Table of contents
There are a few steps you can take, from designing your theme in Photoshop to optimizing you code for search engines, which have been established as being the must-do for theme development. Following these best practices will help you build a better theme.
Before opening Photoshop, GIMP or any other graphic editor, you should sit at a desk with a pen and a sheet paper, and think of the map/hierarchy for your shop, making it as flexible as possible (not all shops have the same amount of categories, or of products per category).
A complete PrestaShop theme requires at least 30 pages or page sections:
Please do take all these into account, so as to not forget any. Failing to take some page into account may result in an incomplete theme, and thus a bad experience for your users.
In truth, these 30 files just make sure you scratch the surface. To get a better sense of the pages you should take into account, dive into the default theme, located in the
Once you feel good about your shop's hierarchy and mandatory template files, make a few sketches of the interface, in order to get a feel of where the various elements will be placed: new products, promotions, pictures, text, etc.). Also, include the important details, such as the various mentions on the product's page: on sale, promotion, new product, stricken price...).
Of course, these are just general tips; some professional might prefer to do it all directly in Photoshop, and then jump right into PHP/Smarty, HTML and CSS.
You are seldom alone when creating a theme: whether a colleague or a client, there are many occasions when you will have to share your design with other people. You should therefore make it easy for them to work with it out-of-the-box.
One of the first thing to do is to provide a work in the RGB color space, in 72 dpi, and to always provide the non-flattened file (unless it is for the final client, in which case you should provide the flattened one, unless he paid for the non-flattened version explicitly).
In general, you should never flatten a design, unless you are certain you are never going to want to edit it again.
When building a PrestaShop theme, you should work with a 980px width and, depending on your uses, with:
Always rely on RGB. Do not ever use CMYK, which is made for print.
When designing for the Web, the base unit is the pixel. Do not measure in picas, points or centimeters.
Do not use atypical fonts! Keep it readable at all times!
Standard text (title, sub-title, regular text) should be limited to the following fonts, in order to insure that all visitors can see the same thing:
Keep the number of fonts to the bare minimum, for fear of making your website confusing and unreadable.
Of course, you can use any font you like when designing a graphic, such as the header image or a slide-show picture.
Never forget that the user has the final say on the text size, since modern browsers can increase or decrease it at the touch of a keyboard key.
As a matter of fact, you should test your website with various browser variations, see how easy it is break your design... and therefore rework your design in order to avoid such easy breakage.
You may start off with a handful of basic text sizes:
Transparent images do not work well with older browsers, particularly with Internet Explorer, so you should stay away from 24-bits PNG images. As for GIF images with transparency, use the over a plain background to ensure they work properly. Avoid 50% opacity by using the same matte color as the website's background color.
We won't delve into complex human–computer interaction theories here, but rather try to make sure that your shop is accessible to as many potential customers as possible. Your ultimate goal should be to have visitors trust your shop enough so that they start buying.
Every time a visitor stumbles upon a usability problem, your site loses their trust. Ultimately, if the trust reaches a low point, frustration comes and the visitor leaves your site, without buying anything of course. Such is the importance of usability in the e-commerce world.
When designing your shop's theme, keep in mind that its mission (in addition to selling goods, of course) is to show your visitors that your website is managed by serious and competent people.
This is the most important page of your shop, the one where it is "hit or miss". This is the page where the visitor will get a general opinion of your shop, and decide if she should trust you with her money.
You should make sure to make your shop easily recognizable, and have your catalog be the first thing people see.
The website's header is where you will be able to put the most recognizable details: logo, name, unique image... It should be not be higher than 250px, so that your visitors can reach your catalog without resorting to scrolling down the page. In other words, your main content should never be below the fold (to learn more about the Fold, read this Wikipedia page: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Above_the_fold).
The visual aspect of your website is of course very important (hence our "Thinking ahead" section above): you must find way to put your products forward with overloading the page. Moreover, you should use homogeneous colors and layout within a page and between pages. For instance, if a button has an interaction effect on one page, make sure to apply that effect to all other pages on the site.
The search engine must be easy to find. Visitors often know what they came for, and don't want to browse through categories and sub-categories in search for it.
Still, when building your website's content, think of the user who browse categories, and make them simple and intuitive.
You can reinforce the perceived trust by displaying logos or mentions of your partners (banks, carriers), and your rating from a known e-commerce institution, such as FIA-NET in France.
Do display your contact details, such as phone number or chat system, if available. It will show you are real, and that can make a huge difference.
Of course, do not use your personal phone number: they need to feel they are calling a company's support team, not disturbing you while you cook.
Clearly display your Return Merchandise conditions, your general T&C and other applicable laws that you respect.
A visitor only comes to the product page if she's interested by said product, and wants more details. There should therefore be aplenty of those.
Make the "Add to Cart" button clear and visible. It must distinguish itself from the rest of the layout, by both its size and color – but do keep a homogeneous design: if the button is too far off from the general design, the visitor can just as easily not see it, in the same way people have trained themselves not to see ads on the Internet.
Make sure to display all the relevant labels: "New product", "Promotion", "Voucher", etc. Also, do not forget to add the delivery delays.
The conversion funnel is where your visitors become client (hence the use of "conversion", or sometimes "transformation"). If these pages are badly designed or structured, this can mean the loss of many potential clients, and therefore all the order they would have made on your site. To learn more about the conversion funnel, read this Wikipedia page: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Conversion_funnel.
The default PrestaShop theme comes with an account form that gives a very good transformation percentage. But it might still not suit your own site's needs. Hence, here are a few tips to follow if you intend to update the form.
The visitor has created her client account, great! But it's still not over yet, she must now go through the purchase itself.
Same as for the account creation form:
All these usability tips are just part of the whole story, but they can bring you a solid ground on which building your theme, in order to improve your shop.
One important thing to keep in mind is that images slow a shop down, especially if the images are not optimized. This section shows you how to optimize images, but at the end of the end, the optimization is to only keep the important images, and let go of the others.
There are just a few important images on a shop theme: the products images/thumbnails, the shop's logo or header, and maybe the homepage's slideshow. Most of the rest can be easily replaced by clever use of CSS and HTML, especially if it belongs to the shop's design. Keep the number of images on any page to a minimum: the faster a shop will be, the longer a potential customer will be willing to browser its page.
Image optimization means two things:
Dealing with image size should be done directly in Photoshop: do not ever use a bigger image than it is displayed within the browser. Use the necessary size, no more, no less.
Photoshop also has a special "Save for the web" tool, which helps you perform compression and format comparison, and will remove much of the data cruft.
There are also online tools which can help you optimize your pictures with loss of quality, by performing safe automatic tasks:
If you are at ease with command line tools, you can use these:
pngnq -vf -s1 image.png
optipng -o7 image-nq8.png
pngcrush image.png -rem all -reduce -brute result.png
jpegtran -copy none -optimize -perfect src.jpg dest.jpg
Improving your site ranking is key to getting new clients. While we will not dive into SEO in this section, there is a handful of tips you should strive for:
See also PrestaShop free guide on SEO: http://www.prestashop.com/en/white-paper-seo