I'm currently using another shopping cart platform for my store and although I generally don't have too many problems with their service, Shopify has a number of features I want that are not avaiable with my current vendor. Three of the biggest are Blogs, easier template editing, and Shopify's clean and clutter-free interface.
My main question is regarding the free templates vs the paid templates: When choosing a theme, the main differences seem to be whether or not a mobile interface comes with a given theme, and of course the theme itself: if the current graphics, colors, fonts, etc. are suitable for my store. Other than that, what are the advantages of a paid theme vs a free theme? What would I be paying for if I chose to pay for a theme (other than a "pre-skinned" look and feel and maybe a mobil interface). I intent to update colors, background, fonts, and graphics to match (somewhat) my current store's look.
Thanks for any advice given.
Themes in Shopify come with a settings menu to help you change various components like color, font, images easily - of course if you want to dig into the code then the theme editor is available also. Themes might offer different features and capabilities, like 'quick add-to-cart' from a collection grid, or easy implementation for product personalization (think monograms) - which can all be differentiated by the way the developer set up the cart/data. Dig into theme descriptions to see what features they're talking about.
Here's the approach I've taken, I've got the time and interest to learn how to make these functions for my site - and we probably won't ever find the 'perfect' solution with all the various capabilities we want - so pick a basic theme, get cosy and start searching and reading. The Shopify platform is remarkably flexible and you can see great stuff being done on it all the time... that's because they make a lot of the code available for developers to adjust. The preview function in Theme Manager is great for testing code and changes and then seeing them on Refresh without affecting current customer shopping.
But if you'd rather focus on selling, seo and running your business (instead of web development) then there are some great themes that might provide the initial UI, site functionality you need.
One note of caution, and I hope I don't make enemies of theme developers on this, Shopify is continually listening to feedback and improving functionality, the team usually caters implementation of that functionality around the most popular and most used themes - if you pick a non-Shopify/less-common theme, you might want to make sure there's development support and you might want to be conscious how much altering of the code you do - because when Shopify makes adjustments to the back-end to add new capability to front-end you don't want to miss-out, and if your developer does make an update, you might have to re-do much of your customization again. But change is going to happen, embrace it.
I've since gotten a response to my question via email from Shopify staff and I've spent a few days investigating a number of the themes as well: It's about features and customization. I looked through a given theme's documentation, user reviews, and features to figure out what worked best for me. There is no easy answer, it just depends. Generally, you will get more features and can more easily customize your store with a paid theme. 3rd party designers deliberately make their themes "better" than unpaid themes in order to earn extra income.
Definitely look through the theme store, spend some time reading through a given themes documentation, and look at the user reviews left by people who purchased their theme. (I ended up purchasing this one: http://themes.shopify.com/themes/flex/styles/gene. So far, so good.)
I hope this helps.