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Building Shopify Apps: 9 App Developers Share Their Experiences


Building Shopify apps can be challenging, especially if it’s your first time. Knowing how to get started, which resources to use and APIs to leverage, and where to seek advice can be overwhelming.

Thankfully, with such a large community of app developers building Shopify apps, plenty of people have been in your shoes—and are willing to share their experiences.

In this article, we round up some of the many blog posts by app developers and about app developers, so you can learn from their experiences. Whether it’s a developer who built their app in little more than a week, or the one who started their journey as a merchant and product developer, the experiences below have a little bit of everything. Let’s dive in.

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.

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1. Eric Davis: How to Build a Shopify App in One Week

Building shopify apps: How to build a shopify app in one week

The big question, and one you should really consider before anything else, is what's the purpose of this app? Why should you build it? How is it going to help the merchant or your client?

This is one of our most popular articles about how to build a Shopify app on the Web Design and Development Blog, and for good reason. App developer and founder of Little Stream Software, Eric Davis provides a step-by-step walkthrough of how he planned, developed, and launched his app in one week.

Key among his findings is setting aside enough time to pre-plan both the development process, and the ethos driving your app idea. Without planning, and a clear problem to solve, it’s easy to get lost in the many distractions that come up in the development process.

By creating a focused roadmap, Davis was able to keep his guiding light—the needs of his users—at the forefront, and build something that really responded to those merchant needs.

You might also like: How to Build a Shopify App: How to Validate Your App Idea.

2. Tilo Mitra: How the Shopify App Challenge Winner is Building for Success on the Shopify App Store

building shopify apps: how the shopify app challenge winner is building for success on the shopify app store. Screenshot of the Servicify app in a store admin

I had a big sketch of what I wanted the app’s user interface to look like. I thought to myself, ‘How will this thing actually work?’

Sometimes you’re not planning on building an app for the world—you just want your mom to be able to run her business the way she wants to. Knowing your audience when you’re building Shopify apps is a key piece of your ultimate success on the Shopify App Store.

Tilo Mitra won the 2020 Shopify App Challenge with that one goal in mind. Last year, COVID-19 changed the way the world does business, causing ecommerce growth to leap forward 10 years in just three months.

Mitra breaks down his planning and building processes, as well as the biggest lessons he learned once he launched his app on the Shopify App Store.

3. Chatdesk: From a Leap of Faith to Building New Futures: The Chatdesk Vision of Creating New Jobs

Building shopify apps: Photo of Chatdesk app cofounders Andrew Olaleye and Aneto Okonkwo

We saw firsthand many of the challenges in the customer support space such as waiting on hold, and the time and effort it takes to scale support teams.

Leaving a secure, corporate career to start a new business can be a huge leap of faith. But when you have a vision and the transferable skills to launch and grow a startup, often the only thing that’s holding you back is knowing where to start.

For Chatdesk cofounders Andrew Olaleye and Aneto Okonkwo, deciding to build and launch a business around their Shopify app was rooted in a desire to create more jobs while making the digital customer experience less painful for both businesses and their customers.

4. Todd Trimakas: How I Taught Myself How to Code and Built my Own Business

Building Shopify apps: Screenshot of app description of Amazon Import & Sync on the Shopify App Store

In the end what I realized is that our pricing model can change. Though, at the time, I felt like it was going to be set in stone—I would create a pricing model and that was that; the market would support my model or the apps would die on the vine. This isn’t the case at all.

In this writeup on Starter Story, Todd Trimakas shares how he started a successful app business without knowing how to code. Trimakas, the founder of Bytestand, goes into detail about the process of getting his app Amazon Import & Sync built, but also shares the ongoing work of marketing his app and retaining customers.

One of the key pieces of advice that Trimakas recommends is being sure to listen to your users’ needs. Whether that’s adjusting your pricing if necessary or adding features, collecting feedback can help you roadmap and plan for the future of your app.

5. Julien Garrigues: A Developer’s Journey Through the Shopify App Ecosystem

Building Shopify apps: image of PugSync Apps main features

The QA team was extremely helpful and available. They helped us identify and fix issues, sent screen captures and logs, and encouraged us every step of the way.

In this post, Julien Garrigues shares a technical overview of how the team at Black Pug Studio got their app PugSync up and running, including what stack they chose to work with, and how they implemented the billing process for their app using the Billing APIs. Garrigues also shares the process of submitting their app and having it reviewed.

The review process with Shopify’s QA team is something important for everyone building Shopify apps to consider, as there are certain requirements your app must meet to get listed in the app store. PugSync had a few modifications to make before making it not only into the app store, but into the New and Noteworthy section on the Shopify App Store homepage.

