You may have heard that Shopify is deprecating checkout.liquid. In this blog post we’ll explain why, how it may impact you, and how to plan for the future.
If you’re not already in the know, checkout.liquid is a specialized Liquid theme file used to customize the overall look, feel, and functionality of the checkout of a Shopify store. This functionality is only available to Shopify Plus merchants, and provides them flexibility to customize and control the user experience during the checkout process.
This helps Shopify Plus merchants make their checkout feel more unique and aligned with their brand, and it also unlocks custom functionality that isn’t available to non-Plus brands. Obviously, this is a huge differentiator for a lot of Shopify Plus merchants, and an essential part of the experience they offer buyers.
But Shopify recently announced the deprecation of checkout.liquid in favor of more modern checkout extensibility. As of August 13, 2024, checkout.liquid customizations will no longer function, and merchants must upgrade to the new checkout extensibility framework before the deadline to avoid an automatic switch to an un-customized Shopify Checkout.
That sounds harsh, but the change is meant to accelerate and improve Shopify’s ability to make checkout better for merchants.
They’re moving merchants away from custom checkout.liquid code in part because it makes it impossible to predict if checkouts will break when new important functionality and upgrades are rolled out. By making customization built with predictable building blocks, Shopify can more quickly and safely roll out new powerful checkout functionality to all merchants without having to worry about breaking the checkout flow for any merchant.
Shopify isn’t deprecating checkout.liquid without providing alternatives. Over the past year they have started to roll out the next generation of checkout customization technology in the form of Checkout UI extensions, Functions, Post-purchase checkout extensions and Advanced checkout branding.
These are all powerful, highly-specialized building blocks that allow merchants to change different aspects of the Shopify cart and checkout experience, including completely new functionality. There are, however, important differences between how these work compared to checkout.liquid, and what’s possible to build.
While checkout.liquid is a code file that merchants update to customize, the new checkout functionality is delivered through apps that merchants install on their store. By building with individual blocks of code, there’s less risk of breaking the checkout experience.
But there’s also a few gaps between what merchants can do with liquid and what the new set of functionality offers. Shopify hasn’t clarified if those gaps will be covered before the deprecation, or if it simply means that the functionality won’t exist in the future. What we do know is that checkout UI extensions are exclusive to Shopify Plus merchants.
August 2024 may seem far away, but we suggest you start planning for the checkout.liquid deprecation now. This is not a flip of a switch, and you don’t want to wait until the last minute and end up with a broken checkout.
We suggest you start by making an inventory of what customization you’re using in checkout.liquid today, and which of those could already be replaced with the extension functionality Shopify has already released. They have shared some of the common use cases for extensions in their docs, if you need somewhere to start. But be mindful that you can't have both checkout.liquid and checkout extensions running at the same time, so you need to migrate everything in one go.
For customization that isn’t possible today, try to find out if it’s already on Shopify’s roadmap and when you can expect it to be available. One good place to look is Shopify’s developer Discord, where many of the product teams are actively answering questions.
If Shopify can’t give clear answers by the end of 2023, chances are they’re not replacing it. In that case, you should start exploring what the next best alternative is.
Don’t wait until the last minute to plan and execute your migration away from checkout.liquid. August 2024 may feel like it’s really far away, but there's a risk that other merchants also wait and there's too few developers around to help them all in the final stretch. And since these extensions are new, it can be hard to estimate just how long they will take to build, test, and implement for the customizations your store needs.
Nobody wants to end up with a broken checkout just because of a time crunch, especially since it’s easily avoidable by planning ahead.
If you’re an agency or have developers on your team, we strongly suggest you get familiar with the new capabilities if you haven’t already. Pair up with someone that has experience, or consider using a platform like Gadget to drastically cut down on the technical complexity.
We’ll continue to provide resources to help you navigate the next checkout.liquid migration in the coming months so that when it comes time to switch, you’ll be more than ready. Meanwhile, another useful resource is Shopify's checkout extensibility upgrade toolkit.
If you have any suggestions for Shopify checkout UI content that would be helpful to you, or need help figuring out what’s possible with extensions and how to do it, drop by our Discord. We’re happy to help.