3 Rules you Have to Follow When Designing for a Niche Market

Designing a Shopify online store can be tricky, distinguishing yourself from the competition can be hard. Although there are various resources, articles to guide us, and plenty of themes and templates to choose from, sometimes it feels like our hands are tied and our design abilities are limited.

During the last few months, we worked on a project in which we designed a Shopify theme to the POD (Print on Demand) niche, in order to provide a better solution for this very-fast developing category. When we first approached the design of the theme, we quickly realized that it’s going to be a challenging project because of two major factors:

  1. The target audience is a combination of young entrepreneurs and designers, who usually have a close relationship with the coolest design trends and high styling skills.
  2. The POD theme would have to be innovative, versatile and easy-to-use in order to answer the target audience’s needs and pain points.

In this article, we share 3 thumb rules for succeeding in creating a theme for a niche on Shopify and demonstrate how we followed them in designing the retro concept for the POD niche.

Rule number 1 - Specify your target audience

First of all and before the design itself, you should start with comprehensive research that will provide the basic guidelines for the graphic language and the entire experience you want to create. It is super important to do this homework and conduct research in order to make the design phase quick and effective. The output of the research should be a detailed specification document that covers user personas, user journey, competitors analysis, and UX research. Imagine you want to build a skyscraper - would you succeed without a blueprint? Probably not.

We conducted an extensive research around the POD niche, and detailed the findings in a specification document. The main takeaways were:

  • The POD niche sorely lacked relevant features for sales and promotional events and was in desperate need of tailored announcement bars, pop-ups, countdowns, special offers, and unique product pages.
  • To meet the POD trend head-on, these stores were in need of unique and niche-specific designs.
  • High speed in all resolutions and upon accessing the POD store from any type of digital device, including mobile phones, was a must. Mobile-first design that enables communication between POD stores and their significant social media traffic had to be enabled.
  • There was a pressing need to optimize the display of variations, to best highlight the POD product printings on items of clothing and accessories.

Rule number 2 - Create a tailor-made visual language

shopify theme pod concept

After creating the specification document, we could start planning the visual language of the theme itself. 

A visual language is a compilation of many ingredients - buttons, color palettes, typography, imagery, graphic elements, components, and videos. This list goes on and on, therefore creating a visual language can take a few days of ideation and iterations, before proceeding to the design of the store. Although this process might take time, we recommend starting with a strong base and keep developing and styling your visual language along the way.

Keep in mind that it’s super important to check if the visual language is aligning with the target audience’s interests. Since our target audience was young entrepreneurs and designers, we set the following guidelines in creating our visual language:

  • The target audience practical needs came first by creating tailor made features and graphic elements
  • The POD theme must look clean and neat, using a lot of white space and margins between elements to create breathing areas between products and sections
  • In order to catch the eye we decided to use a bold and colorful red palette that contrasts perfectly the white background
  • We wanted to give a fresh vibe, using the latest design trends in the typography and imagery fields

Here is an example of the collections section at the homepage:

shopify theme pod concept

Bold title, contrast and breathing area between elements, cool and innovative pictures grid.

Rule number 3 - Design an experience, not an online store

After we had our specification document, design guidelines and unique visual language, we were ready to connect the dots and build our new Shopify POD theme. We suggest reading some articles about Shopify stores’ design best practices (this great article helped us a lot) and to implement their recommendations. 

The homepage must include these items:

Impressive visual

The most important part of the store is the hero section. Since there is no second chance to create a first impression, what the users see at the first glance of the store is critical. We recommend to include a video or a picture that the target audience can relate to and have a clue what your store can offer them by the first look. 

Strong call-to-action

A call-to-action (CTA) guides the visitor what action to take. On Shopify and e-commerce platforms, its role is to start a conversion funnel and help first-timers to make a purchase as easy as possible. Design-wise, you should focus on drawing attention by a big enough CTA button, which has a distinct shape and bold colors. 

Navigation menu

The sitemap needs to be clear and understandable. We used a fixed header navigation tabs menu that shows most of the content the store has to offer. A good technique to use is to limit what you show at the navigation menu and provide a more detailed site map at the store footer.

Badges & details to create trust

Think about yourself, would you even start a purchase process on a store that does not provide a trustworthy feeling? This trust can be gained with simple information like shipping details and prices, phone number and email address to contact. If you already have paying customers and reviews, this will definitely help.

If you don’t have a clue where to start, There are infinite resources and lists that can give you great inspiration around the web and on pinterest, dribbble, behance and muzli.

We hope this article helped you and gave you inspiration and takeaways for your online store design. Whether you’re targeting a niche or a well-known market, these tips will help increase website traffic and hopefully improve your sales rate and generate revenue.