Shopify App Development – Everything You Need to Know
Whether you’re a developer or entrepreneur, if you’re looking for an all-in-one ecommerce solution that will allow you to start, manage, and scale a business, Shopify is a great choice. It allows you to easily create and customize an online store and sell products on the web, mobile, social media, and even a brick and mortar storefront.
Basically, it’s a complete digital platform boasting roughly 1,000,000 active users as of 2017, and a total revenue of over $1 billion in 2018.
I discuss the art of e-commerce and shares tips for maximizing your e-commerce marketing efforts in this video.
Now, let’s take a closer look at Shopify app development and everything you need to know to get started.
Why build Using Shopify?
If you’re considering Shopify for building your business’s app, then you’re probably somewhat familiar with this widely popular platform, but how does it fare against its competition and why should you build using Shopify?
Shopify has long been a preferred choice for sellers looking for both simplicity and rich features when managing their online store and products. Here are a few benefits that come with Shopify:
Simple to use
Unlike other ecommerce solutions like WooCommerce or Magento, Shopify is no-fuss and easy to setup and use for developers and non-developers alike. It provides hosting and software you need to launch your website and the admin interface is both intuitive and user friendly.
Shopify makes use of a multitude of professional and modern templates to create aesthetically pleasing online stores. While it comes with bare themes to use, working with developers and designers will bring a richer UX and UI to your visitors.
Shopify also allows you to easily customize your online store and integrate with apps, allowing the addition of extra functionality and rich features to enhance it.
Secure and Reliable
When creating and managing an online store that handles sensitive user information like credit card info and personal customer details, you want it to be both secure and reliable, which Shopify embraces through constant upgrades and maintenance.
Another benefit to using Shopify is that it has fast speeds due to their optimized software and hardware. Believe it or not, but loading time can have a significant impact on a company’s bottom line. So it’s essential to choose a hosted solution that’s fast.
Excellent Marketing Tools
Shopify also offers some marketing perks to help businesses grow. The basic Shopify version provides some nice SEO features and analytics tools. Additionally, it offers features like store statistics, discount coupons, gift cards, email marketing, and plenty more.
What is a Shopify App, Exactly?
Shopify apps allows businesses to offer enhanced services to their online store customers while also adding a host of other features and functionality. There are many Shopify apps that are available and which offer different functions for an online store, some of which are free and some of which are paid. Some Shopify apps can be custom-made to suit the specific needs of a business.
Private vs Public Apps
One of the first things to know when developing a Shopify app store is that there are two types: public and private apps.
A public app allows you to work with several stores and can be listed in the App Store. It also grants you access to many different APIs.
A private app, on the other hand, only allows you to work with one store. Unlike public apps, you can’t get listed in the App Store and your access to Shopify’s APIs are pretty limited. You also can’t have your store embedded into the Shopify Admin panel.
Here is a quick look at a few of the featured API’s you can integrate for more sophisticated functionality:
- Application proxies: This allows you to display data on a store page from an outside location. This is great for dynamic content that will need to be updated regularly.
- Charge users for your app: This allows you to bill merchants for your app. The recommended way is to use the GraphQL Admin API.
- Carrier service: You can register a new carrier (shipping) service with a variety of shipping rates. A few common carriers include FedEx, USPS, and UPS.
- Fulfillment service: This API lets you create, edit, and delete a fulfillment service, which is a third-party warehouse that manages (prepares and ships) orders on your behalf.
- Liquid: This API lets you use the Liquid template language to load dynamic content on your storefront. This language is written in Ruby and is the backbone of many Shopify themes.
- Web hooks: With web hooks, you can store and retrieve data based on various events and execute code right after they occur instead of having to make API calls.
When comparing the two Shopify app store types, there’s also a technical difference. Public apps require OAuth, which allows you to authenticate and get permission from users to gain access to any of the resources in the REST API. This can be a bit more complex when configuring and requires more setup. Private apps don’t use OAuth but instead are authenticated by using two keys for the one shop, which is essentially a simple username and password authentication.
Picking a Great Platform
One of the great things about Shopify is that it affords developers the freedom to build their very own, custom Shopify apps in any language they choose. To reduce the long-term costs of custom-built apps, be sure to select a hosting platform that doesn’t require maintenance, such as the need to install OS patches and firewall configurations.
One advantage to look for when selecting a platform is the ability to auto-scale due to Shopify’s inherent ability to automatically scale based on demand. When building a Shopify app, it too should be able to scale on demand.
Check Out Postman
If you’re developing a Shopify app, Postman is your friend. This helpful OSX application will allow you to test APIs using mock services—a big advantage during development. Postman conveniently offers a pre-built collection for Shopify endpoints, meaning you can begin to build your Shopify app without having an instance ready for development.
At this point, you may be wondering what the best programming language is to develop your Shopify App. The good news is, there are libraries offering a variety of different languages, such as Ruby, Node, and PHP.
Keep in mind that your Shopify app will be self-hosted and so all interactions with it will happen via Shopify’s REST APIs using JSON.
One of the easiest programming languages to get your Shopify app started with is Ruby. It’s easy to learn and Shopify has solid support for the language and it’s framework, Ruby on Rails, through their SDK and shopify_app gem.
If you plan on adding a user interface for your Shopify app, Shopify Polaris is their design system that can help you build a great user interface (UI) that is consistent with Shopify’s own UI.
One essential piece of advice when developing a Shopify app is: log everything. Shopify websites have a big impact on the revenue of a business, so it’s important to have detailed and precise logs of just about everything (except for credit card numbers) so that you can quickly troubleshoot.
If you have a customer experiencing an issue, it will be far easier to identify and fix it with detailed log information.
Even with the 2,000+ Shopify apps available, there might be a need to develop a custom app and work with Shopify’s powerful built-in APIs, which involves a lot, but it’s a good thing. Don’t just settle for what’s available. Shopify is a powerful platform because it permits you full control and customizability for your shop, which encourages developers to continue publishing new apps to their app store every day.
Building an online store can get complex. Take the safe route to creating an app with our Simple Starter package.
This includes technical documentation that will serve as the foundation for your app, wireframe sketches, and target user research.
Hopefully this has served as a high-level overview of some of the moving parts involved in Shopify App development so you feel empowered to get started.
Your inbox wants some love.
So, what's the next step?