There’s never been a better time to create an app for Shopify. On Shopify, more than 1.7 million merchants around the globe create, scale, and manage their companies. By empowering them to address their company’s unique challenges and needs, apps play a critical role in their growth. In reality, apps are so crucial to the merchant journey that there are six apps installed on their store by the average Shopify merchant.
There are still opportunities for developers to create innovative solutions to different merchant issues, with the diversity of our merchant base increasing by the day, and a rapidly evolving trade environment. A standalone billion-dollar industry, from sourcing goods, marketing, order fulfilment, customer service, and more, is each stage of a merchant’s entrepreneurial journey. There are opportunities, but if you haven’t created an app for the Shopify App Store before, where do you start, exactly?
We have you covered. In this guide, with insights and guidance from Shopify’s own developers and active partner app developers who work with Shopify every day, we share the six stages of app development that you need to know to create and launch a successful app on Shopify.
How apps fit into Shopify:
Shopify is designed to get merchants out of the box and going. But each merchant is distinctive, so they use apps to overcome their particular challenges.
Apps are mobile applications in the Shopify sense that expand the features of Shopify stores. They empower merchants to tailor their Shopify experiences to exactly their needs.
Integrating Applications with Shopify by:
Link to the APIs of Shopify, the most used of which is the Admin API that allows apps to read and write information about products, customers, orders, inventory, fulfilment, and more.
Extending new functionality within the current Shopify Admin or POS components
Improving the way stores show data to customers
Your app may have three different degrees of accessibility:
Public applications: Products that are open to many retailers and can be found in the Shopify App Store (see below). In your Partner Dashboard, they are established.
Special apps: Apps that can not be listed in the Shopify App Store that are custom designed for a particular retailer. In your Partner Dashboard, they are established.
Private applications: apps designed for developers to create for retailers with unique specifications that custom apps do not fulfil. They are not identified and are produced in the Merchant Admin in the Shopify App Store. Since private apps do not give you access to features such as extensions and are embedded in the Shopify Admin, we suggest that you use the custom app strategy whenever possible.
Basics for app-building
You need to have the basics ready to go before you get started designing your app. Here is what you will need:
The account and production store of a Shopify Partner
An account in Ngrok
To be comfortable using the command line of your machine and the text editor
In any backend programming language, such as PHP, Node.JS, Java, Python or Ruby on Rails, to be able to read and write
Using the npm package manager to be able to instal applications
Shopify App CLI tool: This Shopify-created and managed tool helps to speed up the building process by setting up applications for Node.js and Ruby on Rails apps quickly and easily. In the section, Shopify App CLI, you will read more about it: what it is and how to use it below.
Shopify GraphiQL Software Installer: Upon setup, this tool will help you find and manage the Shopify GraphQL Admin APIs. Below, we will cover the GraphQL Admin API and the REST API in more detail.
Setup and Tooling:
On the developer’s own infrastructure, Shopify apps are hosted. You are free to host your app on any hosting site for developers and build it with the technology stack of your choosing. This means you can select the tech stack and coding language for creating Shopify apps that you are most comfortable with.
Setting up your software depends primarily on the programming language, structure, and app objectives that you prefer.
Libraries of software to know:
To build your app, you can choose whatever programming language you’re most comfortable with.
Shopify formally provides libraries for Node, Ruby, and Python, and there are many other libraries developed and maintained by members of the Shopify community, such as PHP.
App CLI Shopify:
The Shopify App CLI tool lets you build your app faster because it allows you to easily automate basic development tasks by scaffolding Node.js and Ruby on Rails applications.
The CLI for Shopify App:
Creates a starting code to create an app
Populates with instance data in your development store to test your app
Configures the app automatically on the Partner Dashboard
Get to know APIs from Shopify:
GraphQL and REST are two technologies that you can use from another application to fetch and manipulate data. Shopify supports both REST and GraphQL, the latter being an advancement that allows you to only deal with the data you are interested in, so you can maximise the output of your app.
The Shopify platform is versatile, so you can select not only the programming languages that you prefer, but also which APIs you use. Depending on the case, you can also use both APIs. In the case of GraphQL and REST APIs, however, GraphQL can deliver distinct advantages and capabilities that are not accessible via REST. Some Shopify APIs, for example, are only available in GraphQL, such as performing bulk operations with the GraphQL Admin API, so be sure to search the docs for the Shopify API before starting work.
