Not all Shopify themes are created equal.
Even in the Shopify Theme Store, which has a carefully curated collection of fewer than 50 themes, some are certainly better than others.
That's we've learned In working on Shopify themes for the last five years.
(Which is why we now only work on themes from trusted developers.)
For new store owners on Shopify, choosing the right theme can be an intimidating task.
On today's episode, I talk through my theming experience, and we take a deep dive into a new theme that's become my preferred go-to choice.
Joining us is Brad Miller from Out of the Sandbox.
Brad is the founder and CEO of Out of the Sandbox, the designers of Shopify's best reviewed and most popular themes.
Out of the Sandbox has been designing revolutionary online shops and setting trends in the ecommerce world since 2011.
Their theme work has earned them a Shopify Design Award, and they've continued to push the technological boundaries for high-performance ecommerce.
- Why start with a premium theme from the Shopify theme store?
- How Turbo theme achieves incredible performance
- The ‘Ludicrous’ feature exclusive to Turbo
- Turbo’s clever solution to images
- 40% of customers will abandon a site that takes more than 3 seconds to load
- The most requested features from Out of The Sandbox and what to expect next
- How the Theme Updater app automatically gets you the latest features
- What you can do to get the best support
- Use Code PODCAST20 to save 20% off the purchase price of Turbo
- Turbo Theme - Use Code PODCAST20 to save 20% off the purchase price of Turbo
- Out of The Sandbox Themes
Kurt Elster: Hello, welcome back to the Unofficial Shopify Podcast. I'm Kurt Elster, recording from Ethercycle headquarters outside Chicago, in beautiful Park Ridge, Illinois, on the second floor, all the way up in the clouds, of the Pickwick Building. Eh, that joke's lame. Forget it.
Anyway, so I'm excited. I've got a great guest today on a topic that literally all of us can relate to. At least I hope we can all relate to it. Picking a theme.
Picking a theme is really hard and the reason is, they're not all made alike, right? So we've got an internal rule now, is hey, if it's not from our approved ... First we said, listen if it's a third-party theme, that's not in the Shopify theme store, I don't even want to mess with it because it's, there's probably a reason. Then it became, well, even within the Shopify theme store, none of them are bad, but some are certainly better than others.
So, it became, all right, we're just going to come up with a shortlist of themes that we know are solid investments for stores, are going to be reliable, are going to future-proof your store. And just stick with those. And that has been such a winning idea. And it wasn't ... Well, it was coincidence that you know, four of our five favorite themes were produced by one developer. Out of the Sandbox.
So you've certainly seen, whether you know it or not, you've certainly seen Parallax in stores. You've seen Retina in stores. And more recently, and more often, you're going to start seeing Turbo, which is a really phenomenal theme. All three of those are Out of the Sandbox themes.
Now, of course, there's other themes they make. But like, with these three themes, very rarely do I ever need any other theme. And they just happen to be from the same developer.
So once you've picked a theme that's solid, you know, if you stick to the Shopify theme store that'll really help you out. There's only 45 themes in there. They very rarely submit a new theme. It's unbelievably stringent. Or publish a new theme. They're super stringent. Which is great. So only 45 themes in there. And I think that's a good thing. There's more than enough to be dangerous in there.
But then once you've got your store set up, you've got your theme set up, then you get maybe an email from someone or you see a post somewhere and you think, "Huh. I should see what kind of page speed I have. I should check this tool that's Google PageSpeed Insights tool."
Then it gives you a terrible score, right? It goes, "Here's our calculator, or score," so it doesn't really give you the actual size of the page or the load time of the page. It just gives you a score based on essentially a punchlist of things Google recommends you do, and then they can detect whether or not you're doing, and it gives you a score based on that. It gives you one for desktop, one for mobile.
Oftentimes, you know, when you run a Shopify store through these things it will come back at like 50 of 100. So it looks like you have an F. Oh, my gosh! And people get, they panic. Oh, my store's so slow!
- Slow down. Performance is important, but I don't think that Google PageSpeed tool is that great. But here's why performance is important. So even if you are in a major city, you've got like 350 megabit down, you can get internet that fast, that's wild now. You're on your phone. You've got LTE, that things getting 50 megabytes, 50 megabit down. Fine. Cool. Then you get on, say, the subway. And now you find yourself on 4G or 3G or even Edge and none of that matters anymore.
