How to build an app for Shopify’s app store

Today, Shopify powers more than 1 000 000 businesses worldwide. When confronted with its limitations, merchants can count on the Shopify app store. If you never used Shopify but are familiar with WordPress, Shopify apps work just like WordPress plug-ins: you can install them to extend your website’s functionalities.

Merchants find a lot of value in Shopify apps as they make their life easier and help them grow their business considerably. So they are ready to pay for it. Most Shopify apps work on a monthly subscription basis.

For developers, building a Shopify app can thus be a good way to create a stable monthly recurring revenue (MRR).

So, how exactly can we do that?

Find an idea

The best way to find an idea for a Shopify app is to build a Shopify store yourself. Because if you want to offer a solution to a merchant, you need to understand the problems he is facing. When building your test store, write down the pains you encounter. Which elements need to be improved? Check the app store: is an app already trying to tackle this issue? If so, is the app good? Check the app reviews: are people satisfied with it? If not, could you build a better app yourself?

Do not necessarily try doing something new, try doing something better.

If you do not feel like building a Shopify store yourself, ask merchants around you in order to identify their pains.

You can even try contacting Shopify agencies: they are well aware of merchants’ difficulties but they usually do not have the time to build apps. They can be a valuable source of information for you.

You found an idea? Great! Now, let’s get to work.

Choose a technical stack

You can build your Shopify app with Node and React, as this tutorial shows. You can also build it with Ruby on Rails and React, as this tutorial shows.

When you are done with your app setup, you will then have to embed it in Shopify. Indeed, what we are building here is not a private app nor a standalone app. We are building a public embedded app, which means that your app will be downloadable on the app store and, once downloaded, it will be embedded in the store’s admin panel.

So that every app is in accordance with the admin panel’s design, Shopify developers created their own React component library called Polaris. Therefore you do have to know a little bit of React to craft a beautiful front-end for your Shopify app’s user interface.

For the back-end of your app, you have many tools at your disposal. One of them is GraphQL, which you can use to interact with the merchant’s store through Shopify’s various APIs.

For example, the Admin API allows you to read and write Shopify store information (products, inventory, orders, shipping, etc.). There is also the Ajax API, which allows you to add products to the cart, update the cart item counter, display related product recommendations, etc. Check Shopify APIs documentation to discover all the possibilities.

Alright, you coded day and night. Your app is now technically ready. Now, let’s determine what it will look like on the app store.

Build your app’s landing page

Each Shopify app has its own page on the app store. For example, here is the page of the app Upsell Progress Bar. On this landing page, freestyle is forbidden. You must follow a template called “App listing”. Some information is required: app name, app tagline, description, pricing, privacy policy, etc. Some information is optional: list of key benefits, promotional video, URL of a demo store using the app, FAQ, etc.

Do not take this lightly. Spend some time working on your copywriting. People scrolling the app store do not have much time. Try to catch their attention and convince them. It is always a good idea to check other app’s landing pages to get inspiration.

Submit your app

When your app is ready, you can submit it. It will then be reviewed by the Shopify team to make sure the app meets their requirements. To learn more about the reviewing process, you can check this documentation.

If your app fails the review, the Shopify team will send you an email in which they list all the changes you have to make for your app to be validated. This email is very detailed: it contains advice along with screencasts of your app. Once you made all the required changes, you just have to answer this mail. Then, if the Shopify team validates it, they will send you an email to inform you that your app has been published on the app store.

Promote your app

Your work is not over yet! You now have to show to the world the usefulness of your app: which problem does it solve? Is it simple to set up? Is it worth paying for? Merchants who install your app are trusting you. Make sure that the onboarding process is smooth and that they can contact you easily.

Happy customers are the key to your app success.

Keep in mind that all the merchants who install your app may leave a public review about it. The more 5-star ratings you have, the more merchants will trust your app and decide to give it a try. It’s a virtuous circle.

Good luck!