The Difference Between A Custom Shopify Theme & A Premium Shopify Theme

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

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

Or, you just 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’m going to be sharing with you 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!

Custom Shopify Theme

What’s a custom Shopify theme? Custom Shopify themes are Shopify stores that are built from scratch with no pre-existing base. Without a pre-existing base, there are some added benefits and some cons of going with this solution.

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 stores website code, will be very lean. Meaning that your website can have excellent performance in terms of speed and load times. Because your website code will only have just the necessary components to make it run most efficiently.

Check out: Shopify Site Speed: How to Speed Up Your Shopify Website. Inside you’ll find other facts that play an important role in your website speed. 

Another pro is that you can have a completely unique design that 100% fits your brand. Without having to design over existing elements from a pre-design theme (like a premium Shopify them) that will cover 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 produce. Around 3 – 4 months or more depending on the complexity of your website. If you aren’t into a long creative process, this may not be the best option for you. 

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 there are some sites that can be at least $50,000 + to create. 

You’ll also want to keep in mind. That when it comes to updates, since your theme is custom. You would need to maintain a solid relationship with the development team. So that your store stays up to date. Meaning you would also need to invest more in updates and code maintenance. 

Because your store will be custom built Shopify won’t handle the updates and maintenance of your custom theme.

Also consider if you want to stick to your design for a long time. If not, then you’ll need to re-invest into a new design. Whenever you decide you need to change up your store design. Starting the creative process all over again.

Premium Shopify Theme

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

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

Pros of a Premium Shopify Theme

A good pro is that they are more affordable in that they usually range from $150 – $350 and it gives you the essential elements of your store. 

Which also means that you will not wait forever to get your store up and running. 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 developer. Reducing the additional investment you’d have to make with a custom theme. 

Your design will also be easier to switch out as your business grows. On average, people do a redesign about every 3 years depending on their business. 

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. Purchasing your theme from a reputable vendor is better than going with an option such as Themeforest.

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

This can really suck if you find a theme you really 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 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 not use most of the features included in the theme.

So make sure you select a theme that will cover most of your business needs.

When to Go For A Custom Shopify Theme Vs. A Premium Shopify Theme

I’d say 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 theme vs. a premium Shopify theme.

Your business has a unique flow

If your business has a special way of delivering products. For example, a custom subscription where customers need plenty of options to build a speciality box. Then maybe a custom solution is best because the subscription apps that the Shopify app developers offer may limit you. Depending on the type of integrations you may need.

You want something completely unique in terms of visuals

When you want a completely unique looking online store. Then a custom theme is your more ideal solution. This is great when you can put in the budget and time needed to create a purely custom experience. That sets your brand a part and increases your customers enjoyment of shopping your store.

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

Information to Discuss With Your Designer/Developer

When your 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 sort of idea of what you need your online store to do. Think beyond your basic needs but more like what type of experience do your customers need to have. This will help your creative partner provide you 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. You should prioritize what’s most important first and then consider what can be secondary. Or even added to your online store in the future. This is very true if you are launching online for the very first time. 

In that situation, I can almost guarantee that 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 certain ideas to life and just focusing on the most important priorities. Sometimes we as business owners can have unrealistic expectations of what we want versus what we can invest.

Check out: Why Your eCommerce Website Is An Investment Not A Cost

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 theme and future updates. 

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

This will make sure 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 more unique look that sets your brand apart from the rest of the market. 

Here at The May Creative, as a Shopify partner, I focus primarily on this type of solution. Where we customize a based theme to fit your brand design. Without you having to spend several months developing a unique store experience. 

It’s the happy medium that allows clients to still scale their business. Without the overwhelm of a long-creative process. To make sure this a good option for your business we discuss if this solution is an ideal fit.

You can learn more about the unique process I take clients through to scale their online store. Check out the signature service and get the details.

karen-founder-tmc 3

Hi, I'm Karen the founder + strategist/Shopify expert behind The May Creative. I help eCommerce brands who sell luxury goods craft an elevated Shopify experience. So they can take their store to the next level. You can learn more about the signature service, called the Elevated Shop Experience. Or stay for a while and check out the other posts below or listen to the podcast.


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