This is a high level outline of getting started with a Shopify storefront and part of a series that I’m writing and will eventually publish on my developer’s blog.  You can help me with this by pointing out inconsistencies or things that I don’t explain well.  It comes in parts; essentially covering things by topic.  It has to be high level because every Shopify store is different and the way to truly learn Shopify is to create a store and start banging around.  I’ll send these in pieces (since most are not fully done) and I’ll send the topics that you expressed an interest in.


Starting out it’s easy to sign up and “just get going” by importing all of your current product listings, choosing a free theme because you “don’t want to spend a lot” and going live.  Don’t.

Your success in an online business is directly related to how cohesive your store is.  Your graphics, fonts and colors, the behavior flow of your customers as they go through the buying process, what types of payment options you offer, how your products are organized, and on and on.   Setting up a good store requires a lot of attention to detail and a commitment to being organized.  You’re in this for the long haul so take time up-front to do things right. 


Choosing a Shopify Theme, part one, i.e. don’t

This is hard.  Hard because you're starting out on the Shopify platform and you are unfamiliar with the fine points of things you might wish to see in your store.  If you have no other experience with ecommerce other than Etsy or eBay it can be a challenge - you don’t know what you want until you’re missing it.  And choosing incorrectly can result in wasted time and money. 

I can say firmly to only buy a theme from the Shopify Theme Store.  Do not go to a theme marketplace like Themeforest.  Shopify is strict about the coding requirements for their approved themes - yes they cost more but the code that comes out of some folks on Themeforest is pretty awful and only hangs together by a thread.

The theme you choose is intimately connected to your brand and how your products are presented - a good theme won’t require a lot of monthly add-ons and should be a cost that only recurs after many years.

You won't really see the advantages of themes that you are considering until you have a test store.  Don't buy a theme until you're in the test store phase and have a chance to run the theme demo seeded with a few of your items and some rudimentary navigation.


Doing a Shopify Trial

The best way to do a Shopify free trial is to block out enough time to fully exercise your new shop and prepare as much as you can beforehand and take detailed notes.  If you want to go live before the holiday season it's best to get going now but really if you don’t have the time, be prepared to spend the monthly Shopify store fee without having a live store.  By the way, this is not the crisis that it might seem and it’s possible to get the free trial extended.  However if you really don’t have any time it’s best to wait until your slow season.


The general idea is that you set up some parts of your store to enable you to exercise the demos for potential themes. 

You’ll spend time up front on navigation structure (menus and categories). 

You’ll import just a few product listings and create Shopify Collections to keep these organized. 

Then you’ll visit the Shopify Theme store and start demo’ing themes.



Preparation before starting the Free Trial

  • Peruse the Shopify Theme Store and demo any and all themes that catch your eye.  A time consuming but necessary step.  It’s ok to spend a full week analyzing themes, really.
  • Based on what you discover in the themes, familiarize yourself with the Shopify documentation (Google is your friend).  When you see unfamiliar terms look them up. Explore how things hang together.  Take notes and bookmark pertinent pages.  Contact theme developers and visit their websites to see how responsive they are to your questions.
  • If you'll be importing your Etsy listings familiarize yourself with the CSV import and get a CSV file of your Etsy listings.  I’m going to assume you’re familiar with Microsoft Excel or equivalent spreadsheet program.
    • Note that you should not change the CSV file to an Excel file (.xlsx) it won't work.
  • Get your graphics ready, not necessarily finalized but you should have the basics down for your logo and be able to access the raw artwork for size changes and scaling.
    • Get your color scheme started.  You can spend hours on choosing colors - do this before your trial.  Write down the hexadecimal code numbers.  Try to adhere to a consistent color theme and have a general idea of how you would like your shop to look.
  • Make a detailed tree diagram of how you would like your navigation to flow - sketch this out on paper.
    • Native Shopify only allows three levels of navigation (see my store, Fabric->Knits & Stretch->Nani Iro Knits
    • Adding more levels requires either a hack or purchasing a monthly app
    • Ecommerce studies show that most customers get lost after three so this is not that big of a deal AND forces you to be disciplined.


Start the Trial

Focus on menu navigation and appearance and only import/create a few products so that you can choose a theme intelligently.

