Shopify Customization Guide: Themes, Custom Development, and Headless Solutions

May 2024
 minute read
woman working on laptop

Creating a unique and effective online store is crucial for standing out in today’s competitive ecommerce landscape. Shopify, a leading ecommerce platform, offers a few customization options to help you tailor your website to your specific business needs. In this blog, we’ll explore the different ways to customize your Shopify website, from using themes and custom development to adopting a headless commerce approach. Whether you’re just starting out or looking to revamp your existing store, these insights will guide you toward ecommerce success.

Solution #1: Use a Shopify Theme

person browsing Shopify homepage


Shopify themes are pre-designed templates that determine the look and feel of your online store. They provide a framework for your website's layout, style, and user interface, making it easier to create a professional and cohesive online presence without coding from scratch.

What to Consider When Choosing a Shopify Theme

Choosing the right Shopify theme is a crucial decision that can significantly impact the success of your online store. A theme that aligns with your brand and products can enhance user experience, increase engagement, and ultimately drive sales. Here are several factors to consider when selecting a Shopify theme:

  • Navigation and user experience - A theme that offers intuitive navigation and a user-friendly layout is essential for keeping potential customers engaged. Look for themes with a clean design, easy-to-use menus, and responsive search functionality. Mobile responsiveness is particularly important, as a significant portion of online shopping is done on mobile devices.
  • Features and customization - Assess the built-in features and customization options of each theme. Some themes come with unique features like product filtering, quick view options, and advanced cart functionality. Ensure the theme can accommodate the features you need or can be easily modified to include them.
  • Speed and performance - Website speed and performance are critical for user experience and SEO. Themes with minimal and optimized code tend to load faster. Test the loading speed of the theme's demo store on both desktop and mobile devices to ensure it meets performance standards.
  • SEO friendliness - Choose a theme that is optimized for search engines. SEO-friendly themes have clean code, support custom metadata, and are designed to be easily indexed by search engines. 
  • Support and updates - Regular updates ensure the theme stays compatible with new Shopify features and security standards. Good customer support can be invaluable if you encounter issues or have questions about customizing the theme.

How to Customize a Shopify Theme

Shopify themes offer a range of customization options through the theme editor. You can adjust colors, fonts, and layout options, and add or remove sections to match your brand’s style. The more advanced your customizations are, though, the more you will need to edit the theme’s code or hire a developer. 

Potential Drawbacks of Using a Shopify Theme

While using a Shopify theme is a convenient and quick way to set up your online store, there are some potential drawbacks that you should be aware of. These limitations can impact your ability to fully realize your vision for your site or could affect long-term scalability and uniqueness. 

Limited Customization Options

Although Shopify themes offer a range of customization options, there are inherent limits to how much you can modify without delving into the code. The visual identity and user experience you can achieve with theme settings and editors might not fully align with your brand's unique needs or vision. For businesses with highly specific design requirements or those aiming to stand out in a crowded market, this limitation can be significant.

Theme Commonality

Many Shopify themes, especially the most popular ones, are used by thousands of stores. This commonality can make it challenging to create a truly unique online presence. If differentiating your brand from competitors is a cornerstone of your business strategy, the ubiquity of certain themes might work against this goal, potentially diluting your brand's impact.

Performance and Speed Concerns

Generally speaking, Shopify themes are not optimized for speed and oftentimes score very low on reputable site performance measuring tools like Google Page Speed Insights. Since site speed is a critical factor in user experience and search engine optimization, a theme that is not optimized for speed can adversely affect your store's performance, customer satisfaction, and rankings in search results.

Who is the Right Fit for Shopify Themes?

Shopify themes are ideal for small businesses looking for a cost-effective, quick, and easy way to launch or update their online store without extensive custom development.

Solution #2: Custom Develop a Shopify Theme

custom code on laptop


While Shopify themes offer a great starting point for many businesses, certain scenarios necessitate going beyond the constraints of pre-designed templates to achieve a truly bespoke ecommerce experience. Considering custom development for your Shopify store is a significant decision that can dramatically influence both the functionality and the aesthetic appeal of your online presence. 

What to Expect When Developing a Custom Shopify Theme

Custom developing a Shopify theme is a comprehensive process that involves multiple stages, from initial planning to final launch, and requires close collaboration between your team and your development resources, whether it's a Shopify agency, a freelancer, or an internal team member. 

Potential Drawbacks of Custom Development

Custom development for a Shopify theme unlocks a realm of possibilities for personalization and functionality, but it also comes with its own set of challenges and potential drawbacks. Understanding these can help you make an informed decision about whether custom development is the right path for your ecommerce business. Here are some of the significant considerations:

High Costs

Custom development typically involves a significant financial investment compared to using a pre-designed Shopify theme. The costs can include hiring experienced designers and developers, paying for additional apps or integrations, and ongoing maintenance and updates. The more extensively your site is custom coded, the harder it is for teams without a developer on staff to manage everything. For small businesses or startups, these expenses can be prohibitive, making custom development less accessible.

Time-Consuming Process

Developing a custom Shopify theme from scratch is a time-intensive process that involves planning, designing, coding, testing, and iterating. From start to finish, this process takes months—if not longer. This lengthy timeline can delay your store's launch or the rollout of critical updates, potentially affecting your business's ability to capitalize on market opportunities or respond to consumer trends quickly.

Requires Technical Expertise

Custom development demands a high level of technical skill in web development languages, Shopify’s Liquid templating language and platform capabilities. Finding and retaining talent with these specialized skills can be challenging, especially in a competitive market. This reliance on technical expertise also means that making minor updates or changes to your site might require developer assistance, adding to your ongoing costs.

