Shopify Themes: 3 Things We’ve Learned So Far (+ Bilingual Theme Update)

By Cesar Beltran

As announced a couple of months ago, we’ll soon be releasing the first-ever bilingual theme for Shopify.  What follows are three lessons learned so far, plus an update.

Update: The Bilingual Theme Is Now Available

We’re working really hard on the Bilingual Theme at the moment. Update: Now available here. Not surprisingly, developing something new and customized is a lot of work, and there are more considerations than I’d ever imagined. We want it to be great and are so excited.


Lesson #1: Lots Of Text = Lots Of Text To Translate

In general, Shopify themes (and any website, for that matter) contain a lot of standard text.  All of this needs to be taken into account in translations.  Not only do we need to cater for unique menus, content, pages, product information, and so on – there are also plenty of small filler words that help our website along the way, like:

  • by (posted by)
  • Next (next post, next product)
  • Previous (previous post, previous product)
  • Submit / Search / Go / Add to Cart (button text)
  • Plus another hundred or so of words like this.

What this means for us:  We need to provide a way for you, the Shopify store owners, to easily manage all these extra words.  That’s what we’re hard at work on 🙂

Lesson #2:  Responsiveness

We believe all themes produced now should be responsive – they should automatically adjust to different devices and browser sizes.  After all, you want to sell to people on mobile phones and iPads, right?  We used a particular coding framework to help us with this.  Testing and checking each screen across a range of screen sizes if fun and important.

Lesson #3: Features Vs Overwhelm

Having worked on over 50 Shopify stores from Sydney to Bangkok to New York, we’ve seen and heard about a lot of features.  We feel we have a good idea of things that work well for small to medium business on Shopify… but how much is too much?  Another important part of building our theme is to make it feature-rich (i.e. lots of good stuff you can use), without being overwhelming.

You can expect several ‘first-ever’ features on Shopify, without the overwhelm.  At least, that’s our hope.

Here’s the link again if you’d like to test drive it on the demo store Click here for details.

– Tristan and the team @ Shopify Ninjas


Thank you for keeping up to date with our Shopify Insider Blog @ Blackbelt Commerce,  we have many other valuable and informative posts that will help you to continue to optimize your website such as New Design, Multilingual store, What are the vital elements of a good e-commerce store, and Shopify SEO. Please make sure to check out our services.

Questions? Leave them in the comments below.

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Comments 11

  1. A question, how will you solve seo ? Its been a big problem for me when it comes to multi language site, only one languages seo i found by google. Big problem 🙁

    1. Hi Annmarie,

      Thanks for your question and interest in this.

      At the moment, we’re planning to use Shopify 2’s new SEO fields in product and page templates to accomodate this. These will integrate with the theme’s SEO. This means you’d be able to enter the page / product title abd description however you liked.

      Here is an example screenshot of this >

      Image ALT text can also be entered as needed (in one or both languages), to help with SEO. For the keywords meta tag field, we’d likely suggest using the Meta Tagger SEO app.

      I wanted to ask: would this approach solve your problems with SEO? Or if not, what other issues have you been having? And is there anything in particular you’d like us to solve? If you can let me know, we’ll do our best to incorporate this feedback into the theme’s SEO. Thanks — Tristan.

  2. Hey Tristan,

    This sounds like a great idea. I wonder though how you’re tackling the question of the checkout language.

    I’m also trying to develop a bilingual shop at the moment, and after talking with shopify support, it seems the checkout itself is the problem. You can’t edit the html for the checkout, and you can only set one language as your checkout language.

    How have you solved this?


    1. Hi Dan,
      Thanks for your interest. You’re on the right track with the checkout language – this one is a tough area, because, as you probably know, we don’t have access to the HTML or code to be able to switch languages. We’ll be providing some advice on how to set TWO languages within one, for the checkout. For example, instead of
      [Your Email], we’d use [Your Email / Su Correo Electrónico].

      This can be set via Admin > Settings > Checkout > Checkout Language (down the bottom). You can create your own ‘language’ for your particular store, and then change the individual pieces of text to include both languages.

      Here’s a living example of this (add something to the cart and then go to checkout):
      And here are some instructions from Shopify on how to do it

      I still don’t think this is a perfect, but we’re limited by Shopify in this, and I think it’s the best interim solution.

      If you come across any gems, I’d love to hear about them. Other questions welcome if we can help.
      — Tristan.

      1. Hey Tristan,

        Thanks for your response! Well, that’s a pretty damn good solution with two languages in the one checkout translation – it never even occurred to me.

        I’ve decided to go instead with the two-shops approach and mainly because of SEO. I was all adamant on getting it to work with one shop, but I couldn’t find a way to switch on the request url – in my case .com vs .de. The request url isn’t available as far I know in the liquid context, so I thought that was a dead end. I don’t even know if the shopify DNS preserves domain strings or if it redirects.

        Have you found a way to switch language inside of liquid? This is *the* problem in my opinion. Otherwise it would have to be javascript/cookie translation, and that wouldn’t help with SEO in the non-default language.

        If shopify gave us access to the request url and the ability to link to multiple translations in the checkout (e.g. /en/carts/…. & /de/carts/….) we could easily do the rest. I can’t see why this would compromise their platform in any way.

        Anyway… back to work on syncing my product data between two shops 🙁

        Thanks again,

        1. Hey Dan,
          Schön dass du schon so viel weißst! Oh, the joys of working with multiple languages, right? 😉

          Understand your concerns about SEO. To be honest, I’m not too sure about the request URLs / domain switching. I have seen a great example of using two separate sites to manage two languages (although, as you mentioned, it’s a bit cumbersome to manage, hence our inspiration to create the theme). Here it is in case it helps:

          Have you found a way to switch language inside of liquid? This is *the* problem in my opinion. Otherwise it would have to be javascript/cookie translation, and that wouldn’t help with SEO in the non-default language.

          Yes. That’s how theme will work. The text will translate instantly, using liquid. In terms of SEO, with Shopify 2’s new interface, you can manually set SEO title tags & descriptions anyway, so it won’t matter if the content is in two langauges. For example, you could set the title to “My Product Title | Der Titel Meines Prodkuts” and that’s what Google will see.

          Hope that helps a bit.

  3. Hi Tristan

    Great initiative! Will the theme support 2 languages only or can it support 3 or more?


    1. Hi Julien,
      Thanks for your interest. At this stage, it will only support two languages. We’re a bit limited by some settings in Shopify, so we’ve built it to accomodate for two languages for now. Perhaps in the future we’ll expand to support 3 or more, but the first release will support just the two.



    1. Hi Patrick,
      Glad you think so! Yes – we’re still focusing on that deadline. Pushing hard at the moment to get everything ready, and testing it extensively. Shall be posting an update next week. Thanks — Tristan.

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