20 Best Responsive and Premium Magento Themes

Best Responsive and Premium Magento Themes

Pre-designed themes offer a quick way to setup a website and can significantly reduce the cost of building a new store. Although this ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach is not one you’d want to take if you’re aiming to stand out from the crowd, it makes economic sense when you’re just starting out though. Almost all pre-designed themes allow for endless customization, so you can modify the theme to suit your brand and business.

Perhaps one of the most striking features of Magento is that it has some of the most elegant e-commerce themes. As the platform continues to become popular, more and more designers are choosing to build both free and premium Magento themes to meet increased demand.

With that being said, I’m going to tell you why a premium theme is the best choice for your store.

Premium Themes Are the Best Themes

When it comes to benefits, premium themes offer plenty.

  • First up, almost all premium themes come with first-rate support, something that is markedly missing with free themes.
  • Furthermore, premium Magento themes are very reliable. This is because premium theme designers take the time and effort to test their commercial theme on multiple platforms prior to putting them out on theme markets. Few designers are willing to go through this trouble for a free theme.
  • Premium themes come with noticeably more features and functionality compared to free themes. For instance, a custom page builder is a common feature on many premium Magento e-commerce themes. This is a rarity in free themes.
  • Stiff competition among designers of premium themes has led to improved overall theme quality, in terms of layout and features. There is plenty of variety too so you’re most likely to find a theme that suits your store’s unique needs with a few searches.
  • Premium themes offer more specificity depending on the genre that your store deals in. For instance, there are premium themes designed specifically for online wine stores, bookstores, digital products, mobile apps, apparel, luxurious accessories, multipurpose stores, and practically everything that can be sold online.

Premium Theme or Custom Built Theme?

Undoubtedly, there is a lot of confusion when it comes to the pros and cons of using a premium theme versus a custom-built theme. Of course, a custom-built theme offers many advantages such as highly customized features, specificity to the last detail, more control over design, layout, and features, as well as flexibility.

However, for a startup on a tight budget, a custom-built website can greatly eat into your startup capital and in most instances, it simply doesn’t make economic sense to go down this route when you have not tested the waters with your new online business.

Typical custom-design web projects cost anywhere between $2000 and $15,000 for a medium-sized e-commerce store, depending on scope. And once the website is commissioned and accepted, the designers may charge additional hourly rates for support or additions that were not in the original specification.

The biggest advantage of a custom-built website is that it is designed to meet 100% of your specification. And if it is properly designed to fit with all your needs, chances are you will not need frequent modifications or upgrades.

Bottom line is premium themes are a great option for an affordable starting platform while custom designs might be a necessity when your business has picked up and you need to go an extra mile to retain customers. In that case, it makes more sense business-wise to invest in a custom-built website.

Support For Premium Themes

While premium themes typically come with sufficient documentation, you will quickly learn that some things require serious technical support from the designer. Thankfully, the majority of premium Magento theme designers provide satisfactory support as it helps with their reputation and ratings on the various theme market places.

Most premium theme designers provide free regular updates and upgrades, and they remain actively involved in support forums for their products, which brings us to an important point as far as support is concerned.

If a designer from whom you purchased a theme leaves a marketplace and pulls down their products, they’ll inevitably stop offering support and in that case, you might need to hire a good coder to implement any changes or upgrades that you need. So keep this in mind when buying a premium theme.

Coding Standards

Another important benefit of premium themes is that the vast majority are built on standardized frameworks, which goes a long way in cutting out compatibility issues with the different application platforms.

Even when a designer does not use a framework (which is rare), they try to maintain a high degree of legibility when coding so as to make it easier for whoever will be making future modifications.

The following is a collection of the best responsive Magento themes you can use to get your new store off the ground.
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How to Install Magento and Add a Custom Theme Manually on XAMPP

E-commerce is getting bigger and bigger by the day and Magento is fast becoming the e-commerce platform of choice. Magento is a PHP-MySQL based open-source platform that allows for rapid deployment of powerful online stores. While the open-source platform offers plenty of features and flexibility for retailers to control and manage the look, feel, content, and functionality of their online stores, it isn’t one you’d want to call ‘easy’. This is especially the case if you’re coming from the WordPress world where users are accustomed to 5-minute installations.

