Why learn to build a Shopify app?

This post is extracted from my free email course, “Mastering Shopify Apps”. Sign up to the course to receive more content like this in your inbox every week.

Why learn to build a Shopify app?

There’s actually not one definitive answer, as Shopify apps can be used to solve a number of different problems. Here are some of the situations where I think it makes sense to invest in learning about Shopify applications:

1. You provide services to client on Shopify, and want to be able to help them solve problems

If you’re currently helping clients launch and run their stores on Shopify, you may well have come across some problems that can’t be solved with your current skill set.

Maybe you’ve run into the limitations of what a customised Shopify theme can do, or perhaps there’s an existing app in the Shopify App store that does 90% of what your client needs, but getting that last 10% isn’t possible with the “out-of-the-box” solution.

In this situation, adding app development to you or your agency’s service offerings can make you much more valuable to clients.

2. You’re a Shopify store owner with a technical background

If you’ve been running a store yourself, you’ve almost certainly come across situations where the publicly available apps from the App Store offer only a partial solution to your business’ unique needs.

If you have a technical background (or someone in your organisation that does), it can sometimes be worth spending the time leaning how to develop apps in-house. You get the benefit of having applications that do exactly what your business needs - no more, no less.

3. You’ve got an existing product you think could benefit from a Shopify integration

More and more companies are seeing a Shopify integration as a no-brainer these days – it can be a great source of leads for an existing product, and make a core offering more appealing.

If you have a development team in place already, building out a Shopify integration yourself can actually be a reasonably simple process - especially if the integration is more front-end focused (think a small Javascript widget, rather than heavy-duty backend API lifting).

4. You’ve got experience developing apps and want to bring that experience to Shopify

Shopify’s a rapidly growing market (nearly 200,000 merchants use the platform), and if you’re an experienced application developer then I certainly understand the attraction of a relatively young market in the Shopify App Store.

There are lots of opportunities for experienced developers to build and sell high-quality apps through the App Store. Just be wary of my advice below that it’s not an overnight path to riches!

5. A little from column A, a little from column B

Of course, the reasons above aren’t mutually exclusive. You could always be interested in building custom applications for clients with an eye to extracting what you learn from that process into a general-purpose app for the Shopify App Store.

You could also just be interested in learning a little more about the platform in general - that’s a perfectly awesome reason to be signed up to this course, too!

Why shouldn’t you learn build a Shopify app?

Okay, disclaimer: I’m not here to discourage anyone from learning more about anything. However, I just wanted to highlight a couple of reasons that I feel aren’t great motivators for wanting to learn about Shopify application development.

1. You’re not familiar with Shopify (or not prepared to become so)

Having zero experience with Shopify doesn’t mean you can’t learn to build apps for the platform – but it does mean you need to allow yourself some extra time to become acquainted with how Shopify works, what its quirks are, and learn more about the real-world problems faced by store owners.

If you’re in this boat (not much experience with Shopify), but are looking to get up to speed then I recommend reading through the Shopify forums, joining a Slack community, and reading through the API documentation.

2. You’re looking to make a quick buck

Yes, you can make decent revenue from selling a Shopify app in the App Store. But it’s not a magical world with big returns for minimal investment. Building a successful, profitable Shopify app takes time and effort – not just in the development stage, but in marketing and supporting it as well.

3. You’d like to write an email course on building Shopify apps

This market is already covered by an excellent product that has the demographic wrapped up ;).

(Just kidding, of course – if you’re interested in writing anything on Shopify app development please let me know so that I can let other folks reading this blog and my mailing lists know about it!)

Did I miss something?

Is the reason you’d like to learn more about Shopify apps missing from the list above? Have you seen someone (yourself included) start building an app for what you think were the “wrong” reasons? Let me know by getting in touch!