So even if you have the most sophisticated customers living in a big city with the best devices, even they are still going to have these issues, where performance absolutely matters for them.
There is one theme out there that its big selling benefit, its development, from the ground up, is focused on performance. And it happens to both be extremely good in terms of layout, flexibility, et cetera. It's called Turbo theme. And it is, again, from Out of the Sandbox.
So joining me today is Brad Miller. Brad Miller's the founder and CEO of Out of the Sandbox. Designs some of Shopify's best reviewed and most popular themes. I totally agree with that sentiment.
Out of the Sandbox has been designing these themes, online shops, and setting trends in eCommerce since 2011. Around the same time I got involved with it. They've won Shopify design award for groundbre- for the Retina theme, one of my favorites. Like I don't need to know anything about your store to know you could probably benefit from choosing Retina theme.
Now, with the release of this new Turbo theme, Out of the Sandbox has continued to push the boundaries for high performance eCommerce. Truthfully, I thought a lot of this was lip service, fine, until I played with the theme. I couldn't believe it. It absolutely isn't. There's lots of clever underlying technology in there. So Brad, let's talk about it. Thank you for joining me.
Brad Miller: Kurt, thanks for the, that was an incredible intro. I'm super impressed. That's like, wow. That sounds really good. It's very nice of you to say. I'm a huge fan of your work, so having your endorsement is incredibly appreciated. Thanks for that.
Kurt Elster: Oh, thank you. No, it means the world to me. My honor and pleasure, and I'm, you know, I did that truthfully. I did, except for that last little bit, introducing you, because I didn't want to get anything wrong, all of that was off the top of my head. Speaking to my genuine real world experience. So okay. You've got ... How many themes does Out of the Sandbox sell right now?
Brad Miller: We have five unique themes. Each theme comes in a variety of different styles. But all the different styles are included in the theme. We have five unique themes. Four of them are in the theme store. One of them, Turbo, is our latest theme, is exclusively available from us.
Yeah, like you'd said, Turbo is the first theme with a focus on performance. We really wanted to develop it with Shopify Plus merchants in mind, who are doing high sales. They required a high performance site. The primary performance factors being the download time of the site. But also the general, kind of, user experience. As you navigate through the site, as you add a product to your cart, and then as you go to checkout. We wanted that to be super fast, super seamless as possible.
We've really grown and matured with Shopify. Like you mentioned, we've been doing themes since 2011. So we've seen a lot of merchants who have just got started with Shopify, you know, maybe they're on the Responsive or the Retina theme. Their business grows. You can see this with Shopify as well, introducing the whole Shopify Plus plan for these kind of higher volume merchants.
So we really wanted to create a theme that was more geared towards these types of merchants. We see a lot of them just using our default, basic themes in the theme store. Which are great for getting up and running quickly. But there wasn't really anything with more advanced features that people are looking for, or that people have been going to agencies, paying tens of thousands of dollars to develop. We really wanted to focus all of our efforts into this ultimate theme. That's Turbo, what you see today.
Kurt Elster: Right. Yeah, and truthfully, to your last point, you know, if you have a custom theme developed, in our very first Shopify store, it's still up right now, from 2011, Amlings Cycle dotcom, is a custom theme we developed. Designed and developed. And we didn't know what we were getting ourselves into.
But you know, now today, when we develop a custom theme, it is easily a $20, $25,000 project. So, but unless you're a huge brand, I don't think there's a particularly a great return on investment there. I think it makes a lot more sense to start with a great premium theme and then, if you have to modify it a little bit, sure, fine, great. To do what you want, add apps, et cetera.
But in the past we had used, in some of our most successful stores, like Everspans dotcom and many others, we've used either Parallax or Retina. It's just our go-to themes.
Recently we did a project for a large cutlery brand that sells all over the world and they came to me and go, "We already picked Turbo theme." I said, "That's great. It's from Out of the Sandbox, I'll use it." It is the first time I'd used the theme.
Truthfully, I thought to myself, "Oh, the focus is on, the whole thing is that it's performance-based. That all the focus is on performance." It isn't the case. It is just, like, unbelievably well-thought out.
