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How eliminating 70% of their code allowed Radikal to break into custom app development

Gadget eliminates 70% of the code we have to write for custom apps. For a prototype-level app, we probably ship that 5x as fast. Something that would have previously taken us 1 month, we can now do it in 1 week with Gadget.
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Dietlev Maertens, Managing Partner

About

Gadget streamlined their process, improved collaboration, and allowed for higher-quality work to help Radikal keep their Shopify Plus clients happy.

70%

less code

5x

faster development

Problem

Radikal, a Shopify Plus agency, faced challenges in meeting client demands for app features, with excessive backend technical complexity increasing the risk of projects.

Solution

With Gadget, Radikal could build apps using a full-stack development platform with a scalable backend, offering the necessary simplicity for their team.

Result

Radikal now uses Gadget for nearly all new projects, improving collaboration, speeding up development, and delivering high-quality, maintenance-free apps to clients.

How eliminating 70% of their code allowed Radikal to break into custom app development

Emma Hyde
April 9, 2024

70%

less code

5x

faster development

The problem

Radikal is a Shopify Plus agency that has spent years refining their skills in Shopify theme development. 

The team had built a strong relationship with clients and a reputation for crafting visually stunning and user-friendly themes, and were seeing a growing demand for more technical functionalities. Meeting these demands would require the Radikal developers to dive into app development. 

Moving away from their core competencies in liquid and themes meant introducing more complexity and risk into their projects. The team knew that the ongoing maintenance and backend requirements to keep the app running smoothly would take up a lot of time and resources, and they worried about the risk of overloading themselves with old projects.

Dietlev Maertens, Managing Partner at Radikal, knew that custom app development presented significant resource demands. The team would need to dedicate time and effort mastering new skills, and that introduced new challenges, where mistakes could be costly for Radikal. But with a steady stream of requests from clients, the development team began to explore possible solutions. 

After evaluating a number of popular tools and frameworks, the team decided they needed a different solution in order to introduce app development to their clients. Most of their apps were built using custom backends, which were time consuming and complicated to build. The team would write their own routes and handlers using Express.js or Koa, and for a database, they used MySQL most of the time, but would occasionally turn to MongoDB. The team would also use Vercel's frontend-as-a-service, and even experimented with solutions such as Alumio, a simple integrations platform. But no matter which tool they used, the time it took to get an app set up and connected to Shopify was simply not sustainable.

“Building a backend is complicated. You can break things or cause significant damage to data that is critical for clients. The risk is high if you’re not extremely confident in what you’re doing,” Dietlev explained. “We needed flexibility, and most solutions require you to lock into their way of working and that can be really limiting in the long run.”

The team decided to put custom app development on hold, but Dietlev was motivated to find a solution and continued looking around, hoping to find a tool that would allow Radikal to start new projects faster, and help the team templatize the underlying infrastructure.

The solution

It wasn’t until they came across a demo of Gadget that the team began to see a solution to their problem.

Gadget would provide the team with a hosted, scalable backend, with a built-in database, eliminating the need to build everything from the ground up. It also included a connection to Shopify out of the box and an embedded frontend for any apps they would build. It was a full-stack solution in a single platform.

With Gadget, the Radikal developers wouldn’t have to worry about building the backend. The tool abstracted so much of the complexity, that full-stack development became an option, even for specialist developers. “Almost all our devs could use Gadget to do backend work, even our frontend devs who had never built backends before.”

After trying the platform out on a few small projects, Dietlev and the rest of the Radikal development team decided to implement Gadget in more of their projects. It was simpler than having to worry about connecting Vercel to a backend, eliminating the risk they had been worried about before. It gave the team the flexibility that was missing from other tools, while still providing the stability they needed. Dietlev says, “Gadget allows us to play to the strength of the framework using the databases, action triggers, Shopify sync, and auth, while still allowing us to write whatever we want, however we want it.”

The results

Today, almost every new project Radikal builds is powered by Gadget. 

Better collaboration

Gadget significantly improved collaboration. All the code follows the same patterns, and there are no bulky blocks of code that are hard to read. By creating documentation automatically based on an app’s models, knowledge transfers have become really easy. There’s no going down a rabbit hole trying to understand past decisions and documentation — each developer can hop into a project, spend less than an hour getting up to speed, and start writing code.

“Gadget eliminates 70% of the code we have to write for custom apps. And that 70% is code that is so critical it could never be written by a junior developer.” Dietlev says. “For a prototype-level app, we probably ship that 5x as fast. Something that would have previously taken us 1 month, we can now do it in 1 week with Gadget.”

High-quality work

Radikal can now delve deeper into client needs, crafting highly customized solutions that perfectly match each merchant's vision when building with Gadget. Dietlev says, “With most projects, that 70% baseline code is most likely exactly where you use close to 100% of the client budget, while still being left with all the other things the client expects.” With all the time the Radikal developers save, they’re able to refine and perfect the finished product leading to happier clients and projects delivered within budget. 

“We don’t have to worry about pitching more complex, competitive applications to clients, because with Gadget, we always have high confidence we can do it.” Dietlev says. “The heavy lifting, and often most complex issues in backend development, are handled by Gadget, so we can focus on the actual client requirements instead of trying to figure out why our database won’t allow any new connections.”

No maintenance

As an added bonus, Gadget handles so much of the maintenance that the team no longer needs to have clients revisit budgets for projects that were completed months or years ago. “It’s really hard to bill for all the hours that go into routine app maintenance. How do you explain all that to the client? With Gadget, maintenance is so easy.” Dietlev explains. With the auto-scaled infrastructure and one-click Shopify API upgrades, the only things they need to bill for are major changes and feature additions.

Since using Gadget for app development, Radikal has been able to offer custom app development to all of their clients, and they’ve even started to move legacy projects onto the platform.

“There’s less risk. We are thinking about writing our own public apps now because we can guarantee that it will work for every merchant. We want to make this another new revenue channel for the business.”

Not only has Gadget streamlined the way the Radikal team works together, but the platform has completely changed the way they approach app development. Moving forward, they’ll be adding even more service offerings and revenue streams, all built with Gadget.

About the agency

Radikal is a Shopify Plus agency specializing in architecting high-end, scalable ecommerce solutions. They provide clients with strategic growth strategies by creating seamless integrations with a myriad of services, ensuring operational efficiency and market prominence.

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