5 Things to Consider When Choosing a New OpenCart Theme

It is often hard to find the right theme for your OpenCart store in the vast market of available themes. A proper choice may be crucial for the success of your business. Below are five things to consider when choosing a theme for your OpenCart store that will make your choice much easier.

1. Free or Paid Theme

The first step before choosing a theme is to determine a budget. Usually, OpenCart themes are not quite expensive and are cheaper than the themes for most of the competitor carts like Magento, PrestaShop, Shopify, etc. A budget between $50 and $100 will be enough to purchase a good-looking, premium template.

The main advantages of the paid themes are that usually they have a lot of features, come with free support and are well documented. Getting a paid theme also usually grants you access to theme updates. Last but not least most of the paid themes are future version compatible, which is good if a new version of OpenCart is released, and you decide to update your store.

The main disadvantage of the paid themes is probably the initial price that you have to invest. Another thing that may be considered as a disadvantage is that paid themes usually have very complex admin panels from where the theme is configured and customized. Complex admin panel means more time and effort to customize the theme according to your needs.

If you are just starting your business, and you do not have a budget for a theme, you should know that there are quite good free OpenCart themes. The free themes also have some advantages. Usually, they have less features which mean that if they are well coded they will be lighter and faster. Speed is one of the most important factors for your store success and revenue. Also, the free themes usually have markup that is much closer to the original markup of the default OpenCart theme, and this is very important because this provides better third-party extension compatibility.

The main disadvantage of the free themes is that usually they come with no support. Also, the updates, bug fixes, and future version compatibility may be a mirage because you never know if the developer will continue to update the theme.

2. Lightweight or Heavy Theme

Another important thing that we need to think of when choosing a theme is what theme do we actually need - a lightweight or a feature-rich, heavy one.

One of the most important things for the success of your store is speed. Speed is usually a big problem of the heavy themes. They have a lot of features, functionalities, and heavy resources this in most cases makes these themes slow. That is why, before purchasing a theme, you should ask yourself - Do I need all these features?

It is a good idea to perform some speed tests of a certain theme before purchasing it. These will give you a more clear picture of how a theme performs. You can go to the Pingdom Website Speed Test tool and run a speed test of the theme you have chosen. The tool will give you information about the page size, the number of requests made by the theme, what resources are loaded and how big they are.

Usually, heavy themes have a lot more complex admin panels than light themes. With all the options, settings and features a configuration of a theme may become a daunting task. My advice is to avoid purchasing themes with tons of features that you are not going to use.

3. Design

The theme design is undoubtedly one of the most important things for the success of your store. However in this case good design does not equal beautiful design. Beauty is not that important here because beauty is subjective. What is beautiful for ones may be extremely frustrating for others. Here we should think of design in the concept of user experience and usage of the theme. We should think of whether the theme is easy to use and whether customers can easily find what they are looking for.

That is why it is a good idea to test drive a theme before purchasing it. We should check if the navigation is easy to use and if the search box is easy to find as well. Also, it is very important how a product page is structured. We should check whether the product information, product options and the add to cart button are visible enough. The checkout process, the user login and registration are also very important parts of the theme design. A well-structured checkout page is crucial to your store’s success. Actually I think the default OpenCart checkout page is very well structured.

4. Mobile friendliness

In April 2015, Google announced their mobile-friendly update. According to this update, Google started boosting the ranking of mobile-friendly pages. Even though this only relates to mobile search results, it is getting more and more important because mobile constantly increases its part of all the e-commerce traffic. You can easy check if your theme is mobile friendly by using Google Mobile Friendly Test.

In addition to Google Mobile Friendly Test, we would recommend to test the theme on a real mobile device and check how it looks and feels. We should pay attention if the design of the theme is well constructed for use on touch devices. Other important parts in your checklist should be the navigation, the product and category pages, the checkout process and the user login and register.

5. SEO ready

SEO optimization is a very complex, tough and long process. OpenCart actually allows you to optimize your website well out of the box by simply using and configuring SEO URLs and carefully selecting your website content. If you need any additional, specific SEO optimization, there are some great SEO extensions in the OpenCart Marketplace.

There is just one thing that, according to me, it is worth mentioning in the aspect of SEO when choosing a theme. A big plus will be if a theme is optimized to provide structured data to search engines that help them to understand better your website content. The structured data is usually provided on the product pages, and it may contain various information about a product - image, name, price, description, availability, condition, rating, etc. You can easily check a theme for structured data using the Google Structured Data Testing Tool. Remember that you should also check a product page for structured data.

Final words

Choosing the right theme for your store is a tough job. I hope that the tips I presented in this post will make your job easier. Remember that a good theme is a mix of all the things that were mentioned here. However, you may have to make a compromise with some things. But a small compromise worths it if we get everything we need from a template, isn’t it.


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