Shopify themes overview
A theme determines the way that a Shopify online store looks, feels, and functions for merchants and their customers.
As a developer, you can build a custom theme for a specific merchant, customize a theme to meet a merchant's needs, or build a theme to sell in the Shopify Theme Store. You can also build apps that extend the functionality of a theme.
Anatomy of a Shopify theme
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.
As a theme developer, you should optimize the organization, features, and style of your themes for specific market segments or use cases. The best themes are made with a specific merchant profile in mind. Learn more about considerations and best practices for designing your theme.
If you're building a theme for the Shopify Theme Store, then you need to meet certain requirements in terms of the layout options that your theme offers, your theme's style, and the features that you include.
Markup and features
The organization of each page is determined by the following components.
- The layout file
- The template assigned to the resource being displayed
- The sections added to the template
- The blocks that each section contains
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 to allow for variations within the online store.
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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.
In addition, you can translate your theme into different languages using locale files. Locale files contain a set of translations for text strings that are used throughout the theme, and are stored in the locales directory of the theme.
Allowing for merchant customization
Merchants can customize their theme from the Shopify admin by using the Shopify theme editor. You can offer different theme customization options, which enable merchants to create their desired customer experience without editing code:
- You can make your theme templates modular by using sections and blocks.
- 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.
Themes can be distributed in the following ways:
- By bundling the theme directory as a ZIP file, which can then be uploaded by the merchant in their Shopify admin.
- By uploading your theme to a GitHub repository, and then connecting a branch of the repository to a theme in the Shopify admin.
- By pushing a theme to a store using Shopify CLI.
Building your business with Shopify themes
As a Shopify Partner, there are several ways that you can earn money when working with Shopify themes.
The most common theme-related task for developers is theme customization, where an existing theme is altered to meet a merchant’s needs. Customization jobs range from minor tweaks to major overhauls.
You can apply to become a Shopify expert so that you can offer theme customization services through the Shopify Experts Marketplace.
Building bespoke themes and stores
Developers can build themes from scratch. This can be a major undertaking, and the work is usually commissioned by a single merchant with very specific requirements.
You can offer theme building as a service through the Shopify Experts Marketplace. You can charge your clients a fee that you both agree upon to build their theme.
If you're building a theme for a client who is moving to Shopify for the first time, then you can use a development store to build their store and build or customize their theme. After you hand off the store to the merchant, you receive a recurring commission.
Building for the Shopify Theme Store
The Shopify Theme Store is one of the first stops in a merchant’s journey to launching their online store. As a Partner, you can create themes for the Shopify Theme Store and reach an international audience of millions of entrepreneurs.
To be accepted into to the Shopify Theme Store, themes must meet strict technical, maintenance, and support requirements. You should review these requirements before you start developing a theme for the store.
Building apps that integrate with themes
As an app developer, you can build an app that extends the functionality of a merchant's theme. You can build a custom app for a specific client, or build a public app and then submit it to the Shopify App Store.
Getting started tutorials
To start building or customizing your first theme, use one of our getting started tutorials.
Build a new theme
Follow this tutorial to learn how to set up your development environment and build a new theme using our reference theme, Dawn.
Tools, best practices, and references
Review the following resources, tools, and best practices to optimize your theme building process.
Shopify provides a range of tools to help you build Shopify themes faster.
You can use Shopify-provided tools to build and edit themes locally, access Shopify infrastructure, version-control your theme, and test it for performance, accessibility, and code quality. You can also use Dawn, Shopify's open-source reference theme, as a starting point for your own theme, or to explore how different features can be implemented using Shopify's theme-building best practices.
To optimize your theme development experience, Shopify has established a set of best practices that you can refer to when developing your theme and any surrounding toolchains and processes. Our best practices include the following:
Designing and coding a theme - To create an optimal customer experience, and to keep your merchant's stores fast, accessible, and discoverable, you need to consider many factors. While building Dawn, Shopify developers identified several principles and best practices that you can follow to design and build an optimized theme.
Tooling - As your team grows and develops, you can review our best practices around version control and file transformation.
Working on merchant stores - When you're developing or customizing a theme for a merchant, you should keep certain best practices in mind around security, use of tools, and collaboration.
You can use the following references while developing your theme.
Customer privacy API
Section rendering API
Review our AJAX API that lets you update page content without reloading an entire page.