Right now, at the time of writing, there are 3,947,260 websites using Shopify. Every day, that number increases as business leaders discover the simplicity, versatility, and innovation this landscape has to offer. For years, Shopify has stood as one of the most popular ecommerce website-building tools on the market. However, to maintain its position it needs to constantly update and improve.
The strategies and methods you use for designing apps, themes, and Shopify stores in 2021 might not be the same as those you leverage in 2022 and beyond. If you want to stay ahead of the curve and impress your potential clients, you’re going to need to keep up with the trends.
While not every development trend will necessarily be relevant to every Shopify developer, there are some sure to make a difference to any project. Here are some of the top development trends you’ll need to embrace when building the Shopify landscape of the future.
- Explore Sustainable Development Practices
The pandemic and an increasing focus on protecting the planet has prompted a new level of interest in sustainable IT practices. The businesses looking to work with Shopify developers on their new stores will also be searching for opportunities to showcase their commitment to ethics and sustainability. That starts with ensuring the Shopify developer has the right practices in place.
Developers now need to be guided by a number of key principles, such as the “conscious development framework”. Which involves developers becoming more:
- Performance driven: Ensuring the performance of the website, theme or app continues to be consistent in all environments.
- Partner conscious: Only working with technology partners who meet with your standards for ethics and sustainability (such as green hosting providers)
- People-first: Accessibility should always play a role in design and development. Ensure your stores and apps are accessible to everyone.
- Code focused: Shrink scripts, set caching times, compress downloads, and promote code reuse to ensure efficient app management.
- Design conscious: Implement low-impact principles to UX and design to minimize the light emitted on screens.
- Designing “Headless” Apps
The term “headless” is gaining significant attention in the development world today- and for good reason. Essentially, it’s all about decoupling your user interface from back-end business and application logic. Shopify recently released the “Hydrogen” solution (based on React) for building custom storefronts for the era of headless commerce.
While headless solutions might not be right for everyone, there are a lot of benefits to taking this approach with your clients. Applications designed with headless strategies in mind will give merchants more control over their apps, stores, and digital experiences.
Headless design helps to drive better API creation, by preventing solutions from being tied to a specific context or platform. It allows you to consider and address all the different contexts wherein a user might need to access your technology. Designing your APIs this way can also reduce overheads when it comes to maintaining support, integration points and documentation.
- Boosting UX with the Ajax API
As a Shopify developer, your customers will often demand you have a strong focus on UX, or User Experience. However, delivering excellent experiences can’t come at the expense of site, app, or theme performance. Fortunately, there’s a tool available to help balance your strategy.
The Ajax API from Shopify can deliver a range of benefits to Shopify users, with everything from product recommendations to predictive search. There’s also a Section Rendering API which can help to minimize the impact on your designs when users interact with a store.
Ajax solutions allow developers to take new steps in the development of powerful site experiences with tools like Ajax filtering and pagination. Most importantly, there’s no need for any third parties or increased performance demand on page load.
- Optimize Front and Backend Performance
Achieving excellent performance has been a long-standing trend in the Shopify landscape. For app and theme developers, there’s usually a lot of focus on front-end performance. After all, your customers want you to give their end-users the best possible browsing experience. Minimal disruption and friction mean a better chance of conversions.
However, it’s important to think beyond the front-end too. As the Shopify platform continues to grow, there will be a continued increase in the number of requests from users and the Shopify ecosystem. This means the backend needs to be considered too.
As you work on your skills as a Shopify developer, make sure you review the performance of your applications from both sides. Tune up slow-running processes and queries (especially for times of peak demand). It’s also worth moving incoming webhooks from the core application into a serverless architecture.
- Explore the Power of 3D Models
We’re seeing a rapid increase in the number of XR-enhanced and 3D experiences in today’s evolving digital world. Accelerated by the pandemic, and the reduced ability to shop for products in-store, customers are looking for more informative product pages online.
To adapt to this transforming landscape, developers need to be able to manage 3D renders of photorealistic products from multiple angles. 3D product renders provide items with more life and texture, which help customers to get a real feel for what they’re buying. Some developers are even beginning to experiment with this landscape in the next level, using Augmented Reality.
While it might take some time to develop your skills as a 3D artist or an AR developer, taking this path could be a good way for many Shopify developers to take their service offerings to the next level. There are a number of 3D tools out there which are growing more accessible and affordable these days. So, it’s a lot easier to get started than it once was.
- Be Prepared for AI
Artificial intelligence is a consistent factor in many people’s lives today, particularly when it comes to shopping online. If you’re going to be building innovative stores, themes and applications for Shopify clients in the future, you’ll need to be prepared for this ecosystem to make an impact.
Artificial Intelligence tools can assist with product recommendations, in the case of solutions like the Ajax API. You can install Shopify applications into a store to help with sending personalized marketing messages to customers, or supporting users with real-time customer support.
There’s a good chance your future clients will expect their Shopify developers to have a clear understanding of how to implement and leverage AI technology in a store environment. Be ready to implement everything from chatbots to intelligent data analytics systems into the apps and services you create in the future.
- Reduce Race Conditions Between Apps
Finally, the number of apps Shopify merchants are installing into their stores today is increasing drastically. Unfortunately, many of the apps your clients rely on are likely to be operated and managed by different developers. With this in mind, you’ll need to understand that different apps might attempt to leverage resources simultaneously.
Overlapping applications can create race conditions between apps, which make it difficult to set reliable rules for your store’s processes. This can make life very difficult for merchants, and can cause problems that are challenging to troubleshoot.
When installing new applications into a Shopify store, make sure you’re aware of the latest documentation. It’s also worth looking into GraphQL mutations instead of REST APIs. This could help you to save time and resources, while preventing tags from being overwritten by different apps.
Stay Ahead in the Shopify World
To be a true Shopify expert in today’s landscape, you’ll need to make sure you’re constantly reviewing your skills, updating your processes, and taking advantage of new trends. Staying up-to-date with the concepts mentioned above should help you to prepare for some of the most common requests you’re likely to see from future clients. Do this by subscribing to “I only Speak Liquid” - the most in-depth Shopify Developer newsletter.