tl;dr By staying close to the Web platform, web developers can use all of their web knowledge, and use the latest features as they become available. There is a difference between using the web platform vs. web technologies, a subtle difference I have seen in the past. If we are doing it right, anyone can learn the technical side of Shopify quickly as it’s so familiar, and I have seen developers start as tinkerers through themes and small apps… but also see how the key component isn’t learning the tech, but learning commerce.
The Shopify Platform and Ecosystem is very aligned to the Web. We want to empower our merchants to be long term successful, and that means using all of the channels available, but ultimately driving the LTV with their customers, which means building the brand connection to them vs. aggregators such as Amazon. To do this, merchants need to differentiate, which is where developers come in. They make their commerce sites come to life. They empower the merchants through tooling. And this can be through the developer ecosystem providing functionality through their apps and themes, or through agencies helping customize directly, or with in house developers doing that work.
How can we enable this to work for our merchants and developers?
Stay close to the Web platform
The largest developer community in the world is the web developer community. It is as broad as is the Web itself, offering experiences from content to commerce to apps and even games. We want any web developer to look at building on the Shopify platform and instantly feel at home. You know how to work with backend APIs and JSON. You know how to handle layout. You know how to build on the Web.
If we are close to the web platform itself, Web developers have fewer technical details to learn before being productive, and spend more time on their commerce offerings.
And as the Web evolves, Shopify developers can quickly use new platform primitives without having to wait for the Shopify platform itself to use them.
Losing your Mojo
It’s tempting as a platform to build these abstractions, because you want to bake in knowledge of the platform into a “happy path” framework. But, be careful, as you are throwing away a huge number of advantages. One of the first things I did was hack webOS to allow me to just render a “normal” web application within the Mojo lifecycle.
With Shopify you can bring the knowledge of the Web with you.
Some of us, who have seen the Web evolve over a couple decades, may bemoan parts of the platform. But I still contend that it’s the best platform to approach and start playing with. Part of this is because of the various entries to “development” on the Web.
I know a huge number of developers who started by hacking on some HTML. Some took their WordPress site and played with the themes. Then they built some plugins. And their journey continued from there. I often did this myself! The first version of SeekingAlpha was WordPress. Then we hacked on it to become a blog network. I was new to PHP at the time, and although it didn’t tickle my brain like Ruby and Perl did before… I had to see what it was about, and I couldn’t argue that it wasn’t productive.
We have this approachability at Shopify. You can start tweaking the theme for your store, or you can create your own one. Liquid is a templating library that is simple to use. You can go a long way in making your stores your own through themes, and then installing and customizing apps… including your own custom apps.
And for when you truly need customization that you aren’t able to get through the online store, you can build custom storefronts and reach for our own Hydrogen or other web frameworks. It’s all just talking to an API and building a web frontend after all!
We will always want to make building commerce experiences as simple as possible, giving you the canvas to bring your vision to life. We have so much more to offer here, as we open up the platform in new ways.
As I work with the developer community, I find that while the platform can and will improve, the key isn’t learning the tech, but instead…
If you think about an average shopping website, you quickly see that they are often quite different, and have many custom flows and options… they can be complex. I find commerce deceptively deep and broad, which is exactly why there are opportunities for so many merchants and developers, and so many niche use cases that can be large niches indeed.
When jumping into Shopify for the first time, you will want to put effort into understanding commerce and all of the surfaces that Shopify opens up for you.
It is important for us to help you learn the structure *and* opportunities of commerce.
There are many paths to get into Shopify development. As I meet more in the community I see agencies with commerce experts, former merchant developers, as well as entrepreneurial developers who dive in with passion to enable merchant growth and help make commerce great for everyone.
I will talk more about the magic of agency developers in another post, but for now… if you are a Web developer, Shopify is here to enable you to leverage your web skills directly.
One reason I am so excited about the Shopify opportunity is that I think we can legitimately bring it to a massive population. Shopify can be both the most approachable platform for anyone new to development, and also offer all of the knobs and platform customization to let you build the most custom experiences imaginable.