10 essential tips how I saved time (and money) developing my first Shopify App

Developing and running a my Shopify App Facebook Custom Audience Sync for approximatly a year next to a fulltime job has one key takeway which I knew I had to consider at every level:

The most limited resource is time

Most technical people probably see every project as a possibility to use the shiny framework or technology which sparks their curiosity. I knew that with my limited time, I was not able to afford such luxury.

Time Saving Tip 1: Use the technology you know

On the outset I had experience with basically only Python, some Flask and Git. This however is enough to get an webapp started.

However for and embedded Shopify App using React is effectively mandatory.

Time Saving Tip 2: To learn something new, buy a well reviewed book

If available, books still give you the most value for money when it comes to picking up any new skill. Therefore I got myself the two books Road to React and Road to GraphQL from Robin Wieruch, which I found quite helpful. They are in fact not too extensive and I would estimate about 8 hours for each of them to read and follow through. After this I was pretty much good to go when it comes to React. Contrary to a video course, books make it easier skip sections that you don’t need or read selectivly.

Time Saving Tip 3: Minimize technology overhead

What I didn’t pick up, but people bring up frequently, is Docker. Instead I use Python-Anywhere which is quite straighforward for hosting as the name suggests, python-webapps. This was almost no learning experience in order to deploy and app there.

Money Saving Tips 4–10: use these free / lowcost services

To provide SSL, the easies I found to hook up a free Cloudflare account to Pythonanywhere.

To have provide an email address-at-customaudiencesync.com I use a free ImprovMX account and point the Cloudflare configuration towards it.

Sentry is well known for error monitoring and the free account is entirely sufficient for a one-man-show.

Pushover is a iPhone Push notification app, that can be connected with Sentry to see those errors immediately for a $4.99 one-time charge.

Crisp is a customer support chat widget with a free plan. I would say it was one of the most useful services I use, since it gives you direct interaction with customers. If customers use it, they turned from an customer into an asset you can use the understand their issues better or connect with them. Contrary to Facebook Customer Chat (which would have been my first choice, since a Facebook account is necessary anyways) it does work with Shopify’s iFrame policy.

Mouseflow also like Crisp, is a must. It basically records a screencast of customers using the app and really helps to understand how good (or bad) you UI really is. I made me realise more the once, that my interface did lack clarity. Unlike Crisp the process is passive as most users won’t actually contact you but will simply uninstall the app.

And finally Termsfeed generates you a privacy policy. Depending on the feature you use, like sharing data with Facebook, the one-time charge varies between $5 and $50. Still a lot cheaper the hiring a lawyer.

This give you a set of mostly free or low-overhead tools to get run a Python/React Shopify app. If you have additions or comments I would love to hear them from you.

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