When building an online store, remember that the purpose of your website is more than just to give customers a way to shop — it's also the representation of your business on the internet. Of course, it's crucial that your shopping cart, product pages, and all other aspects of your site work perfectly, but your branding and image is important for building trust and customer loyalty. Customers need to remember your brand above all others when they think of purchasing the type of product you sell, so your website needs to define your brand ideals and help it stick in their minds.
Most eCommerce platforms make this easier by providing a selection of themes or templates, which can be either free, premium (paid), or both. The system for creating themes and making them available for use and/or purchase varies depending on the eCommerce software; sometimes only professional design firms are involved, in other cases, independent developers build and publish the bulk of available themes, and sometimes both methods are used.
Since WooCommerce is a free, open-source plugin for WordPress (also free and open-source), its themes fit into the latter category: they can be made by anyone with the knowledge, and released for use as free or premium based on the choice of the creator. This means there's a vast selection of themes available, but how well do they compete with the eCommerce website templates offered by Shift4Shop? Let's compare.
One of the biggest attractions to WooCommerce (and therefore, WordPress in general) is the sheer amount of freedom an online store owner can have when designing their website. After all, WordPress has thousands of themes available, so there's definitely one out there that will be perfect for your brand, right?
Unfortunately, it's not that simple. The first consideration is that WordPress is, above all, a blogging platform, so many of its themes really aren't made for selling, even if they're WooCommerce-compatible. Online store themes will take certain things into account that regular websites and blogs don't need, like catching the eye of the customer and displaying important information in specific places. So, this means you'll need to look primarily at WooCommerce-specific themes rather than the entire WordPress theme catalogue.
The next big issue is reliability. As we mentioned, WooCommerce and WordPress themes can be created by anyone, so they run the gamut when it comes to quality. Professional designers are likely to continue to support their themes to keep them compatible with necessary WordPress and WooCommerce software updates, but those made by independent creators may lag behind or become abandoned depending on the creator's motivations. For example, some people build themes simply as a hobby or to build a portfolio, and may stop supporting them once their interest or workload changes.
What this means ultimately is that you're going to have to spend a lot of time researching and choosing a theme that either works for your brand out of the box without any customization, or allows the specific changes you desire, and overall works the way you want it to.
WooCommerce themes show a lot of variety and are available from multiple sources. However, as our examples show, compatibility with certain WordPress plugins isn't guaranteed, and most WooCommerce themes aren't actually as customizable as you might think — in many cases, you can only change a few colors. Support isn't always free either, so if you need help from a theme's designers, you may have to pay.
The concept of child themes might also be confusing if you're new to WordPress. Basically, a child theme is an altered version of an original theme that is meant to be installed alongside the original. The child theme will then override parts of the appearance of the original theme. While this allows certain freedoms, like being able to update a base theme without making changes to the child theme, it can also be confusing. Using a child theme adds an additional layer of complexity since you're essentially installing 2 themes, one reliant on the other, but it's the WordPress-recommended way to perform extreme design adjustments to a theme without risking losing your customizations when the theme is updated.
Another factor that isn't clear from the examples is that WordPress themes can go beyond simple appearance changes. Some completely rework the built-in design tools on your website, and others include extra functionality that may normally require a separate plugin. This means if you change your theme, you can lose access to tools that you may not be expecting to have to replace with plugins — or alternately, you may end up with unneeded tools supplied by a theme that conflict with plugins you're already using.
Overall, WooCommerce themes appear simple at the outset, but there are tons of unknowns you'll need to thoroughly investigate before you can choose one, and it's easy for a new store owner to get discouraged.
Shift4Shop takes a completely different approach to theme design than WooCommerce, which you might expect due to the differences between the two platforms. Where WooCommerce is an open-source plugin, Shift4Shop is a fully hosted, all-in-one eCommerce platform that requires no installation or download on your part. Themes are also centralized into the Shift4Shop Theme Store, so you won't need to browse multiple websites.
Shift4Shop's theme selection includes dozens of free templates suitable for a wide variety of businesses and brands, with multiple layout styles represented. All themes are fully responsive to mobile devices and are made to load quickly. This functionality is due to the framework on which all current Shift4Shop themes are based: our revolutionary Core Template Engine, which uses Bootstrap to bring cutting-edge design conventions to your website. These include optimizations that ensure the smooth, seamless shopping experience your customers want.
A free, image-heavy theme meant to showcase as many of your categories, featured products, promotions, and anything else right on the front page.
A sporty free template with front page banners and text space, and a dark aesthetic that lends a sophisticated feel without creating too much contrast.
A classic dark theme with a familiar sidebar menu, perfect for bringing a sense of luxury and timelessness to your website.
A welcoming free theme that uses soft earth tones, perfect for any type of natural or organic product beyond its out-of-the-box support for CBD stores.
Shift4Shop themes have plenty of variety in both default color schemes and layouts, both of which can be customized with our Theme Editor and HTML Builder. The descriptions are only suggestions — an art gallery template or a clothing store theme can easily be adjusted to work for any business in any industry. While all Shift4Shop themes are available for free, many have extra built-in functionality like image-based Mega Menus and other advanced features. All our themes are built to the highest quality standards using our Core Template Engine, and you never have to worry about compatibility or support.
Installing a Shift4Shop theme is also much easier than choosing one for WooCommerce. We've mentioned compatibility — no version-checking needed — but Shift4Shop themes also have no need for obstacles like child themes to give your site a new look. Simply choose from your theme dashboard within the Shift4Shop Online Store Builder, or browse our Theme Store, and you can install your favorite theme with one click. It's that simple.