Terrible Advice about eCommerce Web Themes that You Have Probably Heard

As an entrepreneur, there’s always going to be someone standing around to give you advice: “Invest in this. Don’t invest in that. Go here. Don’t go there.” Who should you listen to?

You need to research everything you hear or read before you draw conclusions. When it comes to your online store’s themes and design, there is a plethora of information available to you, including lousy advice. You may not lose everything when you follow bad advice about your website theme, but you can definitely pile-on stress and lose touch with other critical aspects of your business. This is the terrible advice I’ve heard about eCommerce web themes that I wish I’d never followed.

“You should hire a developer to create a custom theme.”

Why is this bad advice? A web developer does know all the ins and outs of the code you will need to accomplish whatever you want. And, the high price tag that a developer will charge to build you a fully-customized theme makes hiring one seem like it’s the top-tier decision; the truth is that there’s no need for it. In all my time working online, there are two developer-built store themes I’ve come across that I can’t get out of my mind. Both of them cost in the realm of $10K for creation. Neither lived up to their expected value.

Note: I’m not saying you don’t need to work with a developer – you will. I’m just saying there’s no need to use development services to create a custom theme from scratch. A pre-built theme will work just fine and likely save you thousands of dollars.  

Seeking more customization than necessary:

The first developer-created theme disaster I witnessed with for a startup that felt they needed something more customized than the run-of-the-mill themes available. They wanted a tool that would help customers design products with built-in cost calculation and the developer upsold them on an entire customized theme; the project took over two years to complete.

Once finished, the theme looked pretty, but was confusing for website visitors and didn’t convert at the rate the client needed to run a successful business. It ended up needing a complete overhaul within 9 months of launch, which ultimately cost the company over $100K + nearly three years of lost sales. The truth is that this company needed a developer to build and install the custom tool, not the entire theme.

Simply making the development more complicated than it needed to be:

The next site was for a B2B company that already had big-name customers like Starbucks ordering their product. They hired a web developer to build a theme and a simple 5-page website that would make ordering simple for their clients as well as attract attention from new ones. A year and $9K later, customers still had to call in and order products because the developer hadn’t ironed out the kinks in the shopping cart. Shopping cart flow is critical for eCommerce — nobody knows how many potential clients had wanted to make a purchase on this site but were turned-off by the fact that they couldn’t easily order online.

There’s no reason to hire an expert developer just to create a theme when there are so many awesome, fully-customizable online store templates available. For example, Shopify is the leader in eCommerce and their responsive eCommerce themes are ready-built for you to sell nearly any product or service. With these themes, you can set up a store, with no design skills, in a matter of minutes. With just a few clicks, you can install all the bells and whistles (from a logo creator to applications to automate your inventory management) you’ll need to make your store successful. There is a time and a place to hire a developer, and building a theme isn’t one of them.



“You need to buy an expensive theme if you want your website to convert visitors.”

I experienced this advice was when working with an artisan who wanted to bring his crafts to the internet. At the time (nearly a decade ago) I was willing to create a search engine optimized website for him in a drag-and-drop platform for a few hundred dollars. We started on the project a couple weeks before he was contacted by another company who he had inquired with before hiring me. Can you guess what they told him?

Yes, the fancy designers told him that if he wanted search engines to see his website, he would need to buy a theme that cost several thousand dollars and migrate his website to another platform. At this point, we were almost finished with what we had started and I wasn’t able to convince the client that he wasn’t ready for all of the bells and whistles. He ended up paying for the new theme and migrating the products and copy to a new platform. By the time everything was complete, there was no money left in his budget to pay for hosting, marketing, or anything needed to generate traffic to his new website.

Yes, a quality theme will provide you with more options, but you need to work within your budget to be successful. Be smart and shop around for what you need. Make sure there’s money left over after purchasing your theme to pay for hosting, content creation, marketing, and customer service before you jump the gun.


Website development is a natural process that matures with your business. As your needs grow, you will notice. When it comes to choosing a website theme at launch time, there’s no reason to start out with something that you can’t afford. Even if you can afford several thousand dollars, that money might be better used on sales and marketing to ensure that you keep generating revenue. Before you go out and purchase a website theme, make sure you’ve explored and understand all of your options. Stop believing marketing myths.

Ashley Kimler is the content dynamo at Heroic Search Tulsa. She’s been helping all sized companies with their online promotions and lead generation for over a decade. Follow @ashleykimler on Twitter to see what she and her team get into next.