You might also like: User Testing Your Shopify App: Public App Use Cases You Should Test.

6. Neal Jean: Developing Your First Shopify App: 4 Mistakes to Avoid

Building Shopify apps: photo of a blue plate smashed into pieces on a concrete floor

Our first Shopify App Store submission contained a bunch of cool but half-baked features that weren’t strictly necessary. And, more importantly, they didn’t completely work. In each subsequent submission to the Shopify QA team, we stripped out more unnecessary features. These extra features were barriers to us getting accepted quickly and ultimately slowed us down.

Learning how to build a Shopify app is an iterative process. It can feel like there’s a lot of uncertainty throughout the process, especially when you’re excited to launch your app on the Shopify App Store.

In this blog post, Neal Jean, the cofounder and CEO of Beacons, shares the four key mistakes (and lessons they learned) as he and his team developed their first Shopify app.

7. Ahmad Iqbal: Fall In Love With The Problem, Not The Solution

Building Shopify apps: Screenshot of three main Shop Phone app features on the Shopify App Store. Features include better order recovery, higher customer recovery, and in-app push notifications.

In order to grow your app installs, focus on your merchant support. Offer the best customer support you possibly can, and keep providing this level of support. It’s worked for us in the past, and it continues to work for us.

Ahmad Iqbal decided to start building Shopify apps when he realized, as a merchant, that he was losing potential customers when they abandoned the cart. In his article, Iqbal describes how his app ideas come out of a specific need, and how his team uses data to continuously identify new areas of opportunity for their apps Shop Phone (formerly Scout) and Callback Request.

Because he was a merchant first, Iqbal was able to troubleshoot his app on his own store, and test its long-term utility before releasing it publicly. While that won’t be the case for everyone, Iqbal combines his experience both as a merchant and a developer to describe the importance of product-market fit and iterating on your product to fulfill the needs of your users.

You might also like: GraphQL vs REST: How One Shopify Partner Increased Performance and Reliability.

8. How the Developer of Shopify App Mechanic is Scaling with EventBridge

Building shopify apps: How the developer of shopify app mechanic is scaling with eventbridge. Screenshot of the mechanic app in the merchant admin.

My initial impression of EventBridge was, ‘Oh thank God someone finally solved this properly.’

Scaling apps to accept webhook traffic directly from Shopify used to be particularly challenging if your app users conducted flash sales. Then, when Shopify announced an integration with Amazon Eventbridge in 2020, apps became able to receive Shopify webhooks using an event bus, allowing app developers to build a scalable system while reducing costs.

Isaac Bowen, creator of Shopify apps Mechanic and Locksmith, had been working with the Shopify platform for more than 10 years, building tools to improve the developer-merchant relationship. But Bowen had been losing sleep over how to manage the limitations of traditional webhooks, such as the possibility of downtime.

Bowen explains how adopting EventBridge impacted the app building experience by saving time, reducing stress, and allowing space to focus on growing apps.

9. Profitable Pivots: How Octane AI Shipped Innovative Products in Uncertain Times

Building shopify apps: Profitable pivots: how octane AI shipped innovative products in uncertain times. Image of an open hand holding a compass over a blurred background and the compass pointing east.

We were forced to become super scrappy and find investors who truly believed in our vision.

Scaling your business as you iterate and continue building your Shopify app can present major challenges, no matter if you’re a sole proprietor or you’re growing your team. The founding team at Octane AI had to make seriously tough decisions right when they were on the precipice of catapulting into a new phase of growth.

Their investors got cold feet several times throughout their business growth process and they not only had to convince them to re-commit their capital, but also had to deal with the shutdown of their app. Between managing investor relationships and working with struggling merchants, staying the course was a master class in resiliency and conviction in their beliefs. The Octane AI team shares their steps to handling those tough situations, and keeping the cash flowing.

Learn from your peers as you’re building Shopify apps

Shopify app developers consistently build solid products and as you’re building Shopify apps, it can be helpful to learn from your peers—both their successes and their setbacks. By learning from other developers who have found success in the Shopify ecosystem, you can glean some tricks of the trade to build a great app, find the users who need it, and grow your own app development business. Collaborating with experienced Shopify app developers fosters innovation and enhances your app-building journey. Sharing knowledge and experiences cultivates a thriving community dedicated to delivering top-notch apps that elevate the Shopify experience for merchants and customers alike.

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.

Special thanks to our friends at the Shopify Partner Blog for their insights on this topic.
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