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Shopify free vs paid themes

Shopify free vs paid themes

Whether you are just setting up your Shopify store or want to upgrade it, choosing between a free or paid Shopify theme can be difficult. Especially if you’re just starting out and working with a tight budget. 

Every Shopify user’s needs will be different. Do you need a paid theme for your store, or will a free one do the job? What will a paid theme offer your business that a free one won’t be able to?  

With our Shopify free vs paid themes guide, we hope to highlight some of the distinctions between free and paid themes and guide you to the option that will work best for your Shopify store.

Shopify free versus paid themes (Compared)

Below, you’ll find a quick overview of some of the key differences between free and paid Shopify themes.

Paid ThemesFree Themes

Page Load Speed


Different from theme to theme.

Different from theme to theme.

Responsiveness


Fully responsive themes for a smooth mobile experience.

Fully responsive themes for a smooth mobile experience.

User Interface


Paid themes have a lot of customization options and can be confusing for beginners.

Simple layout that is beginner-friendly due to limited customization options.

Features


Multiple features. Can fine-tune everything exactly as you would want it.

Limited/basic features.

Design


Can be customized to look however you want.

Usually limited to only a few design options.

Price


Can be expensive but is worth it for the features.

Free with limited features.

Performance

Performance will always be a top concern when choosing free or paid themes. The best Shopify themes need to be optimized to increase page load time, be mobile-friendly, and be able to handle your inventory. Most Shopify themes, free or paid, have been optimized to check all the above boxes. 

And while free themes are optimized and fast because they have comparatively little to load, paid themes have been optimized to handle a bigger load with similar load times. Both Shopify free and paid themes have good performance and should be judged on a theme-to-theme basis.

shopify themes free vs paid

Mobile experience

Since 2020, mobile internet traffic has consistently risen with every quarter and it won’t be slowing down any time soon. Search engines, like Google, prioritize mobile-friendly sites and the same is true for your store. Mobile-friendly Shopify themes are a must to ensure responsiveness and improve user experience.

Shopify knows this and supports mobile-friendly themes. Most new Shopify themes are built with page load time, user interface, and mobile usability in mind.

Features

The features that you get with your theme determine how much of your user experience you have control over. 

While both Theme types are customizable, free themes will fall into general categories with features that are to some degree unchangeable, like a fixed store layout or an unchangeable banner color palette. You can customize your free theme with apps, but this will ultimately slow down your page load time and could lead to abandoned carts and missed sales.   

With premium Shopify themes, you can shop for industry-specific advanced features like animations, flash sales, recommended products, or promo pop-ups. The features you choose all depend on what your unique needs as a Shopify store are. Paid themes are developed to handle all these built-in features without needing other apps and won’t hinder your store’s performance.

are paid shopify themes worth it

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Design

Your brand is important. It gives you the chance to showcase what you have to offer and allows you to distinguish yourself from everybody else. It’s what makes people recognize your product and what sets it apart from other products. 

Themes are a great way to establish a look for your brand. You get to customize your store to your preference and create a look that immediately brings your brand to people’s minds. 

The basic layout of most themes is customizable. Little things like colors and pictures can be added to create a new look. But this is where paid and free themes split. 

The design options with most free Shopify themes are very limited. Free themes will have basic customizable features and not much else. There are so many users using free themes and it’s easy for your store to get lost among the crowd of lookalikes. 

Paid themes take the lead with design options. Most paid themes are customizable on pretty much every part of your store. You get to decide how your brand looks and how it stands out from others. With a paid theme, you can create a unique quality look to support your product.

Support

Having good theme support is a necessity to keep your store running at max capacity and to keep downtime to a minimum. 

Both free and paid Shopify themes to offer a level of direct theme support and documentation to help with troubleshooting, setup, and customization. However, premium themes offer much higher levels of customer service, helping you to get the best from your theme. 

If you have purchased a theme from outside the Shopify store, make sure to check that they offer the same support.

How to decide between free or paid themes

At the end of the day, deciding between free and paid Shopify themes depends on your unique needs. A Shopify theme is not one size fits all; the theme you choose needs to be the best for your brand and your users.

Shopify free themes

In general, free themes are great for Shopify beginners who don’t need premium features and are working on a budget. Because they are free, you can try as many as you want without hurting your wallet.

Free themes can also be suitable if you have a limited product inventory and your e-commerce needs are simple. And if you’re on the fence about starting an online store, free themes allow you to test out the Shopify platform and explore whether e-Commerce is right for you before launching.

shopify theme free vs paid

If you’re new to Shopify and hope to utilize the full potential of your Shopify theme, learn more about what a Shopify theme is and how choosing the right theme can elevate your eCommerce experience.

Remember that due to the limited customization options, you’ll find it harder to create a specific store look or branded user experience. With this in mind, free themes can work better for established brands that have already earned trust online and have a few loyal return customers. 

Getting started with a free theme is easy. Through trials, you can find the best free theme that works for your current needs. And because these themes come with minimal features, there’s not much of a learning curve to use the functionality:

Why free themes are great

  • Beginner-friendly
  • Great on a budget
  • Fast load times
  • Simple design and layout

Who they’re great for

  • Great for those on a budget
  • A perfect option for a new Shopify user

Shopify paid themes

Nothing truly beats a great paid theme that fits your brand just right. Find the best Shopify themes and watch the magic happen. Paid themes have features that let you control almost every aspect of your user’s experience. 

Over 90% of online users judge a company based on design impression. With a paid theme, you create a store design that looks and feels premium with great features like quick buy, embedded videos, more product photos, and a homepage slideshow. Paid themes will give you the ability to offer your customers a much richer, deeper shopping experience. 

Paid themes outclass free themes in marketing and conversions, merchandising, checkout options, and product discovery. Product discovery is especially important for business owners that want to branch out and bring in new customers. With paid theme options like breadcrumbs, sticky headers, and mega menus, businesses with paid themes will see more conversion and profit.

shopify theme paid vs free

A slight con of paid themes is they can be difficult to learn how to use because of the multitude of options for configuring their user interface. Its interface isn’t very beginner-friendly and if you don’t have any design experience, you will need to find someone who does to help you. 

Once you get the hang of it though, you can create a store that looks exactly how you want it to. 

It’s important to envision your Shopify store 5 years down the line. Will a free theme be able to handle a larger inventory? Will it offer layout options that fit your ideal store design? If not, investing in a paid theme will be your best bet.

All in all, a paid theme is great for those ready to create a brand identity and upscale their business. The only real downside to a paid theme is the fact that you have to pay. 

Before you purchase a theme, make sure it offers the features you need for your store 

Why they’re great

  • Tons of built-in features 
  • Great performance
  • Huge variety of customization options
  • Larger inventory capacity
  • More brandable than free themes

Who they’re right for

  • Great for bigger Shopify stores
  • Those looking to upscale their business

Conclusion

For those new to Shopify who are exploring their brand identity or have a small product inventory, a free theme will get the job done. Free themes are a great starting point and should be viewed as such. 

Consider what features work for your store and keep them in mind for future reference when the time comes to move over to a paid theme.  

For businesses looking to grow in the next few years and increase their market reach, a paid theme will help increase product visibility, solidify your brand identity, and increase revenue. A paid theme can feel like a big investment but it is one that will pay off in the long run.

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