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by Michael P. Hill October 18, 2016

Using a pre-designed premium Shopify theme is a great way to get your online store and up running fast and affordably.

But since there are likely many other shops using the same theme as you, how can you make your store look unique and stand out from the crowd?

It’s surprisingly easy to do (and without customizing code), especially when your theme comes packed with easy-to-change settings.

Think of the theme as a framework

The foundation of making your theme look as unique as possible is to think of your theme as the framework for the look and feel of your site.

Aspects such as the structure and layout are typically harder to change, but, to use a construction analogy, that’s just the framing of the house.

The house’s colors, materials and personal touches are what make a house a home — and that’s exactly the same way to think about your Shopify theme.

Keep in mind though, that, just like a house, making cosmetic changes — such as adding an accent wall or hanging new artwork — are easy to do, while remodeling the structure with a new layout can be costly and harder to accomplish.

Because of this, when you’re comparing Shopify themes, you’ll want to keep an eye out for the theme’s specific layout and functionality:

  • Pay attention to the size of images and how columns are used. These are typically some of the hardest elements to change in Shopify themes, so you’ll want to make sure your theme has the right foundation for your store.
  • If your store requires special functionality such as notification forms (links), newsletter popups (link), quick shop windows or a variety of homepage options, look for a theme that already supports these. Even if the color scheme or overall look shown in the demo doesn’t match your taste or style, it’s often much easier to customize that than to add more advanced functionality.
  • Well designed premium Shopify themes will use solid best practices in laying out pages and the position and styling of elements such as “add to cart” buttons. In most cases, you should avoid making drastic changes to this type of element and instead focus on other ways to make your theme unique.

Use color and typography settings

Most premium Shopify themes include a myriad of typography and color settings that let you select from plenty of options without touching a line of code.

Instead of using the same fonts and color scheme as the theme or its presents come with, experiment with adjusting these settings.

You might be surprised how much just a few clicks to coloring and fonts can make.

Don’t be afraid to experiment with color or font settings that might be a little outside your comfort zone.

If your theme is unpublished, then you can adjust the settings as much as you want without anyone seeing them — and sometimes one of the best ways to come up with an eye-catching and unique design is to experiment with a variety of configurations. It’s not uncommon to serendipitously stumble upon a great font or color scheme almost by accident.

You may also find that you generate several configurations of fonts and colors that you like. Of course, you’ll ultimately need to pick one for when you go live with the theme, but keep in mind that with the Internet nothing is permanent.

One good trick is to take screen captures of the settings you like (along with the preview of the site) so you can remember other looks you found that you liked. Or, just keep electronic or even handwritten notes of some of the color codes and font combinations you found appealing.

Having alternate ideas may come in handy if you find that your current settings aren’t resonating well with shoppers.

It’s also an easy way to get a fresh look sometime in the future without the expense of changing themes completely. Remember that your online shop is a living entity that should stay fresh, so don’t be afraid to tweak things like colors and fonts from time to time, and review your overall look and feel at least twice a year.

Let imagery do its job

It’s also sometimes surprising how much using your own imagery can change the look and feel of a Shopify theme.

Often your own imagery will have inherent dominant colors that help give your site a unique mood and feel — and it’s important to keep an eye out for this and let it drive your other design decisions, including color schemes and typography.

Experiment with layout settings

Many Shopify themes also include advanced homepage options (links) or settings that let you, for example, determine what side of the page an element appears on.

Before going live with a theme, spend some time experimenting with rearranging the elements and toggling on and off settings, rather than just sticking with the defaults.

Just like with experimenting with color and fonts, you may stumble upon a great look that makes your store stand out and better showcase your particular set of products !

Expand your product pages

Although moving away from tried and true product page layouts that encourage users to add items to carts typically isn’t a wise move, you can use some simple HTML to add more detail and eye-catching layouts to your product pages.

For example, your theme may allow you to “split” your product description into two parts — the first one that’s at the top of the page and a second more unique look below.

Combined with creating columns, this area is a great place to explain your product in more detail to engage shoppers and answer questions.

This space is also great for including more photos, testimonials, detailed specs and more in-depth feature comparisons. Not only will this help give your product pages a more unique look, but it’s also a great way to boost conversions and improve your SEO.

You can also get creative with the layouts of basic content pages (such as your “About Us” page) by using columns to combine text and images in a more interesting arrangement, or using built-in templates and styles such as a gallery page or blockquote formatting for text.

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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