Why You Should Choose A Custom Theme For Shopify (Plus)

Malte Dietrich
Malte Dietrich
January 21 · 8 min read

Why You Should Choose A Custom Theme For Shopify (Plus)

Well, hmm, why should you?

When choosing a design for your Shopify website, you essentially have 3 options.

Option 1: Standard Theme

You proceed with the templates offered in the Shopify theme store. You take a crack at picking one (free or paid) and work your way around it until you’ve created a website you feel comfortable showing the world. These are what we’d call ‘Standard themes’.

Option 2: Standard Theme with Modifications

You use a Shopify template and instead of you fiddling around, you hire a Shopify Agency to work on the template for you. They’ll probably be able to do a better job than you, if you tried it yourself, but their customizations are also limited to what the Shopify template can accommodate. There are what we’d call ‘Standard theme’s with some modifications’.

Option 3: Custom Design

You get your very own website built from scratch, with all the design features and functionalities that you have been thinking about. You work alongside an agency that has your best interest at heart, and together you create a website that will work for your brand image, portray all necessary images and copy that your brand needs and be as interactive for your online visitors as you see fit. Moreover, it will be one of a kind! This is what we’d call a ‘Custom theme’.

Say you pick Option 1: standard theme. What would this mean for yourself and your business?

Benefits to Option 1 (Standard Theme)

  • Sit down immediately, browse through options and start editing right this instant.
  • It would require a smaller budget (sometimes even free if you select a free template).
  • You’ll be able to enter the market / start to make sales faster as setting this store up shouldn’t take very long as all the coding and design is already done for you.
  • Apps can help you add features to the front-end, if they are not in the theme, which is great.
  • Shopify offers you free updates and 24/7 support on their website, as well as having an online forum that can answer many of your questions too.

Drawbacks to Option 1 (Standard Theme)

  • If you decide going at this alone, you will need to depend on your tech abilities and e-commerce experience to see you through this endeavor.
  • Yes, theme support is there to help you, but they will only be able to help you with the theme options and errors. They will not be able to tell you which options and settings are best for your business, or help you, when the theme settings don’t cover what you need.
  • Your website will look like countless other websites out there. You may have inserted different images and chosen a unique set of colors for your color palette, but the structure and design itself will be rather generic.
  • You will not be using everything the theme has to offer, yet the unused elements are there in the theme and can have an impact on your site – e.g., reducing its loading speed.
  • Getting multiple apps can lead to a hefty monthly fee quickly. Apps have a high risk of making your store slower. You might also struggle to find apps that do exactly what you want.

Say you pick Option 2: standard theme with modifications. What would this mean for yourself and your business?

This one feels like you could be getting the best of both worlds. But are you really?

Benefits to Option 2 (Standard Theme with modifications)

  • You get to pick from the standard Shopify templates, which makes getting your website complete and live a faster process.
  • You have a Shopify Agency holding your hand and showing you nifty tricks that you can implement that you perhaps wouldn’t have found yourself.
  • Medium range budget as the theme will be relatively inexpensive and depending on which digital agency you select, you can keep your expenditure relatively low for the fact that you’re building a website.
  • Your website will have some custom designs and custom features to suit your brand and your brand image better than the original standard design, so it will be uniquely yours.
  • There is an endless amount of third-party Apps available to you to add to Shopify themes to fulfill specific functions.

Drawbacks to Option 2 (Standard Theme with modifications)

  • The customization has its limitations, as only small modifications really work. The framework of the standard Shopify theme you chose can only alter so much, until you run into problems, so you’re limited with how custom you’d like to get it.
  • Small modifications come with their own drawback, which is that you then lose some of the advantages that come with standard themes, like free updates.
  • With every change, you make to the standard theme, you risk your site becoming slower to load as you will be loading it up with more and more code.

Say you pick Option 3: custom design. What would this mean for yourself and your business?

Benefits to Option 3 (Custom Design)

  • Something we like to call ‘clean code’ which essentially means that we create code for only the functionalities that you need, which leads to easier modifications and faster loading speeds.
  • We can create a unique design for your website and give you full control over the user experience.
  • Less need for apps as app functionality can often be built into the theme
  • Full potential for all kinds of optimization for the user’s experience, as well as for SEO and speed optimization (when you are a bigger brand, even small changes in conversion rate will earn you a good amount of additional revenue. Therefore, big brands are very active in developing and advancing their stores).
  • You get to benefit from the knowledge of a highly skilled team that will be able to implement all the ideas and changes you require on your new website.

Drawbacks to Option 3 (Custom Design)

  • Cost. Creating a custom build website from the ground up with a team of highly skilled software engineers and tech-savvy individuals will cost you. This route is labor-intensive, so that is what will cost the most.
  • Time. You know the saying, ‘Rome wasn’t built in a day?’. Well, that’s precisely what we’re working with here. For us to build you something that is unique, your very own and have all the design and functionalities that you need, it will take a few weeks. Meanwhile, your standard theme setup can be done in just a few days. The time frame depends on the size of each project, so if you’d like to get an idea, just shoot us an email on hello@especial.digital or contact us on our website here.
  • You’ll need to either have an excellent idea of what you’re after and the skill to convey this to the digital agency that you choose. Or be open to working alongside a digital agency while you both figure out what is best for you, so this will require quite a lot of flexibility in creativity on your end, which some could see as a drawback (personally, we see this as an opportunity for a fantastic collaboration).

A guiding note for all

The last thing we’d like to point out, which isn’t exclusive to any of the options above, is the size of your business. We believe that the best way forward is a custom theme and from experience we know that the majority of the companies we have worked with in the past who made the shift to ‘Custom themes’ have experienced massive benefits in revenue and customer experience.

However, we do know that this option comes at a much higher cost. So whilst we’d like to scream from the rooftops that you should choose a custom theme from the get-go, we would like to point out that if you are a small or new business with a limited budget, then taking Options 1 or 2 will probably work for the beginning. In fact, we have helped many young and successful businesses which grew out of the capabilities of their standard theme to switch to a custom one with great success.

If you are a medium-sized company or large enterprise, then you really should look into creating a custom-built website. Not only will it help you to build a better brand experience and highlight your strengths, even small increases in conversion rate, user experience or loading times will earn you a good amount of additional revenue. Therefore, big brands are very active in developing and advancing their stores as they know that even the smallest change can reap big benefits.


We’re a digital agency, so our say is always going to be ‘GO CUSTOM!’

We know that there are reasons why going with the standard theme on Shopify might have its benefits (if you’re a new company or have a small budget) and we appreciate that Shopify has managed to actually offer some stylish options for people on a budget.

At the same time, we just know how great a website can be if you build it from the ground up, and we revel in the fact that we are confident that we can create a site that is perfectly suited and tailored to your specific needs. This is the reason we push this option because we know how great it can turn out, and we know that there is so much more value in having the flexibility when it comes to creating design and features.

If you require supplemental information, or you want our thoughts regarding which option you feel would suit your business best, feel free to get in touch over our website here or pop us an email on hello@especial.digital.

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Malte Dietrich
Written by

Malte Dietrich

Digital Strategist & Co-Owner

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