Lots of things go into making an online store successful. Usually, that includes high-quality products, great customer service, an effective marketing strategy, and several other factors. But, at the core of it all is your brand; it tells people who you are and what you’re about in a matter of seconds. Your online store’s theme is an extension of your brand, existing as the home that your products live in and your customers will explore. If the design of your online store is dysfunctional in any way, whether it be clunky navigation, unattractive design, or a layout that’s bland and shared with tons of other stores, then you’re giving off a negative first impression that may last a customer’s life time. If you want your store to become successful, you need to nail this first impression right out of the gate.
Most eCommerce platforms offer a variety of store themes to choose from, complete with designs that should help your store efficiently sell your products and look good while doing it. But, it’s unavoidable that some themes will work better, look nicer, and be easier to customize than others. Both Volusion and Shift4Shop have a selection of free themes that merchants can use for their online stores on each respective platform.
The question remains; which themes come out on top?
Volusion plans have a small selection of 11 free themes and 34 paid themes, each of which cost $180 and have their own editing settings. Overall, customization is limited to choosing a pre-designed color palette, choosing a font family from a pre-selected few, and designating individual colors for specific assets on the site. Beyond this simplistic WYSIWYG editor, you have the option to alter your theme’s HTML and CSS code to make more complicated customizations. The newest version of their platform, called Volusion V2, also includes a drag-and-drop feature that allows you to shift around content blocks on your site’s layout.
Volusion’s themes are all attractive, functional and responsive, both in the free and paid categories. However, while Volusion’s themes may look aesthetically pleasing at first glance, a deeper look reveals that many of their free themes are almost identical aside from small differences in color, fonts and navigation layouts. This effectively cuts the number of legitimately unique designs in half, which means you’re going to need to do some heavy customizing to ensure that your store’s design stands out amongst other Volusion stores on the same theme skeleton.
In order to customize your store to fit your unique branding, you’ll have to either alter the HTML and CSS code or hire a separate website design service (which will add an extra cost to your startup budget). The basic layout of their themes do look good, and Volusion claims that they are “designed to sell more;” but, since many of their themes are identical and easy editing is limited, you may have a hard time establishing your own brand identity without sinking costs into professional development. Volusion actually offers this service themselves, charging $1,250 to design your site for you. But, even then, there’s no telling how limited the theme engine is that their designs are built on, so your desired customizations may not even be possible.View more Volusion themes here
With dozens of free themes to choose from, Shift4Shop’s ever-growing theme selection swallows Volusion’s small selection whole in sheer size. But, the Shift4Shop theme store isn’t just impressive in numbers; the variety of layouts and color schemes among this large selection of professionally designed responsive themes gives merchants lots of options to choose from. Many include advanced features and layout designs.
When it comes to customizing, Shift4Shop’s themes are easy to edit with either the intuitive WYSIWYG and on-page HTML editors, or with direct HTML and CSS coding. Additionally, all of Shift4Shop’s Core themes are built on the new proprietary Core Templating Engine, which is based on Bootstrap and utilizes a modular “building block set” that store owners can use to change the structure of their site. Core themes all utilize the most up-to-date design features, including fully responsive design, Google AMP for products and other pages, and more.
This modern theme comes with a massive hero banner at the top of the front page, perfect for product photos or lifestyle shots with high-detail. Navigation is simple and effective in this elegant and product-focused design.
A light theme accented by floral motifs, this design can be customized with a variety of palettes to fit any industry. This theme is built with a large carousel banner meant for product images and an easy navigation bar at the top.
Using bright colors and minimalist design, this product-focused theme is meant to direct customer’s eye to what your store has to offer. This theme comes equipped with a category sidebar for simple and minimalist navigation that stays consistent with the site.
Designed with bold color blocks and eye-catching elements, this theme grabs customer’s attention. This theme is animated in a variety of ways, from the parallax scroll to the animated zoom in the geometrically-designed product blocks.
Regardless of the type of product your online store sells, there’s most likely going to be a theme that’s perfect for your online store in the Shift4Shop theme selection. You’ll find a variety of colors, layouts, navigation bars and more in this selection; a few of these themes are similar to each other while others are drastically different, giving you as many options as possible to find a theme that works for you. Many of these themes include special features like product animations, parallax background effects, and sticky navigation at no extra cost.
Not to mention, customizing your theme is possible (and relatively simple) on all Shift4Shop themes, giving you the ability to make your site entirely unique to your store’s brand personality. Designs can all be edited with HTML and CSS, but if you don’t feel like diving that deeply into your site’s code, you can always get in touch with a Shift4Shop Expert to customize your store for you. Possibilities are endless with themes built on the Shift4Shop Core Template Engine, so let your imagination run wild and build the store you’ve always dreamed of.