Building an online store with OpenCart? A great OpenCart theme will be the first thing you'll need.
Fortunately, there are hundreds of OpenCart themes available on ThemeForest and third party marketplaces.
Unfortunately, many of them just aren't good.
In this guide, I'll try to cover some of the most important steps you'll go through when choosing an OpenCart theme.
Introduction. What to look for in an OpenCart theme
In a perfect world, you should be able to just look at a few different themes, choose the one that looks the best and build a great online store with it.
However, it's not a perfect world we live in – and there's quite a number of poor OpenCart themes that you don't want in your store.
Before rushing to purchase an OpenCart theme, consider these important questions first:
- what's your budget – how much you're willing to invest in the theme
- what type of theme do you need – a generic multi-purpose theme or an industry-specific one
- which theme features are crucial for you – and which ones aren't
- who are the developers and what do you expect in terms of support and code quality
- finally – where to look for themes (and where not to)
We've been working with OpenCart for years – believe me, you'll make your life so much easier if you answer these questions first.
How much are you willing to invest? Are free themes worth it?
Going with a free theme may sound like a good idea. After all, OpenCart itself is free and open source – why not a free theme?
The thing is, many popular open source projects can afford to be free thanks to other means of monetization – from donations and extension revenues to sponsorships and investments from other companies. Still, even popular open source projects often fail due to the lack of funding.
An individual theme developer won't have this luxury – and creating and maintaining a good OpenCart theme takes A LOT of work.
It will take thousands of hours of design, development, technical support, maintenance and updates to design, create and maintain a good product for a longer period of time – you can't expect a premium experience from a free OpenCart theme.
Yet, the average OpenCart theme will cost you about $50 for a lifetime of updates and months of years of free support – less than what you'd pay to hire a professional developer or a designer for one hour of work.
If you're serious about building a successful and profitable online store, there's no reason not to invest in a high quality theme.
Do you need a multipurpose or a specific theme?
Multipurpose themes are great in that you can generally use them for pretty much any kind of project and it will work out in the end.
The drawback of multipurpose themes is that while they're fine in most aspects, they're often not great at them.
While it will obviously depend on your requirements, I advise you to ask yourself – are you building an online store or are you building the best, most beautiful online store in my industry?
In many cases, a multipurpose OpenCart theme will do just fine. In other cases, you may want to look for a theme that was designed for your particular online store type and your specific industry.
What features do you need in your theme? How many is too many?
Some OpenCart themes will make your store look great – but not much more than that.
Other themes will come with hundreds of extras – from page builders, layout editors and blogging systems to custom checkouts, live chats, messaging systems and anything you can imagine.
Should you go with the one that offers the most features just in case you need something in the future?
It depends. More features usually means more possibilities, but also more feature bloat, lower performance and more possible issues down the road.
Who are the developers? What's the quality of code and support?
When you're investing in an OpenCart theme, you're also investing in the team behind it.
No matter how good a theme is, sooner or later you'll need to seek help from theme developers – will they be there to help you out?
Is the code quality of the theme good enough that your own developer can work with it if needed?
Finally, can you trust the company behind the theme and are you willing to do business with them?
Purchasing themes from friendly and reliable developers is a good way to ensure long time success – make sure to check the reviews!
Where to look for themes? Is there a "go-to" place to buy OpenCart themes?
There are lots of websites selling OpenCart themes. Where do you search (and where you don't) when choosing your next theme?
A good rule of thumb is to purchase themes from reputable sources.
When it comes to themes and templates, ThemeForest is usually the first place to look into – OpenCart themes are not an exception.
While buying a theme from ThemeForest won't guarantee you'll get a great one, it will at least minimize the risk somewhat. You will also have a chance to browse real reviews before making the purchase and request a refund if something goes wrong.
Since most of the popular OpenCart themes are only available on ThemeForest and you have lots to choose from, we recommend sticking to it with a few exceptions.
There are definitely other third party marketplaces – TemplateMonster, OpenCart Marketplace and others. While these may sound enticing, they're often are plagued with low quality themes, so I wouldn't recommend them.
