Shopify Themes 101: Standard, Custom and Everything In-Between

Shopify themes are an essential part of any online store. They help to create a visually appealing storefront that is easy to navigate and use. Shopify offers a range of themes to suit different business needs, from standard themes to custom themes that can be tailored to your specific requirements.

September 20, 2023
Reading Time
3 Minutes
Branding, Development, E-Commerce, UX
iphone browsing shopify payments
iphone browsing shopify payments

Choosing a theme for your Shopify store is a critical step in your e-commerce business and can feel overwhelming.  Here, we’ll break down the differences between custom and standard themes so that you’ll have a better understanding of which option might be the best for your online store.

Standard Themes

Standard themes are pre-built templates that are available in the Shopify theme store. They are designed to be used by new merchants who want to get their store up and running quickly. While these themes can be a great option for some businesses, there are both pros and cons to consider before making a decision.


  • Affordability: Standard themes in the Shopify theme store range from free to $400, making them an affordable option for businesses with a tight budget.

  • Quick Set-Up: These pre-built templates allow you to get started quickly, without the need to design and develop a custom theme from scratch. You can simply edit the various aspects of the site to fit your needs with products, text, colors, images, etc. Easy to set up for non-coders and designers: As the coding is already done, you do not need to have coding or graphic design skills to get started.


  • Variety: Currently, there are a set number of active themes available in the Shopify theme store, which may limit your options.  You may also find that your store looks similar to one of the 4.2 MM other stores running on Shopify.

  • Limited Flexibility in Code: Standard themes come with pre-written code that may limit your ability to customize the theme to your exact specifications. This can be frustrating for those with coding skills who want more flexibility or are planning to grow and scale.

Custom Themes

Custom themes are a great way to make your Shopify store unique and tailored to your business’s specific needs and aesthetic. There are two ways to approach custom themes:

  1. Customizing a standard theme or

  2. Building a completely custom theme from the ground up.

Customizing a standard theme is an affordable option that allows you to personalize a pre-existing theme to better match your brand. While it’s not as unique as a completely custom theme, it still offers a more personalized touch than using a standard theme straight out of the box. Gamma Waves has created an optimized version of the Shopify Dawn theme that’s optimized for performance and set up for brand customization.

Building a completely custom theme from scratch offers the highest level of customization and flexibility. Your theme will be as unique as your brand, and you have more control over the quality of the code. However, this option is more expensive and time-consuming since it requires wireframing, design, and coding from scratch.

Ultimately, the decision between customizing a standard theme or building a completely custom theme will depend on your personal taste and budget. Custom themes can offer a solid ROI for your online business, but it’s important to consider the resources required to pursue this option.

Pros and Cons

Here’s a quick pros and cons list for both standard and custom themes:

Standard Themes:


  • Easy to set up

  • Comes with basic features

  • Low cost

  • Beginner-friendly


  • Limited customization options

  • Not unique

  • May not have advanced features

Custom Themes:


  • Unique and personalized design

  • Flexibility to create a design tailored to your brand

  • Advanced features and functionalities

  • Sets you apart from the competition


  • Higher cost

  • Requires a designer or developer

  • More time-consuming to set up

In the end, the choice between custom and standard themes comes down to your specific needs and preferences. Whichever option you choose, remember that a well-designed and user-friendly store can make all the difference in driving sales and creating a great shopping experience for your customers. Happy selling!


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Sarah Gallagher

Gamma Waves

We leverage our expertise in Shopify Plus to craft high-performing stores and unlock growth potential for businesses of all sizes. Here, we share actionable insights and industry trends to empower and inspire you as you navigate the e-commerce landscape.

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