A custom Magento theme can bring major improvements to your E-Commerce store. Developing a custom theme for your Magento site can increase sales, improve brand value and increase search ranking for your site. A Magento custom theme can also add new flexibility, better performance and visibility, along with unique content, features and functionality.

Magento is the best platform for E-Commerce merchants, but since so many other online stores also utilize Magento, design similarity exists with many online stores. Many E-Commerce sites choose the default Magento theme instead of creating a custom Magento theme. Developing a custom Magento theme is a great way to stand out amongst the competition and obtain higher search rankings.

When choosing to work with a custom Magento theme, an online merchant can:

  • Customize an existing Magento theme.
  • Develop a custom theme from scratch.

How to Customize a Magento Theme

The first thing to do is to activate developer mode in Magento. When this is done:

  • Static view file caching is disabled.
  • Automatic code compilation is enabled.
  • Enhanced debugging is enabled.
  • Verbose logging is provided.
  • Custom HTTP requests and response headers are shown.

Custom Theme Directory

Once developer mode is activated, it’s time to create a theme directory. This can be done under *app/design/frontend, then creating a “vendor” and “theme” directory underneath.

Custom Theme Declaration

After the theme directory has been created, a theme.xml must be created which contains the theme name and the parent theme name.

.PHP Registration

Add a registration.php file in the theme directory and include:



 * Copyright © 2015 Magento. All rights reserved.

 * See COPYING.txt for license details.








Image Configuration

The view.xml configuration file configures product image sizes and other storefront properties.

Directories for Static Files

Each static file (styles, fonts, Java Script, etc.), requires a separate sub-directory in the theme folder. Store all related static files in the appropriate sub-directory.

Apply Custom Theme

Go to Stores > Configuration > Design and locate the Scope drop-down. Select the store view you want to use for the new theme. Choose the new theme from the Design Theme drop-down and click Save Config.

Clear Cache

If the Magento Admin has caching enabled, the cache must be cleared after applying the new theme. This can be done from System > Cache Management.

How to Develop a Custom Magento Theme

Developing a custom Magento theme is for advanced web developers and online merchants comfortable with coding, programming and editing site structure.

If you’re not sure how to create a custom theme for Magento or would like assistance from professionals, feel free to contact us at Exinent. We’re Magento experts and have experience building custom Magento themes for a variety of E-Commerce businesses.

Getting Started with a Custom Magento Theme

The first thing to understand is Magento hierarchy and folder structure. If you’re an advanced Magento developer/user, this may not be a problem. If you’re a novice, check out some of these references to learn all about Magento hierarchy and folder structure:

Magento Custom Theme Resources

Developing a custom theme from start-to-finish is a time-consuming and technically complicated process. This is one of the many Magento services we at Exinent have become masters at. We are available to manage the entire process for your online store, or can help you at any time during the development.

If you’re interested in developing a custom theme on your own, but aren’t sure how or where to get started, you can check out some of these helpful Magento custom theme development tutorials. These tutorials break down the custom theme development process into simple, easy-to-understand steps.

Magento Fallback Logic

The next concept to understand is Magento’s Fallback Logic system. The Magento fallback logic system is powerful and allows for theme editing without duplicating files. Magento’s Fallback Logic makes it easier to maintain and edit only the files that are needed within the theme.  If files are missing, Magento will search for them and will render an error if they can’t be found.

Magento Custom Theme Development Dos and Don’ts

Here’s a quick list of Dos and Don’ts to keep in mind prior to, and during, the development of a Magento custom theme.

  • Do create a child theme.
  • Don’t edit core files.
  • Do customize the layout files and CSS.
  • Don’t ignore the built-in capabilities of the theme.
  • Do install additional functionality with add-ons and extensions.
  • Don’t ignore Magento’s built-in features.

Magento Custom Theme Tips

When developing a custom Magento theme, it’s important to remember to:

  1. Create a design package and place the theme inside.
  2. Duplicate base and default files that will be edited.
  3. Only keep the files that were changed in the theme because Magento will fallback and search for the remaining files in the theme.

Contact Exinent for Custom Magento Theme Development

Developing a custom Magento theme from scratch can be an overwhelming process for any online merchant without web development experience. However, it’s important to customize a theme because it helps an E-Commerce store gain more sales, improve search rankings, optimize performance and functionality, and provide a unique user experience.

If your E-Commerce store is in need of a new custom theme for Magento, contact Exinent at: 919.361.6755 or [email protected].

Receive a free Magento audit from the experts at Exinent by visiting our Free Magento Audit page and requesting a free consultation.


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