For Shopify app developers, there are many technical and non-technical factors to consider when launching your new app on the Shopify App Store. We recently broadcast our second live AMA (Ask Me Anything) on the ShopifyDevs Twitch channel featuring Ivana Mitrovic, Shopify Operations Manager, and Marco Ferraris from the Shopify App Review team who shared advice on how developers can submit impactful apps and go through the review process quicker.
During this AMA, Mitrovic and Ferraris discussed many of the different factors that can help apps be successful—from branding and installation, to onboarding, functionality, and user experience (UX). You can streamline the app review process by being aware of all the opportunities available to improve both your app listing page and your app itself.
In this post, we'll explore some of the most important lessons from the live AMA, including:
- How to write a clear and detailed description for your app listing
- Why performance is crucial for the merchant experience
- How to provide clear installation instructions
Want the full AMA experience? You can also watch the full replay of the AMA below.
1. Perfect your detailed description
A clear, detailed description is one of the most important areas of your app's listing page. This is where merchants can learn how your app provides a specific solution, and what use case it can be applied to.
“The main purpose of the detailed description is to talk about what your app will solve, for the merchant who is installing it,” advises Ferraris.
The detailed description is where you articulate the value your app brings to the merchant experience, whether by unlocking buyer opportunities, improving store usability, managing backend processes, or other benefits. This section of the app listing page is a chance to connect with merchants, build trust with your brand, and answer any questions they may have.
“You want the detailed description to be easy to read, concise, and to quickly outline what can and can't be done with your app,” Mitrovic says. The three questions you want to answer are:
- What does your app do?
- What problem does your app solve?
- What features does your app have?
It's also important to keep in mind that different people will read the detailed description.
“The merchant is not the only person who reads the detailed description!” Mitrovic points out. “If you think about how merchants run their businesses, sometimes they call in to Shopify Support, and they will ask for recommendations.”
The Shopify Support team will go looking for apps to recommend on the spot, or they will recall apps that clearly demonstrate that they can solve the merchant’s problem.
You want the detailed description to be easy to read, concise, and to quickly outline what can and can't be done with your app.
When writing the copy for your detailed description, consider how it might be read by Shopify's support team, or other technical advisors, and how you can structure the key messaging in a way that's clear and understandable.
Ferraris echoes this sentiment: “I remember when I was a Shopify Support Advisor, I would be looking at the Shopify App Store a lot, and it was extremely important to be able to find relevant info quickly on those pages.”
When I was a Shopify Support Advisor, I would be looking at the Shopify App Store a lot, and it was extremely important to be able to find relevant info quickly on those pages.
Keep in mind exactly who will be reading your description and make sure it stays focused on the merchant problem it solves. To make it even clearer and easier to read, Mitrovic and Ferraris also recommend a few more important tips to remember: keep in mind exactly who will be reading your description and make sure it stays focused on the merchant problem it solves.
To make it even clearer and easier to read, Mitrovic and Ferraris also recommend a few more important tips to to remember:
- Don't include supporting URLs or email addresses (there are dedicated sections for these)
- Be careful your markdown doesn't contain any formatting errors and styles are consistent, such as when you use bullet points in a list
- Don't include user instructions in this area
- Use writing tools like Hemmingway to keep your copy easy to understand and Grammarly to double check for grammar or spelling
2. Invest time in your demo store
Merchants often like to see an authentic example of an app before they commit to installing. This is where the demo URL that you can link on the app listing page can play a role in providing a model of how your app would appear on a merchants' store.
These demo stores can be free development stores, and the default password page will be bypassed automatically when a merchant visits it via the Shopify App Store.
“If you have an app that touches the storefront, a merchant will want to see what it looks like, and you should include a demo store link. It's such a powerful tool for you to sell your app to a merchant,” Mitrovic advises.
The demo store adds a different dimension to the screenshots you can also include, as it shows exactly how your app actually works, and how a customer might interact with it. This demo store supports the rest of the more static content on the app listing page by allowing merchants to experience first-hand how your app behaves, and evaluate if it will meet their needs.
If you're including a demo store on your app listing page there are a few best practices to follow:
- Check up on your demo store periodically to ensure it's appearing correctly (on both desktop and mobile), and the app is working as expected
- If you ship changes to the app, ensure those changes are reflected on the demo store
- To make it as easy as possible for the merchant who is viewing the store, only include pages and content that is relevant to the app
- Ensure the checkout and password pages are disabled
Another acceptable option for this field is to include a YouTube link instead of a store URL so merchants can view a demonstration of the app in action. This allows apps that don't affect the storefront directly to be showcased, especially when they require a more in-depth walkthrough.
3. Include mobile screenshots
When you're submitting your app for review, you'll have an option to include screenshots of what your app user interface (UI) will look like when viewed on a mobile device.
“There are so many merchants who operate their store straight out of their cell phones,” Mitrovic points out. Capturing this view will allow merchants to visualize how they would interact with your app.
“This is incredibly important if a merchant needs to interact with your app daily or weekly to get work done!” Mitrovic emphasizes. “If the merchant only needs to set it and forget it, a mobile view won't be as important to that merchant and may not add any value to their workflow. Spend the time where it's needed for your app.”
Spend the time where it's needed for your app.