Run me through some of the features. How does this thing achieve its incredible performance? Like for example, I mean, to it's name, what's going on there that makes it different and better than other themes?
Brad Miller: Sure. Yeah, I mean, to your point, I will mention, yeah. There is a focus on performance, but at the same time, we didn't want to sacrifice any of the design or flexibility of the theme itself. Because I mean, you can accomplish something that performs really well, if you have no images on your page. If it's just a bunch of text and something super basic.
But we wanted to do something that performs extremely well and also looks amazing. Looks like the best eCommerce site that you could ever want to put together. So we did that using a variety of different things. One thing that we did introduce is a new setting that we call ludicrous speed mode.
Kurt Elster: Wait, you're making a reference to the Easter egg in Tesla cars. If you have the performance model and set it to ludicrous, this thing will launch like a bat out of hell.
Brad Miller: Exactly. We wanted to do something a little bit more experimental that would get you that extra kick that you just can't get on any other kind of Shopify theme. When you enable this, it creates this kind of instantaneous page transition when you're navigating through a site.
So we use kind of an underlying technology called Pjax or TurboLinks. It will dynamically load a page as you hover over a link. So you land on the homepage, it loads up quickly. But as you navigate or move your mouse around, as soon as you kind of hover over a link, that url is being pre-loaded. So when you click it, it's instant. The page switches, and it's insanely fast on mobile.
I mean, as soon as you tap down on a link the content is always loading. So there's a lot of pre-loading. A lot of caching. And it just makes it super smooth as you kind of flow through the site. You go from the homepage, collection page, product page. That's really kind of the core of what makes Turbo special.
Of course, it's an optional setting. It does a lot of fancy things related to the pre-loading pages and that. So you can turn that off and have kind of the traditional full reload on every page. But it is a special feature. It is unique to the Turbo theme.
Kurt Elster: Tell me why it's, so you said it's experimental, and I notice it's like the first general setting in there is ludicrous or standard. When or why would I not want to use it? In what situation?
Brad Miller: I would, if you have a lot of apps and a lot of stores do eventually find themselves with a lot of apps, which we can touch on later, because it does affect performance. But not all apps are created equal.
Kurt Elster: Certainly.
Brad Miller: Yeah, yeah. As you know, the App Store's a bit of a wild west. Not all apps are necessarily coded to the same standards or tie in to the same things. Or the implementation is completely different. So a lot of them will require kind of a full-page refresh to initialize or do whatever it is that they do.
So we do have that option. We recommend using for shops that do have a ton of apps installed or a lot of third-party customizations.
That being said, we have worked with a lot of different app developers. I don't think there's a single app developer we reached out to and provided a copy of the theme to work with that hasn't been able to update their app to work with the theme. So we're very proactive in doing that as well.
If we do happen to come across any issues, with an app and our theme, or any of our themes, really, we're more than happy to work with app developers, provide them with copies of the themes for them to test with.
Kurt Elster: And I noticed ... That's great. That's fantastic. I noticed in the theme, it does something clever with images. Can you talk about that?
Brad Miller: Yeah. So I mean, we use a library called Lazy Sizes. Lazy Sizes is kind of a full responsive image lazy loading library that we've utilized throughout the theme to kind of maximize image performance, because that's one of the number one factors when it comes to download speed.
So utilizing this library, all the images, all the banner images, slide show images, every image throughout your shop is lazy-loaded onto the page after the page is kind of initially downloaded. It uses the exact size image for whatever kind of device you're on. Whatever resolution that device is.
So that really kind of minimizes the overall download size of your site by using the exact size images that that customer requires, I guess. Whether it's on their mobile device, or a big widescreen desktop.
Kurt Elster: And it accounts for screen density?
Brad Miller: Yes.
Kurt Elster: So whether or not a device is Retina or not?
Brad Miller: Right, it will double up the size if it is a Retina screen.
Kurt Elster: Oh, that's very cool. So recapping kind of what that does, it's got this feature that I have not seen in any other theme. It's doing two things. A. It is taking some of the pain out of this in automatically figuring out, based on the device, so being responsive. Responding to the device it's on. Figuring out the correct image size, based on screen density and what's being displayed. So that you're not, say, taking a giant poster-sized image and shrinking it down to a thumbnail. Right? Because that's where all-
Brad Miller: That's right.
