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by Michael P. Hill September 30, 2015

Clutter. It’s one of those things that can easily sneak up on us.

But while a cluttered countertop or messy junk drawer in the kitchen is pretty harmless, a clutter problem on your Shopify theme can be a much bigger deal that could negatively impact your business. Clutter makes it harder for users to shop and to understand your brand — and easier for them to decide to look elsewhere! — so it’s good to tackle it head-on when it creeps into your storefront.

Less is more

One of the most common mistakes that leads to visual clutter on a website is trying to cram too much content into a single page. Each page should have a clearly defined purpose and topic and sections can be used to further divide the topic into more refined subcategories.

The one common exception to this rule, however, is the homepage. While this page  does have a unified purpose — introducing visitors to your company and getting them pointed in the right direction — it’s not necessary to cover every single aspect of your site here. In fact, it’s often better to get people to engage with your site by exploring your navigation and visiting other pages.

Another common miscalculation is featuring too many products on the homepage. Although it’s tempting to try to ensure there’s “something for everyone” there, too many products can be overwhelming and make it difficult for shoppers to skim them quickly.

A better approach n is to select one product for each distinct line or category you offer — with a special emphasis on those that suggest to shoppers that you likely carry related items. Another option is to showcase the most unique or compelling items you offer. Finally, another idea is to focus on the newest additions to your product lineup, which is a great way to keep your homepage fresh.


Too much text is one of the most common causes of clutter on websites, including Shopify themes. The tricky thing with text is that it’s good for so many things — such as SEO strategies, telling your brand’s story and describing products — but it’s still important to find a happy medium when it comes to the amount of text used on any single page.

A good rule to keep in mind is quality over quantity — consider the value each sentence brings to your site. That value can be tangible, such as helping SEO or making sure customers know about your products’ unique features; it can also offer an intangible value, such as stirring emotions or giving a voice to your brand that help shoppers connect with your store and products. Careful editing to avoid cliches and repetition is a great way to cut down on word counts and reduce page clutter.

The formatting of the text can also affect how appealing it is to read.. Using short paragraphs and sentences make content easier to digest, by adding a bit of subtle white space. Bolding important information and adding descriptive subheadings to text sections can also help readers scan the text more quickly; the latter can even help with SEO at the same time!


While the isolated product shot is the epitome of ‘clean’, don’t feel like it’s essential for  keeping your site uncluttered.

Subtle patterns and backgrounds or even lifestyle and action shots can still work well for product photography, but, as with words, go for quality over quantity and consider what each element of the image adds to your site. It might be that a reclaimed wood background is a nod to your “all-natural” philosophy, while the darker shade of that backdrop helps make your craft paper packaging pop. As long as your images help represent your brand in some way, they’re worth including, as long as you don’t overdo it.

This will ensure a visually rich but clean- looking page that isn’t cluttered (bonus: you’ll also cut down on load times, which mobile users will appreciate!).

Finally, when selecting photographs or images intended for backgrounds, consider how they interact with any text placed on top of it (link). Combining a visually busy image with text can often make the text illegible and be an eyesore for site visitors.

Popups and promo banners

One of the biggest debates in the Shopify theme design community relates to popup windows and promotional banners. These  are often used to catch a visitor’s attention and let them know about a special offer or encourage them to sign up for an email mailing list.

This post won’t debate the merits of using these features — because the bottom line is that they can be very effective in building a customer base. But, like any tool, they have to be used correctly.

Most often the biggest shortcoming of both popups and promo banners is that they try to say too much and easily become cluttered. A popup window for an email address should have short and simple text and imagery, while also making it worth the visitor’s time to fill out the form.

Most people know that when they sign up for a mailing list, they’ll get news and updates from you — so rather than use up valuable space explaining that, tell them instead how they’ll benefit from this regular communication from you.

With promotional banners, it’s generally better to be short and to the point. Your main goal here is to grab people’s attention and encourage them to act on whatever you’re offering. Don’t worry about filling users in on all the details of the offer — in fact, a little bit of intrigue might make the promo banner all that more effective.

Theme quality

Using a premium Shopify theme that’s created by an experienced designer is also key. While there are certainly free and low cost themes available, in most cases, the lower the price, the less attention to detail in terms of both design and functionality

Shopify themes that are flexible enough to handle a large amount of content while still retaining a clean, uncluttered look aren’t inexpensive to produce. They often take months of careful planning, testing and coding as well as final, hand-crafted, pixel-by-pixel adjustments.

It’s amazing how much attention to detail can make or break a theme. Careful use of whitespace, text formatting and other advanced design techniques are often missing from lower priced themes — and it’s easy to overlook these things until it’s too late.

Starting with a solid, clean, professional theme will get you off on the right foot, and the tips above will help you maintain that clutter-free storefront; and this will ultimately make shopping on your site an enjoyable and positive experience for your customers!

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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