Saturday, January 28, 2012

Avalanche Review - Best Premium Magento Theme

The first commercial theme for Magento I'm writing about is the omnipotent Avalanche by Fast Division that's priced at $199 and $399 depending on the license. Let's break down some of the reasons why I believe the theme is the best as of now.

Avalanche, premium Magento theme
Click here for 15% discount off (then enter code KAVOIR to claim) the Avalanche Magento theme created by Fast Division at 15% discount off.

Exploded Menu

Avalanche has a built-in mega menu which isn't present in many of the premium themes you would find elsewhere. Most of those paid Magento themes are merely a re-styling in CSS of the default theme Magento ships with the official download, which unfortunately, has only single-column dropdown menus that ain't any good in inspiring buying impulses and customer trust.

Avalanche Exploded Menu
Click here for 15% discount off (then enter code KAVOIR to claim) the Avalanche Magento theme created by Fast Division at 15% discount off.


You can still use the exploded menu extension, but it would require quite some technical experience to get it integrated desirably. If you are not that kind of guy or don't have the money to hire one, Avalanche is your best bet for a very classy mega menu.

AJAX Quick View

What this does is when the visitor hovers the cursor over the product images on category pages (product list pages), a middle button reading "Quick View" would appear which if the visitor clicks, a small dialog-like window would emerge itself giving quick details about that product.

Quick View Box of Avalanche
Click here for 15% discount off (then enter code KAVOIR to claim) the Avalanche Magento theme created by Fast Division at 15% discount off.


This is very handy and useful:
  1. for potential customers to quickly know the details of a product without having to wait for the individual product page to load.
  2. for them to easily return to the category pages to continue browsing other products.
As a result, customers are happier, your conversion rate increases and bounce rate decreases (because of less page loads, remember people are generally impatient on the web?).

Cloud Zoom

People love large, high-resolution images, especially of things they are planning to purchase. Product images that are large and sharp inspire trust. You want to use them. But the problem is, your users have limited browser windows and screen sizes, mostly no wider than 2000px. So you need to ZOOM the product images.

Cloud zooming as cursor hovering
Click here for 15% discount off (then enter code KAVOIR to claim) the Avalanche Magento theme created by Fast Division at 15% discount off.


Avalanche has come readily armed with a fantastic product image zooming extension - Cloud Zoom. When the user gets hovering on the image, the store would automatically and nicely zooms in with a larger version. As the cursor moves, the larger image adjusts its position so the user can have a full view of the image in a restricted window.

Leanness - You Need a Minified Theme. Not a Bloated One!

Leanness may not be a positive word in other cases but when it comes to optimizing online websites for performance and user experience, leanness is definitely what you should be concerned about your store. Avalanche is particularly and professionally good at minifying everything the user has to download, thus much faster page load time and more responsive websites, which eventually lead to happy customers.

Many of the premium themes you see elsewhere are made to be JUST eye candies. A good look is all they have, to impress an amateur web store owner. Before I knew Avalanche, I bought two themes from ThemeForest.net. They looked great but God they're bloated and under-optimized. One of the home pages was 2.8MB in bandwidth and over 94 in HTTP requests; the other 1.7MB in bandwidth and 101 in HTTP requests. Guess what would probably happen in the 20 seconds that people are impatiently waiting for the page to render complete? They could leave!

Even worse, they could then return to Google and type in the same search phrase again that had led them to your website in the first place - which essentially tells Google that your website are NOT what the user found appealing for that particular keyword or keyphrase. That's right. The next thing you know is your so hard earned SEO rankings are dropping.

Jake, the creator of Avalanche, is a master of just this area. Check out his blog and you would find plenty of advanced tips from him about how to speed up your Magento store. This screenshot below contains metrics that measure the total data transfer and HTTP requests made for a visitor to completely download the demo home page of Avalanche:

Avalanche home page download time, size & number of requests
Click here for 15% discount off (then enter code KAVOIR to claim) the Avalanche Magento theme created by Fast Division at 15% discount off.


Merely 0.87MB and 50 humble requests. I got the home page pictures well optimized so my Avalanche home page loads just 0.4MB by less than 30 requests. Considering the functionalities and level of sophistication Avalanche offers, this is way leaner than you can dream of.

Attention to Details

One example of this is many other themes out there don't even have breadcrumbs for some of the store pages - because the default Magento theme doesn't have them. So they just left them as they were and never bothered to add them to the themes they were creating.

Jake, on the other hand, takes care of them all, and has done what Magento left out. What I love most, however, is he's styling of the Layered Navigation sidebar at the left:

Black marble layered navigation with crafted typography
Click here for 15% discount off (then enter code KAVOIR to claim) the Avalanche Magento theme created by Fast Division at 15% discount off.


Simply a masterpiece.

1 Hour Support Turnaround

See my blog post of Avalanche review for what I have to say about Jake's unparalleled support.

Constantly Updated & Refined

Avalanche has been updated a dozen of times since its debut of 2010. And I believe it would keep being so because it's their one flagship theme and Jake is a Magento addict. He reads everything about it and tries everything he can to shape the theme a better product, every day.

As a matter of fact, I'm sort of annoyed by his endless updates, because, you know, it's always a pain to upgrade. Since Magento doesn't have an auto-upgrade feature like that of WordPress, things are all manual.

And A LOT more novel features, such as:
  1. AJAX add to cart
  2. instant shopping cart content display (dropdown)
  3. home page slider
  4. smart catalog breadcrumbs
  5. slide in compare pane
  6. one page check out
  7. review photos - $49 value extension
  8. quantity sliders
Check out the Avalanche theme page for more. Did I mention there's also a full-fledged backend configuration panel with hundreds of tweak-able options?

Conclusion

Lots of other themes are made to delight just YOU at first glance so that you would reach for your pocket. They don't do the details. For example, many of them miss breadcrumbs and don't bother to remove unused assets (e.g. JavaScripts) by the default Magento theme. You would find out more glitches such as cross-browser compatibility issues after you have purchased them and given tests to them thoroughly.

They don't need try to be a hardcore elite theme that excels in every aspect - just the opposite of Thesis theme for WordPress. See how many copies are sold there? Over 42,000 bloggers use it. The smartest people use it. Because it's the One Theme you would ever need, sharpened in every possible angle, with best user experience. It delights both you and your USERS.

And Avalanche is the Thesis for Magento.

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