Do you want to make your Shopify site look expensive but can’t afford to hire a designer? Read on, I have gathered all the tricks from my years working as a website designer that can upgrade your DIY website without spending any extra money.

First, I need to clarify, when I say ‘expensive’, it’s a short-cut to mean ‘trustworthy, classy and high-end’. It’s less about money and more about building this relationship with your site visitor that you know is crucial to making sales online. If people don’t feel confident spending money in your online store, your business will suffer.


The first decision you will face when creating your website on Shopify which will determine the look and functionality of your store is the theme you choose. As you probably already know, there is a selection of free Shopify themes available directly from their store. You may be wondering if the free Shopify themes are any good or if you need to be splurging on a premium one. The good news is that:

A Free shopify theme doesn’t have to look cheap

Let’s look at this example of two stores using the same free Shopify theme, Brooklyn.

shopify free theme example
shopify free theme example brooklyn

It doesn’t take a designer to instinctively know which one of these websites looks expensive and it has nothing to do with the theme that’s used.

The reason why a choice of the Shopify theme is so important comes down largely to the functionality it offers. Some themes will let you edit everything down to the spacing of items in your menu bar. Others will let you choose between 6 fonts and make everything unreasonably hard.

Here’s an example of the theme customisation panel from two different websites I worked on, to give you an idea.

shopify themes customisation options

That is why, even if your budget is limited, I would encourage you to consider some paid options. For my clients, I usually recommend Flex or Turbo which are both superb (here’s a nice discount code for you, if you decide to try it out: DOMITRACY10 ). But if you’re not ready for the investment, here are 3 themes I found below $100 which I believe are great value for money:

Roxxe – $59

Kalles – $89

Lezada – $49


Immediate giveaways of a DIY Shopify website

  1. Low quality images

Avoid using stock images or product photos supplied by the manufacturer, especially if you’re dropshipping and the same images will be used by your competitors. You can create high resolution, beautiful images using nothing but your smartphone.

  1. Default Shopify fonts

Research font combinations which will reflect your brand identity and add personality to your website. Pinterest can provide loads of inspiration for this.

  1. Low in Content

A dead giveaway that a store is new or not going to be around for long is lack of content, especially when it comes to copy. Provide as much information as possible to your potential customers, and don’t believe anyone who tells you people don’t like to read online. They may just scan the information but they still need it to make a purchasing decision.

  1. Clashing colours

Pick a colour palette and stick to it, for everything from site elements to product images.

  1. Default Shopify header
  2. Messy navigation

Keep your navigation contained to a single line and try to arrange the option in a way that would make sense to a customer. A great option you may want to add to your store is a mega menu using images, which can make site navigation much easier for some stores.

Observe the basic design principles

These principles are taught in every design course but you can adapt them to your Shopify website without any formal training. They are:







Negative Space





I won’t go into all of them here but here are a few examples I think are important to keep in mind when designing your own Shopify website.


You don’t want to leave the eye movement of your site visitor to chance. From research conducted by the Nielsen Group, we know that most people scan websites in a pattern that resembles the F or Z letter.

F reading pattern eyetracking

With intentional use of headers and spacing, you can guide the site visitor to consume your site content in a pattern that we call ‘layer cake’, like it’s done here by the designers of the Nordstorm website.

nordstorm eye pattern intentional


Be sure to align site elements consistently in relation to each other. So, for example, make sure all headings are either aligned centre or left, not a mix of the two.

correct text alignment on e-commerce website

White space

As a design principle, the use of white space is crucial, as it gives the elements in your composition the room to breathe. With not enough white space, pages will look cluttered and are hard to navigate. Be sure to leave some blank space around elements of your web page, especially the important ones. This empty space will make them stand out more and makes for a better user experience.

correct use of negative space on e-commerce website

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