Kurt Elster: Truthfully, that's one of the, probably number one when we see a store that like 12 megs and no one knows why. It's because there's images that have been missized and they're huge. Then the second is just too many apps.
But you have solved the ... It sounds like you've got solutions to both those things. But especially the images. Then the lazy-loading thing is very clever. So reducing the total size of the page helps, you know, that's what we think of first when we think, "Oh, make the page faster. Make it smaller." But the other is the appearance of how fast it renders.
Brad Miller: Yes.
Kurt Elster: So if I can show the framework. Like if you fire up Facebook on a slow connection, you'll see it do this, where it shows just kind of like the outline of what posts look like, right? It's doing that to make it look like it's loading faster with a transition. So what your theme is doing, it loads up all the text content and the layout. And then it loads the images, right?
Brad Miller: That's right. And we do so in a way, where there's a nice little blur effect to it.
Kurt Elster: Yes.
Brad Miller: So we might initially load a very small image and kind of blur it out and then as the larger version is loaded, it's then replaced. It's a really nice kind of fade-in effect. So like we said, we want-
Kurt Elster: This concept is called, isn't it called progressive enhancement?
Brad Miller: Yeah. Yeah, I mean I guess you could call it that. But it does create a nice effect. Like we said, it's like we want it to look great, but also perform amazing. So that kind of plays into that, as well.
Kurt Elster: Yeah, it's not just, you know ... Another thing. We've been hired to do, like, oh, this theme is slow. Fix it. Make it faster.
Brad Miller: Yeah.
Kurt Elster: And one of people's concerns is always like, "But when you make it faster, it's still going to look good, right?"
Brad Miller: Yeah, right.
Kurt Elster: You're not going to strip everything out of this. You say, "Yeah." I mean, yes, absolutely. And there's a lot of ... That's just a thing you learn from experience and I would never expect someone to know how to do that stuff. Like a store owner.
Brad Miller: No, that's true. Yeah.
Kurt Elster: Whereas this theme is taking care of that stuff, which I love. It's very clever. Beyond- Go ahead.
Brad Miller: Sorry, I was just going to say, but you're right. Going back to that Google PageSpeed thing. I mean, all of these are kind of itemized things that that test will kind of bring up. Whether you do have these huge large images, it will recommend you compress them. Or decrease the size of them. Or something like that. So we really, all of those common things that come up, we want it to touch on. Other things like dynamically minifying the html, which is also unique to the Turbo theme-
Kurt Elster: Oh, I didn't know what.
Brad Miller: Yeah, well it's not something that ... So Shopify will minify your CSS if you use the Sass file extension.
Kurt Elster: CSS, yeah.
Brad Miller: Yeah. But it doesn't minify your html and that's a common warning that comes up on the Google PageSpeed stuff so we implemented a couple clever lines of code to minify the html.
Kurt Elster: That's crazy.
Kurt Elster: That's a big one. As far, especially, you know, with, because every app is ugh. They don't talk to each other, and every app is like, "Oh, I'm going to load jQuery," and pretty soon you're loading like four discrete versions of jQuery.
Brad Miller: Yes. Yes, definitely. Oh, I know. That is an issue. But yeah, there's other things that kind of go into the theme to make it feel faster and stuff like infinite scrolling on the collection page and the minicart functionality and everything else.
Kurt Elster: That's very clever. All clever stuff. I love all of it. The end result is, install the theme, you really don't have to worry about performance. The end benefit of that is A. You provide, and I think this is the most important one, is you're providing a better experience to your customers. Always. No one wants to wait. Like why should I have to wait? We like things that are fast. Fast food. Fast cars, et cetera.
The secondary effect there, and this is the one people focus on, but I don't, I really don't think it's as big a deal, is that Google says, "Oh, we've got ... If your page loads faster, that's a ranking factor." Yeah, that's true. Because Google want ... But why are they doing that? It's because they want a great user experience for people.
Brad Miller: Yeah.
Kurt Elster: But I certainly don't think there's a situation where Google's going to say, "Hey, this is the best ... This result is the best answer to the user's query. Oh, but this site has a slow load time. Let's push that to the bottom." Like, I don't think that's happening.
