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Out of the Sandbox and into the Sun: Shopify Unite 2017

Out of the Sandbox and into the Sun: Shopify Unite 2017

This year, four members of the Out of the Sandbox Shopify theme team had the privilege of attending the Shopify Unite conference in San Francisco.

We’ve since exchanged the golden California sun for the unpredictable climate of southern Ontario, but we returned with new insights, ideas and lots of enthusiasm for the growth we see coming —both on the Shopify platform and for ecommerce in general.

Main takeaway: Enable entrepreneurial success

Shopify’s overarching message this year was simple but strong: build the path that leads to more — and more successful — entrepreneurs. Shopify comes across as a true champion of the entrepreneur, one that recognizes and empathizes with all the hustle and hard work inherent in entrepreneurial endeavors.

For Shopify, enabling success for merchants means finding new and creative ways to lower barriers to entry. It includes offering new tools to decrease complexity, a move towards a more consistent experience across admin interfaces, and providing more ways for merchants to discover the most relevant apps and resources for their shop and business.

At the same time, Shopify is fully cognizant that partners like Out of the Sandbox are also entrepreneurs, and as such is committed to investing in the Shopify Experts and Shopify Partner community.

For us this means new development tools, more access to data and additional resources. It also means participating in an ongoing, open conversation with Shopify where we can provide feedback and help them iterate on their products and offerings, as part of the shared goal of improving ecommerce for all.

What we’re excited about

This year Shopify introduced Slate, a theme scaffold and command line tool for building Shopify themes.

Slate offers up many functions and mixins that will allow us to build themes quicker and more functionally by creating modular code. This is an exciting one! Instead of writing helper classes and functions in JavaScript, having Slate as a base to work off increases the consistency and stability of our code base.

Shopify also announced some new updates and additions to Liquid including giving us access to new image properties that will help make loading images in a theme more efficient, reducing page size and increasing overall responsiveness, especially on mobile.

For example, we’ll be able to update our responsive images to no longer rely on JavaScript if the image is smaller than a certain size.

Shopify also recently introduced a new Liquid object, product.options_with_values, which provides us theme developers with a more convenient way to access product options.

It will ultimately give merchants more choice on how they want their variants displayed (e.g. showing some as color swatches and others in a dropdown format). It should also be a lot less buggy and JavaScript-dependent than Shopify’s earlier solution. Our lead developer, Anne, is very excited to implement this one!

OOTS networking

Who we met

One of the main highlights of Unite is the opportunity to meet and hang with a wide variety of theme and app developers and Shopify Partners (as well as the chance to chat with the ever-approachable Shopifolk themselves, of course).

We met up with a number of our recommended Shopify Experts and app partners, including Lucid, Zyber and LimeSpot.

Galen and the gang from Lucid are the creators of our amazing Theme Updater app; it’s a partnership that was forged at last year’s Unite and which has since proven very successful. The latest release of this app now carries over customizations and may continue to evolve yet!

We enjoyed a hits-the-spot, late-night Korean dinner with our Kiwi friends from Zyber, the folks behind ShopHelper and the brave souls who attended Unite dressed as the All Blacks.

We also met up with LimeSpot, whose Personalizer app has been fully tested and styled to integrate well with all Out of the Sandbox themes.

What we ate

In addition to some very addictive cinnamon French toast we enjoyed practically every morning at the hotel, Unite 2017 provided some really tasty California cuisine for our lunches, including lots of fresh salads and some lovely mini puddings and panna cottas.

The caterers had plenty of biscotti and a coffee bar, for those craving their afternoon flat whites and lattes.

We also got the inside scoop on an excellent pasta place from a local developer friend!

What we did

We arrived in San Francisco a day early, and definitely made the most of it.

We saw the sea lions lazing about on Pier 39, had drinks at a funky cinema-turned-bar in the Mission area, and stocked up on chocolates at world-famous Ghirardelli.

We had a few additional adventures including strolling through the fantastic redwoods in Muir Woods, checking out the Walt Disney museum, exploring beautiful Golden Gate Park and experiencing a rainforest and an asteroid attack at the California Academy of Sciences.

So Unite has wrapped for another year and our well-earned sunburns are beginning to fade… but we’re stoked to see what the rest of 2017 will bring to Shopify and ecomm in general, and about what new offerings we at Out of the Sandbox will bring to the table.

All hail the hustle!

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