Michaël Gallego

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How to reduce Shopify support for themes

At Maestrooo, we are big lovers of Shopify, that’s why we decided to invest time last year to create themes, with one goal: create the most beautiful and most customizable themes. Shopify is a very restrictive platform when it comes to the theme store, and they only accept a very limited number of themes. That’s actually very exciting, because you really need to push your creativity and development quality into its limits.

As of today, we have two themes in the Theme Store: Focal and Kagami. A part of this success, as you can read from the reviews, is our support. We dedicate very hard to answer very fast to each support question, and provide with a fix. We even go farther than what we are supposed to do, by often providing to write small custom code to our customers.

However, as you start having more themes in the platform, the support load may increase. While I personally love to do support, having to answer to the same questions over and over can be quite annoying. That’s why we have explored several ways to reduce the support in our second theme Kagami.

I’ve just checked over the last month, and here is the result:

Result

As you can see, we’ve been able to halve the number of tickets for our second theme (we will actually make all those changes to our theme Focal in the following months, and compare the results).

Let’s start!

Know your audience

Customers buying a Shopify theme, either from the Theme Store or from any other platform, are mostly non-tech people. You cannot assume that they would know how to add a CSS class to an element, or what “modifying HTML” means.

When doing support, try to avoid technical words, and stay simple.

Use Shopify structure for settings

Previously, theme designers were kinda free to choose how to organize theme settings. Now, Shopify “forces” us to use a more rigid structure. While it can be frustrating at first, Shopify team actually put a lot of thoughts into this structure, and I have to admit that it definitely pays off.

For instance, here is how our Theme Settings look for our first theme Focal:

Focal

And here is Kagami, our latest theme:

Kagami

Here are some changes:

  • Simpler wording is used (“Colors” vs “Layout Colors and Backgrounds”, “Promotions popup” vs “Promotions”…). Similarily, inside sections, we now use words like “text size” instead of “font size”, because “font” word can be unknown to non-tech customers.
  • We have stopped using capitals when starting new words. It makes the page a bit less “intimidating” visually.
  • “page” suffix has been added to every section that directly controls a page.
  • Meaningless sections like “General” have been removed.
  • Some sections like “Mobile and Tablets” have been moved to what they actually control (the grid of collection page).
  • Inside each section, settings have been reordered. For instance, ALL the colors now belongs to the “Colors” section. While we initially thought that having the “slide title color” setting in the “slider” sounded more logical, it is actually less confusing for merchants to have all the colors in one section called “Colors”, even if slider settings become scattered over different sections.

An additional bonus of this approach is that Shopify has adopted it for their own theme. This means that documentation that Shopify has written automatically apply to your theme, without any effort.

Reduce the number of settings

A major mistake we’ve made for our theme Focal (and we plan to fix that soon!) is that we wanted it to be super customizable. We made everything customizable. Each color, even for the most insignificant section, could be modified.

At the end, we ended with countless number of settings. Of course, some tech merchants will have no issue understanding that and will be super happy by “how customizable the theme is”, but for the vast majority of them, they will quickly feel overwhelmed and end up contacting you directly.

As a rule of thumb, try to limit the number of colours and the number of settings. Don’t misunderstand me: when you sell Premium theme, merchants will expect it to be customizable. Removing settings does not mean developing an unflexible theme!

Write extensive documentation

We have to admit it: a lot of merchants do not read theme documentation. I cannot count the number of times when I receive questions that are answered right into our doc.

However, it’s not an excuse to NOT write doc. Not only because some customers read it, but also because it makes your support life easier. Instead of writing again and again the same answers, just send a link to your documentation.

As you can see in our Kagami’s theme documentation, we have answered A LOT of questions (yes, it took me a lot of time…).

Provide contextual help into your theme settings

A great bonus of having extensive documentation is that you can now use it your Theme Settings. We’ve done that a lot in our latest theme and it seems to pay off. For instance, here is an example:

Contextual help

As you can see, this option “Enlarge image to fit tile” can sound a bit obscure. Some people may actually do not understand what this option does directly. So instead of letting them contact you to ask you the question, just add a link to the documentation!

Use error message in the theme

This advice must not be abused, but some features are harder to use than other. For instance, our theme Kagami offers a way for merchants to add their Instagram pictures.

This feature requires them to first enable the feature, then enter an access token to be able to fetch the images from Instagram. The access token sounds complex to non-tech people, so they often just activate the module and just wonder why no images are displayed. As a consequence, they contact you and tell you “hey, I activated Instagram but nothing appear”…

Instead, here is what happen in our theme when a merchant do so:

Missing token

We immediately tell the merchant why the module he’s trying to activate does not work (we could even go further and add a link to the documentation!).

Provide useful default messages

In 2015, Shopify introduced an internationalization feature: a theme can now be available in multiple languages. Not only this is very convenient, but it also allows merchants to modify every wording of a theme using an easy-to-use interface, instead of having to dig into the HTML (and trust me, you do not want merchants to touch HTML).

However, merchants asking us how to modify wording is BY FAR the most known question.

In the past, we used to use “real life” wording in our themes. For instance, they faced this when installing the Instagram module:

Default wording

Of course, we could have used a more neutral message, but you can be sure that merchants will want to change such wording to their own. And because they are often not aware of the Language Settings feature of Shopify, they will undoubtedly contact your support and ask you how to change that. Of course, your documentation contains the answer, but remember: a lot of merchants do not read your documentation, no matter how awesome it is.

That’s why we’ve recently switched to a new way of doing that. Instead of including fancy wording, we are using boring default wording:

Default wording

Yes, this is boring and less fancy, but at least, they immediately know how to modify it. The “Language Settings” link directly points to the Language Settings, while the “clicking here” link redirects to the Language Settings, with the corresponding wording pre-selected.

In order to do that, you can take advantage of the `` Liquid variable, so that you can generate links that redirects right into the Theme Settings or Language Settings. For instance:

{% capture admin_language_url %}/admin/themes/{{ theme.id }}/language{% endcapture %}
<p class="social__subtitle">home_page.modules.instagram_subtitle_html</p>

Where our en.json file contains:

"home_page": {
  "modules": {
    "instagram_error_html": "You have enabled the Instagram module, but you did not properly configure it.<br>Be sure to go to the \"Home page - social module\" section in the Theme Settings, and fill the access token."
  }
}

Any other ideas?

Do you have the chance to have Shopify themes sold in the Theme Store or in other marketplace? If so, do you have any other tips that you have experimented and that reduced the support pressure? Please share!



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