Shopify store design is a major consideration for any ecommerce project. Get the design wrong and you’ll leave your visitors underwhelmed and less likely to buy or return to your store, but get it right, and you’ll end up with an on-brand, beautifully designed storefront that converts.

If you’re considering starting a new Shopify store or updating your current site, how do you choose between a bespoke design, standard theme or theme customisation?

In this article we'll cover what Shopify themes are, how they compare with bespoke Shopify designs, and some of the factors to take into account before choosing what's right for your business.

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What Are The Design Options For Your Shopify Store?

The three main options are:

  • Purchase an off-the-shelf theme from the Shopify theme store
  • Customise a standard theme to make it more personal to your brand
  • Go bespoke: create a fully customised theme that is unique to your brand

All of the options have their advantages, and choosing the right option for your brand will go a long way to helping you achieve the results you need, on time and within your budget.

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1. ‘Off The Shelf’ Shopify Theme

A Shopify template or pre-built theme is a plug-and-play solution that you can easily install in your Shopify admin and simply get started. Populate the store using the Shopify admin, CSV upload and ‘customise’ section in your theme, and launch!

Advantages of a Shopify Theme

  • Get started very quickly: you can launch in one day if you are dropshipping
  • Keep costs low - some themes are free, and even the most expensive ones are only $350
  • Easily install and integrate with Shopify with no coding needed
  • Done-for-you branding and logos with some templates that use font logos

Limitations of a Shopify Theme

  • Your store will share commonalities with many others using the themes, and you will sacrifice brand equity and will lack unique branding
  • Limited features and functionality, does not support more complex stores
  • Sites can suffer from poor page load times due to bloated feature sets that serve a larger audience
  • Stores can lose coherence when you add Shopify apps and don’t integrate them in terms of branding and CSS styling

Shopify Themes: Best For New Or Small Businesses

With a range of free and low cost themes available, they're a great option for start up ecommerce businesses across a wide range of industries to get a proposition to market.

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2. Customised Shopify Theme

In many ways this can be seen as the middle ground option between a standard theme template and a bespoke store. Customising a standard Shopify theme gives you the ability to personalise your website without going down the fully bespoke route.

Advantages of a Customised Theme

  • Faster set-up than fully bespoke. While this option isn’t as quick as implementing a standard theme, it is still reasonably quick to get up and running. For a modified theme we would estimate 2 or 3 months to get it integrated and live.
  • Your store will be more personal and less generic. While not unique, this option does give you greater flexibility than a standard theme, giving you the opportunity to incorporate a stronger sense of your brand’s identity.
  • Cost-effective (notice we didn’t say ‘cheap’). When compared to going fully-bespoke, customising a standard theme can be affordable, with the costs varying depending on the level of customisation you require.

Limitations of a Customised Theme

  • Limited theme choice: there are fewer than 100 standard theme options to customise in the Shopify store.
  • Coding restrictions - you’re still not fully in control of your code if you choose this as an option. This means you may run into issues when trying to make something that feels unique to your brand. There is a risk that you can end up with messy code.

Customised Theme: Best For Growing Brands

As your business grows, a customised Shopify theme gives you more options for customisation and enhanced functionality, without breaking the bank.

Let’s work together to build your store

We are one of the world’s most trusted and experienced Shopify Plus Partners.

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3. Fully Bespoke Shopify Build

Going down the bespoke route gives you the opportunity to craft your user interface to be designed specifically for your users’ needs and your business objectives. Everything from information architecture to the aesthetic and functions of the website reflect your business’ brand. This means that your store is truly unique and stands out from the rest. With a bespoke build, most of the drawbacks of a pre-built theme and some of the restrictions you may run into with a customised theme are taken out of the equation, because the site is being built from the ground up.

Motel Rocks is an example of a fully bespoke ecommerce site that we redesigned on Shopify Plus.

Explore Our Shopify Development Services

Advantages of a Bespoke Shopify Store

  • Custom-builds are flexible and can grow with your brand or business. Having a custom-designed Shopify site allows you to make changes whenever you need.
  • SEO (search engine optimisation) is better for custom builds - the reality of ecommerce is that you want to be more visible in search than your competitors. One of the best ways to do this is to ensure your SEO performs better than theirs, and a custom-built website will allow you to do this over a theme.
  • Your Shopify site will be custom and not like anyone else’s – we’re sure you’ve seen a beautiful website that has had a lasting impact on the way you perceive or rate other websites. Those are almost certainly custom-built ones. If you want to stand out from the crowd, and create something truly unique, bespoke is the option for you.
  • As well as looking unique, a bespoke build will allow you to include custom functionality in your store.
  • Your store performance will be better than a theme build: the code base is more lightweight than an off-the-shelf theme and there is more control over the site overall from a code point of view.
  • There is a vast tech partner network in the Shopify ecosystem. With a bespoke store, integrations are easier to implement and manage.

Limitations of a Bespoke Shopify Store

  • It’s the most expensive option. However, this is because of the sheer amount of effort and expertise that goes into making a perfectly crafted Shopify store. You’re paying more, but the value you are getting far exceeds the initial cost.
  • It can take longer for your store to launch compared to using a theme template or customising a theme.
  • You will need to factor in ongoing design and development updates for your store. Services like our Priority Support plans can give you allocated hours each month for maintenance and updates.

Bespoke Shopify Store: Best For Businesses Looking For A Unique And Powerful Online Presence

A bespoke store is the option for brands that are looking to scale and want an online presence that represents them in a truly uniqe way. It offers customisation options and the ability to utilise third party integrations with ease.

The next step after bespoke, as companies continue to grow, is to upgrade to the enterprise level Shopify Plus.

Let’s work together to build your store

We are one of the world’s most trusted and experienced Shopify Plus Partners.

Get in touch

Bespoke vs Shopify Theme: What Will You Choose?

With all the options you have available, it’s time for some detailed consideration.

While a standard Shopify theme can get you up and running quickly on a budget, a customised Shopify theme will give you a more personalised and somewhat cost-effective website. A fully bespoke option is the best option for a truly unique site to reflect your brand and drive long-term growth.

For more information on Shopify's pricing plans, check out our guide.

Whether you decide on a standard theme, a theme customisation or fully bespoke site, we have Shopify designers, web developers and marketers who can help take your brand to the next level, so if you’d like to find out more, get in touch or subscribe to our newsletter