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A Beginner's Guide to Shopify Themes

Updated: May 18, 2022

Selecting a Shopify theme when setting up your store is one of the first fundamental steps you will encounter. It’s surprisingly important to pay attention to what to choose here, but the amount of choices can be overwhelming.

We’re here to help with that - guiding you through the process and getting you up to speed with the basics so you can select the theme that suits you most.


Let’s start with what a Shopify theme is and ways this can affect your business. A theme is basically how your website looks, everything from what colours are displayed, the fonts in which your text is written, and your layout. Shopify themes are pre-designed templates that you can fill in.

Just like with a website, it’s essential you pay attention to the theme of your online shop to have the greatest chance of success. Consider design, usability and simplicity; as a theme is essential in deciding whether your shop is user-friendly and easy to look at. Too complex of a design can push your products out of focus, increase loading speed, and decrease customer interaction, as proven by Hick's Law.

But don’t worry if you get it wrong the first time, you will be able to change your theme at any time without having to redo your entire website.

Shopify will provide you with a basic theme (Debut) when you first get started, but it’s quite generic and you should consider changing it to fit your brand’s style. There are multiple free themes available on Shopify, as well as paid themes, the price of which can vary greatly, especially if purchased on a third-party site.

You can also build your own theme from scratch, and some templates can be customised using a Page Builder provided by Shopify (Shopify Sections). The latter is a more beginner-friendly method, as it can be quite complex to build your own theme without any coding experience.


Don’t underestimate the importance of the theme of your business.

94% of first impressions are design-related. While the quality of your product is of course incredibly important, this is unfortunately often not what attracts customers to your site. How your website looks and how easy it is to navigate are the key areas of influence in customer retention.

It is important to gain high levels of satisfaction in your site’s first impression, as this was found to boost user satisfaction for any future interactions by research studies!

Studies have confirmed it is very difficult to make up for a bad first impression, even if subsequent interactions are incredibly positive.

A well designed, clean, an easy to navigate website automatically leads to the customer assumption that your products are of quality.

As you can see, how your website looks can have an immense impact on the success of your store.

So - how to decide on a theme? There are so many available it can be very overwhelming, but let’s have a look at the main criteria that are important.


It is of course important to make sure your design looks nice, however it is equally important to consider functions, user-friendliness and loading speed.

Here is a summary of the important factors to look out for:

  • Speed (use Google-PageSpeed-Score to determine this)

  • Responsive Design

  • Compatibility with all the usual browsers

  • Support Availability (often not inclusive - important especially if you have limited IT knowledge)

  • Customisability

  • Relevant apps and functions should be included in the theme (extra costs could arise if these need to be booked separately)

  • Look out for ratings the theme has

  • Use the preview- or demo-version before making a decision

  • What kind of costs arise? Is it a monthly subscription or a one-time cost?


Now we’ve established the importance of choosing your theme, you are faced with the actual decision-making process. Should you invest in a theme? Or is a free theme enough for you?

There isn’t an overreaching answer for this question, much rather this depends on the individual brand and what purpose and goals you have for your business.

A free theme provides you with all the essentials you need, but a paid theme might make your site stand out more and you will gain increased individuality and recognisability.

So how do they differ? Let’s go through some important points that differentiate a free theme from a paid theme.


As a rule of thumb, a free theme will mostly give you a standard layout with only a few selections of fonts and colours you can choose to customise this. Paid themes give you more options to make your store stand out and make your online shop unique.


Even amongst paid themes, the cost varies immensly. You can get some from under 20 pounds, but there is not an upper limit, especially if you get one custom made for you. Both free and paid themes are available from the Shopify store, but there are also many third-party providers that offer themes. Watch out to make sure these are really compatible and pay extra attention to the reviews.


Often, the only way to get certain features to work on your website, you need to install an app for it. But you need to remember the more apps you have installed, the slower your page gets, and website speed is an incredibly important part in ensuring success.

Paid themes often come with these features already optimised and ready to go. An example for such a feature could be the ability to filter the products on your site to make it easier for customers to find what they are looking for.

