This week, we challenged developers to create a Shopify app (or app feature) from start to finish during our hackathon. Usually, apps can take weeks or even months to build from scratch, but at Gadget, our goal has always been to make Shopify app development so easy that even a non-developer could follow one of our tutorials and build a Shopify app. We take care of so much boilerplate that it becomes possible to build a brand new app in under a week, something we’ve seen happen with customers like Alumworks, where the longest part of launching their app was the approval process.
To truly put this to the test though, Angela Taborek, Gadget’s business ops intern, volunteered to go through our automated product tagger tutorial to see if she could successfully build her first Shopify app using the code snippets provided in the tutorial.
To be clear - Gadget is not a low-code or no-code tool.
Gadget is a NodeJS and Postgres cloud development platform that abstracts the boilerplate out of building and hosting Shopify applications. It was built to help developers work faster, and while Angela didn’t have to write any code, she was able to follow along with a tutorial and end up with a functioning Shopify application!
While it might be a stretch to call Angela an experienced software developer, or even an inexperienced software developer, she can definitely add “Shopify app developer” to her resume. Angela was able to follow along with Gadget’s automated product tagger tutorial to build a Shopify app in under 30 minutes!
Did she have to actually write any code? Well… no, she was able to copy the code snippet from the tutorial. But Angela was able to create an app and run it on a development store on Shopify using Gadget — something that wouldn't have been possible for her without Gadget taking care of all the setup.
How did she accomplish such a feat? Did she lean into the experience gained from building a single “Hello, World” application a number of years ago? I sat down with Angela to chat about her experience building a Shopify app using Gadget.
Q: How much programming experience do you have?
Angela: As much as learning how to code has been on my to-do list for a while, the most I’ve ever done is start one of those “learn to use python in 4 hours” tutorials. I got about as far as making my first “Hello, World” command, but as soon as I tried to do it again it didn’t work! (Don’t ask me how I managed that). After that, I just haven’t gotten around to trying any more programming- until now.
Q: What did you think was the hardest part about going through the tutorial?
Angela: To be honest, the most difficult part was actually setting up my Shopify dev store so that I could sync my app properly. I couldn’t figure out why it wasn’t working, then realized that I had to add different menu options so I could actually use the app and see the products on the storefront. Since the tutorial already had the store set up, it didn’t go through that- which makes sense, since most people watching it would already know their way around Shopify. But the actual app development part of the tutorial was super straightforward. I even got to write my own piece of code, even if it was only one line.
Q: Did you run into any difficulties when building your app?
Angela: Since I was following a product tagger tutorial, I had to decide on what tags to use for my products. I first decided on tagging the items as “on-the-go”, to put in a travel collection on my storefront. However, as I tried to get the app to read “on-the-go” from my description, it just wasn’t working, even though I wasn’t getting any kind of error message. Luckily, Gadget has logs of every command executed, and I was able to quickly see that since my keyword had dashes in it, it wasn’t registering as just one word, but three. I changed the word to “travel” instead, and it worked perfectly! I was actually pretty proud of myself for figuring that one out, but it also was very helpful that the logs were so easy to read. I was able to look through and figure out what went wrong in the code without even knowing what I was looking for. It took me 30 minutes to deploy my app instead of the 10 minutes of the tutorial, but I still think that’s pretty good.
Q: What do you plan on building next?
Angela: Well now that I can confidently call myself a Shopify app developer, I guess there’s a world of opportunities for me! I would love to build an app using OpenAI’s ChatGPT where if you add items to your cart (think- groceries), it will come up with different recipes that you can make using those items. I’m not sure if that’s doable, but definitely helpful for someone like me who is not creative when it comes to meals. However, I think for now I’ll just stick with the tutorials… after all, I still don’t know how to code.
Q: Any final thoughts on your experience?
Angela: Honestly, I’m still surprised I was actually able to build this app so quickly. If I can do it, I can’t imagine how much more efficient it would be for people who actually know how to build apps themselves. The best part is that now I can tell all of my friends in software engineering that I built a Shopify app before they did!
Building in a hosted environment meant that Angela didn’t need to worry about figuring out how to host her app, scaling resources, or properly managing data sync, webhook subscriptions, and authentication with Shopify. Experienced app developers can build unique Shopify apps from scratch in a matter of hours using Gadget.
I was really excited about Angela’s success in building her first Shopify app and look forward to seeing what she builds next!
PS. Want to build your own product tagger app in 10 minutes? Check out the tutorial here.