eCommerce is in the midst of a growth period that the market hasn’t seen in years. Expanding by 15% in 2019 to reach a total of more than $601 billion in the U.S. Compared to $390 billion in 2016, that’s $211 billion in growth in 3 years. In the midst of a relatively flat business in brick-and-mortar eCommerce represented 16% of total retail sales and 70% of the gains.
What is Magento?
Magento is an open-source e-commerce platform designed to enable developers to add functionality to their eCommerce projects by:
- Extending the functionality of the core software
- Adding new plug-in modules
Magento offers an easy and functional way to create an eCommerce platform that is:
Magento offers a powerful tool that can help shape the digital marketplace.
How Does It Look?
There are many important decisions to make when planning your Magento eCommerce site, but one of the most visible decisions is the theme that you use.
A front-end theme is a component of a Magento application that provides a consistent look and feel for your eCommerce website. It uses a combination of custom templates, layouts, styles or images to create your site. It dictates the visual front-end elements like the layout of your home page, the colors used in the header, the font styles used in the content page, etc. The theme also controls how responsive or mobile-friendly your site is.
Out of the box, the current version of Magento (which is Magento 2) has a default theme that contains most of the elements that an eCommerce site absolutely needs in order to work: logo, branding, menus, a search box, banners, notice blocks and more. It’s also responsive, so it will change the placement and sizing of these elements to work well on a mobile device as well as desktop.
However, this default theme has some downsides.
- It’s not particularly attractive
- It offers limited configuration options
- Only one layout option
You get what you see without much control over the options. Worst of all, your store will look like all the other eCommerce operations based on this theme. There will be nothing to differentiate your site and make you stand out.
The good news is there are a couple of great options for replacing the default theme with a theme that will represent your brand.
Option 1: Use a Third Party Theme
Modify the look and feel of your website is to implement a third party theme. There are literally thousands of themes have that have already been developed and can be loaded onto your site with minimal effort. You can find many themes in the Magento Marketplace, but there are dozens of other marketplaces that also offer themes for purchase.
Benefits to Third Party Themes
- Low Cost
- Configuration Variety
- Tried And Tested
- Industry Specific Focus
Drawbacks to Third Party Themes
- Difficult to Customize
- Unproven Vendor Support
- Lost functionality
Not all Magento vendors are the same and it can be hard to know how long or how effectively they’re going to support the product that you’ve purchased. This means that you’re left with the poor options of either hiring someone to modify that theme’s code, replace the theme completely, or delay your security patch (not really an option in our book).
Many themes don’t include hooks for some default Magento configuration options. This can leave you in a position where when you want to turn on a specific feature that it simply won’t work with that theme.
We’ve found that almost every client eventually wants some modification to their theme that isn’t available as a customization option, and over time clients end up spending as much or more on modifying and supporting their third party theme than they would have building a custom theme.
Option 2: Build a Custom Theme
Although it can be more costly up front, building a custom theme is almost always the best long-term solution for an active Magento eCommerce store.
Custom Themes Provide Excellent Benefits
- No compromises
- 100% flexibility
- Increased security
Custom themes can be developed and designed exactly the way you want it – no compromises. Match the style, the feel, the layout exactly to your brand. Giving you 100% flexibility and creative control over the experience you provide to your customers. If a custom theme has been developed properly, then there is no limitation to how you can modify it in the future.
It’s important to keep your site looking fresh and offering the latest features that your discerning customers will come to expect from shopping online. Give your business the flexibility to make changes down the road with a custom theme.
Option 3: Work with an Experienced Magento Development Partner
As long as you work with a trusted and experienced Magento development partner a custom theme is the best option. You won’t have to worry about potential security risks related to your Magento site. Your reputation and your client’s data are critical to protect. Don’t risk them on a 3rd party extension developer. 3rd party extension developers may have inadvertently (or intentionally) included security flaws in the software used on your eCommerce website. Custom themes make it easier to keep up with the latest critical security patches.
A custom theme is going to provide your Magento eCommerce site with:
- The Most Flexibility
- Advanced Functionality
- Secure development processes
Experienced development partners, like Liventus, will make sure your site is functional, safe, and secure – as well as offer ongoing support. Liventus has been building websites on the Magento platform since it came on the market in 2007. As a Magento Solution Partner, Liventus has a proven method for designing and building custom Magento themes for our clients:
- We work through a series of design/layout mockups to come up with the perfect user experience before we ever write a line of code.
- We don’t reinvent the wheel. We start with a standard theme skeleton that is already proven to work great responsively and will work with any core Magento functionality.
- We develop our themes by following Magento architecture best practices so that they can be easily maintained and will never interfere with critical security patching or other feature adds in the future.
- We thoroughly test and support your custom theme to make sure that your users will have the best possible user experience on any device or platform. This means happier customers and more conversions.
Ready to get started? Contact us today to learn more.
Tim Dolloff is EVP of client relations at Liventus. Connect with him on LinkedIn here.