As a Shopify designer, one of the top questions I get asked is “what theme do you recommend?” It’s easy to see why — there are so many themes to choose from and it’s hard to know what to look for. But my answer is: it depends. Let’s start at the beginning so you can learn how to choose a Shopify theme for your store.

What is a theme?

A theme is a template for your online store. It determines the way your online store looks and to an extent, how it works. Themes come with lots of different features that can change the way users interact with your store and even add additional functionality. For example, one theme may include predictive search (where the search results start to autofill based on your inventory) and another theme may not have predictive search but have a related products feature.

Because themes determine more than looks, they’re worth spending time on deciding what’s right for you.

Where do you find themes?

Look for themes in the Shopify theme store. You can see all of the theme styles (different store demos) included in a theme, review their top features and demo themes. The theme store has a selection of free themes made by Shopify as well as paid themes designed by third-party companies. You can also buy themes from third-party sites. If you buy a theme, it’s a one time (not recurring) cost.

How to choose a theme

Shopify themes are designed with different store needs in mind. Every Shopify theme has unique features specific to that particular theme. But which features are important for your store? The three top considerations are:

Your catalog size and amount of categories

Making your products easy to find is crucial for your store and some themes do this better than others. If you have a lot of different categories of products or a large inventory in general, look for themes that have more robust product filtering features and multi-column menus.

Theme comparison: Narrative vs Impuse. Narrative is designed for small catalogs and Impsule is designed for large catalogs. You can see how different their collection pages are and the extra features Impulse has to make it easier to filter and ship.

Your product page

Take a close look at the product page of a theme, that’s where your store will need to be working its hardest. Do you like the layout? How are the alternative images displayed? If you’re selling apparel, your theme could have a built-in size chart. If you sell products in different colors, color swatches would be a useful theme feature to look for. Other theme features for the product page to consider are image zooming, custom product page layouts, and related products. 

Theme comparison: Artisan vs Showcase. Artisan is a more traditional product page layout and has extra features like color swatches. Showcase uses an unconventional layout and features the product photos more.

The aesthetics

Consider the overall look and feel of the theme. Your products, photos, fonts and colors will make a big difference when you’re customizing a theme, but theme layouts and some built-in styles will still carry through. Try to find a theme that matches the overall vibe your brand is going for in one of their demo stores.

Theme comparison Mr. Parker vs Debut. Mr. Parker’s grid layout evokes more energy vs Debut’s quieter minimalism.  


Now that you know what to look for and where to start, take a look through demos on the theme store. On the Shopify theme store you can download free themes and paid theme trials directly to your own Shopify account and test them out before committing. It’s a great way to see if a theme will work well for you before you spend a lot of time working with it.

Shelley Easter

Shelley Easter


Shelley is an ecommerce designer specializing in Shopify websites for growing lifestyle brands. She owns the web design studio Launch Party. She also teaches small business owners how to design and build their own Shopify websites in her program called Shop School. She lives in Orlando, Florida.

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