Page Speed

Free themes mostly take less time to load, as they are optimised by Shopify themselves and there aren’t many features that need to load.

However, creators are aware of the importance of loading speed, so it is not to say paid themes are slow.

Make sure to try the theme you are considering and carefully read the reviews to determine if the speed is at an acceptable level.

Functionality and Simplicity

Generally, free themes are easier to navigate, as they are quite simple and there are limited opportunities for customisation.

While customisation can make your page look unique, it’s important not to overcomplicate things, as often simple is better when considering how customer make their choices.


If you get your theme directly from Shopify, you will be provided with support and a guide matching your theme. However, if you use a third-party, you need to make sure support is offered through them. Pay attention to this, as often the support is only included for a limited period of time.

Don’t underestimate the importance of this, especially if your IT skills aren’t up to speed. What happens if something on your website stops working? And you cannot reach anyone to fix it? You may loose out on a lot of customers until you figure out a solution.

So overall, you will now need to decide what best fits your needs. It may be a good idea to start of with a free theme, but considering the importance of your web design in first impressions and credibility, you should seriously consider switching to a paid theme once your business is up and running. This will make your store stand out - as of course the last thing you want is for your store to look just like the next!

Additionally, you may encounter costs anyways when opting for a free theme as you may need to buy features or apps that aren’t included; so investing in a paid theme might be the smarter option.

Of course, you need to know your budget, and a free theme would be especially suitable if you haven’t got a set brand yet, are only getting started on Shopify, or you simply don’t need any of the features a paid theme provides for the purposes of your store.


If you want full control over your theme, you can create your own. Consider finding experts to help you with - Upwork and Shopify Experts are good places to look.

Make sure these are experienced, you are able to view examples, testing is available before release, and support is in place.

You can also consider buying a theme that has a high level of customisation options available - Shopfiy expert discovery tool can help you find the support you need for this.

Shopify uses the templating engine ‘Liquid’ as a foundation for their themes. This code can be edited and added to in order to make many more customisations. Use the Shopify Theme Kit to make changes to the code.

If this is something you are interested in, you can find out more here.


As with any product you buy, price is not a guarantee for quality.

As with any product you buy, price is not a guarantee for quality.

Depending on the type of product you are selling, there are different themes that might suit you more or less.

We have compiled some handy selections to introduce you to the world of Shopify themes - both paid and unpaid, but recommend browsing through all available themes to find the best fit for you.

Minimal Theme

As can be deduced from the name, the design is very simple with this theme. However, there are a wide variety of functions that come with it that should satisfy the basic needs of all small-business owners, despite the theme being free.

Font and colour can be customised, and the mobile version is well made.

Fashe Theme

This theme was originally meant to be a paid theme, so it can visually compete with premium themes, as well as offering many functions. It is especially suitable for fashion brands.

Narrative Theme

As the name suggests, this theme focuses on storytelling, with a focus especially on elements like big pictures and individually customisable sections. It is therefore specifically useful to tell the story of your brands and implement media, rather than a multitude of products.

Porto (99 US-Dollar, 6 months support included; 74 Dollars for 12-month-support plan)

Porto Theme

Special attention is paid to detail on this theme, without sacrificing performance. A lot of apps and functions come with this theme and there is a high level of customisability. This theme is a good all-round product.

Kodo (59 US-Dollar, 6 month support inclusive; 39 USD for 12 month support)

Kodo Theme

This theme can be described as minimalistic. It ensures your products are placed in the foreground. It is a simple design that is easy to customise with an integrated page-builder. With many functions available, this design is an amazing value for money product.

Avone (79 US-Dollar; 6-month support inclusive; 56 US-Dollar for 12 month support)

Avone Theme

This theme is the most customisable theme on the market. With over 1,000 options, you can make your online-shop uniquely yours. Despite multiple functions and over 20 apps, the loading speed is very good. With the many design templates, this theme is suitable for any type of business.

Now that you have some oversight on the importance of choosing a theme and what to keep in mind when making your choice, nothing stands between you and your small-business taking off!

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