Shopify App Building: What you need to know before you start

Before you start building a shopify app as a developer or as an agency you should know the following:

Certainly! Building a Shopify app can be a rewarding endeavor, but there are several important considerations you should be aware of before you start. Here are some key points to keep in mind:

  • Understand the Shopify Ecosystem:
    Familiarize yourself with the Shopify platform and its ecosystem. Understand how the app store works, the Shopify API, and the different types of apps that exist.
  • Shopify Partner Program:
    Join the Shopify Partner Program. This program provides resources, tools, and support for developers and agencies building on the Shopify platform.
  • API and Documentation:
    Thoroughly review the Shopify API documentation. Understand the available endpoints, authentication methods, and any limitations or restrictions.
  • App Niche and Target Audience:
    Identify a niche for your app. Consider the specific needs of merchants and target a market segment that is currently underserved or where you can provide unique value.
  • User Experience (UX) and Design:
    Pay attention to the user experience and design of your app. A well-designed and intuitive interface can significantly impact the success of your app.
  • Scalability and Performance:
    Ensure that your app is scalable and performs well under different conditions. Consider potential issues related to high traffic and large datasets.
  • Security:
    Prioritize security in your app development. Follow best practices for data protection, secure communication, and user authentication.
  • Compliance:
    Be aware of legal and compliance issues, such as GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation) and other data protection laws, depending on your target market.
  • Pricing Strategy:
    Determine a clear and fair pricing strategy for your app. Consider whether you will offer a free trial, a freemium model, or a one-time purchase.
  • Support and Maintenance:
    Plan for ongoing support and maintenance. Be responsive to user feedback and issues, and keep your app updated with new features and bug fixes.
  • Testing:
    Thoroughly test your app before submitting it to the Shopify App Store. Consider usability testing, performance testing, and security testing.
  • App Submission Guidelines:
    Review and adhere to Shopify’s app submission guidelines. Make sure your app meets all the requirements before submitting it for review.
  • Marketing and Promotion:
    Develop a marketing strategy to promote your app. Consider how you will reach your target audience and differentiate your app from competitors.
  • Analytics:
    Implement analytics to track user behavior, measure the success of your app, and identify areas for improvement.
  • Stay Updated:
    Keep yourself informed about updates and changes in the Shopify platform. Regularly check for any changes in the API or app development guidelines.

Here we are elaborating on a few of the above points.

1. What different Shopify APIs to be considered for your app development

  • Storefront API
  • Admin API
  • GraphQL Admin API and so on

2. Database Design for a Multi tenant Solution Support

We need to use the store id for multi-tenant system

Technology stack you should have hands on:

  • Node.js
  • React.js
  • PHP
  • Database MySQL, MongoDB (or any other suitable database)

3. Permissions your App will Need

When building a Shopify app, the permissions your app will need depend on the functionality it provides. Shopify uses OAuth for authentication and authorization, and merchants grant permissions to apps when they install them. Here are some common permissions that your app might need:

  • Read Access to Products, Variants, and Collections:
    If your app involves displaying or manipulating product information, you’ll likely need read access to products, variants, and collections.
  • Write Access to Products, Variants, and Collections:
    If your app allows merchants to make changes to their product catalog, you’ll need to write access to products, variants, and collections.
  • Read and Write Access to Orders:
    If your app involves order management, you’ll need read and write access to orders. This is essential for processing orders, updating order status, and managing fulfillment.
  • Read and Write Access to Customers:
    If your app involves customer data, you’ll need read and write access to customer information. This is necessary for apps related to customer management, loyalty programs, etc.
  • Read Access to Store Information:
    Your app might need access to general store information, such as the shop’s name, email, and address.
  • Read and Write Access to Script Tags:
  • If your app involves modifying the storefront, you may need read and write access to script tags to inject scripts into the storefront.
  • Read and Write Access to Webhooks:
    Webhooks allow your app to receive real-time updates about various events in a store. You might need read and write access to set up webhooks for events like order creation, product updates, etc.
  • Read and Write Access to Draft Orders:
    If your app involves creating draft orders on behalf of the merchant, you’ll need read and write access to draft orders.
  • Read and Write Access to Price Rules:
    If your app involves dynamic pricing or discount management, you may need read and write access to price rules.
  • Access to Custom App Data:
    If your app stores custom data related to the merchant’s store, you may need access to custom app data.

