Transform Your BigCommerce Store: Should You Choose Stencil or Blueprint?
When it comes to choosing a theme framework for your BigCommerce store, there are two primary options available: Stencil and Blueprint. Both frameworks have their own sets of strengths, benefits, and limitations. In this article, we’ll provide an in-depth comparison of the two, complete with examples, to help you decide which one is best suited for your needs.
What is Blueprint?
Blueprint is BigCommerce’s legacy theme framework. It has been around since the early days of BigCommerce and served as the foundational structure for countless online stores.
Example of a Blueprint Theme: Let’s consider the classic “Cornerstone Light” theme. It’s a straightforward theme with basic navigation options, a simple footer, and a standard grid layout for products.
Advantages of Blueprint:
- Familiarity: Many older BigCommerce merchants have grown accustomed to Blueprint’s ways and might find it easier to make tweaks or adjustments.
- Less Complex: Given its age, Blueprint themes can be less complicated and easier for developers new to the BigCommerce platform to understand.
- Outdated Code: As a legacy product, Blueprint is not frequently updated, which can mean utilizing outdated code practices.
- Limited Features: The modern eCommerce requirements can go beyond what Blueprint offers, requiring additional customization or third-party tools.
What is Stencil?
Stencil is BigCommerce’s modern, updated theme framework. It was introduced as an upgrade to Blueprint, providing more features, better code practices, and a more customizable environment.
Example of a Stencil Theme: The “Cornerstone Responsive” theme is a great showcase for Stencil’s capabilities. It offers a sleek design, mobile-responsive features, and advanced filtering options.
Advantages of Stencil:
- Flexibility: Stencil themes are highly customizable, allowing developers to create unique storefronts.
- Modern Code: Stencil uses updated code practices, which can improve website performance and security.
- Built-in Features: With features like advanced filtering, image optimization, and AMP (Accelerated Mobile Pages) support, Stencil offers much more out-of-the-box than Blueprint.
- Mobile Optimization: Stencil themes prioritize mobile responsiveness, ensuring your store looks and functions well on all devices.
- Learning Curve: There might be a steeper learning curve for those familiar with Blueprint or other platforms.
- Complexity: The very flexibility that makes Stencil powerful can also make it more complex, especially for non-developers.
Examples in Action
To better understand the differences, let’s delve deeper into the two example themes we mentioned earlier:
1. Cornerstone Light (Blueprint):
– Design: It offers a basic grid layout, making it straightforward for users to navigate. The design is clean but lacks the modern flair seen in newer themes.
– Features: This theme doesn’t support advanced features like AMP or advanced filtering. You’ll likely need third-party tools or customizations.
– Customization: Blueprint themes can be customized, but you might be limited by older code practices.
2. Cornerstone Responsive (Stencil):
– Design: Sleek and modern. This theme adjusts based on the user’s device, ensuring a seamless shopping experience.
– Features: Built-in support for advanced filtering, AMP for faster mobile page loads, and image optimization.
– Customization: Stencil allows for deep customization, making it easier for brands to create a unique identity.
Which to Choose?
For New Stores: If you’re just starting out or planning to redesign your store, going with Stencil is the most logical choice. The modern features, code practices, and flexibility it offers will set you up for success in the current eCommerce landscape.
For Existing Blueprint Stores: If you’re already on Blueprint and content with its functionality, transitioning to Stencil might seem like a daunting task. However, consider the benefits — better mobile optimization, improved features, and a more modern design. If these are appealing, it might be time for an upgrade.
For Developers: If you’re a developer or agency building BigCommerce stores for clients, becoming proficient in Stencil is a must. It’s the future of BigCommerce design, and the more you can leverage its features, the better you can serve your clients.
While Blueprint has served the BigCommerce community well for many years, Stencil undoubtedly represents the platform’s future. Its emphasis on modern design, advanced features, and flexibility make it a top choice for merchants looking to compete in today’s ever-evolving eCommerce world.
However, the right choice always depends on individual needs, budget, and the desired user experience. Whether you choose Blueprint or Stencil, always prioritize your customers’ needs and ensure your store offers the best possible shopping experience.
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