Navigating the Shopify Variants Jungle June 09, 2014 07:00

While Shopify makes store management easy even though there are tons of options and capabilities, there are a couple things we don’t like managing. Product variants are part of that list (and why we sell the Product Customizer). While Shopify has a variants manual around for help, there are still some aspects of variants that are tough to manage or confusing at first.

We’ll give you a quick guide to creating and editing Shopify variants to hopefully simplify this process.

Creating Variants for a New Product

Before you create a product that will require variants (i.e., apparel with colors and sizing, products that have different types, etc), you should have a clear idea of what options will be needed. Shopify limits products to 3 different option sets and a maximum of 100 variants.

What does this mean? You can only have 3 options, such as “Type”, “Color”, and “Size”. Within these three options, you can only have a maximum of 100 total combinations. To give you an idea, that would be 4-5 choices for each of the 3 options, so it’s not a huge amount of options, but works for many shops.

Anyway, have a clear idea of what options are needed, and which choices / variants are available for each option, as setting this up after you’ve saved your product is massively difficult. When you’re ready to set up your variants, you’ll be at this part of the product page:

Shopify Variant Creation

If you enable that your product has multiple options, Shopify will fill in a default variation for you. You can delete the “Default title” variant, and change the name of the option if desired. Do this now, as it’s a pain to change later:


 
Shopify Default Variant

Default Variant



Shopify Edit the Default Variant

Edit the Default Variant


Continue adding all options and possible choices until you’re done. Be sure the the option to “Automatically create variants…” is enabled. It’s not possible to automate this process at any time except for when you create a new product, so unless you want to enter 50+ variants by hand, you should get this out of the way.

Shopify Auto-create variants

Auto-create variants

That’s it! Now all of your variants will be created with unique SKUs. You can then go back through and edit pricing options for the desired variations, or adjust your SKUs as needed.

Shopify All Variants

All Variants

Creating Variants for an Existing Product

Creating variants for an existing product is far tougher. Once a product has been saved, a default variant has been saved, and you’ll no longer be able to automatically generate all variants from your option set. You can either re-create your product, or add the options and variants manually.

You can begin editing by clicking the “edit options” text:

Shopify Edit Options and Variants

Edit Options and Variants

Here you’ll be able to edit the option name and add other options. You’ll add only one variant for each option for now. Don’t try to add a comma-separated list – it won’t work (speaking from experience!).

Shopify Add Options to Existing Product

Add Options to Existing Product

You can now edit your default title for the first variant. As ours is “Style”, we’ll change it “Men’s”:

Shopify variant Edit Default Title

Edit Default Title

Now our options are created, but we need to add all of the variants manually. I’ll have to add my men’s medium, large, etc. all in gray, then add the same variants for all of the other colors. Oh, then I’ll have to repeat this with women’s shirts uneasy . See why we said you want to get this right from the beginning? Fortunately, you can click the button to add each variant and add all info (prices, SKUs) at once:

Shopify Add new variant

Add new variant

This will take a bit of time, but you can make sure all variants have been added.

That’s it! Variants in less than 10 minutes smile .

More info

Don’t want to use variants? There are some other great ways to add options and variants to your products. For example, if you don’t need to manage inventory or SKUs for your variants, you could instead look at our Product Customizer app, which lets you create an unlimited number of options for each product. You’ll also be able to save option sets to share among several products.

Product Customizer will also let you add other option types, such as the ability to add small and large text fields or file uploads for customizable products. You can use Shopify variants as well with Product Customizer for stock management or price changes.

Another handy change you can make to variants is the ability to associate a specific image with a variant. Note that the Shopify tutorial on this requires some familiarity with Ruby on Rails and the Shopify templating system, so it’s probably not suitable for beginners.

Hope this helps you cut through the Shopify variants jungle!

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