How to design a Shopify theme (UI UX tips for developers)


Shopify is a great place for developers to show off their talents. You can create original apps and themes for Shopify merchants to use. If you’re a merchant with a little bit of design experience, you can even create a theme for your online store. When designing a theme, using some UI and UX design tips are a must. 

These design techniques will help you create a theme that’s attractive and responsive. We’ll be going over the fundamentals of UI and UX design so that you can understand more about each. If you want to learn how to design a Shopify theme, then this article is for you. 

Read on to learn how to use UI/UX design to create Shopify themes that you can sell to merchants. Also, the design techniques that you’ll learn here can apply to a variety of applications. 

Understanding UI and UX Design 

First, let’s differentiate UI and UX. You see, people often confuse the two due to their similarities. Here’s a basic definition for both:

  • UX, or user experience, refers to all the elements that make an interface functional. It encompasses everything that your users will experience when using your interface. 
  • UI, or user interface, refers to the elements that make your interface attractive. It encompasses the visual layout of your interface, as well as the navigational tools. 

It’s critical to use both when designing your Shopify theme. Ideally, you want an interface that’s visually attractive, easy to use, and offers a pleasant experience. That’s a shopping interface that users will keep coming back to again and again. Let’s see how you can use both design philosophies in creating your theme. 

UI Design Fundamentals 

We’ll start with the user interface basics or UI design for short. Good UI design focuses on anticipating what your users need to do. In other words, you should ask yourself what your users are visiting your website for the most. In the case of a Shopify e-commerce store, they’re there to buy products. As a result, you should anticipate what they’ll need to do to make a purchase in the easiest way possible. 

You need to make sure that your interface is straightforward to understand. Make sure that you advertise your business name and products on the front page. 

Your users should understand what your webpage/theme is all about at first glance. 

Make sure that your elements are:

  • Easy to access 
  • Easy to understand
  • Easy to use 

User-friendliness is the name of the game when designing an interface. If your store has a complex layout, your customers will become frustrated and go elsewhere. That’s why a fast, responsive theme that’s easy to navigate is essential. 

Using Interface Elements 

An interface element is any part of your page that interacts with the user. Common interface elements include:

  • Input controls. These are ‘buy’ buttons, text fields, dropdown lists, date fields, and more. It’s anything that requires user input. 
  • Navigational tools. These are your search bars, breadcrumbs, sliders, tags, and icons. They’re the tools that you use to navigate throughout your theme. 
  • Informational tools. That refers to icons, notifications, message boxes, and more. 

In learning how to design a Shopify theme, you should pay close attention to these elements. If all your controls and tools are intuitive, you’ll find success with your theme. 

It’s important not to forget each category of elements when designing your interface. Your input controls are equally as crucial as your navigational tools. 

Try to remain consistent with how these elements look and feel. Also, ensure that your ‘buy’ button is prominent and easy to see. After all, your ultimate goal is to sell products with a Shopify theme. 

UI Design Tips and Tricks 

Here are our choices for the best practices to employ when designing a user interface:

  • Keep things simple. An interface that’s too complicated will turn off customers. Your interface should almost be invisible in that it functions so smoothly. 
  • Be strategic with page layout. Just as grocery stores strategically place merchandise, you should do the same with your online store. Try to arrange your best-selling products in areas of the page that users will see the most. 
  • Use many common elements. Familiarity is a big plus for online shoppers. If you use UI elements that they’ve seen before, they’ll feel more comfortable. It will also help them to shop faster and get things done. Check out other Shopify themes to see what they use as UI elements and tools. 
  • Be unique with your color scheme. If you want your Shopify theme to receive lots of downloads, it has to stand out. That means getting creative with the visual elements, particularly the color scheme. Consider what type of niche you’re designing themes for the most. Are you developing a storefront for electronics, sporting goods, or gardening items? Having a niche in mind will go a long way in helping you select a catchy color scheme. 

