Shopify apps are a great way to enhance your Shopify theme and create the store you’ve always dreamed of — but there are a few downsides to using third party apps and some things to consider when shopping around for them.
Probably one of the biggest aspects to consider when deciding to use a third party Shopify app or not is how well supported the app is by its creators. This will become vitally important if you run into trouble with the app and need help.
Be sure to check out the customer reviews for each app, including any that discuss support responsiveness. If there are ratings for the app, take note of how many reviews these ratings are actually based on.
It’s also a good idea to inquire if the app will work for you before you install it, especially if you have very specific or unique requirements.
While most apps come with a free trial and it’s relatively easy to add an app just to see if it will work for you, adding and removing apps on a whim can end up causing more problems than it’s worth, so it’s usually a good idea to take the time to do your homework first.
This has the additional advantage of being able to get a feel for the quality of support the developer offers; if you reach out to them with a pre-sales inquiry and never hear back from them, you might want to think twice about using their app.
You’ll often end up with two sets of code that are competing with each other and, since they are likely developed by different teams, you’ll find yourself as the go-between when trying to resolve an issue.
Because of the complexities involved, most theme and app developers are reluctant to help solve issues with code that wasn’t developed by them.
While apps certainly add a myriad of functionality that may be vital to your business, they can also cause more issues than they’re worth.
Having too many apps installed makes it more complicated to troubleshoot problems that come up with your store — problems that could cost you sales. Think of it this way: every time you add a new app, you’re introducing another variable into your store and more opportunities for issues.
Many apps also modify your Liquid code but then don’t properly uninstall it if you chose to disable or delete the app. This can be especially problematic if you are testing new apps and briefly install and activate one, only to remove it almost immediately.
When testing out apps or removing one you’ve been using, always make note of the pages that seem to be modified by the app — such as the product page. This will make resetting files (link) later much more methodical.
Finally, using too many apps that add features to your store can cause your store to become bloated and confusing to users. Pages could become more complicated and cluttered or even take longer to load; users might become frustrated and take their business elsewhere because of the poor user experience in your shop.
The goal of this post is not to convince you to never use apps. However, adding an app should be a carefully considered business decision since it can have significant impact on the bottom line.
Think about the functionality the app adds to your Shopify store or theme and what business impacts it might have on your store. Is it likely to increase sales? Can you streamline order fulfillment to the point where you’ll be realizing significant savings? Do you need to use an app in order to meet the unique way you list or sell items?
Many times store owners think a slick new app will result in a huge deluge of new sales or make running a store so much easier, but, just as in life, there are few quick fixes. In reality, sales can take awhile to pick up or there might be a period of training and adjustment until all the kinks are worked out.
Some apps might add “nice to have” features to your site. When considering a new app, ask yourself honestly if the app you’re weighing might fall into this category. Again, think about the cost of the app and if you think you’ll realistically be able to make up for the costs.
One good guideline to use when gauging the cost of an app is to consider if you’re comfortable paying the monthly fee if sales stay exactly the same for at least the next few months. If not, then it might not be the best time in your business cycle to add the new feature the app would enable.
Another good strategy is to prioritize which apps makes sense for your store now and which might be more impactful down the road. Keep a list of apps you like and rank them in accordance with a business plan, calendar or just set of priorities.
Once you decide on an app, there are some ways to minimize any issues that might come up during the installation process.
First, make sure to download a backup of your entire theme so you have a static, reliable copy of the code in case any problems arise.
Also, pick a slow sales period to add a new app — don’t do it the week of Thanksgiving or during the busiest day and time period for your store. This way, if there are any issues, you’ll have a chance to fix them or completely uninstall the app without losing too many sales.
It’s also a good idea to make note of the app developer’s support hours and, if possible, inquire about what times and days the least number of support inquiries come in and only install new apps during those time periods to minimize the turnaround time on support requests.
If you’re trying to install multiple apps at once, it’s often wise to roll out each new app in phases. Add a new app, wait a week or so to see if any issues come up, and then install the next app. Not only does this help isolate any issues and prevent downtime, but new features are always a great thing to let customers know about via email newsletters, banner images or social media!
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If there’s one necessary evil when it comes to Shopify themes, it’s theme updates. You can almost hear the collective moan of store owners when you say “theme update.”
Every week, Out of the Sandbox gets numerous feature requests for our award-winning Shopify themes — and some of the most popular ones have been included in our brand new theme release, Turbo.