Lately, many retailers have been migrating their online stores to Magento, so naturally, an enterprising web developer might want to seriously look into developing Magento themes.

As a developer, it is good practice to test things out and do all the modifications on a local sever before uploading everything to the live environment. Firstly, you need to install the Magento software on your local server before you can install and modify Magento themes locally.

If you’re new to this platform, the installation process might seem somewhat intimidating initially, but once you get the hang of things, the process becomes as easy as pie.

For this tutorial, we’ll first install Magento on XAMPP (you can also use WAMP) and then install our theme. Of course, we’ll need to download a Magento theme.

Software version details:

  •  XAMPP 1.8.3-3 for Windows
  • Apache 2.4.7
  • MySQL 5.6.16
  • PHP 5.5.9
  • Magento Community 1.8.1

Installing Magento on a Local Server

Step 1.

Download the Magento community package from the official page. This is what the official download page looks like as of this writing:

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Note that Magento has two main versions of their e-commerce software – Community and Enterprise. As you might have guessed, the former is a free open-source version while the latter is a premium version that comes with full developer support.

You can also just download the Magento downloader, which is what we’re going to use in this tutorial.

Step 2.

Start XAMPP. You should already have XAMPP installed on your machine. (If not, download the bundle at http://www.apachefriends.org/download.html). To start XAMPP, browse to the XAMPP folder on your C: drive and click on xampp_start or just click on the XAMPP icon on your desktop if you created a shortcut.

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You can show/hide the XAMPP control panel by right-clicking on the server’s icon in the system panel and selecting ‘show/hide’.

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Step 3.

Prepare XAMPP for the new Magento installation. This basically entails creating a MySQL database for the installation. To do this, open phpMyAdmin in your browser: http://localhost/phpmyadmin the initial installation comes with root as login name and no password. A successful login should lead you to a page like this:

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Click on Databases and create a new database. Creating a database is as easy as providing a database name, for instance magento_db. Click on the ‘Create’ button and then select the new database you’ve just created from the database list as shown below:

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In the window that appears, you can create or edit database users as well as their access levels (privileges) to the newly created database.

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The default user is root and has ALL privileges. You can leave the default user privileges for your local testing environment. However, if you’re installing on a live environment, you don’t want to be using default login values for security purposes.

Step 4.

The previous steps comprised the easier part of the installation. The system requirements page for Magento state that it is compatible with PHP 5.2.13 – 5.3.x and 5.4.x . This, however, doesn’t mean that it will work with all PHP versions newer than 5.2. It literally means that any PHP version outside that range will have compatibility issues with Magento and most of these issues show up during the installation process. This is one of the aspects that make Magento a harder beast to tame.

In order to install Magento on your local server without a hitch, you need to do some modifications to a few Apache and PHP files in XAMPP.

To do that, stop Apache and MySQL services in the XAMPP control panel. Next, locate this file httpd.conf in your XAMPP installation. This should be the path: c:\xampp\apache\conf\httpd.conf. Before opening the file in a code editor, make a copy of the original.

Once opened, locate this line ‘# LoadModule rewrite_module modules/mod_rewrite.so’ and uncomment it by removing the ‘#’. Save the file and close. Some installations already have this uncommented, so you may not have to do anything.

Next are the PHP modifications. Locate the php.ini file under c:\xampp\php\php.ini and locate this line ;extension=php_curl.dll. Remove the ‘;’ and save the file. Don’t change anything else. Again, some XAMPP installations come with this semi-colon already removed. What this does is to enable the curl extension that is needed for Magento to work.

Still in the php.ini file, locate the line max_execution_time = 30. Replace the 30 with 1600 to increase the allowed installation time. Save and close the file.

Step 5.

Now we’re ready to do the actual Magento installation. Unzip the Magento folder you downloaded earlier and copy it to the htdocs folder under c:\xamp\htdocs. We’re only interested in the downloader.php file.

Open the downloader.php file in the browser like this: http://localhost/magento/downloader.php if everything went fine, you should get this page:

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If you’re not using the downloader.php file and instead copied the entire magento folder into htdocs, just type this in the browser: http://localhost/magento you should be taken straight to the license agreement page.

Click ‘continue’ to proceed with the installation. The nest page shows you all the loaded extensions required for the installation.

