Shopify Theme Vs Custom Build: How Should You Build Your Website?

Shopify Theme Vs Custom Build: How Should You Build Your Website?


It’s estimated that there are somewhere between 12-24 million eCommerce sites live at this very moment.

With so many sites to compete with, you’re probably wondering, “How do I build a website that stands out?”.

When it comes down to it, there are two ways you can build a website that is sure to impress. Using a pre-built theme, or starting from scratch with a custom build. So how do you decide which option is best for you?

Join us as we tackle the Shopify theme vs custom build debate to unlock the best commerce website setup for your budding business’s unique needs.

What Is a Shopify Theme?

First things first, let’s get familiar with what a Shopify theme is and why you might choose one.

When you first launch your new business, you’ll be the lead for everything and anything that needs to happen. Unfortunately, this means you’ll be the boss of elements you’re not exactly familiar with. One of those elements is web design.

This is why Shopify themes were born. Essentially, each theme offers you a pre-built template to pop your own details into and continue on. These themes are generally pretty easy to use and can take the guesswork out of building your website. Of course, they do come with a healthy list of pros and cons you’ll want to consider before you dive in.

Pros of a Template

Templates are perhaps the most popular way to launch a new Spotify website, and for good reason!

Here are a few of the distinct benefits of using a theme or template for creating a website.


If your budget is a bit tight, templates can be a great way to get a professional-looking design without the price tag.

When you sign up for your Shopify account, you’ll have the option to choose from a number of great free templates to get you started. You’ll also have the option to upgrade or purchase one of the premium themes for added options and design perks.

Even if you do decide to invest in a premium theme, this option is much more affordable than hiring a developer or taking courses to master the art of web design on your own.

No Code

That leads us to the next undeniable benefit of templates. No complicated code!

Unless you’ve got a background in web design and development, we’re willing to bet you don’t have a lot of experience with writing code. In fact, just looking at the complicated mess of letters and numbers is enough to overwhelm nearly any new business owner.

Because a theme has all of the elements you need pre-planned and placed, you’ll never have to figure out what code to use to get things just the way you like them.

If CSS is a foreign concept to you, this may be reason enough to ditch custom website building in favor of this simple alternative.

Mobile-Friendly From the Start

It’s no secret that the world has gone mobile. In fact, experts are predicting that about 72% of people will only access the internet via their mobile devices by 2025.

This means it’s more important than ever to prioritize mobile-friendly design and mobile-first indexing for your SEO approach.

Perhaps one of the best parts of templates is that they already come optimized for mobile devices. While you may want to make a few tweaks here and there to carry your branding through from desktop to mobile, it’s much easier to tackle when you’ve got a baseline to work from.

Express to Launch

Finally, if you’re in a rush to get your website live, templates can seriously cut down on your time to launch.

Without all the time spent on coding and designing, you’ll be able to launch your site in record time to start pulling in sales and building your online empire!

Cons of a Template

Like any business decision, choosing a template comes with a few distinct cons as well. While these may or may not impact your business, there are a few ways that templates and pre-made designs can hold you back when looking to grow your business.

Loss of Brand Equity and Uniqueness

Your website will be your consumer’s very first impression of you. Needless to say, you’ll need to seriously impress your leads if you’re hoping to make any kind of impact online.

The problem with using a template is that the lack of uniqueness can take away from your brand equity, causing your audience to have a lower perception of your value. At the end of the day, this could see your customers turning to sites they feel are more professional and reputable.

If you’re after a professional and unique experience, you may want to consider opting for a custom website instead.

Styling Issues with Integrated Apps

Not all eCommerce platforms will have everything you need to succeed built into the system. Fortunately, you can use plug-ins to integrate 3rd party applications to get the most out of your site without compromising on important things such as security.  

While you can use plug-ins and integrated apps no matter which builder you choose to use, you may experience some styling problems when adding them to existing themes.

This is because the code is optimized to use ‘as is’ and can be easily thrown off by new options. What once was a beautifully designed page may now need some help to come together the way you like it.

Slower Loading Times

Each theme is different, but one thing they have in common is a number of complex feature sets. While these are what make your site look polished and complete, they may be a serious trade off when it comes to SEO.

Beyond the value Google places on a fast-loading site, your laggy site may be the cause of lost sales.

You see, consumers have gotten so used to instant gratification that they are utterly unwilling to wait longer than about 3 seconds for your site to load. This may not be an issue when you first get started, but decreased speed could very well be the reason your customers abort ship and abandon their carts.

Custom Website Design

If using a template doesn’t sound like the right choice for your commerce website setup, your other option is to build a custom website from scratch.

This option offers a lot more freedom in your design and can make it much easier to get a truly unique and branded look. What’s more, is that a custom build plays a substantial role in increasing your perceived value for customers.

This can result in leads choosing you over your competition or even raising the amount that they are willing to spend on your products. This is because they believe you are a reliable and trustworthy source rather than a cost-cutting brand selling products out of the basement.

In short, the additional funds you spend on a custom design can come back to you 10 fold in ROI.

You’ll also have the option to utilize plug-ins that can simplify certain processes for your site. Click and drag design elements can reduce the amount of complicated code you have to navigate and security features like Spotrisk can ensure you aren’t missing any must-haves for protecting your site and your customers.

Of course, designing a website from scratch can be tricky if you don’t know what works and doesn’t work online. Your best option when building a website from square one is to acquire the help of designers and developers. This will ensure you aren’t sacrificing any of those elements that could determine your success.

Shopify Theme vs Custom Build

At the end of the day, whether you decide to go with a template or invest in creating a website from scratch will come down to your unique needs as a business owner. While one eCommerce site could see amazing success with its free template, another may need a little extra help to make their site stand out and start making an income.

Whichever side you take in the Shopify theme vs custom build debate, you’ll always have the opportunity to upgrade or change your mind down the road so don’t be afraid to jump in with both feet!

Still unsure where to start? Check out our guide on choosing the best eCommerce platform to help you narrow down your options and get started off on the right foot!

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