The mobile screenshots you submit should not be duplicates of your desktop screenshots. This means they must display the responsiveness of your UI when viewed on a mobile device. Mobile screenshots should be 900px by 1600px (9:16) for mobile.
If your app is mobile responsive on the storefront, then you can also include screenshots that show your app's mobile functionality. This helps merchants to anticipate how the app will look to a customer on their storefront.
In general, it's good practice to ensure your app is fully responsive and works in a mobile view, because many merchants are already using mobile devices to run their store, and this is becoming increasingly important to merchants.
4. Stay fast: Ensure your app is performant
A fast app is critical to the merchant experience from the moment they launch your app. Whether or not your app interacts with the online store, you should always be looking for opportunities to reduce loading times on your app. Performance of your app also extends to how quickly assets of your UI propagate, and how your app interacts with other parts of the Shopify Admin.
While not mandatory, Shopify's GraphQL API can be used to make more efficient API calls, as you can be more specific around what store data to retrieve, and you can often retrieve all the data that you need in a single request. This means that query costs your app incurs can be reduced by adopting GraphQL.
“Performance really matters!” Mitrovic says. “If GraphQL is going to enable your app to be more efficient and more performant, and if it will save you on your API calls, then I encourage you to use GraphQL because it will help.”
If GraphQL is going to enable your app to be more efficient and more performant, and if it will save you on your API calls, then I encourage you to use GraphQL because it will help.
Even after your app is live on the Shopify App Store, it will be periodically audited by the Shopify App Review team to ensure that it is performant and not causing slow loading times for merchants.
“If we find that your app is not meeting our performance requirements, we will reach out to you to resolve this,” Ferraris says.
You can learn more about how to reduce your apps' impact on loading speeds by following our app performance recommendations.
You might also like: App Performance: How the Wiser Team is Keeping Stores Fast.
5. Provide clear instructions about how to use your app
A great way to streamline the app review process is to ensure you provide clear test instructions for your app when you are submitting, so the Shopify App Review team can easily install and evaluate the app. What might seem straightforward to you as a developer can often be ambiguous to a reviewer seeing your app for the first time.
“It doesn't matter how simple your app is. Comprehensive and detailed install instructions are very important,” Ferraris says. “You can even give us a demo video, or a link to an example store—we will take a look at these if we run into issues. Don't be afraid to go deep—that can save you a lot of time.”
These install instructions are also critical for merchants during their onboarding flow.
“If I'm not crystal clear on what your app does and how to use it, the chance that a first-touch merchant is going to figure that out is very slim,” Ferraris says.
If I'm not crystal clear on what your app does and how to use it, the chance that a first-touch merchant is going to figure that out is very slim.
There are merchants from all kinds of technical experience backgrounds, not to mention potential language and accessibility barriers, so it's worthwhile to be empathetic of that when drafting install instructions. Aim to make your app as easy to install as possible, with as many supporting installation instructions as necessary.
You might also like: Tips for Creating Effective Technical Documentation for Your Shopify App.
6. Work together within the Shopify Partner ecosystem
The Shopify developer community is a very collaborative and cooperative environment, where established partners will often support the growth of newcomers, and developers frequently team up to solve issues for merchants.
“This is what is unique to the Shopify community,” Mitrovic notes. “You'll find that everybody works together, because we're all trying to solve the same problems. You really get to feel that sense of ownership and community, and it's why our merchants are getting the best help that they can.”
You really get to feel that sense of ownership and community, and it's why our merchants are getting the best help that they can.
Here are some ways you can engage with other developers:
- Consider releasing open-source libraries or demo apps that other developers can collaborate with you
- Learn from other partners and offer advice to merchants in the Shopify community forums
- Join the Shopify Partners Slack community from your Partner Dashboard to share tips and recommendations with other developers
- Start an online meetup for partners and merchants to share insights related to building on Shopify
“I like to see partnerships forming within our partner ecosystem.” Ferraris says. “You often see app developers collaborating with agencies to work on projects together.”
By combining efforts with other developers, you can help each other to succeed on the Shopify App Store and beyond.
Build apps for Shopify merchants
Whether you want to build apps for the Shopify App Store, offer custom app development services, or are looking for ways to grow your user base, the Shopify Partner Program will set you up for success. Join for free and access educational resources, developer preview environments, and recurring revenue share opportunities.
Follow these steps to launch faster and with better results
Building and submitting an app are often the first steps in building a successful Software as a Service (SaaS) business as a Shopify Partner. By taking the time to provide clear and helpful messaging and documentation on your app listing page, your app can stand out on the Shopify App Store. Let’s recap the main takeaways Mitrovic and Ferraris shared in the AMA:
- Write a clear and detailed app description
- Create an example store to demo your app, and keep it up to date
- Include screenshots of your app on a mobile device
- Make sure your app is fast and performant
- Provide straightforward instructions about how to install, load, and use your app
- Share your experiences with the Shopify Partner ecosystem and don’t be afraid to ask for help
These insights from the Shopify App Review team will not only help you make the most of all the hard development work you already put into your app, but will also make it so much faster for the team to review your app, so you can launch your app and build a successful SaaS business.
Which insight do you think is the most helpful? Let us know in the comments below!