There doesn’t seem to be much information on building Shopify themes (especially since the theme store reopened), so I thought I’d share 5 learnings from launching Divide on the Shopify Theme Store.
As a bit of background, it launched at the end of 2023, and the aim was to create a fun theme for small product catalogues.
To be fair, a few people warned me about this upfront, but it still took way longer than expected. Probably around 3x longer than planned both in terms of timeline and time spent working on design, development, testing etc. As a reference point I’m pretty sure I spent more time on this than I did uni 🙃
Prior to starting on Divide, I’d built custom themes for clients, but they’d always just been for one client. It makes sense, but there was definitely more thinking involved when it came to deciding what to actually put in the theme.
For example, one of the core ideas of Divide was that it would be super simple to set up. As in, if you were someone who wasn’t techie at all, you could install the theme, and rest assured that even if you just added your own text and images, the site would still be set up with eCommerce best practice in mind.
Trying to balance this, with a feature rich theme, that merchants would still find value in was challenging.
If you skim through the Shopify theme requirements, you can see that there’s a tonne of criteria. Going through the theme review process seemed like a more intense version of the checklist. Everything was checked meticulously.
I wasn’t expecting this to be such a thorough process (my thinking was that if you hit all the items on the checklist it would get approved). It definitely gave me more to think about with Divide, in terms of new features, theme settings etc. so I think it was useful. However, it definitely contributed to how long it took from idea to launch.
It also made me realise that you’re at a major disadvantage being a solo, first time theme developer. I guess it’s like most things, but I think going through the theme review process again would be a much quicker process.
My logic for not doing this, was that everything was taking so long, I thought I might end up cutting my losses. That being said, Divide has been live for a bit over a month, and marketing is definitely something I’m going to need to work on in 2024.
I think working out the balance between how much time to put into new product features vs marketing will be an interesting one. Since we’re live, I’m hoping that I’ll be able to see results from either action though (+ or -). Which brings me onto my next point…
I remember watching a video that was done with an established theme partner about how there really is no way to test out your theme idea. Sure, you can talk to individual merchants, but there’s no way to test the waters properly without launching the entire thing. And launching requires a whole bunch of work.
This, combined with the theme review process being pretty lengthy (and also hard to gauge timings of), made the process a lot harder.
After one of the later submissions I decided that I was going to start looking for another project if the review process took too long, or there was too much feedback to action. Which is why QuickSwatch exists :) but that’s probably content for another blog post.
When first starting out with Divide, I made the decision to try and keep the first version as much of a minimum viable prodcut (MVP) as possible. I cut out sections, and features, noting them down as items for future releases, but the feeback from submitting the theme, was along the lines of that not being an option if I wanted to publish on the theme store. So even more time/resources were required to meet the requirements for launching.
One of my aims for 2023 is to get more into content. Mainly for marketing Divide, but I also plan to document the process here. If you’d like to follow along, jump on to the (very infrequent, you’re more likely to be ghosted than spammed) newsletter below.
And if Divide is of interest (perfect for fun brands with a small product catalogue), head here :).