Effect: Create an animated depth effect as you scroll down the page.

Where Icon Shines

Icon does an amazing job at creating a holistic visual and content experience. This Shopify template features quality imagery, social media and content blogging in integrated ways that can help your ecommerce site be more than just a online store.

This is a store for the visually inclined ecommerce business!

Icon’s front page has beautiful scroll banners that run through a moving slideshow that features promos, collections and other important information. The storefront navigation bar is clear, readable and makes navigating pages easy!

Scrolling down the main page, Icon displays beautiful image buttons that take customers to specific shopping pages based off of products they are looking for.

Having visual buttons is a great way to draw attention to featured products. These can also be switched out for seasonal promotions and other creative campaigns outside of your regular inventory.

On the search results page, products are displayed with a quick shopping view which customers can use to see items quickly without leaving the main search page. This is a helpful tool you can use to keep customers on the main browse page while still allowing them to check out specific products.