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On Tuesday, we were so excited to announce our new Bigcommerce themes –– all 67 variations of them. We’ve been working hard for the last few months getting customers, partners and developers into the beta to make sure that what we were putting out to market was the best possible solution available.

We think we’ve hit a home run –– and we have more themes launching in the coming months, so stay tuned if you haven’t found the theme that’s just right for your brand. Plus, we’ll be opening up full customizability for all the themes soon, including full access to HTML and CSS. This will enable larger brands needing more extensive customization to easily partner with designers and developers to create a unique storefront that reflects their unique brand and business.

Today and tomorrow, we turn our attention to design partner Pixel Union, the team we worked with to create the new themes. Yesterday, we asked Pixel Union’s designers to choose some of their favorites –– a difficult choice for any creative who gets close to their work. Venture and Geneva stood out as two big-time favorites. So, we sat down with each designer to get their insight into why they designed it the way they did, which types of industries the themes may suit best, and more.

Carlo Franco is the designer of the Venture theme at Pixel Union. Here’s a deep dive into his thought process behind the theme’s creation.

The four variations of the Venture Bigcommerce theme. 

Thanks for sitting down with us, Carlo! To begin, what are the essential elements in an ecommerce theme?

A good ecommerce theme begins with branding and clear paths to purchase. An example of the latter would be Venture’s carousel area, which you can use to promote products and sales.

You want your product tiles to be as clear as possible. Good navigation is also essential — not just the menu that sits near the top of your page, but navigation that’s clear and well-considered and makes your entire catalog accessible. After that, there are smaller things. The ability to search and sort products comes to mind, especially for larger catalogs.

What key elements should a brand look for when choosing an ecommerce theme?

Everyone’s experience and impression of a theme is going to be different. Generally speaking, a brand should look for a theme that’s going to fit well with their catalog, but also that appeals to them visually.

We’ve designed these themes with a whole bunch of different verticals and types of merchants in mind, so there should be something that appeals to everybody.

What’s the inspiration behind the Venture theme?

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I wanted it to feel bold and bright and visually strong. One of the target verticals is sporting goods, which lends itself to lifestyle shots. I wanted to give merchants an opportunity to present those lifestyle shots in a striking, effective way. I also made sure the visual design and typography aren’t overpowered by the photography. Those elements feel just as prominent and create a strong, contrasty, punchy feeling — like a sporting goods store.

What makes the Venture theme unique to other templates and themes out there?

Custom colors are applied in a way that let merchants jump easily from one style to another, without getting overwhelmed. There are actually fewer color options in Venture than some of the other themes, and in my opinion that’s a good thing, because it makes the actual customization process easier and more effective.

From a layout standpoint, Venture’s grid is denser than most of the other themes — you see a lot more products, even on smaller screens. It handles larger collections particularly well. Along the same lines, its product filtering is very good.


Can you talk to the differences between the variations? For readers, note that each of the new Bigcommerce themes comes with four variations.

The variations are all based on the products you see in the demos. Our art department gave us great licensed content to work with, and the product imagery influenced my decisions. As a designer, you start by choosing the right fonts, the right colors to riff off the products. You also think about the vertical. If it’s artbooks or cookbooks, to use one of Venture’s variations as an example, you would ask yourself what typeface complements those types of products.

You also look at what other brands are doing in the same vertical. With all the themes, we wanted to showcase their diversity and how they can suit a broad range of verticals, while at the same time digging into the verticals themselves and making sure the themes are specialized.

How did you go about implementing the design within the Stencil framework?

As a theme designer, one of the first and most important things you need to do is understand how the platform works. Once you do that, then you can find opportunities to add unique design elements and make the best user experience possible.

READ MORE: Stencil is a New Approach to Creating Beautiful, Powerful Storefronts

Stencil was built specifically with developers in mind, with modern tools and the ability for a local development environment. It gives us the ability to create truly unique themes with tailored custom features.

What advice would you give brands on content and photography to make the most out of these themes?

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Good content and photography are so important. Even if you don’t have a huge shooting budget, it’s easy to produce high-quality images with your phone if you have the right setup. Go to Youtube or find a site with a tutorial on how to produce nice images on a low budget. Try to achieve consistency between product images.

If you’re selling socks, make sure your product images are the same size. Also look at your theme’s carousel and try to find images that complement it. If the carousel has text in the dead center, you don’t want to use an image where the product you’re showcasing is right in the middle as well. It takes an eye to notice these things, but a little bit of art direction goes a long way.

In your ideal world, why type of brands or content assets would you be excited to see being put to use within Venture?

I’d love to see another sporting goods store! I’d also love to be surprised and see a brand or vertical that doesn’t fit any of the four presets. It’s a very versatile theme that could fit almost any type of product as long as you have the right images.

Where do you think ecommerce design is heading?

Like most things, I think ecommerce design has the potential to become even more mobile-focused. The technology is still evolving, and I can see more things being done with mobile store design. For example, the iPhone’s 3D touch — if that feature becomes part of our normal behavior, then it becomes an opportunity to push ecommerce design to another level.

And finally, for something personal, what do you like to do with you aren’t designing? What has been a recent source of inspiration for you?

I hike and climb a lot, and I shop a lot at sporting goods stores, so it’s funny that I’m the one who designed Venture. As far as things that inspire me — art, furniture, pretty objects, cozy spaces — these are all things I appreciate, and they often find their way into my work aesthetically. I would also say the people I work with. They bring all kinds of different things to the table, and that definitely inspires me.

Get more information about the new Bigcommerce themes here and leave any questions you have for Carlo in the comments below.

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  • optiongray

    Carlo, we just installed the theme on our site yesterday and it’s beautiful. You did a fantastic job. Hopefully we do it justice!

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