Relying on external developers or agencies for your custom theme creates a dependency that can be risky if the relationship ends or if the developer is unable to continue supporting the project. 

Who Is the Right Fit for Custom Development?

Custom development is a good option for businesses looking for a little more than what a standard, run-of-the-mill Shopify theme can do. Consider custom development if your business has unique branding requirements, needs custom functionalities, or you want to ensure your store stands out—and you have the staff and resources available to maintain your website after you’ve launched. Custom development offers a newfound level of control over the design and functionality of your Shopify store. But beware as the more you develop your theme, the more reliant you’ll become on your development partner and the less you’ll likely be able to do on your own in terms of day to day updates of your site.

Solution #3: Take Your Shopify Site Headless

woman working on laptop


The ecommerce landscape is constantly evolving, driven by changes in consumer behavior, technology advancements, and business needs. One of the most significant trends gaining traction among ecommerce platforms is headless commerce, especially for Shopify users looking to push the boundaries of customization and functionality.

Headless commerce is an ecommerce solution that separates the frontend design of a website from the backend infrastructure and management. This separation allows businesses to enhance and customize their online stores beyond the predefined templates and designs that traditional eCommerce platforms typically offer.

How Headless Commerce Works

Shopify, primarily known for its comprehensive, all-in-one ecommerce solutions, also supports a headless approach, allowing businesses to use Shopify as the backend system while opting for different technologies to manage the frontend.

In a headless setup, Shopify manages all the commerce functionalities—inventory, payments, shipping, etc.—while the frontend, where customers interact, can be built on any framework or technology that best suits the business's needs. This separation enhances flexibility and allows for more control over the customer experience.

What to Look for When Choosing a Headless Platform

Choosing the right headless commerce platform is a critical decision that can significantly impact the flexibility, scalability, and ultimately the success of your online store. A headless platform serves as the backbone for your ecommerce operations, enabling you to deliver content and products to your customers through a variety of frontend solutions, such as websites, mobile apps, and social media channels. Here are key factors to consider when selecting a headless commerce platform to ensure it meets your business needs:

  • Easy integration with Shopify - Choose a headless platform that integrates smoothly with Shopify’s Storefront API. This allows Shopify’s backend to hydrate the core commerce pieces of your new custom frontend, like product and collection data.
  • Customization capabilities - Ensure the platform offers extensive customization options that allow you to tailor the look and feel of your site to match your brand identity without compromising on design quality or performance.
  • Performance optimization - The platform should produce clean, efficient code that improves your site's loading speed. Look for features like automatic image optimization, lazy loading, and CDN support to ensure high performance.
  • SEO features - Good SEO capabilities are crucial for any online business. The platform should support SEO best practices, including customizable meta tags, SEO-friendly URLs, structured data, and mobile responsiveness.
  • Ease of use - The platform should have an intuitive user interface that makes it easy for non-technical users to create, edit, and manage content. Look for drag-and-drop functionality, pre-built templates, and a straightforward editing process that doesn't require a steep learning curve.

Potential Drawbacks of Going Headless

Headless commerce can offer significant advantages in terms of flexibility, scalability, and the ability to create unique, tailored customer experiences—if and only if it’s approached with the right strategy and execution. But not all headless commerce solutions are created equally. Depending on the platform you choose, going headless comes with its own set of challenges. 

Increased Complexity

Headless commerce decouples the frontend presentation layer from the backend ecommerce functionality, which inherently adds complexity to the development and management of your online store. This separation requires a coordinated effort between different teams or individuals specializing in frontend and backend development, which can complicate project management and communication. Make sure the headless solution you opt for aligns with your team’s skills and needs.

High Costs

Due to the custom nature of the frontend development in a headless commerce setup, the initial costs can be significantly higher than using a traditional ecommerce platform with a coupled frontend. Designing, developing, and testing a custom frontend from scratch requires more time and resources, increasing the initial investment required to launch or update an online store. 

Ongoing Maintenance and Updates

With a custom frontend, your business takes on the responsibility for maintaining and updating this layer of your ecommerce platform. Unlike traditional ecommerce setups where the platform provider issues updates and security patches, a headless approach requires your team to actively monitor and implement these changes, which can increase the workload for your team.

Who Is The Right Fit for Headless Commerce?

If your business has specific requirements that go beyond the capabilities of standard eCommerce platforms, headless commerce offers the flexibility to build unique customer experiences and interfaces tailored to your needs. With the barriers of cost and complexity, headless commerce may not be right for every business. However, as headless commerce becomes more accessible, its use cases are expanding further.

The advent of no-code headless platforms with visual page builders, like bl!nk, is democratizing access to sophisticated ecommerce capabilities, enabling a wide range of businesses to craft unique, engaging online experiences. All of the aforementioned drawbacks of a headless experience become a worry of the past when using a solution like bl!ink.

bl!nk, a no-code headless Shopify platform, is built to help teams with limited technical knowledge build a fully customized and and incredibly performant headless frontend. It takes all the frustrations that come with going headless and Whether you’re a small shop looking to stand out, a marketing-driven brand seeking agility, or a growing business facing the complexities of scaling and going global, no-code headless commerce offers a flexible, user-friendly pathway to achieving your online retail ambitions.

Customizing your Shopify website is a strategic step towards creating a unique online presence that captivates and converts your target audience. Whether you opt for a Shopify theme, custom development, or a headless commerce approach, the key is to align your choice with your business goals, technical capabilities, and budget. By carefully planning your customization strategy, you can create an ecommerce website that not only stands out but also supports your business’s growth and success in the digital marketplace.


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