Word or Warning: Apps may ruin your Shopify Site

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Excursionist
27 0 16

We have been running our retail store on Shopify for 3 years. We sell on our website, but mostly out of our store. (about 15% online)

We use (pay for) a bunch of apps to fill in what Shopify doesn't have the desire to code. We have also tested out several that we ended up not using... Or had some that we only used for a few weeks. 

In late April, customers started reporting the didn't have an "Add to cart" button on certain products.  It took us a while to duplicate, and even when we did it was intermittent.  The button would appear, then disappear when our choices app kicked in (Advanced Product Options for those of you who are interested).  

I chatted with Shopify; they told me to clear my cookies; then they opened a ticket. I emailed the makers of APO; they at least told me that there was left over code from some apps in there, but didn't tell me what it was. I finally had to beg for help from a shopify coder I know who said that yes, there was left over code from Apps that we didn't have installed, and it seemed to be erasing our "Add to cart" button.  5 minutes later he uploaded a "clean theme" and the problem was fixed.

All in all the back and forth lasted for almost a month before we were truly fixed. 

Things we learned: 

  • Just because you uninstalled an app doesn't mean it is totally gone. 
  • Shopify does a poor job of policing / apps to make sure they uninstall cleanly, and / or play well with other apps. 
  • Shopify customer support doesn't have the skills to help you track down issues like this. 

Thank you for listening to my rant. I actually love Shopify, and their benefits really out weigh the problems. But this one was a huge problem, and probably cost us some revenue. I'm posting this here because I want Shopify to be better. 

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Shopify Partner
2294 116 343

The only way to clean uninstall an app that affects theme files is for a merchant to add a backup of a stores theme that was made before an app was installed.

  • Just because you uninstalled an app doesn't mean it is totally gone. 
  • Shopify does a poor job of policing / apps to make sure they uninstall cleanly, and / or play well with other apps. 

 

While there could be improvements in the communication, and training merchants get about apps & themes before an app is installed;  really the only way to avoid these situations would be for such training to be required before a merchant could even install an app which would be very restrictive versus the freedom to explore currently in place.

This freedom means merchants are responsible for maintaining a stores theme and apps, it would be incredibly restrictive for shopify to guarantee "uninstall cleanly" as that is incredibly subjective and difficult when it comes to software development. Even then in such a fantasy situation merchants would have to agree to lock their theme from any edits by anyone except that app,  even by the merchant or store staff as only then could an app guarantee "uninstalls cleanly" because they 100% control all of merchants stores theme code.

If you have a brick and mortar store and a landlord recommends a landscaping company it's still on you to keep track of whether or not they remove that rose bush on the corner.

As for apps playing well amongst themselves that's literally an impossible task to enforce in advance by requiring humans to be psychic, you can only contact all parties for resolution as problems are found when multiple vendors are working in the same area.

 

Ultimately any merchant needs to learn that this is a process problem not only with shopify but with their own business and how they handle maintenance or lack of it.

  • If a merchants entire business is online then like it or not they are in the software development business and should not wait until there's a problem to retain development services.
  • Over any long period of time a stores theme code should be tracked an maintained either per change or weekly/monthly either with good notes , documentation, or version control.
  • Merchants should have analytics in place and regularly reviewed so you know the instant there's a problem , such as when an app uninstalls happens or conversions tank.
  • Stores should have website monitoring, status tests, or visual regression tests running reports to spot problems.
    • https://visualping.io/ 
    • Poormans is literally tv-monitor, or a screensaver, looping through urls with a browser extension, or a test-customer account given a meta-refresh in the theme.liquid header.

 

Maintenance is a valuable regular activity for any brick and mortar store business, being online doesn't change that.

 

 

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Shopify Partner
143 2 27

You should always backup your theme prior to installing a new app.

If an app displays or changes something something on your storefront, there are currently two way of doing this. It can either alter your theme files or add the content at runtime. Unfortunately, it's not clear how an app will work until after it has been installed.

The problem with apps that make changes to your theme is that when you uninstall them, they no longer have the permission required to remove the code that they added when you installed them.

That's why at Appifiny, we created apps such as Recently and Urgency that run at runtime and don't make any changes to the code in the theme. These kind of apps don't make any changes to theme and are automatically removed on uninstallation. The only downside to this is that in some cases, less experienced app developers create apps that are not optimised and can slow down the page loading time, which can then affect SEO.

There is some good news though. Shopify are working on a new architecture that will allow apps to add code into the theme safely and when you uninstall, any code that was added to a theme will automatically be removed. I'm really excited about this and we're planning to build a whole new generation of apps with it. We don't know when it will finally be released but it's rumoured to be later this year.

Try the best recent order app for Shopify free for 7 days: https://apps.shopify.com/recently
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Excursionist
27 0 16
That is good news. Thank you.

Yes we should be better creating a new theme every time we test out a new
app.
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Shopify Partner
2294 116 343

@Appifiny wrote:

 

The problem with apps that make changes to your theme is that when you uninstall them, they no longer have the permission required to remove the code that they added when you installed them.



Lol DO'H we really should lead with that.

This is a big part of the problem, so some apps do support an clean uninstall but only if you got through their process and not the shopify's admin uninstall button.

No fix for that since it's not in shopify's interest to let apps choose to intercept that admin action or change its' behavior (such as sending the merchant somewhere else like a theme clean page).

 

 

 

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