How to Choose a Magento Theme

For many eCommerce businesses, a pre-built Magento Theme is a cost-effective way to design (or redesign) your Magento site.  Here at Creatuity there are several things we recommend clients consider before selecting a pre-built Magento Theme for their new (or existing) Magento store:
  • While some themes are listed in Magento Connect, we have found that ThemeForest.net has a very nice selection of Magento Themes with an easier-to-use search interface.
  • Responsive design is pretty much a “must-have” these days – and incredibly affordable in a pre-built Magento theme. Look for a theme that says it is ‘responsive’
  • Many pre-built Magento themes now bundle up some functionality that you would otherwise have to install a separate extension for.  It can be more cost-effective to choose a theme that already includes those types of functionality that you like.  Examples might be: Image zoom, Twitter post feed, mega menus, Contact Us forms, social media buttons, etc.
  • Some pre-built themes offer various layouts and versions to choose from.  These are great if you have a multi-store Magento site, because you can purchase one theme and make various stores look a bit different.
  • Before you get too attached to a particular theme, make sure the theme is available for your Magento edition (Community/Professional/Enterprise) and your specific version.  A Magento Certified Developer (like us) can certainly modify a theme to make it work with your edition/version, but it will add cost.
  • Note regarding older Community themes: Themes available for versions 1.5 and older are very strongly -not- recommended to be used on a 1.6+ Magento store (themes worked very differently back then).  A version 1.6 theme could be converted to work with 1.7, but of course that is additional time that you will have to pay our developers to implement.
  • Read reviews.  What bugs are other users running into? Did the theme author post a reply at all? Has the theme been updated since the original version to address initial bugs?
  • Don’t pay too much attention to what the theme is called.  A “shoe store” theme can easily for used for any niche, just substituting a few shoe graphics for your product’s graphics.
  • Don’t pay too much attention to the homepage.  You are looking for an overall framework for your entire website – including the product pages, category pages, etc. Remember that a majority of your traffic is to product pages, so that is the one to spend the most time reviewing.
  • Colors and fonts can be changed, as can graphics if you have another graphic you’d like to substitute.
  • Things that are harder to change (and thus more costly): Navigation bar design/location, SEO considerations, overall layouts.
  • Get as close the overall look/feel of the site you desire – but remember that everything can be changed/edited/etc.  Since we charge hourly, we can make as few or as many changes as you wish.
  • Pay attention to the navigation bar. If you want layered navigation or a particular unique design, it is more cost-effective to find a Magento theme that already includes that functionality.
  • We recommend clients purchase a theme that includes layered PSD (photoshop) files.  That can save time if you want us to modify something.
  • Go to the “Live Demo” site for the theme and click around quite a bit.  Do you like the styling of the category pages, products pages, etc? If a theme doesn’t have a Live Demo, we never recommend buying it.  That could mean it literally has never been tested in a real Magento store (and it’s just a pretty picture).  Although, this scam seems to have become less common recently. Also be checking for bugs in the Live Demo, particularly using your phone or tablet if its a responsive Magento theme.
  • Take a glance at the user manual if its available to download before purchase.  Does it include enough information (in clear English) that you feel like you could learn how to use the features?
  • Ask your developer before you buy anything.  We are always happy to take a 2nd look just to make sure we don’t see any “red flags” before you purchase.

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