Shopify is one of the most powerful tools in the ecommerce landscape for a host of different reasons. Not only does it make designing and managing stores simple for developers, but it also provides a highly flexible and agile environment for innovation and creation.
Most Shopify stores are built using the Liquid framework, but many developers find themselves looking for greater levels of freedom offered by the Shopify storefront API and other features. That’s why Shopify frequently introduces new environments for today’s innovators. For instance, “Hydrogen” is a React framework created by Shopify for developers building custom storefronts.
According to the Shopify team, Hydrogen was introduced to solve the problem larger merchants were facing when looking to build custom stores, without losing everything they would otherwise get for free with a Liquid-based Shopify entity. Here’s everything you need to know about Hydrogen, along with some examples to get you started.
What is Shopify Hydrogen? A Beginner’s Guide
Before Hydrogen, developers and merchants using Shopify’s storefront API would gain access to a completely customizable storefront, but lose access to other Liquid benefits. Many innovators faced problems with picking frameworks, as well as building primitives for product selection, testing, accessibility, hosting, and more.
While, prior to Hydrogen, other framework options were available for merchants and developers, they often required these users to start with bulky templates, or create something new entirely from scratch. That’s why Shopify designed Hydrogen, to speed up development time, and create a more streamlined environment for building and ideation.
The Benefits of Shopify Hydrogen
While Shopify Hydrogen is certainly more developer-oriented and complex than the standard Liquid environment, it offers a host of benefits for professionals. Ideal for those looking to follow UI/UX design best practices, Hydrogen eliminates time-consuming and confusing technical components, so developers and merchants can get their stores up-and-running faster.
Created by the experts behind the Shopify ecosystem, Hydrogen directly responds to a number of complex issues commonly faced by developers using the Shopify storefront API. For instance, the server-side streaming allows for faster rendering, and React Server Components allow for efficient post-render state changes at a component level.
There’s a built-in smart cache functionality for client and server data fetching primitives. Plus, for dynamic and edge-based delivery, developers can set flexible caching settings for pages. Some of the major benefits of Shopify Hydrogen include:
- Speed: Hydrogen comes with a starter template for creating custom stores which is simple, agile, and straightforward. The starter design is pre-built to interface seamlessly with Shopify stores, allowing for excellent user experience. The template is based on the Hydrogen framework, with styling delivered through the Tailwind CSS package.
- Flexibility: Via Hydrogen, developers can divide the sections of their website into the “head” elements visible to consumers, and the remaining data and functionality. This popular “headless” approach means developers can more easily experiment with content and layout modifications, with a greater degree of freedom. Users can build new front-ends, share it with teams on Oxygen, and deploy it live in a single environment. Plus, because the front and back ends connect via APIs and hooks, everything works efficiently.
- Personalization: A React-based storefront allows you to display dynamic content and tailor consumer online shopping experiences to different needs. Users can leverage content blocks to make product recommendations based on geography, previous orders, and interactions. The personalization elements you can access within Hydrogen could be an excellent way for business leaders to increase revenue and client loyalty.
- Unique experiences: For UI/UX innovators, Shopify Hydrogen offers a great deal of flexibility. The solution uses Shopify’s basic technology stack and commerce tools to speed up the development process, and make data retrieval easy. This ensures developers can create highly efficient and reliable strategies for creating phenomenal user experiences.
Shopify Hydrogen Examples to Explore
For beginners just getting used to the new environment offered by Hydrogen, Shopify offers a range of examples and demo sites to guide you. There’s a comprehensive “Examples Directory” available for Shopify developers, which includes ready-to-use code users can copy and paste into their own stores. For instance, some of the official Hydrogen examples offered by Shopify include:
- API routes
- CSS modules
- Data fetching examples
- Google Analytics examples
- I18n implementation
- Meta pixel implementation
- Typescript implementation
- Stitches CSS-in-JS
There are some third-party hydrogen examples available too, which are created and maintained by the wider Shopify community. For a full insight into some of the templates developers can use to build a website using Hydrogen, there’s a “template” page on the Shopify website.
Here are some additional Shopify Hydrogen storefront demos to get you started:
- Shopify Official Demo
The Shopify Official Demo of Hydrogen is hosted and managed by Stack Blitz, an online environment created for the developer community. The live preview showcases both the coding and the front-end of the store at the same time, for easy insight into functionality. However, you won’t be able to browse through this example on a mobile device.
- Shopify Supply
If you want to take a closer look at how Shopify’s Hydrogen framework can work to create incredible stores, it’s worth checking out the Shopify Supply store. This is an example store created by Shopify using the Hydrogen framework.
- Hydrogen Tapita Demo
The Tapita Demo store was created using the Tapita Hydrogen page builder to deliver a drag-and-drop environment for innovation and ideation. This example store was designed by SimiCart, and offers a useful overview of the kind of functionality developers can access with Hydrogen.
- Rafaelcg.com Demo
Created for educational purposes, the Rafaelcg.com demo store is a front-end example of a Hydrogen store built to experiment with some of the features and functionalities offered by the framework. This is a good behind-the-scenes look at the kind of fashionable ecommerce entities businesses can create.
- Sanity Demo
Created by members of the Shopify community, the Sanity.io demo highlights how Hydrogen stores can work alongside the Sanity tool for combining marketing and product data. This could be a useful Hydrogen example to look at if you’re interested in creating personalized UI/UX solutions.
The Future of the Shopify Hydrogen Framework
Hydrogen has quickly emerged as a valuable tool for Shopify store builders, developers, and merchants. The solution is already used for production across various sites and websites, including within the Shopify website itself.
According to Shopify, they’re just getting started with the development of the Hydrogen environment, so developers in the future can expect to see a number of emerging updates, including deeper integration with other parts of the Shopify ecosystem, and new designs for server components. Shopify is also planning on releasing a new Hydrogen router, and ways to adopt hydrogen using a design from an existing Liquid environment.
For professional Shopify developers, Hydrogen is likely to become an important tool in making sure your UI/UX design stands out. We recommend reading up on the documentation if you haven’t already, and checking out some of the examples above.