What is a Shopify Developer?

A Shopify Developer at work
Photo by Vlada Karpovich from Pexels

Chances are, if you’re reading this, then you’ve already heard of Shopify. It’s an e-commerce solution that allows you to quickly launch your dream business and start selling online. It provides a handy store builder and templates, but you can also build everything from the ground up. This is where someone like me comes in – a Shopify developer.

A Shopify Developer is a software developer specialising in building themes and apps on the Shopify platform, which is used to create e-commerce stores. These developers will usually come from a web development background since Shopify themes are built using web technologies; HTML, CSS and JavaScript.

With the ever-increasing demand from businesses to sell online, Shopify developers are much sought after for their skills. Read on more to learn a little bit more about what Shopify developers do and the skills they need.

What do Shopify Developers do?

Shopify developers build themes and apps for Shopify stores. Simple tasks often include creating pages, populating product data and making minor cosmetic changes to existing themes. More complex tasks range from creating a custom Shopify theme from scratch to building an app that extends Shopify’s base functionality.

Shopify themes and apps are pretty different from each other. A theme in Shopify controls the look and feel of an online store. In contrast, an app extends Shopify’s base functionality.

Like most software professionals, Shopify developers usually work as part of a team. Most commonly, a team specialising in helping businesses succeed in selling online.

In general, Shopify Developer will hold responsibilities that include:

  • Scoping, planning and estimating development work
  • Building new Shopify themes and apps
  • Maintaining existing solutions on the Shopify platform
  • Implementing UI as code based on designs provided
  • Writing clean maintainable code
  • Testing and debugging of websites for better performance
  • Optimizing stores for increased conversion rates
  • Managing the delivery of projects
  • Communicating with team members, stakeholders, and vendors
  • Collaborating with other developers and stakeholders

Phew! That’s quite a long list, isn’t it? To effectively deliver on these responsibilities, a Shopify developer needs to be strong in an equally long list of skills.

What skills do Shopify Developers need?

Like most software professionals, Shopify developers need both technical and soft skills. Soft skills are the non-technical skills that relate to how people work. Soft skills can include interacting with colleagues, solving problems, or managing time. Technical skills are a developer’s “bread and butter”; they cover the languages, tools and frameworks needed to get the job done.

A Shopify developer needs to have the following skills.

Communication

Above all, the essential skill for a Shopify Developer is communication. Whether it’s written or verbal communication, understanding each other is vital.

Problem Solving

There is a misconception that problem-solving in software is all about using algorithms and complex logic. But the key to solving a problem is to understand it. And understanding requires asking questions to dig deeper and identify the real issues. That’s why good problem solvers are good at asking questions and thinking analytically.

Time Management

A developer will often need to assist in scoping a project and providing estimates on time or effort to complete tasks. These are essential aspects of project management and time management. In addition, developers need to know how to prioritise tasks in their workload.

Knowledge of Shopify’s Admin System

It should be no surprise that a Shopify Developer needs to know how to create a store, add products, configure settings, etc. For developers unfamiliar with the Shopify Admin system, the best way to learn is to sign up as a Shopify Partner and build a development store. To support this, Shopify also has excellent user documentation on how to do almost anything with the platform.

Knowledge of HTML, CSS and JavaScript

To build a Shopify theme, developers need HTML, CSS and JavaScript; these are the foundational programming languages of the web. HTML helps browsers and search engines understand how to read the content. CSS controls how the content on web pages looks, such as the colours, fonts and layout. And JavaScript allows web pages to have more advanced functionality.

Experience with Shopify’s “Liquid” templating

Shopify themes use templates written using “Liquid”, a templating language based on Ruby syntax. Liquid templates act as the glue between Shopify’s backend and the UI of the store. For developers new to Liquid, it’s flexible and quick for new developers to learn.

Version Control

Using a version control system such as Git is essential for a developer, even if they are working solo. Version control creates a store of the history of a codebase, and this means that if a bug is added, we can go back to a previous version with minimal disruption.

Server Management

Apps on Shopify are hosted outside of Shopify, on remote servers, so developers need to know how to get things up and running smoothly. Most app servers will be running on Linux, so it’s a good idea for developers to know their way around the command line when the need arises.

Data Structures and Programming Patterns

Understanding Data Structures is handy when working with the data objects held in Shopify.
As for programming patterns, the ones used will depend on the solution. But ultimately, programming patterns are there to help keep code clean and maintainable.

Backend-development

Shopify Apps extend the base functionality of Shopify, but the data processing code lives on remote servers. Shopify provides API libraries for Ruby, Python, PHP and Node.js to make this easier.

Developers working in a team will usually be told which backend language to use so everyone is on the same page when extending and maintaining apps. Otherwise, which language you use doesn’t matter so long as it can work with JSON REST APIs and Authentication.

Knowledge of Analytics

Having an online store is one thing, but getting visitors to convert into customers is quite another. A developer who knows their way around a tool like Google Analytics is worth their weight in gold – literally! By using analytics to understand the customer journey, you can work out the issues and come up with strategies and solutions to increase conversions. Being able to help clients with Conversion Rate Optimisation (CRO) is one of the most valuable skills anyone can have.

What types of projects do Shopify Developers work on?

For the most part, Shopify developers will either work to build e-commerce stores with custom Shopify Themes or Apps that extend Shopify’s functionality. The types of clients Shopify developers work with can range from startup brands with low budgets to some of the biggest brand names globally, including Tesla, Redbull, Heinz, and Gymshark.

Shopify is a great platform. It’s simple enough for entrepreneurs to get selling online in an hour or two. While being robust and scalability enough for the biggest brands. These are the two extremes of the clients who would use Shopify. Each client will have very different requirements.

Entrepreneurs who want to test demand for their products often need a store built quickly for a low cost. So a developer would be working on customising a preexisting theme to meet these needs.

Larger brands will be looking for custom-built themes that reflect their brand. They may also need a custom app, for example, to enable them to connect a custom inventory system.

Beyond building things for specific clients, Shopify developers can also produce themes and Apps for the Shopify marketplace. Anyone can then buy these in the marketplace and install them in their store. A developer will need to put in the work upfront, but it can provide a nice passive income.

Summary

As we’ve seen in this article, Shopify developers build e-commerce stores, themes and apps on the Shopify platform. The range of projects they can work on is wide. And they need a long list of skills to deliver projects.

Could you use some help with your Shopify project?

At Full Revolution, we love to help entrepreneurs bring their ideas to life. So, if you dream of launching an e-commerce store on Shopify and could use some help, you can get in touch with us here.

Written By

Aron Marriott-Smith

Software developer and tea drinker. Helping startups and creative agencies build digital products.

Related Articles