Building a website is kind of funny because unlike building a house or other structure, you have to decide on the interior design before you can lay the groundwork. And to do this, you have to think about what your customers need. Sure, you know what products or services you’ll feature and how to describe them to customers. The theme you choose for your store creates the environment around it. Think of it as a layout to the site. So think about, and look for a theme that presents information to your customers in the manner you believe works best for them.
Look At Themes That Work With Your eCommerce Software
Even if you’ve decided to commission a customized website design, it pays to educate yourself about what to expect by looking at the themes associated with your eCommerce software. If you use WooCommerce, you’ll find thousands of themes to examine, many of them free. All themes are customizable.
ThemeForest is a good place to start browsing WooCommerce themes. TemplateMonster also hosts a nice library and has even categorized themes to match products and services. WooCommerce also recommends themes and has indexed them to industries as well; look for the ThemeStore tab on the homepage. Explore its Storefront theme and extensions that customize it further to get an idea of just how customizable WooCommerce is.
Choosing a Pre-Designed Theme: Basic Site Designs
Most eCommerce stores choose pre-designed themes for affordability and are pleasantly surprised to learn how easy they are to customize as well.
As you browse theme libraries, you’ll notice two basic designs:
- A “featured” style that uses the entire page to highlight a single product or service
- A “box” style that includes additional content underneath the featured product or service or in sidebars
The “featured” theme style works well for eCommerce sites that want to emphasize a particular product or service. Features can be easily changed out while leaving the rest of the site functioning the same as always. It’s an excellent choice for sites that sell trendy, highly anticipated products.
The boxed style also features a particular service or product, but since it shares the page real estate with other content the feature doesn’t dominate the page as much. This works well for eCommerce stores that need to present more written information and offer different kinds of products and services.
The Liquid Web site follows the box style because it provides several services that complement one another. While managed dedicated hosting is the core service, Liquid Web offers a lot of hosting options and complementary services it displays to site visitors. The nature of these services also requires more explanatory content that’s provided with written content and links to interior pages with more content, including video.
Features Every eCommerce Theme Should Offer
It goes without saying that some themes offer more features than others. Starting out, though, there are two certain features the theme you select should offer:
- Customer/Technical Support. Even if you have good technical skills, you may find you’ll need some support using certain theme functions or to fix a bug. Look at the theme’s own website and check out their support forums to get an idea of how responsive the owners are.
- Regular Updates. Developers have their hands’ full keeping ahead of new software updates, not to mention security threats. So choose a theme that shows it’s been updated within the last six months. Anything that hasn’t updated within the past year may be buggy by now, and it’s best to avoid.
Noticed these have nothing to do with the theme’s appearance, which is what you’re basing your selection upon, right? Use these two items to narrow down your list. Once you have a few themes that pass these tests, you now want to look for the theme’s responsiveness, ability to work with different browsers, and other design and technical features.
Responsive Themes Work With Mobile and Other Devices
You’ll probably find that a lot of your customers will visit your site via a mobile device, often a smartphone and sometimes a tablet. Mobile eCommerce has been growing steadily for years and you can be sure this trend will continue. So it’s essential that your theme displays well and is as easy to navigate on the small screen as it is on a large desktop monitor.
According to Statista, 82% of online consumers bought something through their smartphones in 2017 and 35% only shopped this way! Ensuring your theme is mobile-friendly and responsive should be at the top of your list. A responsive theme is also important when it comes to search engine optimization, as Google’s new search algorithm favors responsive website.
Use a Theme That Resonates With Your Customers
This covers a lot of ground. You want a theme that’s easy on the eyes (particularly those that are looking at a smartphone), is easy to navigate and is visually appealing.
That last one really depends on how well you read your customers. Look at your competitors’ websites and see what colors they use. You may discover that certain colors dominate your industry; for example, blue conveys safety and is popular on sites that sell healthcare products. It’s also in logos for services like banks, insurance, and even social media: Neil Patel points out that different shades of blue appear in logos for Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter, industries that certainly have had their ups and downs.
Green is associated with growth, healthy lifestyles, and freshness. You’ll see splashes of green on Liquid Web’s otherwise blue-dominated website; liquid, after all, is part of the name!
Red and orange are associated with an action. Both are good as accent colors, although there are sites with soft orange backgrounds. Red is more often seen on food sites, as it is known to be an appetite-stimulating color.
Black is associated with elegance as well as edginess.
eCommerce websites have to be careful with colors. Their colors should probably be somewhat softened given that their products can’t be physically handled until delivered. Those that deliver services also need to convey safety and reliability, something can be particularly challenging without face-to-face contact.
Look for Themes That Support SEO
Search engine optimization is largely a function of great content, but that content has to be picked up by web-crawling bots looking for information to answer search queries.
Good writers understand the importance of using HTML links to other pages within and outside the website. In an eCommerce website, this means linking similar products to one another, hyperlinking images to content, creating metadata for each image, and meta description for each page.
If you use WooCommerce, the Yoast plugin is an extremely helpful tool and checklist.
Finally, we mentioned earlier the importance to Google for having a responsive website theme.
Themes Should Be Open to Customization
Take advantage of the theme’s current customization tools, which usually include a site identity tool that allows you to upload a thumbnail size version of your logo or other icon and tagline. Most themes also allow you to customize header and background images and footer content.
Think about special features you’d like to include on your website. Banners, slides, and other clickable media are standard tools to announce sales or new products. They should be easy to incorporate with a theme. Some themes even provide them as add-ons and yes, they should be responsive to mobile viewers
Just be sure you don’t overload your theme with lots of bells and whistles. Too much of a good thing can slow down a website, and speed is very important for user experience (UX).
First impressions still count, so be sure to choose a theme that’s visually appealing to your audience and delivers a functional and secure tool to showcase your business.
For many businesses, your website is your only storefront. And, for brick and mortar businesses, your customers will often find you first online, so make that first impression count!