Brad Miller: Yeah.
Kurt Elster: Think it's more if two items are tied they're going to, whichever one is faster, let's bump that one up.
Brad Miller: I agree. I mean, Google does weigh in the whole user experience. You land on a site, you stay on a site. You continue to browse the site. That definitely plays into it as well. But, you know, 40% of shoppers will abandon a site that takes more than three seconds to load. So that definitely plays into it.
Kurt Elster: I'm writing that one down right now. 40% of customers will abandon a site that takes, how many seconds was it?
Brad Miller: More than three seconds to load. So you've gotta display something pretty quickly or you're going to risk having bounces.
Kurt Elster: Yeah. Absolutely. And like four years ago, we were concerned about load time. You know, when people were still fighting about whether we should do responsive or web apps and that silly stuff. And we were concerned about performance then. That same statistic existed, you know, about people bouncing. Only it was a longer time. So as time has gone on, the amount of patience they have, has lessened.
Brad Miller: Yes. Yeah. Totally. Totally. People expect a site to be very quick, very snappy. Very impatient, especially if they're shopping around online. I mean, why would they stay on your site versus, you know, hop back to Google and go to the next one.
Kurt Elster: That's the critical phrase right there, is most people view, you know, they've got a store, they go, "Well, my competition is doing XYZ." You're biggest competitor is not another store. It's the back button.
Brad Miller: Yes.
Kurt Elster: They land on your store. Like if you were so lucky, to get them onto your site. And then you give them a subpar experience. They're just going to click back. They're going to go back to doing whatever the heck else they were doing before.
Brad Miller: Right. Right, no I totally agree. Think so.
Kurt Elster: Okay. Some other thing. Like I love Turbo. We've established that Turbo is good and fast and you are good and wonderful.
Brad Miller: Okay.
Kurt Elster: But it's got some other features I like, too. I mean, it uses sections, very flexible layout. Like this promo bar across the top, all kinds of navigation options. Are there any other nonperformance-related features that you're, in there that you're proud of?
Brad Miller: We just dropped a huge 2.1 release the other day. We're really committed to building this thing out. We've listened to our customers on support. We know the features that they're looking for and we are committed to just continuing to iterate on Turbo and deliver these features.
So the last release, we include a multi-take filter. Product take filter on the collection page. Which is super nice. There's also the ability to display recently-viewed products throughout your shop. Whether on the home page, collection page, product page.
We developed a new alternate page template. We call it page dot details. You can essentially create the homepage layout on a secondary content page. This is a request that does come up very frequently. Everybody loves, I guess the focus and attention Shopify has provided to the homepage with all these new kind of content sections and drag and drop blocks around. It's all very nice. But it really only works for the homepage or it works best on the homepage. So we've implemented a lot of that in its own kind of page template, where you can utilize a lot of those sections.
We've included that. We've included a new custom mega menu builder. A lot of merchants are looking for a lot of mixed content within a giant mega menu. Not only one. They want multiple mega menus that can also support mixed content. So we really put our heads together on that one. I think we put together a nice little custom mega menu solution utilizing the new blocks and sections to build that out. So that's now included.
Kurt Elster: That's very cool.
Brad Miller: Yeah. Another one I think you'll like is that we now have the ability to display price savings on the product page. I should mention, all of these settings are all optional, right? These are just features and settings there if you need them or disable them if you don't. But you can display price savings, similar to Amazon, saying how much you've saved based on the compare out price of a product. And the percentage-
Kurt Elster: Oh, so it will say, so it does little quick calculations. It goes, you go, oh the price of the product's 40 bucks and normally it's 80 bucks. The compare price is 80 bucks. So then this things says, "You saved $40."
Brad Miller: That's right.
Kurt Elster: Pretty cool.
Brad Miller: But we didn't stop there. We also implemented that on the cart, so even-
Kurt Elster: Oh, I was hoping you'd say that.
Brad Miller: Yeah. Which is actually, you know, a very difficult thing to do. In the minicart, we display the total cart savings, so it's a nice little incentive, you know. Once you fill up a cart with all these sale items, and you kind of see the total that you're saving. So that's also included as well.