Always aim to request the minimum necessary permissions to perform the required tasks. This helps build trust with merchants and reduces the risk of unnecessary data exposure. Additionally, clearly communicate to merchants why your app requires each specific permission during the installation process to enhance transparency.

By considering these factors, you can increase the chances of building a successful and well-received Shopify app.

4. Performance impact it might have on shopify speed

The performance impact of a Shopify app on the speed of a store is a crucial consideration, as a slow website can lead to poor user experience and potentially impact sales. Here are some factors to keep in mind to minimize the performance impact:

  • Efficient Code:
    Write efficient and optimized code for your app. This includes minimizing unnecessary database queries, optimizing algorithms, and using best coding practices.
  • Asynchronous Processes:
    Where possible, use asynchronous processes to perform tasks that don’t need to happen in real-time. This can help prevent delays in loading critical storefront elements.
  • Caching:
    Implement caching mechanisms to reduce the need for repeated data retrieval. Caching can significantly improve response times for subsequent requests.
  • Lazy Loading:
    Implement lazy loading for assets, especially for images and scripts. Only load resources as needed, reducing the initial page load time.
  • Minimize External Requests:
    Limit the number of external requests your app makes. Each external request adds latency, so minimize them to only what is necessary for your app’s functionality.
  • Optimized Frontend Integration:
    If your app integrates with the storefront, ensure that the frontend code is optimized and does not introduce unnecessary delays. Use efficient JavaScript and CSS practices.
  • CDN Usage:
    Leverage Content Delivery Networks (CDNs) to distribute static assets like images, stylesheets, and scripts. CDNs can improve the delivery speed of these assets to users around the world.
  • Background Processing:
    If your app involves resource-intensive tasks, consider moving them to background processing to avoid impacting the main storefront’s performance.
  • Monitor Resource Usage:
    Regularly monitor your app’s resource usage on Shopify. This includes API calls, database queries, and any other resources that might affect performance.
  • Optimized Database Queries:
    If your app interacts with the database, ensure that your queries are optimized. Avoid unnecessary or inefficient queries that could slow down database response times.
  • Scalability Testing:
    Test your app’s performance under different scenarios, especially during peak times. Ensure that your app is scalable and can handle increased traffic without a significant degradation in performance.
  • Regular Updates:
    Keep your app updated with the latest improvements and optimizations. Periodically review and refine your code to incorporate best practices and take advantage of new technologies.
  • Consideration of Third-Party Apps:
    If your app relies on third-party services, be mindful of their impact on performance. Choose reputable and well-optimized services to integrate with your app.
  • Optimized Asset Delivery:
    Ensure that your app’s assets (images, stylesheets, scripts) are delivered efficiently. Compress images, minimize CSS and JavaScript files, and use modern web development practices.

By implementing these strategies, you can help minimize the performance impact of your Shopify app on the storefront, ensuring a smoother and faster user experience for merchants and their customers. Regular testing and optimization are key to maintaining optimal performance over time.

5. Shopify Import export and its constraints

Shopify provides features for importing and exporting data to and from a store. This functionality is useful for bulk operations, data migration, and integration with external systems. However, there are certain constraints and considerations to keep in mind:

Shopify Import:

  • CSV Format
    Shopify primarily supports data import/export in CSV (Comma-Separated Values) format. Ensure that your data is properly formatted in CSV before importing.
  • Data Types
    Different data types (products, customers, orders, etc.) have specific fields and requirements for import. Refer to Shopify’s documentation for the specific fields and data format for each type.
  • File Size Limits
    There are limits on the size of the CSV file you can import. Large files may need to be split into smaller chunks to be processed successfully.
  • Importable Data Types
    Not all data types can be imported. For example, scripts, shipping zones, and certain settings might not be importable. Refer to the documentation for the list of importable types.
  • Validation Rules
    Shopify enforces validation rules during import. If data in your CSV file doesn’t meet these rules (e.g., unique product handles, valid SKUs), the import might fail.
  • Product Images
    Importing product images has some limitations. Images need to be hosted on a publicly accessible server, and you provide URLs in the CSV.
  • Taxonomies and Variants
    Be mindful of how product taxonomies and variants are structured. Understanding the product variant IDs and how they relate to each other is crucial.