User Experience Design Basics 

Okay, now let’s move into user experience design. This type of design is a bit more involved than UI. That’s because to know about your user experience takes research. It’s all about knowing how your users think and feel about your product, service, or website. 

So how can you do this when designing a Shopify theme? Easy, by checking out the Shopify theme marketplace. Not only that, but you can also check out popular Shopify stores and read reviews. 

When conducting research, ask yourself these questions:

  • Does this theme give the user value?
  • Are users finding this interface easy to use?
  • Are users enjoying this theme or website?

Once you find the stores and themes that answer ‘yes’ to all these questions, you’re on to something. Now you know what types of designs excite customers. 

For example, let’s say that one of the best-selling Shopify themes includes an attractive image carousel. It features all the products from the store, and it looks stunning. You also notice some reviews mentioning it and its excellent functionality. 

Now you have some insight into your user experience. You now know what merchants are looking for, and you can design your Shopify theme accordingly. 

UX and Wireframes

Another huge component of UX design is wireframing. UX designers are constantly designing and testing new elements on wireframes. Why? Because they’re very low fidelity mockups that demonstrate the intent of each component. 

Using wireframes is the best way to test out your new ideas for the user experience. You’ll be able to see what works and what doesn’t without committing to a complete design. Adobe has a great suite of applications for designing websites. Tools like Adobe XD and Photoshop are essential when designing. If you want to check out Adobe’s tools for UI UX design follow this link.

General Design Principles 

Now that you know more about UI and UX let’s look at some general principles for both. Mastering UI and UX are critical for learning how to design a Shopify theme. 

Keep it Consistent 

Consistency is a crucial element of a successful theme. It would be best if you strived to keep all your design elements consistent throughout your theme. That means maintaining elements like your navigation bars and buttons consistent with:

  • Font
  • Color scheme
  • Size 

If your navigation bar varies from page to page, for example, users can become confused. An inconsistent design will end up costing you customers, and it’s unattractive for Shopify themes. Merchants will look for consistency when shopping for a new theme. 

Provide Clarity for Everything

Your users should not feel confused by anything in your theme. They should never have to ask themselves, “Why is this here?” Your job as the designer is to give each design element a clear purpose. 

Users should know what each button does, how to navigate your pages, and how to get back to the homepage. Once again, you want to avoid confusing your users. 

If all your elements are clear, then your users will know exactly what to do. That means they’ll be able to order your products quicker, which is the ultimate goal. 

Make Use of Existing Design Patterns

There’s no need to reinvent the wheel if a particular design pattern keeps working. If you notice a visually attractive and functional layout, then, by all means, use it. We’re not trying to knock being innovative by any means, but there’s no harm in using one of the classics. 

Here’s a timeless design tip, put your most important content in the top left corner. That’s because it’s where your users’ eyes will drift first. From there, you should lay out your content from left to right and then go down. 

That’s a tried and true way to get users to see your most important content. Sure, you could be innovative and put it all at the bottom, but what good would that do?

In short, stick to design philosophies that are proven to work. Getting experimental may be fun, but it can hurt you in the long run. We recommend sticking to existing designs wherever possible.

Great Coding courses at Coding Phase

For learning how to code we recommend trying out CodingPhase. This is the best website to learn all aspects of programming and making side income. For only $20 dollars a month you can learn HTML, CSS, Javascript, React, and much more. If you sign up for the diamond plan you get access to courses on Shopify development and making money online. To get access to a ton of courses follow this link to go to the Codingphase website.

How to design a Shopify theme ( quick video )

How to design a Shopify theme
How to design a Shopify theme

In Conclusion

So those are our top picks for design tips you can use for your Shopify theme. As long as you keep both your UI and UX in mind, you’ll find great success with your page. We hope that you’ve fully learned how to create a Shopify theme, and we wish you luck in your design. If your interested in a guide on building out Shopify themes click here to check out our article. To get more Shopify developer tips see our developer posts here.

Davon Wilson

I'm a certified Shopify expert, you can usually find me on my computer coding, or thinking about business ideas. I'm an avid Ravens fan and an overall nice guy.

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