The Ultimate Shopify Customization Guide (+ a Tool to Help)

Want to customize your Shopify store but don’t know where to start?

There are several ways to tweak your Shopify store, from customizing an existing Shopify theme to coding a brand new theme from scratch.

In this article, we’ll guide you through your options for finding and customizing Shopify themes. We’ll also cover the best practices and limitations of Shopify customization.

Lastly, we’ll introduce a highly scalable tool that offers Shopify customization in a new and improved way.

This Article Contains

How to Find a Shopify Theme

Online shopping is expected to make up a quarter of global retail sales by 2026. That’s good news for eCommerce, but it also means more competition.

The look and user experience (UX) of your storefront matter more than ever. Customers rightfully demand a unique user experience (UX) that promises ease of navigation, effortless check-outs, personalization, etc.

As a Shopify merchant, choosing the right theme can really make or break things for you.

When looking for the best Shopify theme, you have three main sources:

1. The Shopify Theme Store

The Shopify Theme Store is an extensive library of free and premium themes you can choose from, all screened by Shopify to ensure they’re functional and compatible. You can customize these themes in many ways, which we’ll explain in the next section.

Tip: In June 2021, Shopify introduced “Online Store 2.0,” a broader set of customization options for new themes. For example, vintage themes only allow a Shopify merchant to make section changes on the homepage, while Online Store 2.0 themes allow section changes on every page. Look out for these 2.0 themes when browsing the theme store.

How to implement a theme from the theme store:

  • Select the theme in the theme store and click Try Theme.
  • On your Shopify dashboard, navigate to your Theme Library. Your chosen theme will be listed there.
  • Click on Actions > Publish to apply the theme to your store.

2. Third-Party Sellers

Besides Shopify’s theme store, you can also browse other online stores (e.g., ThemeForest, TemplateMonster) that sell Shopify themes designed by third-party developers.

How to implement a theme from a third-party vendor:

  • After purchasing your theme, navigate to Online Store > Themes on your Shopify.
  • Under Theme library, select Add Theme.
  • You can then upload your theme as a .zip file or use the GitHub integration.
  • Lastly, hit Actions > Publish to apply the theme.

3. Build a Theme Yourself or Hire a Shopify Theme Developer

If you want complete control and maximum customizability, you can opt for Shopify theme development and code your theme from scratch. Only a Shopify expert with theme development experience should attempt to code a custom Shopify theme.

As an alternative to ground-up Shopify theme development, a Shopify developer can edit the theme code of pre-built themes using:

  • Shopify Command Line Interface (Shopify CLI)
  • Shopify Ajax API
  • Shopify Theme Check

To edit the theme code in Shopify CLI, the store owner would need to grant the developer Shopify admin access through a Collaborator account.

Note: You can only use Shopify Ajax API with themes hosted by Shopify, not with a custom option from a third-party source. 

Next, let’s explore how you can customize a theme on the Shopify app itself.

How to Perform Shopify Customization (the Traditional Way)

If you chose the easiest route and want to do theme customization for a pre-built theme, go to your Themespage. Choose either your current theme or one from your theme library and click Customize.

You have four ways to customize a pre-built Shopify theme:

1. Customizing Templates in the Shopify Theme Editor

The first way is to adjust the layout and sections of your pages by editing the Shopify template. In your Theme library, select Customize on a theme to open the Shopify theme editor.

Keep in mind that changes to the template will apply to every page in your current theme that uses the template, not just the page you’re working on.

You can customize the following four elements of Shopify templates:

  • The header
    Possible customizations include:
    • The logo image, size, and placement
    • The navigation menu
    • Choosing a “sticky header” (one that remains on the top of the page while shoppers scroll)
  • The footer
    Possible customizations include:
    • The heading and subheading
    • The colors
    • The CTA (Call-to-action – e.g., an email form)
    • The social media icons
    • The language options
    • The navigation menu
  • Individual sections
    In the left sidebar of the theme editor, you’ll see a list of your store sections. When you select a section, a customizable settings menu will appear on the right of the screen.
  • New sections
    When you click Add Section, you can choose from a range of section types to add and customize. Some examples include:
    • Collages
    • Multicolumn sections
    • Blog posts
    • CTAs

You can drag and drop sections in the left sidebar to reorder them.