Shopify Export:

  • Exportable Data Types
    Not all data types can be exported. While products, customers, and orders are commonly exported, some settings and configurations might not be included in the export.
  • Data Granularity
    The level of detail in the exported data may be limited. Ensure that the information you need is available in the exported file.
  • File Size Limits
    Similar to imports, there are limitations on the size of exported files. Large exports may need to be split into smaller batches.
  • Exporting Metafields
    If you use metafields in your store, exporting and importing them might require additional considerations. Metafields are not included in standard exports and may need custom solutions.
  • Export Frequency
    There might be limitations on how frequently you can export data. Some data, like order and transaction data, might have more frequent export restrictions.
  • Export Filters
    When exporting data, consider whether you need to filter the data based on certain criteria. Shopify provides options to filter data during the export process.
  • Historical Data
    Historical data might have different export considerations. For example, if you’re exporting order history, make sure to include all relevant time periods.

Always refer to the latest Shopify documentation for the most accurate and up-to-date information on import and export features, constraints, and best practices. Understanding these constraints will help you plan and execute smoother data operations within the Shopify platform.

6. Metafield types and its limitations

In the context of Shopify, “metafields” refer to a powerful feature that allows you to add custom fields to your store’s data objects, such as products, variants, customers, orders, and more. Metafields enables you to store additional information that is not part of the default Shopify data structure. However, there are certain metafield types and limitations that you should be aware of:

Metafield Types:

  • Single Line Text
    Used for storing a short text string, such as a product code or a brief description.
  • Multi-line Text
    Suitable for longer text content, like product descriptions or detailed notes.
  • Integer
    Stores whole numbers, useful for numerical data like quantities or sizes.
  • Decimal
    Used for storing numbers with decimals, such as prices or dimensions.
  • Color
    Specifically designed for storing color values, making it easier to manage and display product colors.
  • URL
    Stores a web link, which can be handy for linking to external resources or additional information.
  • Checkbox
    Represents a boolean value (true or false), suitable for binary options.
  • Image
    Allows you to associate an image with a metafield, which can be useful for product thumbnails or icons.

Limitations and Considerations:

  • Global and Local Scope
    Metafields can be applied globally (to the entire store) or locally (to specific objects like products or variants). The scope affects where the metafield’s data is visible.
  • Character Limits
    Each metafield type may have character limits. For example, single-line text might have a shorter character limit than multi-line text.
  • API Limits
    When working with metafields through the Shopify API, be aware of rate limits and bulk operation limitations to avoid throttling issues.
  • Display Limitations
    Displaying custom metafields on the storefront might require theme customization to ensure they are properly presented to customers.
  • App Dependencies
    Some third-party apps might interact with metafields differently, and conflicts could arise if multiple apps are managing the same metafield.
  • No Built-in UI for Metafield Management
    Shopify doesn’t provide a built-in user interface within the admin for managing metafields. Merchants often rely on apps or custom solutions for easier management.
  • No Versioning
    Shopify doesn’t natively support versioning for metafields. Once a change is made, the previous value is overwritten.
  • Limitations on Number of Metafields
    There may be limits on the total number of metafields you can create, depending on your Shopify subscription plan.
  • Complex Data Structures
    While metafields offer flexibility, handling complex data structures may require careful planning and consideration.

Understanding these metafield types and limitations is crucial for designing a robust data model and ensuring that your Shopify store effectively captures and utilizes the additional information you need. Always refer to the latest Shopify documentation for the most accurate and up-to-date information.

