One of the most important decisions you must make when starting the process of building a Shopify store is choosing the ideal Theme for your business. The choice between a pre-built theme and a custom one requires analysis with all the necessary information. In a few words, the difference between a pre-built theme and a custom template is the flexibility you have over the design and functionality of the online store. In this article, we will focus in the main differences between both paths to help you choose one that aligns with the unique goals and needs of your business.
Choosing a pre-built theme involves selecting a template with a technical structure (code) and default design from Shopify's Theme App Store. This path is ideal for businesses looking for a quick and functional solution into e-commerce without focusing too much on custom development complexity:
- Lower investment: Lower initial cost as the structure is already built, and implementation time is shorter.
- Quick implementation: Ready to use in a short time with a few adjustments to design, look & feel, and specific functionalities.
- Ease of use: User-friendly and accessible interface, many are focused on sales conversion and additional features.
- Continuous support: Constant support from the provider, no need to worry about maintenance.
However, like everything, it also has its limitations:
- Generic design: It's a general design, just another store, as it is the same structure with certain design adjustments.
- Customization limitations: Restrictions on design and functions; you must remain as closely as possible to what already exists to not compromise performance.
- Possible compatibility issues: Conflicts with other applications that may clash with the theme.
In analogy, a Premium Template is like buying a built house. The structure is already made, it's quicker to inhabit, and the investment is probably lower than building from scratch. However, you'll have certain limitations with customization since it wouldn't be advisable to rebuild something already made; it would lose all meaning, wouldn't it? You can decorate it as you wish, but respecting the existing structure.
If you choose to go this route, we recommend using a Premium Theme, as it offers many advantages, such as additional features and greater customization for your brand. Advanced navigation, product filters, and zoom are some of these features that enhance the website's user experience. Combined with Shopify experts who can help you implement the template, you can achieve many positive results for your store.
Here are the Premium Themes that we recommend and have seen excellent results with if you would like to go for a pre-built template:
- Focal: Excellent for products that require large and high-quality photos like jewelry and fashion & apparel. It includes features like zoom and mega-menu, which are useful for a better user experience and navigation, encouraging sales conversion. Here's the demo: click here.
- Empire: Ideal for stores with large catalogs, as it facilitates navigation through its filtering system and has sufficient technical resources to support large inventories without compromising store performance. To view it, click here.
- Impact: This Theme has a more modern look & feel, so it's for stores with a striking product and branding, besides supporting large inventories. Its structure allows for more than 30 sections and functionalities focused on sales conversion. To check it out, click here.
Template with Custom Design
On the other hand, the option of a custom theme involves creating a store with a design and code entirely made from scratch that adapts to the specific needs and style of your brand. Although it requires a longer development time and a higher initial investment, the rewards can be significant if done with the right team:
- Unique and personalized design: Reflects your brand identity, creates the design exactly as you want it.
- Total control of features: Tailored to your needs, whether with code or plugins.
- Optimized performance: Superior user experience, personalized to the needs of your customers.
Although there are many benefits, custom design also has its challenges:
- Higher initial investment: Higher development cost due to the time and resources invested.
- Extended development time: Building from scratch takes time; on average, it can take from 400 to 800 hours.
- Requires specialized help: You need Shopify Experts or Shopify Plus Partners with technical knowledge who can develop a design and functionalities focused on conversion.
Following the same analogy, a custom theme is like building a house from scratch. You choose the land, the structure, the materials, to make it just to your measure and specifications. It will probably take more time, but it will be a long-term investment, and you can adjust it to your liking.
Like any good project, you need an expert to build the house of your dreams. In this case, you also need Shopify Experts or Shopify Plus Partners to help you with the construction of your template since it requires more technical knowledge and a higher expertise. For example, at Getmore, we specialize in custom online store design focused on conversion. However, it's essential to first analyze all relevant factors and evaluate if it's the right time to take this big leap through a consultation. Some stores we've had the opportunity to work with on custom templates are Skindion, Sunwarrior, Origo Shoes, and Dream Water.
When is it Convenient to Migrate to a Custom Template?
At certain points in the growth of your business, switching to a custom theme can be the right step since it can be the solution if your general needs exceed the capabilities of pre-built themes, for example:
- If your brand has matured and needs a unique identity.
- If you want total control in terms of design and user experience.
- If you have specific functionality needs that pre-built themes cannot satisfy or a very specific business model.
- You are scaling rapidly and need an optimized and high-performance site.
Custom themes can be a strategic tool to improve your online presence, especially for companies expanding rapidly and seeking growth in the e-commerce area with a more personalized user experience.
For example, a success story was Smartsheep Dryer Balls where we supported them in migrating from a template to a custom design and optimizing user navigation, with the goal of increasing conversion rates and average order value. These were the results:
- 31% increase in Conversion Rate.
- 27% increase in Average Order Value (AOV).
- A significant improvement in SEO thanks to the combined efforts between Getmore and an SEO agency.
In summary, choosing between a pre-built Shopify theme or a custom one involves considering your goals, resources, and the current stage of your business growth. Custom themes provide the opportunity to stand out and evolve with your brand, while pre-built themes allow for a quick and economical entry into the world of e-commerce. Both paths are good depending on your goals.
There is no one-size-fits-all answer. The unique needs of your company and long-term vision should reflect your choice. Consider the possibility of migrating to a custom theme as your store grows to provide your customers with a unique experience consistent with your brand identity. If you still have doubts about which path is best for you, we're here to listen!