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What to look for when trying out Shopify theme demos

by Michael P. Hill

What to look for when trying out Shopify theme demos

Most Shopify theme developers offer multiple demo stores that show their themes in action — and using these can be a crucial part of deciding which Shopify theme to buy.

Two types of demos

In the world of Shopify there are two types of demos — standalone demo stores and the ability to preview the theme in use on your own shop.

Most Shopify theme developers, whether they are listed in the Shopify theme store or not, offer standalone demos of themes. These are typically set up as faux stores under the “myshopify.com” domain and contain sample products and content to help you get a feel of how the theme looks and works.

Shopify themes that are available in the official theme store, meanwhile, also have the ability to be seamlessly previewed in your store.

This means you’ll see the theme applied to your products and other content — but it’s not live and visible to your customers until you make the purchase and publish your newly purchased theme.

How to find Shopify theme demos

If the Shopify theme you’re considering is listed in the Shopify theme store, trying out either type of demo is very easy.

View demo Shopify theme

Simply locate the theme you’re interested in trying out and either click the “View Demo” button or the “Preview in your store” button.

Clicking the latter button adds the theme in demo-only mode on your store and lets you integrate your content and products with the theme.

This is an ideal way to visualize exactly how the theme will look in your store with your actual offerings and is typically the most comprehensive way to preview a Shopify theme.

If you’re just browsing or don’t have any products or content in your own shop yet, you can instead click the “View demo” link below the “Preview” button or by hovering over the device images to see the standalone demo site the theme designer has created.

View demo of Shopify theme

For themes not available in the theme store, such as Turbo, typically the only option is to use standalone demos, which will usually be indicated by a preview button.

Note that most Shopify themes have at least two styles (formerly known as “presets”). You can select the various presets using the colored dot icons above the buttons and then click the preview or view demo links to see that particular style.

Shopify theme styles demos

When purchasing a theme, you generally get access to all styles indicated.

Previewing each theme style is a good way to not only see the different looks each theme comes with but also variations in settings and options that the theme might include:

  • Text alignment
  • Logo positioning
  • Header bar and navigation menu layout
  • Animation styles
  • Parallax scrolling effects
  • Color options
  • Typography settings
  • Pagination options
  • Sections available for the homepage

It’s important to note that some features and elements may not be available in all themes — so if a particular option is vital for your store, and you haven’t seen it appear in any of the demo shops for that theme, you should double check with the theme designer.

However if you see that element (for example homepage contact form) in only one of the theme’s styles, not to worry; it is still available within the theme itself, it simply wasn’t enabled in the other demo shops or styles.

Theme preview limitations

When previewing a theme on your store, there are a few limitations to be aware of:

Because Shopify only allows one set of products, collection, pages and blogs to be live on any one store at a time, you will need to preview the theme using whatever data is live on your site.

In some cases, if you’re using advanced layouts, custom styles or column-based layouts on your current theme, they will not be applied to the preview mode. This is because the theme you’re testing may not support these features or may use slightly different coding techniques.

While in preview mode, you will not be able to access the HTML, CSS, Liquid or JavaScript code for your theme files. This ability is unlocked once a valid license is purchased.

Things to look for

When reviewing demo stores there are a variety of things to consider. Here’s a quick checklist of things to be on the lookout for:

  • Carefully review the overall structure and layout of the theme. Changing these elements of the design are typically the most difficult to do, so you should look for a theme that has the basic structure and layout you’d like already.
  • Be sure to preview the theme on a large computer screen, tablet and mobile device. An easy way to mimic other devices without having to dig out your phone is to simply make your browser window narrower or wider to simulate various device screen sizes. For more advanced themes a refresh may be required after adjusting the window.
  • Pay close attention to elements such as navigation, logo placement and other key elements of the site design. Again, these options are typically more difficult to customize.
  • Compare and contrast the various styles to see how much flexibility might be included. While, in general, most of the options you see can be applied to any style, it’s always a good idea to check with the theme designer to be sure.
  • Verify that any added functionality such as related products, currency convertors, tabs, advanced filtering, back in stock notification forms and recently viewed products are included. Not all themes include all of these features, so be sure to check the feature list or check with the developer to be sure. Also, some features included in themes may not have all of the features that an app would add.

Shopify theme documentation

  • If applicable, search the theme developer’s help center for documentation on how to set up and use certain features. This is a great way to not only verify if a theme includes a particular feature but check the intricacies of how it works and any limitations it has. Most theme developers link to their help center and documents under the “Documentation” link on the theme store page.
  • Check how any advanced page layouts are created and if they will require you to use HTML or not. While the Shopify sections feature has added more robust layouts to homepages and select other pages, limitations do exist in how they can be used on other pages. Feel free to reach out to the theme designer if there’s a particular layout in one of the demo shops that you want to reproduce, but can’t figure out how.

Shopify theme developer

  • If available, check the theme developer’s standalone site for more detailed information and feature lists. The Shopify theme store only allows for limited feature lists and theme descriptions, so most theme developers list features separately. A link to the theme designer’s website is typically available by clicking the developer’s name on the theme page.
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. While comments and feedback are always appreciated, Michael regrets that, due to the volume of inquires received, personal responses are not possible. For specific assistance or support with Out of the Sandbox themes, visit the help center.