Can You (Should You) DIY Your Shopify Site?
So you're up for building your own Shopify site, but should you? Maybe, but there are other options out there that you might want to consider too.
You know you’ve been sucked into an HGTV show that takes a space from nothing to showroom-gorgeous within a 30-minute block (while you sink deeper into the you-shaped imprint in your couch). Who hasn’t? It’s the appeal of DIY: cheaper than hiring a pro, you get the feeling of accomplishment when you’ve done it entirely yourself, and if you’re into that sort of thing - the whole make-stuff-with-your-hands is downright fun. And anyone who’s watched one of those shows has tried to DIY at least once. You know how it goes: You buy the supplies. Prep your space. Tell everyone you know about your exciting new project. And you dive in. But you’re not finished in 30 minutes like the show. You’re not even finished in 30 days. Maybe you make it through, and maybe you throw in the towel. But either way, a DIY is never quite as easy and simple as they make it look on TV (or online). But sometimes, it’s definitely worth it. If you’re on a shoestring budget, or just exploring a new idea, or have mad skills and a ton of free time (#NoOneEver), then DIY is the way to go. When it comes to building an eCommerce store for your business, it’s worth thinking about whether you can (or should) try to do it yourself. But the options aren’t only to DIY or to hire a pro. There are a couple other options in-between to consider too.
Full DIY: Building an E-Commerce Store Yourself
You’ve done your fair share of online shopping, so you know what a good eCommerce site should look like and how it should work. Plus there are tons of resources online with advice, tips, and how-to's. Not to mention that Shopify makes it really easy. There are 64 pre-built themes to choose from (paid and free), you don’t need to do any web coding, and Shopify will host the store for you (using your own domain name) and process, manage, and track all your orders and payments. It’s totally doable. Besides, while it can be reassuring to hire a professional web designer/developer, you’ll still need to spend time and focus on getting your site built to explain what you want and answer questions about your brand, vision, products, etc. And once the site is finished, you would need to go back to the pro every time you want to make a change or update. When you build your online store yourself, you’ll learn how to change products in your store, make minor design changes, and revise text yourself. You’ll feel comfortable managing the regular changes that most eCommerce sites require. When you’re ready to build your Shopify site, these are the basic steps to get you started. (For more help for beginners from Shopify, check out this helpful post)
Step 1: Choose a Theme
Browse the Shopify themes. There are 10 free themes and 55 paid options, each of which can be customized with different colors, logo, layout options, and various apps and integrations. For help making a decision about which theme to work with:
- Focus on functionality over form: the design can be tweaked and customized, but much of the functionality is baked-in to the code.
- Read through reviews and comments left by other users on the theme’s page to learn how other merchants are using that theme.
- Research other shops that already use that theme to see it working. Many theme pages will feature examples of the theme in action, and user reviews will often include a link back to the merchant’s store.
Get help picking the perfect theme for your Shopify store.
Step 2: Add Your Imagery
This will include your store logo, product photography, and lifestyle/brand imagery. You can find inspiration from websites you love (especially those in your niche). You may want to consider hiring a professional photographer, although it will certainly work to use your own shots and stock photography. Check out our E-Commerce Photography and Video Best Practices for helpful tips and guidelines to get you started.
Step 3: Content
The critical text that you’ll need to get your Shopify store set up is your product descriptions. (Get tips for writing product descriptions here.) But also consider other brand messaging, like an “About Us” page, homepage text that introduces visitors to your brand, and a blog.
Step 4: Go Live
It can be hard to push something out into the public realm before it’s “perfect”, but the important thing to remember is that you can easily (and frequently) make improvements and tweaks to your Shopify store. But you won’t get feedback on something that doesn’t exist. So try not to worry about making it perfect; 80 percent is better than nothing.
Step 5: Revise. Improve. Repeat.
As you get feedback, learn as you go, track your store analytics, and see what’s working and what isn’t, keep changing it up to make it better. Use resources like the Shopify help forums and support team, help docs, the Shopify Academy, and Google searches to help you refine and improve over time. DIY as the quickest and cheapest way to just get something out there, and will help prepare you to work with a professional web designer/developer when the time is right. As your store grows, you can bring in a professional to help optimize your site post-launch. Partial DIY #1: Use a Pre-Built Theme + Hire a Pro for Technical Execution Caption: Product pages like this one for Sol de Janeiro need text descriptions, photography, and SKU data. Just like the “Full DIY” option above, you can choose to use a pre-built Shopify theme and then partner with a Shopify Setup Expert to help you organize and/or import product information, pricing, and photos; set up the site structure, homepage, and navigation; help you with basic basic domain and payments configuration; and training you to operate and maintain your store. Some of Shopify’s pre-built themes also have their own documentation and FAQs that offer guidance in tailoring your store’s functionality. Here at Growth Spark, we’re big fans of Out of the Sandbox because of the quality of their documentation.
Partial DIY #2: Design it Yourself + Hire a Pro Developer
If you have an in-house design resource (either you’re a capable designer or have one on staff), you can create a unique design for your eCommerce store (get help from Shogun’s page builder), and then partner with a developer to build it in Shopify. Shopify provides links to preferred developer experts, who can help with everything from theme modifications and integrations, to creating custom apps and other advanced functionality. (Check out these 10 Questions to Ask When Hiring a Website Developer.)
Hire a Pro: Design and Development
If DIY is more than you want to tackle for your eCommerce store, you can always hire a professional like Growth Spark to do it for you - from start to finish.
A pro can really help and deliver value when there are custom requirements like a custom design, custom functionality, custom integrations, or custom data work.
If you’re thinking about hiring a pro for your eCommerce site project, it will help to get yourself prepared with:
- Timeline: Know when you’d like to launch, and any major schedule implications.
- Budget: What are you willing to spend?
- Functionality: Your design/development partner can make recommendations, but you know your customers and how they want to shop. Think about what kind of functionality will best serve them.
- Brand: Know your brand and have guidelines available to share to guide your partner.
- Product Data: Have the basics prepared including SKU data, product descriptions, and photography.
At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter how you get your Shopify store live. E-commerce success is a constant process of assessing what’s working and making adjustments to optimize your results. There’s always room for growth and improvement!
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Ross Beyeler is the Founder and CEO of Growth Spark, an agency that provides strategy, design and development services to e-commerce companies. Since its founding in 2008, Growth Spark has completed over 350 projects with brands including Newbury Comics, Johnny Cupcakes, BottleKeeper and many more. During that time, the firm has also received awards from Interactive Media Awards, Internet Retailer and BusinessWeek.
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