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by Michael P. Hill January 04, 2017

Sections are the newest feature of the Shopify theme ecosystem. So, what are sections and how can you use them to create an awesome Shopify store?

What are sections?

Sections, in short, are Shopify’s approach to making Shopify themes more modular, with interchangeable modules of content that can be moved around a page, each with its own settings, specific content and position.

Sections have been introduced hand-in-hand with Shopify’s new Theme Editor, an interface tool on the shop admin side of things that allows you to change and preview your theme settings in real time.

Where can sections be used?

For the time being, Shopify theme sections that can be reordered are limited to the home page of your Shopify store, but, it’s still a great and flexible way to keep your homepage fresh and create an engaging store. Other pages can include sections but they are not as flexible as the homepage and there's no way to control the order of sections on these pages.

Shopify theme sections editor

Home page sections are controlled under the Sales Channels > Online Store > Themes > Customize theme area of each theme.

By default, a handful of predefined sections are loaded into homepages, but once you start exploring this section, the power of sections becomes apparent.

How do I add a section?

Add Shopify theme section

By clicking the simple “Add section” option in the left hand panel, you’ll be presented with a variety of section options that can be inserted in the body of your home page.

At launch, many theme developers, including Out of the Sandbox, are offering a basic selection of sections relating to products, collections, text, images, videos, blogs and social media. Depending on the theme, you may also find specific sections for logo lists, galleries, featured promotions, and customer testimonials too, for example.

How are sections different?

The first thing to note is that sections follow a bit of a different naming convention than many themes have used in the past.

For example, what used to be known as “Featured links” in older versions of Out of the Sandbox themes are now called “Images with text” and “banners” are now known as “Image with text overlay.”

Many of these naming conventions are now dictated by Shopify, meaning that you’ll see more consistent naming among all themes on the market.

Why are sections better?

The beauty of each section is that, once it’s created, it can be independently controlled and configured. A homepage can also have, in theory, any number of sections or combinations of sections, including multiple instances of each type of section.

Not only does this give you an incredible amount of control over the order and layout of sections, but you can also use the same type of section for multiple purposes.

For example, the “Images with text” option can be used for featured links, featured promotions or a variety of other types of informational content.

What can I do inside of sections?

Most section types also allow you to add “blocks” inside of each section module. A good example of this is a slider that has multiple slide panels.

In this case, each slide is its own block, but all of them are housed within the parent “Slideshow” section. This means that they are tied together and if the parent section is moved or edited, all of the blocks contained within move along with it.

Again, the ability to use blocks with sections is a great way to repurpose section types for different uses. For example, one slideshow section might serve as a hero element on the homepage, while another one can be used to scroll through customer testimonials or reviews. Yet another might be repurposed as a photo gallery to show off the detail of your products on the homepage.

What is the future of sections?

Sections also offer a slew of exciting possibilities for theme authors to let users add a wide variety of sections that serve more specific uses. For example, a specially formatted section might let you create a gallery of “featured in” or partner logos, while another specialty one lets you create a call to action banner.

Here are some of the many other types of sections that could be included:

  • Comparison charts or pricing tables
  • A slider of featured blog posts
  • Checkerboard or Pinterest style layouts featuring products or blog posts
  • “Featured in” carousels or grid layouts
  • Sections for showing niche social media profile widgets

The possibilities of sections are really endless — and that’s where we’d like to hear from you. What types of sections do you think would be useful to include in future releases of Out of the Sandbox themes? Tweet us or post your ideas in the comments!

What else might the future hold for sections? So far, Shopify has been a bit mum regarding whether or not the sections capability might someday expand to product, collection, blog or other parts of themes.

Much of that functionality is likely to be driven by user feedback and demand, so if you think that type of feature might be useful, we recommend reaching out to Shopify directly to express your interest ( click here to tweet Shopify directly).

What Out of the Sandbox themes support sections?

As of this writing, Responsive and Mobilia support Shopify sections, with the remaining themes being upgraded to add sections support soon. All current license holders will to all themes will be eligible to upgrade to sections support at no charge as updates are released.

The best way to find out when your Shopify theme is ready to support sections is to download and install our Shopify theme updater app.

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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