Does Your Online Store Need a Custom Shopify Theme?

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Maybe you are in the market for a new look for your online store’s website. 

But, you are wondering if you should go with a custom Shopify theme or a premium Shopify theme.

Or, you may want to know the difference between the options so you can make the best decision for your business. 

Well, you’re in the right place. I will share the difference between the two and give you the pros and cons of each. So you can make the best decision for your business.

Let’s dive in!

What’s a Custom Shopify Theme

Custom Shopify themes are built from scratch with no pre-existing base design for Shopify stores. This means almost every element of your online can be custom-designed. When you start from scratch, this solution has some added benefits and cons.

Pros of a Custom Shopify Theme

Since there isn’t a starting point for this type of experience, one pro of this solution is that your store’s website code will be very lean. This means that your website can have excellent performance in terms of speed and load times. There isn’t any extra code that you don’t need, so your store tends to run more efficiently.

Another pro that many business owners love is that you can have a unique design that 100% fits your brand without having to design over existing design elements from a pre-design theme (like a premium Shopify theme) that I will go over soon.

Cons of a Custom Shopify Theme

The cons of going with a custom Shopify theme is that it can take a long time to make. Around 3 – 4 months or more, depending on the complexity of your Shopify store needs. If you aren’t into a long creative process, this may not be your best option. 

Another con is that if you are limited on budget – this may not be the right solution for your business. A custom Shopify theme can be an investment of at least $10,000 and can go up from there, depending on the complexity of your store. 

You’ll also want to keep this in mind. That is when it comes to updates since your theme is custom. You would need to maintain a solid relationship with your designer/developer so that your store stays current. Custom Shopify themes do not receive the same support as a premium Shopify theme you would purchase on the Shopify platform.

Also, consider if you want to stick to your design for a long time. If not, then you’ll need to re-invest in a new design. Keep this in mind if you plan to do a redesign about every 2 years or so.

An alternative is purchasing a premium Shopify theme.

Premium Shopify Theme

A premium Shopify theme is a pre-made theme that starts you off with your store’s base design. Instead of starting from scratch, like a custom Shopify theme. This means you’ll already have important settings that won’t need to be custom-built.

With a premium Shopify theme, there are some pros and cons. 

Pros of a Premium Shopify Theme

A good pro is that they are more affordable, they usually range from $150 – $350, and it gives you the essential elements of your store. All you have to do is add your branding, images, and other content.

You also will get your store up and running quickly. If time is a factor, then this will be your ideal route. 

Another pro is that your code maintenance will be handled via the theme’s creator. Reducing the additional investment, you’d have to make with a custom theme. 

Your design will also be easier to switch because you will select a new theme and set it up with your branding. On average, people do a redesign about every two years, depending on their business growth. 

Cons of a Premium Shopify Theme

There are, of course, cons of a premium Shopify theme. An important one is choosing the wrong theme. 

You can purchase a premium Shopify theme from multiple vendors, but not all vendors are created equal. Buying your theme from a reputable vendor is better than using an option such as Themeforest.

For example, if you choose the wrong theme for your brand. You could risk purchasing a theme that is poorly made & coded—resulting in your website loading slowly. Or if the vendor happens only to be offering this theme temporarily. They may no longer offer support to ensure your theme maintains the latest coding and security standards.

This can suck if you find a theme you enjoy and it works for your business. Then discover that it is no longer supported.

Which could result in you making it an unplanned move to another theme and investment. Especially if this happens during a busy time in your business, it can really add more stress and overwhelm.

Another con of a premium Shopify theme is that you may only use some of the features included in the theme. Or you may feel limited by the existing features of the theme that may be challenging for you to customize and manage on your own.

When to Choose A Custom Shopify Theme Vs. A Premium Shopify Theme

Most stores are fine with a premium theme even as their business begins to evolve and expand. But here are some indicators that you’d want to consider a custom Shopify theme vs. a premium Shopify theme.

You have complex store needs

With a premium Shopify theme that is pre-built. If the existing functionality of the theme creates limitations. Then a custom Shopify theme may be the best solution. For example, if you need to integrate your vendor system via an API and have a custom way to deliver products. That break outside the standard way Shopify allows for deliveries.

You want something completely unique in terms of visuals

A custom theme is the best solution for you when you want a completely unique-looking online store. This is great when you can set aside a healthy investment and the time needed to create a custom experience. That will set your brand apart and increase your customer’s enjoyment of shopping in your online store.

Your Stage of Business

If you are a newer brand and don’t have a proven product. Where you’ve consistently sold your products to others outside of friends and family, a premium Shopify theme is the perfect starting point to help you get your business launched so you can start selling.

Opposite of that, if you’ve been in business a while and you are growing, a premium Shopify theme may work for you. But go with a customized Shopify theme (which I’ll cover in a moment).

For well-established luxury brands that are selling at high growth. Then a custom Shopify theme may be the best option as it will allow you to have a unique store that serves you and your customers.

Before you decide, here is some important information to discuss with your designer/developer.

Information to Discuss With a Shopify Expert

When you are ready to have a conversation, it’s important to have some key information about your business to decide what would be the best solution. 

Starting with…

Being clear on what you need

Have some idea of what you need your online store to do. Think beyond your basic needs and more like what type of experience your customers need to have. This will help your creative partner provide you with the most accurate solution for your business. 

Focus on what’s most important

Sometimes as business owners, we can want all the bells and whistles. It would be best if you prioritized what’s most important and then considered what can be secondary—or even added to your online store in the future. This is true if you are launching online for the first time. 

In that situation, your needs will shift a lot. So focus on the big picture and not all the nitty-gritty details. 

Be Realistic Of Your Budget

Think about what you truly can afford to invest in your experience. That may mean waiting to bring specific ideas to life and focusing on the most critical priorities. Sometimes we as business owners can have unrealistic expectations of what we want versus what we can invest, mainly if other stores inspire us with premium features and designs.

What’s a Happy Medium Between a Custom Theme Vs. Premium Shopify Theme?

Maybe you don’t want your store to look like it came from an off-the-shelf template. But you also don’t want to invest in the high upfront price of a custom Shopify theme and future updates. 

That’s understandable! A happy medium is using a premium Shopify theme as a base and having it customized to meet your business needs. 

This will ensure it doesn’t look like you just purchased it straight from a template shop and added it to your store. But will give you a unique look that sets your Shopify store apart from the rest of the market. 

This is often achieved by adding your branding elements, such as your logo, brand colors, imagery, and typography, to the theme and customizing certain aspects of the theme using coding to make it different.

It’s the happy medium that most of my clients choose. Another bonus is that it’s a much shorter creative process that allows them to launch faster.

If you need further help figuring out what would make the most sense for your business. Book a Strategy Session, and we can review your ideas and develop some solutions that will lead you to your goals.

Overall, having a professional Shopify store that authentically represents your business is key to helping you position your business in the market and generate sustainable revenue.

Do you want to elevate your online store experience? Explore how we can work together via Shopify website design & development services below.


I'm Karen, a Luxury Brand Strategist and Web Designer for high-end businesses. I take a strategy-first approach to creating captivating branding and website experiences that help you amplify your competitive advantage, increase conversions, and build brand loyalty. Explore the other insightful luxury articles and listen to Luxury Cultivated to help you grow a remarkable brand. Plus, discover how we can work together to create your luxury experience.


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