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Shopify App Development - planning for your online business

It does not take a degree in Software Engineering to know that your online store will need some kind of customization when you have ever-changing business needs and require some automation and enhancements to help convert your audience. Yet that web development experience is helpful to assess what can be automated given the tools that Shopify's API and architecture provide. The issue most fear is the time it may require to develop a Shopify App and is App Development a lengthy process (as well as costly) to get your high-quality and reliable enhancements/features. Here we will cover what it takes to develop a Shopify App.

Identifying and planning your Shopify App

When a need is identified, such as a function to assist with your promotions, most store owners look into the Shopify App Store and explore the various options available and how they work - most being free-trial-based.

When this has been exhausted, and you have a particular method and functionality in mind, looking to build your Shopify App comes about. Justification for the building of this Shopify App looks to seeing a Return-on-Investment (ROI) based on time, revenue potential, and a lower cost of operation. If you do a small business case this will give you a good idea if it is worth the investment - either a client, a Shopify Partner, or whoever the requestor is, understanding the demand and utility of the Shopify App is very important.

During your planning of your Shopify App, having a summary architecture map, a set of goals that the App needs to perform, the user experience expected, the administration functions, and the client-side user interface should all be part of scoping the project. Going from Web Development to Software Design is a subtle but important shift since the user considerations go from customer experience to how the Shopify App fits into your business model - a lot more operation and process based. Features can range from social media to inventory management features, you can design and develop a lot of functionality and integrations within the Shopify development environment.

Putting together your Shopify App specification

Brainstorming your ideas and features will help to gather the wider possibilities of how this Shopify App will function. Make sure you cover all aspects of every role that anyone will interface with the functionality - User, Administrator, Manager, Distributor, Reseller, Dropshipper, and anyone other roles in logistics, marketing, PR, and Sales as well.

Taking these ideas and matching them up to your business goals above that are core to the ROI of the Shopify App. Anything that does not fit your ROI is secondary, everything that supports it then needs further consideration. When you share the information back to the requesting party, they will understand how the link of "business need" to "technical features" map out and how it fits in their business model.

Schedule and estimate the time to develop your Shopify App

Once the features are reviewed and the specification is settled on, start scoping the time it will take to develop the features and identify which features have dependencies on certain tasks. Add confidence to your time estimation such as 2-3 Days with 90% confidence of meeting the timeline.

If something requires research or exploration, then the confidence drops, and the range of time should increase accordingly. You might need to use a project management tool to keep track of your time when it comes to the development schedule. When dependencies are identified, concurrent development will not be possible, only when pre-dependencies are completed can the dependent task begin.

Using the right development tools

Part of the time scoping should also consider the tools that will be available to you during the development phase. Things like libraries, knowledgebases, forums, and even co-workers/colleagues. This should be a planning phase review to ensure that your schedule is shored up and realistic to drive to. Shopify Integration libraries are going to be an important tool to leverage in this case.

Development Phase

Setting up the Shopify App Authentication - This has to be set up and must be authorized to proceed. The Shopify_App assists in setting this up. Configuration and testing will still be required to set your project up.

There are 2 methods to go about this, OAuth or API Key and Password. OAuth is aimed at Shopify public Apps while the API Key and Password method are more aimed at Shopify Private Apps. If the purpose of the App is to be in the Shopify App store, OAuth is the method to take. Even if it is for a particular store, you are still better off with OAuth, and not creating a Shopify Private App. Here are three good reasons why it isn't a good idea to go down this path:

  • Cannot embed it in the Shopify Admin panel
  • Share the App to multiple stores (such as in Shopify Plus multistore)
  • It has a full read-write to the Shopify Store, which brings in its own risks


An "unlisted" (not in Shopify App Store) is the best approach to having an App for your online store(s). Note, you only have to submit a Shopify Public App to Shopify for review if it is aimed to be listed in the Shopify App store.

User Accounts

User permissions for staff members are important, and part of the planning, OAuth prevents unauthorized users from accessing the App - Therefore you have permission level control. setting up permissions in Shopify you can restrict users to access the Apps of the store to ensure that there isn't anyone touching the settings that shouldn't be there.

Development of the Features

Now it is up to the development schedule to continue and execute its features and be tested. Taking note on the durations, resources needed and commenting in the code for future maintenance is all par of the course in the development. Sure, code reviews can be helpful so to understand the methods, and consideration of various conditions and dependencies. These reviews can be very powerful in esuring the direction the App is taking considering the various business variables is important.

Testing is an important part to ensure a successful delivery of the Shopify App. You might be starting an online business or could be an existing dropshipping business enhancing its business model. Either way, there is risk in not having a high-quality App. Use Conversion Rate Optimization tools to monitor the use of the tool, to ensure that there is no issue in user experience and usability.


A lot of businesses are warming up to having their business models be more specific and tailored to their customers and audience to push conversion further and making the marketing spend be more profitable. With customer acquisition from social media platforms increasing finding ways to reach your audiences with other methods and retaining your visitors to return and be loyal customers takes additional incentives and remarkeing tools to keep driving the purchasing drive. At TheGenieLab we work with businesses in the Shopify and Shopify Plus space to deliver the right experience for different audiences, and if you are looking to scope out a Shopify App, feel free to reach out to us at

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