  • Getting products into your store is a tiny part of setup.
  • Do some generic Navigation first then use your new store structure to help you view themes and choose.
  • You can’t choose a theme until you know how the theme will work with your tree diagram.  This means you have to have some navigation in place to see how a theme performs.
  • Appearance includes choosing a theme and customizing colors


Set some of your store’s basic settings to help with product import

You can always change things later but it’s best to get a few basic things set.  From the Admin panel go to Settings, at the very bottom.  Go thru General, Payments, Checkout and try to setup what you can - leave Shipping, Taxes, Sales channels, Files for later.

  • Hint: under General do yourself a favor and set this to Metric system and grams. Grams is the finest weight granulation available and allows greater flexibility later on.  Native Shopify uses grams.
  • Hint: under Payments make sure you set up Shopify Payments. If you do not use Shopify Payments, Shopify will charge you a percentage fee of all your transactions.  Set up Amazon Pay too, it’s easy and makes it easier for your customers to purchase.  Hopefully you are using Paypal for your shop - set this up too.
  • Hint: under Checkout->Order Processing you have the option of signing up customers for promotional emails - think carefully about how you would like to use your customer’s data and how aggressive you want to be. You may wish to leave this at Disable and hide this field until you know the full ramifications of the other two choices.


CSV Import

CSV importing and exporting is the fastest and most efficient way to get products and changes to product listings into your store.  You must be familiar with some spreed sheet tool like Microsoft Excel.

View your CSV file that you downloaded from Etsy and compare it to my test Shopify listing CSV file:


Your job is to take the Etsy columns and match them up with the Shopify columns where you can.  View the Shopify documentation on CSV files:


Shopify is picky about this file.  Convert two or three products and try to import.  Shopify will error out immediately or allow the import.


  • Import your test CSV file and examine the Product listings for mistakes, correct in the file and try again until your few test listings look ok.  It’s ok to delete products and re-import.  This is in your admin panel under Products->Import.
  • Suggest making all new imported products not-live, i.e. CSV column ‘Published’ set to FALSE.
  • Work on CSV import and export until you have a good understanding.  You only need a few products to help with Navigation and theme choice.  Don’t try to import all of your products at this point.

Shopify Collections

  • Work on Navigation next.  Navigation is a combination of top level menus (Online Store->Navigation) and Shopify Collections (Products->Collections)
    • Shopify Collections are roughly equivalent to categories or the Sections that you have in your Etsy store.
    • Products can appear in more than one Collection.
    • Shopify Collections drive pretty much everything for sorting and displaying and help with SEO.
    • Collections can be dynamically updated using ‘Tags’ on products. 
    • Shopify Tags are not equivalent to Etsy Tags - two different things although they have some things in common.
    • Tags are inserted on the Product’s page or using the Bulk Editing tool or through CSV Import.
    • Try adding some tags to a few of your products and then Create Collection to make a new Shopify Collection.  Make a Collection correlating to one of your tree diagram’s top level items.  For example, I sell yarn and fabric.  FABRIC would be a top level Collection item for my shop.  You can change things around later but for now use this as your starting point. 
      • Using FABRIC as a Collection, I might have two products with the Shopify Tags, ‘fabric’.  Under the Products->Collections->Create Collection for FABRIC I would choose Product Tag is equal to FABRIC.
    • Make two more Collections using unique tags.  For example I might tag a product with ‘LINEN’ and another product with ‘COTTON’ and both of these products would get the tag ‘QUILTING FABRIC.’  I could then make a Collection for Quilting Fabrics and another collection for Cottons.


We’ll add to the Main Menu and create two sub-menus so that we can exercise the theme demos and see how navigation works in Shopify.

  • Main Menu is just that. This is entry point to your product organization.  From our previous step we can Add menu item ‘Fabrics’.
  • You’ll see several options for the Link in the menu setup. Use the Collection option and in the location area use the pull down and find the Collection name, in our example FABRIC.

Once you’ve saved and you revisit Online Store->Navigation you should see Fabrics in the Main Menu area and you should see a new menu named ‘Fabrics.’

To make a sub menu you repeat the process by going to Fabrics,  Add menu item and setting the appropriate Collection.  Make this sub menu and then a sub-sub menu so:


That’s it for the first part - next part will be Choosing a Shopify Theme, part two