7. What App data is available on what pages for liquid level customization

To determine which metafields are available on specific pages in Shopify for liquid level customization, you’ll need to understand the structure of your theme and where the metafield data is being used. Here are some general steps and considerations:

  • Theme Documentation
    Check the documentation provided by the theme developer. Themes often have specific documentation that outlines the available metafields and where they can be used within the Liquid templates.
  • Accessing Metafields in Liquid Templates
    In your Shopify admin, navigate to “Online Store” -> “Themes” -> “Actions” -> “Edit Code.” Here, you can access the Liquid templates of your theme. Explore files like product.liquid, collection.liquid, page.liquid, etc., where you might find references to metafields.
  • Product Pages
    For product pages, look into the product.liquid template. Common places for metafield usage include displaying additional product information, custom product fields, or integrating metafields into product gallery sections.
  • Collection Pages
    On collection pages, the collection.liquid template is crucial. Metafields may be used to customize the display of collection items or add extra information to each product.
  • Page Templates:
    If you have custom pages, check the corresponding Liquid templates (e.g., page.liquid). Metafields can be used to customize the content and layout of these pages.
  • Snippet and Section Files:
    Metafields might also be used in snippet or section files that are included in various templates. Look for snippets like product-grid-item.liquid or sections like product-section.liquid.
  • Product and Collection Loops:
    In Liquid templates, product and collection loops are common. Metafields may be accessed within these loops to customize the display of each item.
  • Conditional Logic:
    Some themes use conditional logic to determine when and where to display certain elements, including those based on metafield values. Check for conditional statements in your Liquid code.
  • Third-Party Apps:
    If you are using third-party apps to manage metafields, consult the app’s documentation. Some apps might introduce additional Liquid variables or require specific integration steps.
  • Liquid Debugging:
    Use Liquid debugging techniques to output variable values to the browser for inspection. This can help you identify where and how metafields are being used.

Remember that the availability of metafields on different pages depends on how your theme is designed and customized. If you’re not comfortable making these changes yourself, it might be a good idea to consult with a Shopify developer or the theme’s support team for assistance. Always make backups before making changes to your theme code to avoid accidental data loss or disruptions to your store.

8. Theme App Extension File Size Limits

https://shopify.dev/docs/apps/online-store/theme-app-extensions/extensions-framework#file-and-content-size-limits

check this section: File and content size limits on the above shopify link.

9. API Deprecations and Versions at Shopify: What You Need to Know

Check: https://www.shopify.com/in/partners/blog/api-deprecation

10. Creating a sheet that covers all test case scenarios and developing an automated test suite

When an app is on the shopify marketplace there will be hundreds of stores using it.

you will need to continuously keep releasing features and enhancements.

The biggest challenge will be to test lots of scenarios and unless you have a team that can write automated test cases, runs and test on those it will be risky to plan and build an app for market place.

11. Role of Unit Test Case Development in Building Robust Software

In the realm of software development, the significance of unit test case development cannot be overstated. It serves as a cornerstone in the pursuit of creating robust, reliable, and maintainable code. Let’s delve into the merits of incorporating unit testing into the development process.

  • Early Bug Detection and Swift Issue Resolution
    Unit test cases act as vigilant guardians during the development process, immediately identifying discrepancies or bugs in the code. By catching issues early on, developers can swiftly address them before they escalate, contributing to a more seamless and error-free development workflow.
  • Incremental Development and Iterative Refinement
    The practice of writing unit tests in parallel with code development fosters an incremental approach. Developers can systematically build and test features, creating a more agile and adaptable development environment. This iterative refinement ensures that each addition to the codebase is thoroughly validated against expected outcomes.
  • Sustainable Code Quality
    Developing unit tests concurrently instills a commitment to high code quality. It encourages developers to think critically about the testability of their code and promotes the creation of modular, well-organized structures. As a result, the codebase becomes more maintainable and less prone to unexpected issues.
  • Continuous Integration and Automation
    Unit testing seamlessly integrates with continuous integration practices, enabling automated testing with every code change. This automation not only accelerates the testing process but also instills confidence in the development team by providing rapid feedback on the health of the codebase.
  • Risk Mitigation and Regression Prevention
    Unit tests serve as a safety net, mitigating risks associated with code modifications. When developers make changes or introduce new features, comprehensive unit test suites help prevent regressions by ensuring that existing functionality remains intact.
  • Holistic Development Approach
    Balancing the development of unit tests as a parallel activity fosters a holistic approach to software development. It aligns the team’s focus on both feature implementation and quality assurance, creating a symbiotic relationship that enhances the overall integrity of the codebase.