And of course, we're still adding to our collection of different sections on the homepage. So we threw in a big search section, contact form section, map section.
Kurt Elster: Wow, very cool.
Brad Miller: We've got a long list of different sections on our back log-in that we're going to continue to kind of add to those.
Kurt Elster: That's great. I mean, what I love about that is that in the past it used to be like, not only do you have to find a theme that had the feature you wanted, but it also had to have, you know, the basic layout you wanted. Sections, and what you're doing with sections solves that problem.
Brad Miller: Yeah.
Kurt Elster: Where now I really don't have to think about the layout quite so much. You know, I know I can, I've got enough flexibility. I don't even have to modify this theme to get it to do what I want.
Brad Miller: Right. No, we're pretty excited about sections. I mean, implementing sections in our theme was almost a complete theme rewrite. It was a ton of work to do.
Kurt Elster: No, yeah. It is complicated.
Brad Miller: Yeah. But now that it's done, we're really trying to unlock some of the power with utilizing sections and blocks. So I think, we recently released an update. We redid the entire sidebar throughout our themes, where it's kind of based on content blocks now.
So it just makes things a lot more flexible. You're able to kind of choose the content you want. You're able to reorder it on the page. There's a lot more flexibility now with Shopify's new sections editor.
Kurt Elster: So you've sold me on Turbo theme. This is now, like, my go-to. There's no reason to use anything else. Et cetera. I mean that. I mean, I say it sarcastically but no, I genuinely mean that. It's just that, it's probably my new go-to. What is the price of admission for this fantastic theme?
Brad Miller: So we've priced it at $350. Which is higher than any kind of theme store theme. But I still feel the price is very low. It has an incredible amount of value. We thought about pricing this actually much higher, but we still wanted to make it accessible for agencies to use. Just the amount of development effort, time, dollars, and the continued support that we're committed to developing into this theme.
You're getting a lot for that $350. You have this development team backing it. We have our whole support team supporting it. We've got a theme updater app to talk about in a minute, where you can get the latest releases and versions and new features automatically.
That's a one-time price. There are no kind of ongoing subscription fees to have a theme installed in your shop.
Kurt Elster: So just like the theme store, I buy this theme directly from you. And then for life I get updates on it, I get support on it-
Brad Miller: Exactly. It's, yeah, that's the deal. And I'll throw this out here, too, we've got a little promo code for the listeners. If you use the discount code, podcast20, you can save 20% off the Turbo theme. So that Out of the Sandbox dotcom.
Kurt Elster: Use code podcast20 to save-
Brad Miller: Yeah.
Kurt Elster: ... 20% off the purchase price. And does that work just for Turbo, or any theme?
Brad Miller: Just Turbo right now. Yeah.
Kurt Elster: Okay, cool. But why should I buy any other theme other than Turbo?
Brad Miller: Well-
Kurt Elster: No, I like Turbo a lot. No, and I will, I'll play devil's advocate. I saw, you know, when it was first launched, and I thought, well, it's just a performance thing and it costs 350 bucks. Maybe it's too expensive relative to other themes.
But if you think about it, like, you know, even if you find a cheap developer off Upwork, you're still going to pay 500 bucks for performance optimization on the theme you already spent $150 on, so why not just skip that and start with a theme that has, you know, performance plus all these other features? So it really does, as a value-based fee, I think it, you're right, it's probably low.
Brad Miller: Yeah, I mean, if you actually start to compare features and how much these individual features would cost as apps in the app store.
Kurt Elster: Right.
Brad Miller: You'd be surprised how quickly that adds up. And that's really what we're going after.
Kurt Elster: So you had mentioned the theme updater.
Brad Miller: Yes.
Kurt Elster: I have seen it, and I am scared of it. Tell me what the theme updater does, and why, whether or no I should be afraid of this thing.
Brad Miller: Okay, sure. So I'm sure you've had lots of experience installing a theme in a client's shop. You've maybe tweaked the template files a little bit, you know, you've added some customizations and things. And then, all of a sudden, maybe Shopify comes out with a new feature. Maybe there's a bug fix or the developer has released an update that includes some fixes in the theme.
