Custom Integration Considerations for Shopify Stores & other Software

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New Member
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Hello Shopify community,

 

Let me preface this post with I AM NOT A DEVELOPER.

 

I'm in the process of scoping a Shopify build. Part of this build would include a custom integration between an industry specific accounting solution and their Shopify store. I've always heard Shopify is a little less friendly when it comes to custom dev work like this. If that's the case I'd like to know why that is the case or if I'm wrong, why I'm wrong. Some of my general questions include:

 

Do you have to code integrations for solutions like this in liquid versus other coding languages?

Am I correct in my understanding that as long as you're a partner you get access to the Shopify API?

What other considerations do I need to have with respects to building this integration with Shopify versus say Bigcommerce?

 

Thanks for the help!

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Shopify Partner
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Hi and welcome to the community!

 

It is difficult to tell what kind of integration points you should use without knowing more about your requirements. I can however provide an overview of the typical integration points Shopify does provide, the developer experience, community support and such.

 


I've always heard Shopify is a little less friendly when it comes to custom dev work like this. If that's the case I'd like to know why that is the case or if I'm wrong, why I'm wrong.


I won't claim that Shopify's many ways to extend and build upon the platform are complete, bullet proof or most friendly in all cases. But my feeling is that Shopify and their ability to support developers via their many extension points for integration and customisation are well above the norm - in fact, I'd argue they're among the better ones in the industry. Why?

 

  1. By far and without doubt the leading e-commerce service for small to medium businesses with specific plans for those who grow beyond the basic needs. The platform is proven over a decade, supports 600k merchants, continues to grow, has a very lively complimentary products business around it. For example: Shopify Experts for development, design, marketing etc, app vendors who provide integrations, extensions, convenience tools and a theme marketplace that's a bit more regulated than most others.
  2. Really good documentation for developers. Some or even many might disagree, but I find their documentation really well written and quite complete. That's coming from a developer who has done this professionally for 20 years in multiple languages and frameworks, various types of companies ranging from startup to the largest enterprises, and across a number of domains such as enterprise content management, omni-channel order management, manufacturing execution systems, business-to-business ERP integration, software development lifecycle automation and a lot of good ol' web design stuff as well. I've seen a lot of documentation in my time and I can vouch for the quality of Shopify's with confidence.
  3. Un-opinionated APIs. APIs are Application Programming Interfaces i.e. the contracts by which external programs or even humans interact with an application, framework or platform. Shopify's APIs do not dictate what language you must use (caveat emptor explained in a bit). They do not prefer one OS over another or a specific architecture design over others. They offer 2 flavours of their Admin API, one as REST and one as GraphQL and they also offer a GraphQL only API for interacting with the storefront itself. REST and GraphQL over HTTP are pretty much covered and supported in any language humans have conceived in the past three or so decades. It is safe to say that no developer should have issues using these.
  4. The community, that is this one here you're interacting with right now, is quite lively. It is important to gauge the activity around any product or vendor not only through their own efforts, but those of their users and affiliate alike. Could Shopify do better? Most definitely! Are they doing better than the majority of their competitors? Most definitely!

 

Now, I did mention a caveat before. I claimed that Shopify does not enforce any language or framework which is true of their API but doesn't quite stand true for their storefront frontend implementations. The "visible" part, the actual web site you see, is mostly written in a templating language called Liquid. Liquid itself has a long history stemming from the Ruby community (a programming language and coincidentally the language in which much of Shopify core was and still is built upon). Not a surprise really - the founder of Shopify was a major Ruby geek, contributor and co-inventor of Liquid among other stuff he did in his developer days. So Shopify themes are written in a mix of Liquid, HTML, Javascript and CSS (or SCSS). Nothing too dramatic here but you always find people who dislike XYZ because they prefer ABC or OMG is better and newer. Fair enough - I am one of them too, but ultimately, I don't care as long as the job gets done. Which it does with Liquid.

 

However, these developer preferences and new developments in web design have not gone unnoticed within Shopify. Which is why they release the Storefront API with a slew of platform / language specific development kits such as for Android, iOS, Unity and Javascript. There are many more being provided and maintained by the community. This promises to untie the knots between storefronts on the web, devices, media etc. from Liquid based themes and open new avenues how to present product catalogs and devise bespoke shopping experiences. Which all sounds fine and dandy, but it is still a little rough around the edges here and there - nothing too bad and will improve over time given it is still quite new.

 


Do you have to code integrations for solutions like this in liquid versus other coding languages?


Again, it really depends what you shall be integrating and where - is this a backend to backend integration or is there anything you need to display on the storefront as well? Either way, Shopify will have you covered. You can develop 3 kinds of apps - public apps that are published or unpublished, and private apps. Each have their own set of capabilities and use cases. Public apps can even use app proxies to directly feed your apps data in to Liquid templates. Private apps on the other hand are much simpler to build. Sometimes you might not even need to build any app and a pure storefront type of integration may suffice - Javascript comes in handy here because you cannot make calls to external resources using Liquid.

 


Am I correct in my understanding that as long as you're a partner you get access to the Shopify API?


Yes, though even merchants have access to the APIs. Partners have the entire partner ecosystems of benefits, training, tools and support for developing public apps, designing themes, creating development stores for testing, mucking around and such on top of being able to refer merchants, hand off entire stores to clients and profit in many other ways if they wish to do so.

 


What other considerations do I need to have with respects to building this integration with Shopify versus say Bigcommerce?


I do not know. You could ask BigCommerce support and wait for their standard reply

 


Hi ______________​, I'm going to share this post to the @BigCommerce Developers​ group for you. This is our dedicated spot in the Community for questions related to custom development on BigCommerce, and a great place to ask questions like this in the future.


Then wait in vain for a while and come back here 😀

 

No no, to be fair, they do have some awesome stuff too. Of course they do. But no matter what you use, the deeper you dig once you do start using it, the more that glossy front of marketing falls apart and looses its shine. That's just how it is. 

 

Hope this helps and do feel free to ask anything else anytime!

I turn coffee in to code - since 1998
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Shopify Partner
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Hi @RevRiv 

After what @KarlOffenberger  has written, I dont think there is much left to add here. Thanks @KarlOffenberger for your insights.

 

I would answer a few of your queries in a bit different way.

Every shop owner or developer is a partner. And all of them have similar levels of API access. I dont think there are any fancy levels of API access for normal Shopify users.

 

Second, Shopify can be integrated and developed to such unexpected extent, that you can make an entire e-commerce ERP around the Shopify ecosystem. There are so many apps already there, and you can build more.

 

Regarding, accounting integration, there are several apps available for that. But we also have an app which integrates with QuickBooks, Xero and few other accounting tools. We can also customize these apps specifically for you to fit your needs. You can contact us at spsupport@parextech.com

 

Many Thanks.

Kumar

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Shopify Partner
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@RevRiv 

We now have a QuickBooks integration app on the Shopify App Store.

https://apps.shopify.com/quickbooks-bridge

 

Please take a look at it and let us know if you are looking for something like this.

 

Thank you.

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New Member
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Thank you so very much for the lengthy explanation. This really added some color to what I've been reading and hearing. A second thank you is also in order for using language that a non-developer could understand.

 

Cheers!

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