Shopify free theme vs paid theme: What are the pros and cons?

In this article we’ll tell you why we think Dawn (Shopify’s free theme) is great for new Shopify users, plus give you some key indicators for when it’s time to upgrade to a premium theme.
Shopify free theme vs paid theme: What are the pros and cons?

There’s no escaping the fact that everyone LOVES a good freebie, and when faced with a paid product versus a free version, it’s understandable that our gaze will linger longest over the option that doesn’t require us to hand over our credit card numbers.

But the key word here is ‘version’. You see, when faced with these two options, whilst the cost-free choice is attractive for obvious cash-saving reasons, it’s usually just a trimmed down version of the real deal. There will be costs and benefits versus savings and limitations. 

In this article we’ll tell you why we think Dawn (Shopify’s free theme) is great for new Shopify users, plus give you some key indicators for when it’s time to upgrade to a premium theme. 

What's Dawn? 

In June 2021 Shopify announced the launch of Online Store 2.0, and with this came the launch of Dawn, Shopify’s free default theme. 

Dawn is great. It’s fast (really fast!), and has great basic functionality with a clean design and it is really easy to use. A must for anyone starting out on Shopify. Some of the key benefits of using Dawn are:

   💅 You can change the fonts and colours so your online store starts to look more like an extension of your brand

   ⚡ The theme loads really quickly thanks to its bare bones coding structure

   👍 Simplicity equals speed. As there are fewer sections and page templates you can get set up and be selling super quick.

   💰 It’s FREE!

Being free means you can keep your overheads down, test your product/s and see some sales before you start investing money in your online store design. 

And we get that. 

Ideally you want to be making money, not spending it. But there comes a time when you will need a theme that can add functionality and customisable options to really make your theme stand out. 

Otherwise you’ll notice that your online store looks a lot like a lot of other online stores. And when you’re trying to stand out and create a unique brand, that is not a good thing. 

So when is the right time to invest in a paid theme? 

Well, in our opinion, it’s when you feel you’ve outgrown the basic design of your free theme and find yourself saying:

‘I wish my store had better filtering’,

‘I wish I could create more creative page templates’,

‘I wish I didn’t have to pay for an app to show sales promos....'

Premium themes: Why should I buy one?

Designed by professional ecommerce experts 

For starters, Shopify premium themes are designed by teams of ecommerce experts so you can take comfort in knowing that your theme is optimised to convert from day one. Plus when you buy exclusively from the Shopify Theme Store you know you’re buying a quality theme vetted and approved by Shopify. 

Designs tailored to industries and trends

The e-commerce industry is prone to trends and that’s a good thing. With a premium Shopify theme you can choose from clean and easy-to-navigate design that has the smaller details that add that 'je ne sais quoi', to one where you can crop your images into a star shape and make them spin. You really can find a theme that will enhance your brand whatever you sell.

Most importantly we advise you to take note of the design elements that aren't meant to be noticed but that add an air of professionalism. Think of how the sticky header slides into view instead of just appearing or that + icon on an accordion that spins into a - ready for your user to close.

These are the subtle details many people don't consider when buying a free Shopify theme but that come in many of the paid Shopify themes. These are the details that build trust with your customers and enhance your brand without any effort from you.

"I'm all for great features but great design is a lot harder to achieve without hiring a very experienced/expensive designer"

Jenny McMillen, Themes Product Manager @ Eight

Features built in, so less need for apps 

There are limitless customization options within premium themes. They are packed full of features like Shop The Look, Advanced product filtering, Out of stock notifications, sales and promo banners, the list goes on. In fact you can check out the theme features of our Flow theme here for reference. 

These additional features have an added cost benefit too, as you’ll find you need less apps to generate the same functionality, therefore saving on your monthly app costs, which can quickly add up! And it makes your site faster as the less apps installed means less additional code slowing it down. Winning.

The downside to all this gorgeous additional functionality is that it can take a bit more time to set up and edit your store, simply because there are so many more sections and templates to explore and set up. But we think it’s worth the time spent for the additional extras you'll receive. 

Cost vs benefit

And then there’s the cost. Typically premium Shopify themes range from $200 to $400 as a one off purchase. There’s no recurring costs. And the great thing is that you don’t pay the fee until you publish the theme to your online store. So, you can try the theme with your own products, brand colours and customisations first to really check if it's the theme you want. 

And if that’s not tempting enough, to top it off you get:

All our themes cost $350, and in our opinion $350 for a professionally designed, feature rich, conversion optimized theme made by an experienced ecommerce team whose mission is to make Shopify entrepreneurs more successful, is a highly cost effective investment in your online store.

"In my humble opinion - price shouldn’t matter much for any serious business owner. From $0-$400 for a ready made theme is still one of the best deals on the internet for entrepreneurs."

Jon Kennedy, Founder of HeyCarson

What do you think?

Ready to transform your store using a paid theme by Eight Themes? Click here to find your perfect theme and start your free trial.