A Foolproof Guide to Create a Shopify Theme from Scratch

By Vsourz - 19 April 2023
A Foolproof Guide to Create a Shopify Theme from Scratch
It takes 50 milliseconds for users to make a judgement about the website they are visiting. Most consumers even admit to judging a company’s credibility based on their website design. So, in a world where first impressions matter more than ever, the design of your eCommerce store should be a priority.

Building a website that works and impresses your target audience is no mean feat, however. You only have to take one look at the variety of Shopify themes on offer to discover just how many options there really are. Sure, you could opt for one of the paid or free themes available but if you really want to stand out from the crowd, the answer is simple: you need to build a Shopify theme from scratch and we’re here to show you how.

Shopify Custom Theme Development: The Basics

Opting to create your own Shopify theme isn’t an easy task but it does bring with it a whole host of benefits. To get started, we’ve pulled together some essential advice.

Understand Shopify Theme Architecture

To create a Shopify theme from scratch, you need to have a basic understanding of how Shopify theme architecture works. This impacts how elements appear on your website or Shopify store and determines the overall look and feel of your site. They can break down into four areas:

  • Layout. This is described as the base of a theme and includes headers and footers and is typically reused across the whole site.
  • Templates. Every page on your eCommerce store will have a different template, which controls what is displayed and how.
  • Sections. These elements break up your webpage and are classed as reusable modules of content. For example, it might be an ‘image with text’ section. You can customise this with certain colours, fonts, and placement.
  • Blocks. Text, images, and videos are classed as blocks and they can be added, removed, and reordered within a section. You can add a total of 16 blocks to one section.

Shopify CLI (Command Line Interface)

Shopify CLI is recommended for those who are developing a custom theme. It’s an easy-to-use tool that aids with the process and automates lots of common development tasks. To use it, you need to have either Ruby, Git or Ruby+Devkit downloaded on your computer.

Shopify Dawn Theme

Dawn is a leading free theme on Shopify. Users can adapt the layout, add cross-sell sections, and optimise product pages. Those that want to create a custom theme can use Dawn as a starting point or even just study its architecture to understand the anatomy of a successful Shopify theme. For more information, take a look at our complete guide on Shopify Dawn.

Use JSON Templates for Sections

A Shopify update in 2021 changed the way sections work within each theme. Now, if you want to add sections to your custom theme, it’s easier to use a JSON template. These are data files that contain a list of specific sections and their associated settings. This means you can easily add, customise, and rearrange the sections on your website. Each theme can hold up to 1,000 JSON templates, which can render up to 20 sections.

Shopify GitHub Integration

Another essential tool that makes it easier to create a Shopify theme from scratch is Shopify GitHub integration. By doing this, your Shopify store will be connected to your GitHub repository allowing you to edit theme code and manage any changes. This tool will also prove important in the case of any errors as you have a history of changes.

Understanding Liquid

Liquid, created by Shopify, is a coding language template that is crucial if you want to build a Shopify theme development from scratch. In basic terms, it allows themes to function and is the foundation of every Shopify website. Liquid simplifies several development tasks and makes it easy to create dynamic page templates without having to deep dive into the tricky parts of it. It’ll not only save you time but also level up your eCommerce store.

How to Create a Responsive Shopify Theme

So now you understand a few of the basics surrounding the Shopify theme development, it’s time to put your knowledge into practice. To help you out, here’s our step-by-step guide.

1. Install Shopify CLI

As mentioned above, Shopify CLI is an essential tool for creating your own custom Shopify theme as it lets you test, preview, and share any changes. To benefit from it, you need to download it on either Windows, macOS, or Linux.

2. Initialise a New Theme using Dawn

Next, you need to create a new theme using Dawn. To do this, clone the DawnGit repository to your machine using Shopify theme init. Head to the Terminal and enter ‘Shopify theme init’, then enter a name for your theme. A folder of the same name will be created, ready for the next step.

3. Start a Local Development Server

Once you’ve created your new theme, you’ll have a link for local development. Be mindful that it only works on Google Chrome, however. Using this link, you can reload and preview changes. The first time you do this, you’ll have to login to Shopify. Run the command “shopify theme dev –store {store-name}” to serve your theme and switch – store for the name of your Shopify store.

4. Upload your Theme to a Store

Next, you need to upload your theme before publishing it. To do this, you need to push the theme code to Shopify using the theme push command. If it’s your first time doing this, you might want to run the command –unpublished. You’ll then be asked to create a name for your theme that will show in the theme library.

5. Publish your Theme to Online Store

To publish your theme, use the theme publish command. But before you do this, it’s important to make sure you’ve pushed all local changes to Shopify. To do that, simply use the theme push command. Enter Shopify theme publish into your terminal, and you’ll have published your very own custom theme. Don’t worry if any of the above sounds difficult as a Shopify theme developer can take care of the hard work for you.

What You Need to Know About the Hydrogen Framework

There is another area to get to grips with during custom Shopify theme development and that’s Shopify Hydrogen. This is a type of framework, built by Shopify, to help eCommerce store owners build a shop front using Shopify’s infrastructure in the backend. It offers users a set of tools, functions, and examples to create powerful and dynamic websites based on Shopify best practices but hosting the store on your own. For more information, you can read our guide on building storefronts using Shopify Hydrogen.

Build a Shopify Theme from Scratch with Our Help

A custom Shopify theme offers better experiences for your customers, an enhanced brand identity, and helps differentiate you from the competition. But it’s not easy. It takes time and can quickly become very challenging. That’s where the Shopify experts at Vsourz come in. Apart from being visually appealing, your theme must provide stable performance and encourage conversions, which is why it pays to invest in Shopify development services.

So, if you want to create a customised theme for your storefront, hire a Shopify theme developer. Not just that, if you have a unique business idea to bring to life, a tech partnership with Vsourz is just what you need. Drop us a line to partner with a dedicated team.

Have any question?

Contact us today to explore how we can help you achieve digital advantage.


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