App Bridge Authentication and Shopify:
The service Shopify OAuth validates that your app has been installed by the customer and redirects them back to your app. Your app then stores and connects the user’s information to the session cookie, so that without the need for OAuth, future interactions will occur.
But lately, browsers have begun banning or phasing out third party cookies in response to user privacy concerns, which can cause problems for embedded apps, including loading delays and failed loads. This can contribute to a bad user experience. While browser vendors do not attempt to block Shopify or its embedded apps, the app-powering technology is so similar that browsers do not differentiate sufficiently and apps get caught up in the crackdown.
Long loading speeds and problems with reliability will frustrate your users and stop your app from gaining traction. Web browsers which restrict third-party cookies more and more will only make your user experience worse. Nobody wants to wait 10 seconds to load their app or see an error message that the app was unable to load.
Shopify App Bridge speeds up authentication to operate around this and enhances the experience of the customer. It also helps you to create embedded applications within the Shopify Admin and Shopify POS directly.
For the long term, building your app:
Software and technology are constantly evolving, and it is possible that different languages, systems, and fundamentals will change over time. This is particularly true when creating an app on the platform of Shopify, where the aim is to always put the needs of merchants first.
Once you have the basics in place, you can get creative with how you create apps that solve merchant problems effectively, which is the ultimate aim for every developer of web apps.
You will be able to apply it for approval after you have thoroughly checked your app, before you can publish it in the Shopify App Store. In the next section of this tutorial, you will read more about checking your app and submission criteria.
Submission to the App Store for Shopify:
You’ve invested a lot of time and effort into creating a functional, usable app at this point in the process. The next step to making your product live and in the hands of the merchants who would profit most from it is uploading it to the Shopify App Store.
But the app needs to be checked by the Shopify App Review team before that can happen. Since so many merchants rely on Shopify apps to operate their day-to-day business, before they are available to consumers, it is crucial that we have a set process to review and approve apps. The app review process helps ensure a certain degree of accessibility, trustworthiness, and functionality is achieved by all Shopify applications.
The app review process can be overwhelming, but planning for it is the key to making it as smooth as possible. Knowing what to expect beforehand, and knowing what data you should have ready to go, will help you move through the analysis processes more quickly.
Before they can be approved for the app store, there are certain requirements that all public apps must meet. They include:
- Understanding app configurations that are prohibited and restricted
- Even if you plan to keep your app unlisted, create an app listing (see below)
- Meeting demands for installation and setup
- Meeting expectations of functionality and quality
- Security and merchant risk addressing
- Understanding your responsibilities with information about merchants and buyers
- Getting customer assistance
Test your app:
You’re ready to move on to testing once you’re confident that your app meets the above requirements. Shopify is a complex platform, and there are no two merchants with the same needs or objectives. Thorough testing aims to capture as many mistakes and glitches as possible, so that when these diverse retailers install it, the software doesn’t break
You want to make sure it works correctly for your users when testing your app, particularly for merchants who aren’t tech-savvy. Most retailers are not developers, but the more user-friendly the app is, the more it helps consumers have a good experience.
- Users can instal your software quickly.
- Your app will deal with problems such as 404s, heavy traffic and heavy input.
- On various Shopify themes, the app works
- You can uninstall your app in the same shop and reinstall it.
- The URLs and redirects of your app run
- Your framework for app billing works
Control and surveillance of app results:
You can use different monitoring tools to ensure that your app stays safe and stable as you develop new features, scale up your output, and expand your user base. You maintain a consistent, high-quality user experience and minimise any downtime by ensuring that all the applications inside your technology stack runs smoothly.
Monitoring tools for app performance such as Bugsnag, Datadog or Sentry monitor the reliability of your app and make it easy to find and solve any errors in your tech stack across the apps. There are different costs associated with each of these instruments.
Using a tracking or management tool for app performance lets you understand the reliability and security of your underlying systems, helping you to anticipate or forecast how your app will perform if, for example, you have an increase in installations. Based on different user loads, you are able to anticipate app results.
Adam Ritchie is a Silver Spring, Maryland-based writer. He writes about developments in e-commerce and folio3 shopify development company best practices. Groupon and New Theory are among his previous clients.