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On the next page, Magento Connect Manager Deployment, leave everything as it is. It has already been set. If all the bases have been covered as we’ve done in the previous steps, the installation should be smooth.

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Click ‘continue’ to start the download. The installation wizard should then begin its job at this stage and will basically run through the steps shown in the menu on the left side of the page, i.e. Download >License Agreement>Localization>Configuration>Create Admin Account and you’re done.

The download page looks like this:

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Leave the defaults at each stage until the configuration page, which is the last step in the installation process.

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Simply supply the database details for the MySQL database you created earlier. If you used default user root, just put root for user name and leave password blank. The base URL should be http://localhost/magento/ leave other options as they are and click continue.

It will take a few minutes to complete this process. Whatever you do, don’t refresh or close your browser. Just let Magento take care of its business. The time extension you made in step 4 was to allow for this step to complete without timing out.

Once it’s done, you should have a page like this:

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This is the final step – creating an admin account. Fill in your name, email, user name, and password in the relevant fields. Click ‘continue’ to complete the Magento installation. On the next page, copy the encryption key to a safe place and continue to the store front or the backend.

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Here’s how the front-end looks like:

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And this is how the backend looks like if you login successfully:

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Installing a Magento Theme on XAMPP

The next phase is to install a Magento theme on the local server platform we’ve just created.

Step1.

Download a free Magento theme.

This is the theme we’re using for this tutorial:

Free Magento Theme

Step2.

Unzip the files to a folder on your computer. There might be a few items in the folder but we’re only interested in the ‘theme###’, where ‘###’ is the theme number. Copy the two folders inside theme### (app and skin) to your magento folder on the server.

Step3.

Log into your Magento admin panel: http://localhost/magento/index.php/admin

Step4.

In the admin panel, select ‘System’> ‘Design’ and then press the ‘Add Design Change’ button.

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In the dialogue window that appears, change the value of ‘custom design’ to your theme name value. In this case, it is theme174. Press ‘Save’ and that’s it. You’ve just installed a new Magento theme.

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The theme used in this tutorial is called Electronics, a free Magento themed downloaded from Template Monster.

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16 Free Magento Themes That Actually Work

Best Free Magento Themes

It can be very hard to find high quality free Magento themes that will work straight out of the box with the latest version of Magento. Nobody wants to download a theme and then be forced to pay for support services because the supposed free theme didn’t perform as advertised. So I have put together a list of reliable and free Magento themes and I have briefly described some important factors that will help you choose the best theme for your store.

Is the Theme Supported?

If you do find a free theme that does work it is important to know if the theme is still supported by the developers so when a new Magento update is released or a bug is found it won’t cost you extra money to keep your site operational. Any errors or out of place elements on your website could easily deter potential customers from making a purchase on your store. Web design is crucial to converting visitors into customers, users will immediately judge your website before they make their first click.

Is It Really Free?

Some development companies have built free Magento themes with their own premium (paid) extensions; forcing you to buy these extensions if you want the theme to work like they have designed it to. They may have this noted clearly on their website but just make sure you are aware of it when you choose a free theme.

Premium Themes Might Be the Best Themes

Let’s face it a lot of free themes on Magento Connect are crap, they lack a lot of features, they can be poorly coded and are not SEO-optimized to help your store load faster and perform well in search rankings. Most of them are outdated so they probably won’t be compatible with the latest version of Magento and some of them look like they’ve been designed with the first version of Photoshop. Worst of all they could leave your site open to security vulnerabilities. So don’t even think about improving sales with these obsolete themes.

If you’re just starting out with Magento it might be a good idea to experiment with a free theme so you can start to understand how Magento works and how to make customizations.

With a limited number of quality free themes I really recommend you take a look at our list of premium Magento themes. Premium themes include advanced features and functionality, they are constantly updated by their developers and the after-sales support can be priceless when setting up your store. You can be at ease knowing that a premium theme is clean and optimized so your site can perform at it’s best. You can purchase a premium theme at a place like Theme Forest for around $80.

Reliable and Free Magento Themes

With all these factors in my mind here is the list that I have compiled of reliable and free Magento themes. Don’t rush the process of choosing a theme for your store, if you do decide to go with a free theme please make sure to test it thoroughly before taking your site live.
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