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Top 5 Reasons to Love the Shopify Dawn Theme

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Over the years, Shopify has stayed true to its primary mission: to make commerce better for everyone. The recent overhaul of their online store demonstrates their commitment to providing merchants with everything they need to design, build, and run an online business, enter the Shopify Dawn Theme.

The newest update from Shopify, Online Store 2.0, gives merchants greater ability to control and customize store content from within the admin panel. It also includes some major tooling upgrades that simplify Shopify theme development.

This article explores Dawn, a new, open-source reference theme designed to unify the 2021 Shopify updates. We’ll help you understand how it was built, what makes it unique, and why you should be excited about it.

An Overview of Shopify Dawn Theme Development

Debut, the reference theme used by Shopify theme developers to design storefronts so far, was launched in 2016. Although revolutionary when it launched, the recent advancements in UX design and web standards made Debut inadequate and obsolete.

Witnessing the unprecedented growth of global ecommerce in recent years, Shopify realized an urgent need to redesign its online store and theme architecture. To remain true to their primary mission, they needed a new approach that empowered merchants to leverage the growth of global ecommerce through their platform.

As a result, Shopify’s UX team developed Dawn, a new-age theme that’s 35% faster than its predecessor, more flexible out of the box, and minimizes the need for JavaScript to ensure top-notch performance. They achieved this by relying on four primary guiding principles:

  1. Building for modern browsers.

  2. Prioritizing creative visual design.

  3. Writing lean and maintainable code.

  4. Focusing on performance.

With over 95% of the world using evergreen browsers, developing a theme for modern browsers was a no-brainer. But Shopify’s UX team went a step further by using semantic HTML and CSS to design a functional theme instead of relying on polyfills and third-party libraries for fallbacks that can hurt performance.

The Shopify Dawn theme improves store features that impact the purchase flow, such as product variants, filters, and navigation. It reduces the code required to handle routine tasks such as cart updates, thereby improving performance and making the code easier to maintain.The result of Shopify’s dedicated effort is an ultra-light, modern theme that’s flexible, reliable, and performant from day one. More importantly, it brings several new features that empower merchants to alter their store design without touching code.

Five Key Features of the Shopify Dawn Theme

Dawn represents a fundamental change in Shopify’s approach to web design and theme development. It’s a culmination of hundreds of innovative design decisions and clever compromises that create a well-rounded and functional theme.

Here are the features that make the new Shopify Dawn theme unique.

1. Open-Source Theme Code

One of the many firsts for Shopify, Dawn is the only open-source reference theme ever released since its launch in 2006. For a SaaS like Shopify, an open-source theme marks a fundamental shift in their theme development process.

The biggest advantage of an open-source theme is the ability to establish and encourage the adoption of an Open Standard. By releasing the theme code to the public and outlining distinct coding principles, Shopify promotes its best practices to theme developers.

This facilitates higher quality theme development across the board and provides Shopify merchants access to premium Shopify themes.

2. New Color System

Selecting a color scheme that represents your brand and appeals to your audience is one of the most significant challenges in implementing a successful design strategy. With the entire color spectrum at your disposal, it isn’t easy to predict the impact of a color choice.

Even the best Shopify theme developers may occasionally struggle with forecasting the real-world results of color choices. Therefore, Shopify’s UX team opted for an atomic design approach to provide merchants with color flexibility without compromising performance and accessibility.

The Dawn theme color palette includes three primary and four secondary colors incorporated through a system that minimizes the risk of making poor choices as brands express their creativity. It helps you portray your brand identity without sacrificing quality.

Additionally, they’ve extended the same philosophy to other aspects of the Shopify Dawn theme, such as layout and typography. This approach provides merchants with more guidance as they choose layouts and fonts for their Shopify stores and facilitates informed design decisions.

3. Customizable Sections

One of the most exciting changes announced with Online Store 2.0 was the introduction of customizable sections. The traditional method of customizing sections included a bunch of HTML and CSS tweaks to match the section with the store theme.

Now, courtesy of the new modular theme architecture, you can add sections to any template across your store using the Shopify Theme Editor. You can customize basic page elements and even entire pages using the new customizable sections feature in the Shopify Dawn theme.

The best part is that they’ve extended modularity into sections as well. So, you can reuse them across different pages in a few easy clicks. The only prerequisite is that your theme developer must insert the presets required for modular sections within their schema. However, it’s a small price to pay for more control and customization.

4. Upgraded Performance

Website performance is the foundation of a good shopping experience. No matter how attractive your store is or how great your products are, customers won’t buy from you if your website is slow. According to Google, if your website’s page load time increases from 1 second to 3 seconds, the likelihood of page bounce increases by a whopping 32%.

Shopify’s UX team knew the importance of page speed for conversions. At the same time, they wanted to give developers and merchants the flexibility to build a store without hurting page load times. Therefore, they made several conscious compromises to ensure the Dawn theme is lightning fast yet fully customizable.

The Dawn theme header is one such example where the primary navigation no longer collapses into a burger icon on a desktop when navigation items collide. Instead, it wraps multiple times and alters the navigation layout. This behaviour ensures the Dawn theme doesn’t sacrifice performance for flexibility and hurt your conversion rate.

5. Smart Defaults

The Shopify Dawn theme is a benchmark for theme developers and merchants building an online store. The theme is purposefully designed to include certain defaults that allow developers to focus on actual merchant needs and minimize choices during the initial stages of store development.

For example, Shopify’s UX team decided to exclude slideshows from Dawn to reduce complexity. They’ve replaced them with image banner sections containing CTAs to minimize using JavaScript and maximize performance.

Another example of smart defaults is the improved image cropping in the Shopify Dawn theme. Previously, merchants struggled with inconsistent image cropping across different sections. This meant that images were often cropped in ways that compromised their primary purpose.

The new default image cropping in Dawn rarely crops images forcefully and doesn’t overlay content on images. It prioritizes preserving accessibility and integrity out of the box so merchants can focus on more important aspects of building an online store.

Shopify Dawn Theme: A New Era for Shopify Theme Customization

The Shopify Dawn theme release marks the beginning of a new era for Shopify merchants and theme developers alike. It helps Shopify users make smarter design decisions, gives them the flexibility they need, and ensures they never compromise on performance.

Dawn introduces several helpful changes such as:

  • An open-source codebase for better collaborations.

  • A simplified color system to minimize colour choices.

  • Customizable sections for design flexibility.

  • A healthy balance of performance and agility.

  • Smart defaults to minimize design decisions when you’re starting.

The Shopify Dawn theme gives merchants more control over their store design and reduces reliance on developers for design changes. With the Shopify theme store open for new submissions, you can expect the quality of theme design to reach new heights.

At the moment, new Shopify merchants have access to the theme when starting a new development store. On the other hand, existing Shopify merchants can start using it by downloading the theme from its GitHub repo.

If you want to build an online store that leverages the new Shopify theme features but don’t know where to start, reach out to our Shopify experts for assistance. There are plenty of features you’ll want to take advantage of as a Shopify store owner.