Deciding between a standard or bespoke Shopify theme.

As eCommerce grows, your online storefront is more important than ever. In the Shopify world, this comes down to choosing a brand-appropriate theme for your website, whether it be standard/off-the-shelf or something custom. In this post, we’ll cover what Shopify themes are, the three main theme options, and factors to consider before selecting a theme.

What is a Shopify theme?

A Shopify theme is a template that sets the style and layout for your online store.

During your website build, it’s the most significant opportunity to differentiate yourself from the competition. Your chosen theme needs to reflect the nature of your brand and the products or services you sell.

What are my Shopify theme options?

You’ve essentially got three Shopify theme options to consider carefully:

  1. Choose a standard, off-the-shelf theme from the Shopify theme store.

  2. Customise a standard theme so it’s more personal to your brand.

  3. Go bespoke! Create a fully customised theme that’s unique to your brand.

Option 1: standard Shopify themes.

A standard theme is a pre-existing template selected from the Shopify Theme Store that you can simply install and go. Usually chosen by small new brands, standard themes are designed to get merchants’ websites live as soon as possible with minimum fuss.

 Benefits of a standard Shopify theme.

  • Fast set-up. Since you’re choosing a pre-set template, all you have to do is tweak colours, images, copy, etc.

  • Cost-effective. Some Shopify themes are free (currently, there are 12 free themes), and the remainder range between $140 and $400.

  • Novice friendly. All the coding is done, which is handy if you don’t have the skills to do this or the budget to outsource.

Challenges of a standard Shopify theme.

  • Limited theme choice. There are only 180 standard theme options available in 2024.

  • Ubiquitous look. With a limited choice of themes, you’ll end up sharing the same standard theme with thousands of other brands.

  • Restrictive features & functionality. Being designed to launch quickly, standard themes do not support more complex stores.

  • Little code control. Standard templates have generic coding created for the masses, which may slow page load times.

  • Brand identity mash-up. Integrating your standard theme with Shopify apps may lead to clashes with your own branding.

Option 2: customise a standard Shopify theme.

Occupying the middle ground, customising a standard Shopify theme offers you an upgrade in that it offers a more personalised website without going all-out bespoke.

Benefits of customising a standard Shopify theme.

  • Relatively fast set-up. This option is still quick to get going but not a same-day/week option as a bog standard theme! At blubolt, we estimate 2-3 months to get a customised standard theme up and running.

  • More personal, less ubiquitous. While not unique, this option does offer greater flexibility than a standard theme, giving you a stronger brand identity.

  • Cost-effective. Compared to going fully bespoke, tailoring a standard theme is still affordable, with costs varying on the level of customisation required.

Challenges of customising a standard Shopify theme.

  • Limited theme choice. There are still only 163 standard theme options to customise.

  • Coding restrictions. You’re still not fully in control of your code with this option, so you may run into issues with bloated code.

Option 3: create a bespoke Shopify theme.

This is the top-tier option and a firm favourite with the lovely brands we work with at blubolt! A bespoke Shopify theme provides your Shopify store with a custom design that perfectly reflects your brand and coding built from the ground up, making it unique to your website. To achieve this, you’ll need the help of Shopify experts with considerable platform and design experience.

Teapigs' bespoke Shopify theme
Brimming with personality: the teapigs bespoke Shopify theme was designed and built by blubolt

 Benefits of a bespoke Shopify theme.

  • Unique website. Being built from scratch and to your exact requirements means your site will be as unique as your brand and stand out from the competition.

  • Full code control. No more bloated, generic code. Instead, you’ll have code fully optimised to your brand’s specific needs.

  • Cohesive brand identity. From your own pages to Shopify app integrations, every aspect of your site will match your brand standards.

  • Gold standard features and functionality. Bespoke means you’ll have everything you want, and it’ll be created to suit your brand’s requirements.

  • Scale at speed. By having full control over your website, you ensure stability and can more easily adapt it to grow as fast as you need it to.

Challenges of a bespoke Shopify theme.

  • Time. A bespoke option requires more build time. At blubolt, we typically see bespoke projects take 4-6 months from start to finish.

  • Cost. Greater investment is needed to have Shopify experts design and build a site from scratch, but the end result is unique to your brand.

  • Ongoing Support. In order to continue adapting your website to future challenges, you’ll need a reliable agency to help you. Check out blubolt’s bluprint for success programme to get some ideas.

What other factors should I consider?

Deciding which of the three Shopify theme options is right for your business is a personal choice. However, there are standard questions that any brand should be asking before taking the plunge. Here they are:

  1. What stage is your business at? Are you a brand new start-up in need of something fast to get the ball rolling? Or are you already established and really need to scale up? Is international expansion on the cards? Whatever the answers, you need to ensure you’re future-proofing your business with a theme choice that can grow with you.

  2. What in-house resources do you have? This is crucial to consider not only for the website build but also for maintenance and development post-launch. Do you have in-house designers and developers to create and amend your theme as needed? If not, do you have a trusted Shopify Plus agency to support you?

  3. When do you need to get this done? Is your current website dying an imminent death, or can you afford to spend more time developing the website you really want (and need)?

  4. How much budget do you have? A question to bring you back down to earth! Can you afford to design and develop a bespoke option, or is a customised off-the-shelf a more realistic option just now? Which option offers the best long-term value for your brand?

Decision time: will it be a bespoke Shopify theme?

So, with all the options before you, it’s time for some detailed deliberation.

While a standard Shopify theme can get you up and running quickly on a budget, a customised standard Shopify theme will give you a more personalised yet 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.

Whatever choice is best for your brand right now, you’ll reap the benefits of a refreshed online storefront supported by the power of Shopify Plus.

Fancy some help with a bespoke Shopify Plus theme?

Are you planning a Shopify Plus project and need advice on standard themes vs bespoke themes? If so, you've come to the right place. We're an accredited Shopify Plus Partner agency that designs, builds and optimises bespoke eCommerce solutions to help your brand grow faster. Explore our expert Shopify services and browse our client work for even more Shopify inspiration. Alternatively, get in touch to discuss your requirements. We would love to help!

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