As first-time app developers who encountered many challenges in creating our initial Shopify app, we understand the importance of sharing what we learned to assist you in developing your app more efficiently and launching it sooner.
Our initial Shopify app took approximately 3 months to develop from the first code commit to acceptance. We are confident that, even if you are inexperienced like we were, you can complete the task in half that time by avoiding the four mistakes we made and learned from during the process.
Build an MVP
Developing a minimum viable product (MVP) rather than striving for a fully-fledged product for your initial submission to the Shopify app store is essential. Providing just 50% of the intended value to merchants within a month is unnecessary. The primary focus should be building an MVP that can benefit merchants, getting approval, and then quickly improving it.
It’s crucial to avoid feature creep and remember that your app won’t need to go through the review process again unless necessary. You can make changes to your app and app listing at any time, and the Shopify app reviewer will offer you support along the way unless something goes wrong. Their purpose is to assist you.
All you need to do is get something moderately useful approved, and then quickly improve it by receiving feedback from early users. A helpful pro tip is to talk to real merchants from the beginning, as they can provide much better ideas than your team can brainstorm.
Test your app in a non-production environment
In the early stages of their development, startups and app developers often deploy code directly to production and address any bugs as they arise. This is because their app may not be essential; even if it is, they likely have a limited user base.
However, this approach is not effective when building on another platform. Before your product can be used by actual users, your code must be approved by a professional app tester who will perform quality assurance.
To ensure that your app is thoroughly tested and functioning correctly, creating a rigorous checklist and continually updating it throughout the development process is crucial. This checklist should include all relevant public app requirements and be tailored to your specific app. You can find answers to your questions in the Shopify forums.
Creating a testing checklist is essential because it helps identify any missed steps in the testing process and highlights areas in your app that require revision. Here’s a sample checklist that you can use to create your own checklist, along with the instructions you should provide to the Shopify app reviewer:
- Install your Shopify app on a store you control and ensure that the store has some enabled products.
- Enable payments for the app and approve the charges.
- Access the app and navigate to the Products tab to enable a product toggle. As a sales channel, enabling products will make them available to the channel.
- Navigate to the Settings tab and confirm that the publishing status shows that one product is enabled.
- Check for product errors, which will also appear in the Settings tab.
It’s also important to thoroughly test installing, uninstalling, and reinstalling your app, which may require a shift in mindset and patience to slow down initially to go faster later.
Try to reach a human app reviewer as quickly as you can
During the early stages of the app review process, it’s common to feel demoralized and frustrated due to the opacity of the process. Progress can seem stop-and-go, with a few days of hard work and rapid progress followed by a few days of waiting, only to receive a rejection with minimal feedback. Often, the feedback may not even be related to the core functionality of your app but rather a critical bug that hinders payment processing or page loading.
The early stages of the app review process may involve a repetitive cycle of:
- Submitting the app
- Waiting for a week
- Receiving rejection feedback with only a few sentences
- Implementing feedback and resubmitting the updated app
After each rejection, a meeting with the entire team is necessary to plan and respond to the feedback immediately.
Getting closer to approval is essential to receive more detailed feedback, allowing you to email the reviewer directly. This tightens the feedback loop and is motivating. To reach this point quickly, follow the first two steps outlined in this article. This is where you’ll receive the most valuable, in-depth feedback during the review process.
Separate staging and production
When you submit your app for review, Shopify advises against changing the current version to avoid potential issues. Review periods are not under your control, and some parts of your app may still need work. To keep making progress, you can use feature flags or other techniques.
Sticking with tools you know is recommended, and Shopify supports React, including the Polaris design library. Polaris can save you time by handling component layout and visual consistency. Plus, you can leverage development processes and tools such as code review, CI/CD, PostgreSQL, Firebase, and Agile.
You may be wondering how long it will take for your app to undergo the review process or whether the reviewers will be strict. You might also be concerned about Shopify’s response if your app generates significant revenue and they are unsatisfied with it. However, there’s no need to worry about these issues. Unlike other platforms, Shopify highly supports its ecosystem and strives to help its partners and app developers succeed.
Overall, submitting a Shopify app is quite efficient, and there are various steps you can take to speed up the process, such as following the suggestions mentioned earlier.
Please contact VT Labs for a free consultation if you need assistance creating and submitting your private or public Shopify app. As one of the top three Shopify app development firms globally, we are eager to help you with any Shopify development needs.