Build a Better Store with the BigCommerce Stencil Theme
BigCommerce offers over 100 free and paid themes to choose from that are:
- Responsive on mobile screens
- Easily edited with a drag-and-drop interface
These themes are made possible by BigCommerce's theme engine, which is called Stencil. With it, BigCommerce promises "next generation" capabilities in the themes built on this framework, to offer customers more freedom when it comes to design. Let's dive into Stencil and see what it offers for BigCommerce themes.
Features of the BigCommerce Stencil Framework
What is it exactly that sets Stencil apart?
First, it's important to know what Stencil is.
BigCommerce didn't always use the Stencil framework. Before Stencil, BigCommerce used a framework called Blueprint. There are likely still stores running on themes built using that original Blueprint framework, and they're likely missing out on some key features and benefits.
Overall, Stencil was developed to be an upgrade from Blueprint. It's a better overall foundation for eCommerce sites. It's more efficient to build with, easier to update, and easier to work with.
The key features that make Stencil an improvement on Blueprint include:
- Built for mobile
- Far easier content management
- Bundled, minified, and parsed files that make templates load incredibly fast (important for mobile commerce)
- More API content
- Logic-based language with rich front-end development options
- Simplified local development for easier design before deployment
Here's an example of why these features matter, especially with more API content:
With the original Blueprint framework it wasn't possible to access the MPN per product on the product detail page. However, this information is easy to access with the Stencil framework.
Benefits of the Stencil Framework
Ease of Use
The Stencil Theme Editor allows for non-tech savvy members of your team to change your store's design without knowing how to code. This can be a huge benefit to smaller teams that can't rely on their developers to scramble anytime they need to update the homepage.
The Editor allows you to choose from the available styles for your theme with the click of a mouse, and various customization options including:
- variable theme colors
- fonts & font sizes
- theme icons
- theme logos
You've already got a lot on your plate with BigCommerce inventory management, marketing, logistics, and customer service. It helps to know that making updates to your theme will be easy.
Control Across Product Pages
The simplicity of changing your BigCommerce store via Stencil extends to your product pages as well. In your Editor, the menu for Products gives you nearly all the options you need to tweak the look and feel of these pages. This includes how many products are displayed per page, image sizes, and more.
Even small changes that previously required CSS customization can now be made with the Stencil Theme Editor, including:
- Displaying or not displaying payment icons (credit card logos) in your footer.
- Removing "Powered by BigCommerce" in your footer.
- Adding the GeoTrust SSL seal to your footer and checkout page(s).
- Adding analytics tracking codes to your checkout page(s).
BigCommerce states that themes built on the Stencil framework are faster than those built on their previous framework (Blueprint). Also, as mentioned previously, these themes are fully responsive so they perform much better and faster on mobile devices, no matter the screen size.
In fact, because themes on Stencil are Google AMP compatible, performance is noticeably better across the board due to more up-to-date architecture. Learn more about AMP here: https://youtu.be/uPOElMgRy2Y
Better Image Management
Stencil utilizes Akamai Image Manager, an industry standard, to handle your store's images and make sure they are resized correctly so extra pixels aren't bogging down your pagespeed.
Flexible and Powerful for Devs
With the Stencil Command Line Interface (Stencil CLI), your dev team can work on your store's current theme without issue with the live, outfacing storefront.
Recommended Stencil Themes for BigCommerce
One of Shogun's partners, Pixel Union, publishes beautiful and responsive themes for BigCommerce on the Stencil framework. One of our personal favorites is their theme Lookbook, which takes a fresh and modern approach to truly showcase product photos as the main focus of a storefront.
PSDCenter is a registered design and solution partner with BigCommerce and has had a number of themes featured in the BigCommerce marketplace. To date they’ve created 21 themes for BigCommerce, with more than a dozen built on the Stencil framework.
Each of their themes, like the Milano theme, feature strong hero images to help accent that headline call to action along with intuitive, editorial layouts that showcase products in a more visual way. For those looking for a lot of diversity in the Stencil theme, this is a great place to start.
22 Savile Row Boutique
Flair Consultancy has converted the 22 Savile Row Boutique theme over to the Stencil framework, and for good reason: it has long been the best selling BigCommerce theme in the Blueprint Theme Store. This one stands out because of Flair’s focus on conversion enhancing modules – because conversions are always a top priority in eCommerce.
While this theme may be geared toward the fashion industry, it’s marketed as incredibly easy to customize (like many Stencil themes) and is a fit for just about any brand that aims to sell through highly engaging product photography.
If you want to get more out of this theme but don’t have the know-how to tackle it on your own, the team at Flair Consultancy could certainly handle the task for you. They have years of experience in design, development, optimization and bespoke design to transform this (or any) Stencil theme to fit your store.
Sometimes the best way to drive your visitors to action is to minimize distractions and maintain their focus. Brands often use minimalist eCommerce designs to achieve this with great success. Scales-Minimal is a perfect example of this approach, designed and developed by Pixel Union.
