Theme architecture

A theme controls the organization, features, and style of a merchant's online store. Theme code is organized with a standard directory structure of files specific to Shopify themes, as well as supporting assets such as images, stylesheets, and scripts. To learn about about how themes fit into Shopify, and learn how to set up an environment to build and test themes, refer to the Shopify themes overview.

Content

Theme files fall into the following general categories:

  • Markup and features - These files control the layout and functionality of a theme. They use Liquid to generate the HTML markup that makes up the pages of the merchant's online store.
  • Supporting assets - These files are assets, scripts, or locale files that are either called or consumed by other files in the theme.
  • Config files - These files use JSON to store configuration data that can be customized by merchants using the theme editor.

Markup and features

The following components determine the organization of each page:

The layout, template, sections, and blocks work together to organize each page.
Number Component Description
1 The layout file The base of the theme. Use the layout file to host repeated theme elements like headers and footers.
2 The template The template that controls what's displayed on a page. Each theme should include different types of templates to display different types of content, such as the home page and products. You can also create multiple templates for the same resource type and associate them with your store resources, to allow for variation.
JSON templates act only as a wrapper for sections, while Liquid templates contain code.
3 The sections rendered by the template Reusable, customizable modules of content that merchants can add to JSON templates.
4 The blocks that each section contains Reusable, customizable modules of content that can be added to sections, and removed and reordered.

Features can be introduced into themes in Liquid template files, sections, blocks, and snippets. You can implement theme features using Liquid, CSS, and JavaScript. A theme's features determine how customers can interact with the content on an online store. For example, your theme needs to allow customers to add products to a cart by providing a Liquid form tag with a product type.

Supporting assets

You can add supporting assets to your theme to control the presentation of components and features, or to store reusable pieces of code that can be used across components.

For example, you need to add assets to style the theme. These assets help to express the merchant's brand by defining the online store's aesthetic and how content sections are styled. The theme's style is defined by the CSS and JavaScript that are applied to layout, template, and section files.

You can store the Liquid and HTML that you want to reuse across your theme in snippets. Store the theme's CSS and JavaScript in the theme's assets directory.

In addition, you can translate your theme into different languages using locale files. Locale files contain a set of translations for text strings used throughout the theme. Store locale files in the locales directory of the theme.

Allowing for customization of theme components

Merchants can customize their theme from the Shopify admin by using the Shopify theme editor. Themes can offer different customization options to enable merchants to create their desired customer experience:

  • You can make your theme templates modular by creating multiple sections and blocks. Refer to our section and block best practices to learn how to design sections and blocks effectively.
  • You can create settings to allow the merchant to control the appearance or behavior of the theme. Merchants can set dynamic values for settings by using dynamic sources.

Directory structure and component types

Themes must use the following directory structure:

assets

The assets directory contains all of the assets used in a theme, including image, CSS, and JavaScript files.

Use the asset_url Liquid URL filter to reference an asset within your theme.

You can access limited Liquid functionality in non-binary asset files by appending a .liquid extension. Common use cases include JavaScript (.js.liquid) and CSS (.css.liquid) files. Files with this extension have access to the following features:

config

The config directory contains the config files for a theme. Config files define settings in the Theme settings area of the theme editor, as well as store their values.

Theme settings are a good place to host general settings such as typography and color options. Theme settings can be accessed through the settings object.

layout

The layout directory contains the layout files for a theme, through which template files are rendered.

Layouts are Liquid files that allow you to include content that should be repeated on multiple page types in a single location. For example, layouts are a good place to include any content you might want in your <head> element, as well as in headers and footers.

A theme.liquid file must exist in this folder for the theme to be uploaded to Shopify.

locales

The locales directory contains the locale files for a theme, which are used to provide translated content. Locale files allow you to provide a translated experience in the theme editor, provide translations for the online store, and allow merchants to customize text in the online store.

sections

The sections directory contains a theme’s sections.

Sections are Liquid files that allow you to create reusable modules of content that can be customized by merchants. They can also include blocks which allow merchants to add, remove, and reorder content within a section.

snippets

The snippets directory contains Liquid files that host smaller reusable snippets of code. You can reference these snippets throughout the theme with the Liquid render tag.

templates

The templates directory contains a theme’s template files, which control what's rendered on each type of page.

The templates/customers directory contains the template files for customer-centric pages like the login and account overview pages.

You can use the template to add functionality that makes sense for the page type. For example, you can add additional product recommendations to a product template, or add a comment form to an article template. You can also create multiple versions of the same template type to create custom templates for different use cases.

No templates are required. However, you need to have a matching template for any page type that you want to render. For example, to render a product page, you need at least one template of type product.