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by Michael P. Hill June 15, 2016

Designing and setting up a new Shopify theme is exciting — and fun — but it’s also easy to get carried away with over-customizing your store — right down to the color of every button, border and bullet point.

Besides adding additional challenges, over-customizing the colors in your Shopify theme can be time-consuming and complex to do right.

So how do you know what color settings are worth your while? In the second installment of this multi-part series, we’ll explore the dangers of going too color crazy and other places it actually pays to be picky about colors.

Don’t worry about what color everything is

It’s easy to get hung up on customizing the color of each and every element of your Shopify theme.

However, this can also be a slippery path — before you know it, changing a color in one place means three other color settings need to be changed — and not all may be accessible via your theme control panel.

Plus, from an aesthetic standpoint, changing one color often triggers a slew of other changes as you see how the colors interact with each other.

There’s a danger you’ll end up with an overzealous and inconsistent color scheme in your shop that adds visual clutter, instead of pulling the shop together with a consistent look and feel (which is what a well-chosen, limited color palette should be doing for you).

Do pick a color scheme and stick to it

Instead of nitpicking every color setting and customizing your CSS, spend some time considering what your color scheme will be.

A good rule of thumb is to pick a few accent colors (we have some suggestions here) that match your existing business identity or logo, if applicable.

If you don’t have a set logo or color scheme, look for inspiration in your products. If you sell leather goods, natural colors like rich browns, tans and oranges might be a good place to start, while a site selling swim gear could look to the ocean’s blues and greens for inspiration.

You’ll also want to consider your target buyer and what colors might resonate better with them. For example, brighter, bolder colors often appeal more to millennials, while a more sophisticated audience will gravitate toward a more subdued, elegant color scheme.

Finally, be sure to consider how all of your colors look when used together. Colors should be distinct enough so that, when used in close proximity to each other in your Shopify theme, it doesn’t look like you accidentally picked the wrong color.

Try not to have too many colors that are similar but not quite the same; it can end up looking inconsistent rather than intentional. There are also many free online tools to help you decide on a palette and find colors that play nice together:

We also have a roundup of seven of our favorite color palettes for Shopify stores.

Do give color a purpose

After settling on a color scheme for your Shopify theme, consider reserving one of the colors for all of your “calls to action.”

Often you’ll want this to be a bright color that stands out from your background color, photography, text and other colored elements so that it’s easy to find.

The primary purpose of this color will be your “add to cart,” “check out” and “continue” buttons — which are all vital to optimizing your conversion rate and making sales.

Not only will having a bright, distinct color help make it easy for shoppers to locate the button they are most likely searching for, but it’s also a subtle way to associate a single color with “next steps” in the minds of your shoppers.

When setting up these buttons, be mindful of the color the text in the button is as well. In general, whites or dark grays work best — and you’ll want to make sure there’s adequate contract between the button color and the text.

For example, lighter colored buttons should use darker text and vice-versa with dark shaded buttons.

It’s also a good idea to avoid combinations such as blue and red, red and black and green and red since these pairs of colors tend to be too close to each other in contrast and can appear to “vibrate” on screen, making your site difficult (and distracting) to use.

Do worry about the colors and variants of your products

Color usage on your site goes beyond just what color the web page elements are — it also extends to the products themselves as well as any imagery you’re using in your shop.

Be sure you’re staying up to date on the latest color trends and offering your products in those options. This extends beyond colors, too, to encompass design as a whole. If possible, work with your vendors to make sure your products are available in a variety of configurations that appeal to a wide range of shoppers. If you make your own products, experiment with new colors, materials and designs.

And when you choose or shoot your own photos to showcase your products and/or convey a sense of your brand, keep your color palettes in mind there as well and let them be inspired by the products themselves (e.g. selling bright, funky sneakers? Shoot them on the slides and swings at a colorful kids’ playground; selling sleek, wearable tech? Keep the background color tones muted and in cool (blue-based) hues to convey more of a slick, modern vibe, etc.).

An investment in your product offerings and product and lifestyle photography is much more likely to have long term rewards than over-customizing your shop’s theme colors.

Michael P. Hill
Michael P. Hill

Michael P. Hill is a Shopify, Shopify theme, content marketing, digital marketing and product management expert based in Chicago. Follow him on Twitter at @michaelphill or connect on LinkedIn.

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