What makes this such a sharp Stencil theme is its intuitive use of an oversized hero image to capture the attention of the visitor as soon as they land. The simple product grid featuring testimonials and reviews helps lend social proof to the shopping experience, which is key to driving customers to the checkout.
As an added bonus, the Scales-Minimal Stencil theme comes in a variety of four styles to help you find one that best fits your store.
For brands selling a large variety of products or variable collections, the Supermarket Modern theme built on the Stencil framework is a smart choice. The developers, Papathemes, built this responsive and mobile-friendly theme based on Amazon’s marketplace. Given Amazon’s investment in understanding what makes consumers click, this Stencil theme is guaranteed to help improve sales and help you drive traffic to various brands and categories in your store.
It also features diverse menu customization, dynamic banners and content blocks, live chat, social integration, and a powerful theme editor that makes it even easier to further customize and personalize this winning Stencil theme.
Who said the best Stencil themes for BigCommerce need to cost money? Vault Cool is a popular and free template built using the Stencil framework. The clean, product-focused design enhances readability and engagement for consumers and keeps store owners from sweating over having to fill endless content modules that overpopulate pages.
Sometimes less is more, and Vault Cool knows how to make strategic use of white space.
The template also comes with advanced store design capabilities, so despite being a free theme you can still customize and personalize everything from text and images to layout and fonts. Really, virtually every element of the theme can be customized without touching the code.
Whether you’re selling only a few products, or you have a massive catalog, Lonestar Templates has provided a Stencil theme with a sleek and modern design built for virtually any kind of online store.
Camden B2B is another theme from Flair Consultancy worth mentioning. While many developers provide standard themes for the B2C eCommerce space it’s not often we see themes built for the B2B audience.
B2B is a different beast, and purchases (often wholesale and in bulk) are handled quite differently. Flair Consultancy has taken this into account with this Stencil theme. It’s sleek, modern design includes features like adding single and multiple products by SKU, grid/list view options, contextually relevant navigation, personalization by customer/customer type and of course, password protected catalogs.
Sales and conversions are driven by trust. According to Nielsen, 92% of customers trust the recommendations of peers over any other kind of advertising and promotion. Trust is a powerful thing in eCommerce, and it can also come from familiarity.
Pinnacle Tech is another stellar Stencil theme for BigCommerce from Lonestar Templates. It creates a sense of comfort and familiarity. It’s left-side navigation and bold product-focused design aligns with some of the most popular tech websites consumers are used to visiting – like Best Buy.
With a highly customizable editor and a theme built for catalogs of any size, this clean and modern theme could be just what your eCommerce startup is looking for. If the tech side isn’t quite a fit for your brand, check out the other styles including Pinnacle Sport, Impact, and Euro.
A lot of eCommerce brands launch with a small line of products, or just a single product. Unfortunately, it’s not easy finding a BigCommerce theme that works well when you don’t have a sizable catalog. And many just aren’t designed to handle a single product.
Spotlight is a theme, built on the Stencil framework, that has you covered.
What makes this theme standout is its ability to make your products stand out. The theme is built around full width images with prominent calls to action that are guaranteed to make visitors take action. There’s a quick option to add the item to cart and a one-page checkout that create the optimal shopping experience. It’s a clean, effective UI built for conversions with plenty of room to further customize and optimize based on the size of your catalog.
Speaking of those with a small product catalog…
Solo is a Stencil theme that is a dream come true for any brand selling a single product. Simply put, this is one of the best BigCommerce themes to prominently feature a single product. It’s retina-ready, responsive, and its use of fill-width imagery puts your product front and center for the visitor.
It’s pretty clear that Pixel Union understands brands with smaller catalogs.
Covent Garden Dark
Content is going a long way to help eCommerce brands stand out. With the growing cost of paid marketing campaigns, content like articles and videos can help bring in a steady stream of organic (free) targeted traffic to your store.
If that’s the approach you’re taking, it helps to have a theme that supports content. Covent Garden, from Flair Consultancy, is a terrific option for those investing in content marketing. Built on the Stencil framework, this highly customizable theme features a variety of modules that are easy to configure with editorial layouts and animatable page elements that help promote the content that will sell your products.
Customizing Your BigCommerce Stencil Theme
The Shogun Page Builder App for BigCommerce will allow you to easily customize individual pages and store themes with a few clicks.
You can use the drag and drop editor to alter page layouts, add and remove elements, and adjust the content on the fly all without touching a single line of code.
There’s even conversion-tested, proven-effective page templates so you don’t have to start from scratch.
Finding the Right BigCommerce Stencil Theme
The Stencil framework is one of the most reliable and popular for building themes for the BigCommerce platform. We’ve featured some of the more popular choices above for brands with catalogs of various sizes, but this is by no means an exhaustive list. The BigCommerce marketplace features a much wider variety of themes built using the Stencil framework, and even more can be found online. Remember, if you can’t find the right theme, developers like Pixel Union and others listed above can always help you create a custom theme to fit your growing online store.