An exception to this rule are localized themes designed specifically for localized versions of OpenCart. These may not be available on ThemeForest – still, you'll usually get them from a well known local community marketplace (such as the official OpenCart community in your country).
Finally, I wouldn't recommend purchasing OpenCart themes directly from individual developer websites. If the theme is not available on one of the most popular marketplaces – there's usually a reason for this.
So – get your OpenCart themes from trusted sources and you'll be fine!
Doing the research. How do you pick and compare OpenCart themes?
Now that you know what you need, you're ready to start researching and comparing OpenCart themes.
What to look for when considering a theme and how to tell if it's a good one?
Here are just some of the things to pay attention to when comparing OpenCart themes:
- sales numbers and ratings
- customer reviews and discussions
- look and feel, live demos and real life website examples
- the teams behind the themes
- system requirements, of course
There are definitely other factors, but I consider these to be the most important ones.
Pay attention to sales numbers and ratings, but do it carefully
While it may feel enticing to purchase one of the best sellers when choosing an OpenCart theme, sales numbers aren't everything.
In some cases, sales numbers simply mean that the theme has been available long enough to accumulate sales – even if the theme itself isn't that great.
The same goes for the average rating. Not all 5 star rated themes are great – they may simply be "good enough" for buyers not to think twice when rating them.
All else being equal, however, you'll definitely have a higher chance of success going with a top selling theme compared to a newly published one.
Reviews and discussions are crucial when evaluating a theme
ThemeForest lets you browse through buyer reviews and comments when researching themes. Don't skip this step!
- Are there lots of buyer questions that went unanswered by the theme developer? That's a red flag.
- Is the overall rating favorable, but you're seeing quite a few 1 star ratings complaining about poor code quality and support? That's a red flag.
- Does the theme developer sound arrogant when responding to questions? That's a red flag.
On the other hand, if you're seeing favorable customer reviews praising code quality, personal support and a friendly attitude by the developer – that's a fairly good indicator that the developer is genuine.
Go through live demos and real life website examples
You can almost always find a link to the live demo of each of the OpenCart themes that are sold on ThemeForest. Do it!
What should you look for when checking live demos?
- The overall quality of the demo. Broken demos and error messages aren't a good sign.
- The look and feel of the theme. That's a bit subjective, but you can often tell a clean, modern, fresh looking and pixel perfect OpenCart theme from a "generic", sloppily designed one.
- The performance. If you're seeing noticeably slow page loads on a live demo, you may have a hard time using it on a live store with tens of thousands of products.
When looking at live demos, make sure to check the admin theme controls as well.
There's no real reason for theme developers to restrict access to theme control panels – and neatly designed and powerful control panels are an indicator of theme's functionality.
Finally, while live demos are great, they're specifically designed to make a good impression.
So, try to find a few real life marketplaces running the theme you're looking into and see if they look as good as the live demo.
Research the developers behind the theme
When researching the developers behind the theme, try to find other products offered by the same developer.
In many cases, quality theme developers will either focus on a single theme or work on a few different themes for different marketplace types.
For example, the same developer may work on an OpenCart theme for electronics marketplaces and a different theme for fashion marketplaces.
If you're seeing the same theme developer sell dozens (or hundreds!) different themes looking pretty much the same, it may indicate they're just putting quantity over quality – which may also affect the quality of support.
Make sure to check the system requirements and documentation
ThemeForest requires theme developers to specify the technologies used in and required by their themes, as well as displays the quality of the documentation and the list of included files.
A good OpenCart theme will usually:
- use responsive layouts and Bootstrap as its framework
- support at least OpenCart 2.3.0.x
- be well documented
- include high resolution images and layered PSD files in addition to templates
You may also want to look into the official theme's website – if there is one in addition to the ThemeForest listing. This isn't a must have thing, but is usually nice to have as it may contain additional resources and documentation.
If you're using complex third party extensions – such as multi vendor OpenCart extensions – you might want to ask the theme's developer whether or not they'll be compatible.
Finally, make sure the theme supports your version of OpenCart – there are three different versions of OpenCart that aren't cross-compatible.