Now you're kind of stuck with the theme that you have. There is no mechanism to automatically get those new updates with Shopify. So it's kind of up to the merchants to pay a developer to go and grab the latest version and install it in their shop. Or have all these other customizations applied again to the new theme.
So the whole theme updating process with Shopify is, can be costly. It can take a lot of time as well.
Kurt Elster: Well, you said that the theme updating process, it's essentially it's nonexistent.
Brad Miller: It's not a theme updating process, yeah.
Kurt Elster: Get the new theme and re-start over. Reinstall it.
Brad Miller: Right.
Kurt Elster: That is basically what you have to do.
Brad Miller: Yes. You have to, yeah, go back, get the theme again, and essentially just the latest version of the theme. You have to set it up again, you have to go through and configure all the settings. You've gotta configure as-
Kurt Elster: Installing your apps.
Brad Miller: Some of the apps may require you to uninstall and install them again or run the installation process again.
Kurt Elster: So how? You've definitely agitated my pain on this one. How did you solve it?
Brad Miller: Okay, so it's also a huge pain for us, as well. Because on support, we do fix a lot of issues that come up or we do update the themes and make them better. We're adding features all the time. We want to be continuously developing our themes and making them better.
We're not into just turning out themes for the sake of having, you know, different designs or layouts or whatever else. We're really iterating and really focused on updating our themes and making them the best they possibly can.
So it's frustrating to hear from merchants who are having a hard time getting the latest version. Or if they run across an issue that we've since fixed. It's in our interest to have them using the latest version. It just makes everybody's life a little bit easier.
So what we did was we wanted to create this app that kind of automated most of this process as much as possible. So when we first released it, it allowed you to install the app. It will check all the themes that you've got installed in your shop. It'll tell you what version you're running. Of course, for Out of the Sandbox themes, this works. It will tell you what your current version is and actually what the latest version is. It'll have a little link to the change log so you can see what's changed.
I mean, before this, a lot of people were even unsure about what version they were using or whether themes had versions. So we really put an emphasis that themes to have versions, they do receive updates, and updates are available and free to get in your shop.
So the app will look for that, it will give you a button to grab the latest version of the theme and install it in your shop. So it's just easy to get. Easy to install. It will automatically copy over all your old settings into the new version.
So that alone can save you hours, you know, uploading your logos and your slideshow images and all that other stuff. It's very time-consuming. More recently, we just released an update earlier this year where it now supports customizations as well. So if you've gone into the template files-
Kurt Elster: That's what I was going to ask. I'm like okay, yeah, it saves me time, but I still have to do some things here.
Brad Miller: One more thing, yeah.
Kurt Elster: One more thing.
Brad Miller: So if you've edited the template files, or you've installed an app that has some kind of snippet in the template files, it'll automatically detect changes to your theme. It will apply those automatically to the updated theme. If you've added extra files or extra images or anything like that, it'll copy all that stuff over too, completely automatically.
So, in the best case scenario, you can update your theme, a customized theme, and get the latest version, and it will be ready to go in one click. You'll get all the same settings. You'll get all the same customizations. It'll be completely seamless.
Kurt Elster: I say it in the best way possible, holy shit.
Brad Miller: So, yeah. This, I mean, in the past you'd have to pay somebody, you know, at least $1000 to kind of go in, figure out what's changed, apply it to the new theme. It's really incredible. Yeah, so that's free for all of our customers.
Kurt Elster: That's awesome. That's really, that is fantastic. I look forward to trying it. For the reasons you've outlined, I've been scared of the thing.
Brad Miller: Understandably. I think a lot of people are concerned. Well, is this, am I going to lose changes? Am I going to, is this going to wreck my theme? Anything like that.
Kurt Elster: But at the same time, like, if I was genuinely worried about it, I could just download a zip file back up and then run it and if it has totally borked, reimport my theme.
Brad Miller: For sure. Sure, which is, yeah. But because of those concerns, we don't actually touch the live theme or whatever them that you're choosing to update.
Kurt Elster: Oh, smart.
Brad Miller: We install a completely new theme. It'll be unpublished in your shop. So it'll give you a chance to go and check it out before you choose to publish and make it live.
Kurt Elster: Cool.
