Part of the fun of having your own website is how it can reflect you and your products. The design, layout, and navigation of a really good e-commerce site can be a major factor in customer conversions; we’re drawn to well-designed virtual storefronts the same way that we’re drawn to lush boutiques in the physical world. But even though it’s such a fundamental part of selling online, there are countless websites out there with outdated, amateurish, or even ugly designs.
Lots of website owners may be tempted to design their own site, but this is a time-consuming process that should involve a professional. A better option is to pick a website theme—each content management platform has hundreds or sometimes thousands of options, built for every sort of site imaginable. There are tons of e-commerce themes out there. Here are some tips on how to pick a theme that will make your online store shine.
Sticking to Basics
When you fire up your WordPress or Joomla dashboard (or any other website platform you may be using) for the very first time, it’s an overwhelming experience. There are thousands of themes to choose from, in every color and layout scheme imaginable, and it’s very easy to get lost in the options. But if you go into the process without a clear goal, you risk picking something that doesn’t actually fit an e-commerce site very well.
Before you go browsing through themes, whether paid or free, you should already have a basic concept for what you want out of it. In general, go for simplicity over complex features. While you might be attracted to complicated color schemes or clever design, it may end up drawing attention away from the real purpose of the site. You want your content and your products to be the star, not the theme! Simpler themes are also much easier to modify, and won’t have as many breakable features.
Who is Your Audience and What Are They Buying?
Depending on what you’re selling, there are going to be some core elements that you require in a theme. If your products or services are largely sold based on visuals, then you need a theme that displays photos really well; if you regularly add to your inventory, you’ll want a website that can easily update to display the newest products in an appealing fashion. Don’t waste your time looking at themes built for other purposes, like personal blogs; you want a theme that’s been built from the ground up with a focus on selling products online.
Consider your target audience. Are you catering to rugged outdoorsy travellers, or is your clientele more fancy? If you understand your market, you’ll have a much easier time looking for themes which reflect their mindset and values. You don’t want to rent fancy furnishings using a template built for campgrounds—it’ll just look and feel out of sync.
How about colors? Your color scheme is one of the facets of your online identity, so it should be chosen carefully—but smartly. It’s best to start with the color of your existing brand or logo, and then use a tool like Adobe’s Color CC to find one or two complementary, monochromatic, or compound shades to use as accents. Don’t go overboard; remember that white space is a very important part of website design, and that your color scheme is meant to complement what you’re selling rather than take over and be the central focus.
…the security and quality of a well-coded premium theme is often well worth the initial price tag.
When it comes to website themes, one of the biggest questions reigns: the conundrum of free versus paid. There are tons of free themes out there, and you may well find one that’s perfectly suited for your needs. Some content management systems like Squarespace have extremely well-made free themes, since all of their templates are proprietary and made in-house. But free themes have some pitfalls; they may not be regularly updated, which may lead to security holes down the line. Free themes don’t have much of a quality guarantee; they may not be as well-coded as premium themes by a company that makes them for a living. Paying for a website design on Elegant Themes, Themeforest or similar theme sites may seem like a needless expense, especially for smaller businesses with tighter budgets; but at the end of the day, the security and quality of a well-coded premium theme is often well worth the initial price tag.
Other Options to Consider
Obviously we can’t cover absolutely everything you need to consider when choosing a website theme—every situation is going to be different. But there are two more things to consider when looking for a theme: SEO capabilities and responsive design. Both of these topics could easily get blog posts all to themselves.
When you select a theme, make sure that you can easily modify your titles, alt text, meta descriptions, and other components. You want a theme that’s cleanly coded so that the search engine crawlers can focus on your content, rather than getting tripped up in a complicated header or weird scripting quirks. You can always install recommended plugins or modules which focus exclusively on SEO, but it’s not a bad idea to have a theme which can handle the basics—it’ll make everything much easier. You should also consider whether your chosen theme is responsive or not—that is, how it will look on a variety of screen sizes and types. People increasingly shop on tablets and phones, and a responsive theme will adapt to these changes in screen size and resolution to give your site the best look no matter how it’s viewed.
Choosing a website theme is an important part of creating an online store, but with the right theme in place your e-commerce site will have a huge boost in visuals, layout, and customer appeal.
While we’re on the topic of website themes, you might want to check out our recent post: Make Your WordPress Website More Secure in 5 Steps.