Making the decision. How to find the best OpenCart theme?
Ideally, your perfect OpenCart theme will have clean and well documented code, modern responsive layouts with hi-res imagery, regular updates and a friendly developer team to support you if something goes wrong.
Here's a quick summary of the factors to consider before proceeding with the OpenCart theme research:
- free vs premium
- multipurpose vs specific
- basic vs full blown
- support, documentation, code quality
- where to look
Once you've decided on these crucial things, you can proceed with the research!
Your next ideal OpenCart theme will:
- be a decent seller in terms of sales numbers
- have a good overall rating
- have lots of reviews with zero or few negative ones
- offer both live demos and real life websites to look at
- be created by great and friendly developers
- obviously, match your system requirements
At this point, you'll usually have a a few themes on your wishlist. How do you ultimately choose the one?
Here are a few of our tips to choosing a great OpenCart theme:
- premium themes are better than free ones
- multipurpose themes will work ok in most cases, decent industry-specific themes will work great for specific cases
- more features isn't always better, although it's nice to have at least the basic ones
- good documentation will save you a ton of time in the future
- swift support is a must – beware of reviews complaining about bad support
- clean code is a benefit – it's not a deal breaker, but is nice to have when you or your developer will need to customize the theme
- the more sales numbers the better chance of having your issues resolved in a quick manner
- live demos are great, real life websites are even better
- friendly and human responses from developers are an indicator of team's personality (compared to generic "please submit a support ticket" replies)
With this knowledge at your disposal, you can now go and start searching for your next perfect OpenCart theme!
P.S. The list of OpenCart themes we consider the best in 2018
We have our own list of themes that we love to work with here at MultiMerch.
In 2018, the list looks as follows.
Basel – the Clean, Lightweight and Powerful OpenCart Theme
We've introduced Basel support in MultiMerch back in December and fell in love with it right away.
Basel is by far the most pleasant OpenCart theme we've worked with – both in terms of quality and support.
Why we like Basel:
- clean, modern design
- great code quality and documentation
- powerful features without excess
- friendly developer always ready to help
If you've just started looking for an OpenCart theme, I would strongly recommend you check out Basel first.
Themes by ThemeBurn – a Selection of 6 Great OpenCart Themes
The ThemeBurn team has a set of 6 different OpenCart themes that we maintain MultiMerch compatibility with:
All of them are powered by ThemeBurn's own BurnEngine and use Bootstrap, which makes them compatible with MultiMerch through only a few customizations.
Why we like ThemeBurn themes:
- both multi-purpose and industry-specific options
- all of them are built using the same engine
- swift support by the ThemeBurn team
If you need a specialized OpenCart theme for your store, definitely consider one of the ThemeBurn themes.
Journal – the Top Selling OpenCart Theme by Digital Atelier
With more than 18,000 sales on ThemeForest, Journal is pretty much the most popular OpenCart theme out there – no doubt about that.
While not our primary choice due to an its heaviness, a custom framework and a sometimes too often release cycle, Journal is the first OpenCart theme to look into if you need the jack of all trades.
Why we like Journal:
- the most feature-packed theme
- regular updates and swift support
If none of the more lightweight themes suit your requirements, Journal is the way to go.
MoneyMaker – the Lightweight OpenCart Theme for Russian Stores
MoneyMaker is an OpenCart theme you won't find on ThemeForest as it's mostly tailored to the Russian OpenCart market, but it's a great multi-purpose OpenCart theme nevertheless.
Why we like MoneyMaker:
- clean and lightweight
- comes with a Russian localization and support for OCStore
If you're building an online store with OpenCart in Russian, MoneyMaker should be your first choice.
Sellegance – the Clean and Responsive OpenCart theme
Sellegance is the only OpenCart theme we recommend that isn't yet officially supported by MultiMerch.
However, we've worked with a few Sellegance online stores and heard great feedback about the theme.
Why we like Sellegance:
- clean and modern design
- great support by the developer
If nothing else from the list works for you, definitely give Sellegance a try.
Are you using a great theme that you'd like to recommend? Let us know in the comments!