What is the difference between a Shopify Theme and a bespoke Shopify website?

by Julia Jackle - May 30, 2018

Go to Creative971 ultimate Dropshipping UAE dubai guide to learn about dropshipping.

At Creative971, we keep our Shopify knowledge and training up-to-date in order to offer our clients quick, beautiful and user-friendly e-commerce sites. To discover how optimized your Shopify store is, or to get started on a shiny new site today, get in touch. 

Did you ask yourself the same question? Since we as a Shopify agency get asked this question quite a lot, we decided to dedicate a blog post to it, in order to shed some light on the options available for you. Keep in mind that there is no “ultimate” solution here, but we are going to help you understand qualifying the right fit for your business. Especially businesses in the UAE and GCC often face liquidity and budget restrictions in the beginning stage or generally, when deciding to use an agency in order to get their web presence built. Needless to say that most businesses would in their internal discussions opt for a theme based web built first and then consider a bespoke solution later on. Often times this “later on” becomes a vague expression of “might not happen”. Websites, but specifically E-Commerce websites are not only your brand presentation to the market but also your 24/7 sales generator, active part and for a lot of UAE /GCC based businesses the main channel of business. Consider this while reading through the differences below.

Theme Solution

Themes can be a great way of getting cost effective websites and can be a great fit for businesses starting off and testing waters within their industry and market. There are a few things you should be aware of.

Benefits of using Theme based Websites:

  • Cost factor: When talking about theme based websites there are different options, a theme set up without customizations, a theme set up with minor or in-depth customizations. All of them are priced individually to your business’ requirement, however, they are all fairly well priced in comparison to a bespoke built.
  • Speed: Building along a theme brings your website and business up and running much faster than a bespoke built.
  • Visibility: deciding for a Theme based website will let you see and understand fairly quickly what design and web structure you can expect.

Limits of using Themes:

  • Standard look: your business and website both live from individualization and setting yourself apart from the competition, hence using a Theme can be a hindering part here.
  • Design: please note that when looking at themes the imagery used is meeting the best case scenario and might not reflect the same touch and feel with your imagery and content. It is essential to stay in line with your brand guidelines and vision. Themes are always designed to be catering to the mainstream mass in order to increase sales of that theme, this keeps fairly generic within design and feature options.

Bespoke Website Design & Built

By default, we as an agency are going to favor this solution as it is by nature what our business is about – creating a detailed and beautiful functioning and performing E-Commerce websites for UAE and GCC businesses, specifically within the retail sector. We are surely not having an interest in quickly pushing in content into templates and calling it a website. As an agency, we care and surely take pride in our work in order to find a happy client with the outcome of our design and development work. Only if you are happy with your website you will have the confidence and success.

Benefits of Bespoke Designs:

  • Design: and details are what makes the difference, in today’s competitive market, we all need to work hard on converting a sale or lead and bespoke designs definitely help you in achieving this goal. Tailoring a website that suits your brand and vision definitely does individualize and so do businesses. However, you will be seen as a mature, professional and highly trustworthy business once you care about this.
  • Performance: is more related to good back-end development, all our builds are solid and whether or not you are using a theme, Shopify and Shopify Plus as platforms specifically are both tested and validated to ensure that the codes are solid, major updates are done within the platform and available via a subscription, which is way advanced to comparing to other E-Commerce platforms
  • Expertise: when hiring a professional agency, you are always having the extra of a competitive edge as you have an expert guide in the field that assures you to advise you according to your business needs.

Disadvantages of Bespoke Websites & Builts

  • more cost and time efficient compared to Theme website builts

… and that’s a wrap!

Bottom line is, you should allocate a budget for a bespoke build, especially if you are an established retail brand or business, evaluate where you want to be and let the facts talk.

We hope you had great value and understand better which solution fits your business. If you need help and our opinion on this, please feel free to reach out to us:


About the Author:
Julia Jackle
Julia is the co-founder and CEO of Creative971 and has written blogs in the past for the Entrepreneur Magazine UAE. Her extensive knowledge in the E-Commerce industry in the UAE and GCC is widely appreciated.


We can take your business from concept to conversion no matter what stage of the journey you’re at.