Choosing a Custom or Theme Design for eCommerce
Deciding to operate an online business is a tough one to make. From finding the right product to sell online, to choosing the right marketing strategies. What other tough decisions could possibly crowd your plate?… Choosing the right look of your online store! Why you ask? Are you familiar with the saying, “Don’t judge a book by its cover?”. Well, looks are everything in eCommerce. Think of your website as your virtual storefront and choosing a custom or theme design can affect the look and feel of your online store, impacting the shopping experience. The design of your site can influence how an online shopper perceives your business and influence their buying behaviour. We’ve evaluated some of the pros and cons of having a custom designed eCommerce site or selecting a theme design to closely represent your site requirements. Here are some things to consider when designing your eCommerce site.
Functionality: One of the biggest advantages to having a custom designed website is the countless ways a designer can interpret your company’s image and address any unique needs for your online store. They can easily take into account all your branding assets and plan the look and feel of your site according to your requirements. They can capture your vision and apply it to your eCommerce site. The potential for a custom website is limitless, you can make your site as powerful as you’d like with as many features and capabilities as you desire.
Unique: There are so many eCommerce sites and the internet is a very competitive place to be right now. If you want to come out on top, you’ll need to stand out, and a custom designed site will give you the flexibility to create a memorable online shopping experience. A one of a kind online shop will help you do just that.
Control: You get complete control of the creative process for your store. Not only in terms of design, but its functionality, so you can decide how you want to portray your brand and how you want it to function. Extensive testing can be done as well as research to make sure your site is completely tailor made for your customer.
Related: Top 5 Innovative eCommerce Sites
Expensive: Developing a custom website can get expensive, especially if you don’t know how to do the coding yourself. Custom websites obviously take much longer to complete and depending on the functionalities that you want, you may require a highly skilled developer to manage those functions. You’ll have to decide how much you’re willing to invest in your site.
Maintenance: Again, if you’re not a developer, maintaining a custom website can get difficult and add further costs. Whether it be someone internal or external, you will need someone for support. If you are willing to put in the investment, you can also partner up with a development firm and they can work on your site whenever you need or updates.
Related: 5 Common eCommerce Design Mistakes
Affordable: Working off a theme design, is affordable, quick and easy. If you are just starting out, this is a cost effective way to get your foot in the door of eCommerce.
Anyone can do it: You don’t need to be a developer to be able to apply a theme to your site. Pre-made themes not only comes with a great design, but with many functionalities built into it. There are limits of course, but if you are only looking for a basic eCommerce site, going with a theme might be your best bet. Generally they are developed to be user friendly even some are as simple as click and drag to build pages.
Support: Since it is a pre-made design with numerous users, there will be support and knowledge already out there on the web if you ever get stuck. If you want to learn how to customize it or are looking for troubleshooting help, you are bound to find something from its already existing user base. As long as you purchase a premium theme generally updates are free and they have a forum for any bugs, fixes, or help/FAQ.
Add-ons: When your using Shopify and your theme doesn’t have a specific function you need, you can check their app store to add on some great services. For example they have tools to help you with social media, shipping, or even with the production of product.
Related: Mini Tutorial: 5 Tips for Better Shopify Theming
Limitations: The biggest drawback to theme designs is that there are limitations on how much you can customize it. If you are looking to add highly advanced functionalities to your site, a pre-made theme may not be the best option for you. As well it runs the risk of not being a long term solution as your e-store grows and evolves.
Responsive: Responsive is all the rage right now, and this is one thing that you should NOT skip out on. Shopify is great in that it has many responsive themes in their theme store. However, finding a responsive theme that is appropriate for your site can be difficult to find.
Brand Fit: Your website should reflect your company and using a pre-made design can make that hard. You may require a lot of customization before a theme actually fits your business. Another problem you could have is you run the risk that your site may look similar to your competitors if they used the same theme. Your brand and images will set you apart and are extremely important to have defined before you start.
Avg Cost: Theme on Shopify $140
Avg Cost: Theme on Themeforest – Shopify $50, Magento $90
Selecting a pre-made theme will allow you financial flexibility in the beginning as you grow your brand and business. This will allow you to experiment a little without too much financial investment. This will also help you get used to the “ropes” of eCommerce and help you learn what your business’s true needs are. So that when your ready you can venture out into getting a fully custom site done and the great benefits of partnership
I always like to say that there is no one solution to every situation. take into consideration what your “must haves” and “nice to haves” are. Think long term as well, a website is an investment, with potential for high returns.