2. Changing the Shopify Theme Settings

You can also make aesthetic changes to your custom theme by altering the theme settings. These changes are applied globally to the entire store.
To view the available options for your theme, click the Theme Settings button at the bottom-left corner of the theme editor.

You can customize theme settings, such as:

  • Colors
    Set up your brand’s colors for:
    • Text
    • Backgrounds
    • Accents
    • Buttons
  • Typography
    Change the fonts used on your store. Depending on the theme, you may be able to change the font size, typeface, and color of your:
    • Headings
    • Body text
    • Hyperlinks
    • Etc.
  • Badges
    Change colors and icons for specific events, such as sale or stock-availability notifications.
  • Social Media
    Add links to the social media platforms where customers can find you.
  • Favicon
    Choose the icon that appears in shoppers’ browser tabs. You can upload an image or choose one from Shopify’s library.
  • Checkout
    Change elements of your checkout page, such as:
    • Banner image
    • Logo image, size, and position
    • Background color or image
    • Typography

3. Setting Up Payments and Discounts

Once you’re satisfied with the appearance of your theme, you can use the Shopify admin tools to customize payments and discounts, such as:

  • Payment gateways
    Shopify Plus integrates with 100+ payment gateways. The Shopify Script Editor lets you set up conditions to show, hide, and sort payment options at checkout. You can base this on shipping addresses, products ordered, or customer groups.
  • Mobile payment optimization
    Optimizing the time and number of clicks involved in the checkout process is vital to encourage purchases – especially on mobile.

    The Shopify Plus “Shop Pay” functionality aims to enable:
    • Integrations with mobile-friendly payment gateways like Apple Pay
    • One-field payment confirmation
    • A 30-second checkout process
    • Native sales channels on social media sites like Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest
  • Discounts
    One way to provide discounts is through coupon codes, which customers can enter at checkout. 

You can choose to apply discount codes:

  • Universally (any customer can use it for any product).
  • For specific customers (e.g., first-time buyers, email subscribers)
  • For specific products or product categories.

Alternatively, you can select products or collections to mark down and format the savings as an amount in the chosen currency, a percentage, or both.

4. Using a Third-Party Page Builder

The page-builder market offers a variety of platforms that you can use for further customizations. These apps generally provide a library of Shopify templates for custom product and homepage designs, and drag-and-drop functionalities to adjust the layout.

This can be a great way to gain a bit more control than the built-in Shopify theme customization service allows. However, they don’t really solve for the other limitations of the Shopify services.

However, before we delve into those limitations, let’s explore four best practices for designing a high-converting Shopify store.

4 Shopify Customization Best Practices

Follow these four key tips to optimize your store and make more sales:

1. Keep it Simple

If your store is cluttered with too many design elements, sections, and widgets, your customers can become confused and frustrated. Strive to only include sections that have the potential to increase purchases.

2. Optimize for Mobile

To ensure your Shopify store works well on mobile devices, use responsive design and test your site on different screen sizes. You can also use the Mobile-Friendly Test on Google Search Console to test your store.

3. Optimize Checkout and Post-Checkout

If you navigate to Orders > Abandoned Checkouts on the Shopify app, you can see orders that customers never completed. This happens nearly 70% of the time, on average. 

Sounds worryingly high?

Optimizing your checkout can help you reduce this number significantly.

You can make your checkout quicker, easier, and more trustworthy by:

  • Displaying payment gateways upfront
  • Allowing guest checkouts
  • Using Google Autofill
  • Implementing one-click checkout

After customers complete a purchase, you should also direct them to a well-optimized thank you page. Here, you can add recommendations for cross-selling, feedback surveys, referral discounts, or CTAs for social media engagement.

4. Create powerful CTAs

Calls to action (CTAs) prompt potential customers to advance further down your sales funnel toward a sale. 

Follow these tips to make them as effective as possible:

  • Include up to three CTAs on the homepage and one per product page.
  • Position your CTAs where you want customers to take action.
  • Make them pop with contrasting but cohesive accent colors.

Now, is traditional Shopify customization really the best way to set your online store up for success?

While there’s plenty you can control, traditional Shopify customization has its drawbacks:

3 Key Limitations of Traditional Shopify Customization

Before you decide on what aspects to customize, let’s discuss some potential roadblocks of the Shopify platform.