12. How to deploy your app

We can deploy app on any cloud platform. (Heroku, AWS, or another cloud platform)

13. Shopify tools to be used for a good developer experience

  1. Shopify Partner Dashboard
  2. Shopify App Bridge
  3. Postman

14. Technology stacks you should have hands on

  • Web Development Languages
  • Node.js
  • PHP
  • Web Framework
  • Express.js
  • Shopify App CLI
  • Shopify App SDKs
  • Shopify API
  • Database
  • Version Control
  • Hosting/Deployment

15 Build with a plan for upgrades and maintenance

1. Version Control

Use Git for version control. This allows you to track changes, collaborate with a team, and easily roll back updates if needed.

2. Documentation

Document your code thoroughly. Include inline comments, a README file, and any other necessary documentation to help other developers understand your code.

3. Separation of Concerns

Implement a modular and well-organized code structure. Separate concerns such as frontend, backend, and business logic to make it easier to understand and maintain.

4. Dependency Management

Use a package manager (e.g., npm for Node.js, Bundler for Ruby) to manage dependencies. Keep dependencies up-to-date to benefit from security updates and new features.

5. Automated Testing

Implement automated testing to ensure the reliability of your app. Unit tests, integration tests, and end-to-end tests can catch issues early and streamline the debugging process.

6. Continuous Integration (CI)

Set up a CI pipeline to automate the testing and deployment process. This ensures that every code change is tested before deployment, reducing the chances of introducing bugs.

7. Logging and Monitoring

Implement logging and monitoring to track errors and performance issues. Tools like Sentry or Rollbar can help you identify and address issues proactively.

8. Security Best Practices

Follow security best practices to protect your app and users’ data. Regularly update dependencies, use HTTPS, implement proper authentication, and conduct security audits.

9. Upgrade Planning

Keep an eye on Shopify updates, API changes, and deprecated features. Regularly review the Shopify changelog to stay informed about any upcoming changes.

10. Versioning

Implement versioning for your app’s API to manage changes effectively. Clearly communicate any breaking changes, and provide migration guides when necessary.

11. User Feedback

Encourage users to provide feedback. This can help you identify areas for improvement and understand user needs, leading to more effective updates.

12. Release Notes

Create detailed release notes for each update. This informs users of new features, improvements, and any potential breaking changes.

13. Backward Compatibility

Strive for backward compatibility whenever possible. If breaking changes are necessary, provide ample notice and assist users with migration.

14. Regular Maintenance

Schedule regular maintenance windows to address technical debt, optimize performance, and apply updates.

15. Communication

Keep open channels of communication with users. Notify them about scheduled maintenance, updates, and any changes that might impact their experience.

16 What are the challenges getting an app approved from shopify

Compliance with Policies

Ensure that your app complies with Shopify’s App Store Review Guidelines. Violating these guidelines can lead to rejection.

Security and Privacy

Prioritize security and privacy. Shopify is keen on protecting merchant and customer data. Implement secure coding practices and clearly outline how you handle data in your app.

Clear Documentation

Provide comprehensive and clear documentation for your app. This includes setup instructions, FAQs, and any other information that merchants or developers may need.

App Listing Quality

Invest time in creating a compelling app listing. This includes a detailed app description, high-quality images/screenshots, and any other information that helps merchants understand the value of your app.

App Demo

Include a working demo of your app during the submission process. This allows Shopify to test your app’s functionality and user experience firsthand.

Response Time

Be prompt in responding to any queries or feedback from the Shopify App Review team. Quick response times can positively impact the review process.

In conclusion, unit test case development is not just a best practice; it’s a fundamental aspect of building resilient software. By embracing this approach, development teams can proactively manage complexities, reduce technical debt, and ultimately deliver high-quality software solutions that stand the test of time. The investment in unit testing pays dividends in the form of enhanced developer productivity, reduced debugging efforts, and, most importantly, a more reliable end product for users.

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