Brad Miller: And so your current theme is completely unaltered, untouched. You don't have to worry about it breaking anything. It'll install a new theme with the latest, so you can check it out. Make sure everything's good before your customers get their hands on it.
Kurt Elster: That's fantastic. We're coming to the end of our time together, but you talked about making everybody's life easier via support. How many support requests do you get? So you've got five themes. Four in the app store. How many support requests do you get a day?
Brad Miller: We get quite a few. So we get ... We have over 10 support agents on support, answering emails. We receive maybe a couple hundred new requests that come into the queue every day.
Kurt Elster: Oh, my god.
Brad Miller: Yeah. So it's a lot of support. Yeah, we do the best we can to manage that. We really do care that everybody has the best experience as possible setting up a theme, installing in their shop, we want it to work, we want these merchants to have successful shops.
But at the same time, we do have to kind of respect that you know, some shops owners should probably be working with developers if they do have additional customization requirements. Or they're looking for more advanced features. So we-
Kurt Elster: Yeah, for sure boundaries have to be set. On $150 theme, you know, what's the limit of how much support you can provide, realistically? But here's my question. If I, let's say I'm a store owner. I've got one of your themes. I have an issue. Do you have any tips for, and I'm sure you do, do you have any tips for what I should do when making a support request in order to get the most favorable response?
Brad Miller: Sure. I think really identifying the cause of the issue. Understanding why that issue might have happened in your shop. I would say probably the number one problem that we have is a customization has been made to the shop. Something has changed, they've installed an app, or they've uninstalled an app. There's some code leftover. Maybe there's an app conflict or something like that.
So if somebody does reach out to us on support, if merchants can provide more of a context into how this issue came about, it really kind of helps us identify it better. Because, yeah, like I said, there are so many different things going on in your storefront.
Most of the time it's not an issue with the default theme. Of course, if it is a problem with the default theme, we'll jump on that and provide a fix. And also release a new bug release if there are any kind of issues.
But that's a problem. I mean, my number one recommendation would be to be careful with Shopify apps or any kind of customizations. That template editor is pretty easy to access. It should probably come with a little quiz before you get into it.
Kurt Elster: It's easy to get yourself in trouble, for sure.
Brad Miller: It's very easy to get yourself in trouble. There's a-
Kurt Elster: So if you say you're getting hundreds of support requests a day, and most of the time it's because a customization or app has broken something, then I think the workaround here would be, before you make any change at all, no matter how minor you think it might be, duplicate your theme.
Brad Miller: Yeah.
Kurt Elster: Then make the change, and then that way when something goes wrong, you could compare the two easily and know, okay, this is what caused it. And then roll it back immediately.
Brad Miller: Yeah. No, I would agree with that. I mean, if you are doing customizations, you can have multiple themes installed in your shop. Only one of them is published at a time. But you can preview-
Kurt Elster: Doesn't it, I think it maxes at like 30, right?
Brad Miller: I think 20.
Kurt Elster: 20?
Brad Miller: 20. But yeah, you can duplicate a theme, you can work on that unpublished and test it out. I'd highly recommend doing this. And before you go live with any changes, you're able to kind of test it out first. Make sure everything works first. So things are not on fire in your shop. You don't break something that customers are seeing, you know?
Kurt Elster: And lastly, that brings us to the end of our time together. I have learned a ton. I'm thrilled to talk to you. But where can people go to learn more about you?
Brad Miller: Out of the Sandbox dotcom is our site.
Kurt Elster: Out of the Sandbox dotcom. I will link to outofthesandbox.com in the show notes. I'll link directly to the Turbo theme product page. And I will include your gracious discount code, podcast20, to get 20% off the purchase price of Turbo.
Brad Miller: That sounds awesome. Thanks so much, Kurt.
Kurt Elster: My pleasure. And that's it for us today at the Unofficial Shopify Podcast. I would love to hear your thoughts on this episode. So please join our Facebook group, the Unofficial Shopify Podcast Insiders and talk to us. I am always happy to help. Or sign up for my newsletter at kurtelster.com. I do reply to any of the emails, and you'll get updates whenever a new episode goes live.
And of course, if you'd like to work with me on your next project, you can apply at ethercycle.com and we can together pick which Out of the Sandbox theme is right for you. As always, thanks for listening, and we'll be back next week.