1. Limited Design Control

Both theme customization and theme development in Shopify have their downsides.

The customization option offers less control over the look and user experience of your store. 

That’s because you’re limited to the settings that the Shopify platform and your chosen theme allow you to change. For example, the layout is restricted by the available sections and positioning options.

Meanwhile, creating a custom Shopify theme through theme development is a longer and more resource-intensive process. Hiring a Shopify developer or agency to do this also means you’d have to rely on their creative vision. 

On the other hand, if you were to develop a theme through in-house Shopify development, its ongoing maintenance and costs may take their toll.

2. Trouble with Scalability

As your business grows, you will need more product customization, collection-building, and component reusability features. 

Adding these features to your custom theme may start to hinder your site’s performance (e.g. loading speed.)

3. Monolithic Architecture

Shopify is a monolithic system, meaning all the front- and back-end services are bundled together.

While that’s not necessarily a bad thing, eCommerce is evolving beyond what a one-size-fits-all solution can cater to.

Consumers expect a fast and engaging user experience. You need a way to provide consistent service across channels so customers can buy from anywhere.

Monolithic architecture tends to limit site performance and innovation. It may also be harder to implement sales and marketing tactics with agility since you don’t have full control of your front-end.

So, if the monolithic approach isn’t the answer, what is?

If you want more control and flexibility than the Shopify platform provides, then it might be time to go headless:

Presenting Pack: Shopify Customization the Headless Way

Headless eCommerce is the practice of separating the front-end (presentation layer) from the back-end (content repository and code layer) of your online store.

Headless eCommerce offers many benefits over traditional monolithic architecture, such as:

  • Improving the agility and performance of your site (including loading speed).
    Did you know?: Conversion rates drop by around 4.4% for each additional second an eCommerce page takes to load.
  • Allowing you to implement your choice of tools and frameworks.
  • Future-proofing your business for any new technologies and channels.
  • Improves your site’s security (e.g., in terms of integrations, malware, and DDos attacks.)

Pack is a high-performing, user-friendly, and composable front-end.

The genius of this concept becomes clearer when we look at the tool’s features:

Key Features

1. Customizer

Pack offers a user-friendly theme and template editor that allows you to drag and drop content blocks and easily reuse them anywhere. You can utilize live previewing with a built-in “Sections Everywhere” functionality.

The result?

You’re no longer tied to the default Shopify theme customization service to develop your front-end. You get the home page and product page design you want.

2. Product API

You can set up your product catalog and data on Shopify. 

Pack then uses APIs to integrate your custom product data into your new front-end.

The tool offers product grouping and bundling for complex catalogs and provides product management dashboards to optimize campaign execution. 

This gives you better control over your data and allows for more organized product customization and development.

3. Data Workflow

For developers, Pack seamlessly sequences your code, product data, and content data. This allows for scalable developer workflows and build deployments.

So, what’s the difference between Pack and those other third-party page builder apps?

A third-party page builder can add customization options to your Shopify store. But Pack is a composable front-end that utilizes your Shopify data in a groundbreaking way.

Not only is it more customizable, but it also helps you, as a store owner, better manage your business. With Pack, you can improve your store’s agility and performance (including loading speed) and prepare to sell via any new channels.

Not convinced?

Check out the results our customers saw after going headless with Pack:

  • Cuts Clothing had a 21% increase in conversion rate and a 200% rise in year-on-year (YoY) growth.
  • Liquid I.V. grew its conversion rate by 24%, which resulted in a 400% increase in YoY growth.

Build a Future-Proof Shopify Store with Pack

While Shopify offers a customization option for your e-store, it’s not enough to stand out from the competition.

With Shopify theme customization and development alone, you may run into issues with scalability and expanding to new channels. But if you think a Shopify migration to a different platform is the solution, think again. 

Pack’s composable front-end gives you the best of both worlds: the comfort of a Shopify store and the limitless potential of headless eCommerce!

You can build your product catalog on Shopify and implement Pack to take you the extra mile. Pack helps you scale more efficiently and provide your customers with the best possible user experience.

Contact Pack today to get started building an attractive, user-friendly Shopify store.