Shopify dev

Behind the scenes of Shopify app review: a CTO’s perspective

By Philip Zhavrid October 12, 2023 October 20th, 2023
Behind the scenes of Shopify app review: a CTO's perspective

Passing the Shopify app review process is essential for getting your app into the hands of users. It’s a systematic process with specific requirements, but it’s not impossible. In this article, our CTO, Philip, shares insights on the review process, why it’s important, common reasons for rejection, and tips on how to increase your chances of success.

Let’s dive in!

Understanding the Shopify app review process

We at SpurIT have successfully passed the Shopify app review process for our own apps and our clients’ apps. It’s a systematic process with specific requirements, which you can find in Shopify’s blogs and documentation. There are also many additional resources from Shopify on how to create apps that meet the review requirements, including non-required documents, tips, and advice.

However, even if you follow all the documentation, there is no guarantee that you will pass the review on the first try. In general, it is difficult to pass the review on the first try.

Why Shopify apps are developed

Shopify apps are developed for a variety of reasons. Some apps are designed to add new features and functionality to the Shopify platform, while others are designed to integrate with third-party services. There are also apps that are designed to help Shopify merchants with specific tasks, such as marketing, customer service, or order fulfillment. 

Therefore, these apps can be a completely unique offering, not a copy of existing solutions on the market. In such unique cases, the documentation may not fully cover what your app needs to pass review. In this case, you can submit your app for review, and Shopify will review and test it. Then, as practice shows, Shopify will reject the app and provide recommendations and a description of why the app did not pass review.

Why your app’s description matters

During this first review attempt, it is important not only that your app complies with the documentation, but also that you clearly describe the Shopify testing instructions and specify what your app does. I recommend not leaving anything out that may seem obvious or understandable to you. You need to understand that Shopify testers and the app store team are not familiar with your product. They did not come up with this idea and for them it is a new product, even if your app is one of many similar apps.

The significance of review instructions

The review team tests and reviews your app according to their own specific scripts. What is obvious to you may not be obvious to them. This can lead to the team not understanding how to properly test your app, how it should work, and may mistakenly conclude that it is not working correctly or that it does not meet certain platform requirements.

That is why, as app developers, we always use our knowledge and understanding of how the app store team best perceives and understands information and product when going through the review process. Based on this knowledge, we write review instructions that are attached to the app when it is first submitted to the App Store.

Many do not pay enough attention to this important step and describe review instructions as simply an instruction for automated testing. This leads to numerous rejections, which are often not related to the app’s functionality itself, but are only related to the understanding of that functionality and how it should work, and, importantly, the benefits it provides to Shopify merchants.

Digging deeper into app rejection factors

Sometimes apps are rejected for relatively minor reasons that are described in the documentation but can be misinterpreted by developers. This can happen even if the developers followed the documentation. In this situation, after Shopify sends its recommendations, developers often do not understand what they are related to, even though they followed the documentation.

There are two sides to this: Shopify may not understand developers, and developers may not understand what Shopify wants from them. This is where our experience comes in handy. 

We have helped clients who have received rejections for their apps, and we have learned to better understand Shopify’s recommendations. Our experts can help your developers implement these recommendations or provide consulting on the review process and how to make the required changes.

Is every app eligible for a review? 

No, not every app passes review. There are a number of reasons why an app might be rejected, and each case is unique.

For example, we don’t offer a service to guarantee that your app will pass review. This is because some apps are likely to be rejected, such as apps that violate the App Store Terms of Service.

If your app is rejected, we can still help you. We can provide recommendations to explain what violated the rules, and we can help you to improve your app so that it has a better chance of being approved. We can even help you with the idea stage, if we see that your app is unlikely to pass review. We can suggest changes to your functionality, approach, or strategy to make your app more likely to succeed.

We have helped some of our partners in this way.

Shopify app review case study: Showfields

As an illustrative example, let’s take a look at one of our cases: Showfields, a US-based retail company that merges the worlds of art, entertainment, and retail. The company provides marketplace services to customers with a unique twist: an innovative online-to-physical model. 

To ensure seamless integration between physical stores and online shops, they have a solid backend that efficiently manages inventory, and orders, and keeps product details in sync. However, when developing their Shopify application, Showfields faced challenges passing the AppStore review due to limited prior experience with Shopify. So, they turned to our expertise to help them navigate the process successfully.

We collaborated with Showfields’ skilled developers to improve their Ruby on Rails-based app and overcome marketplace restrictions. Our team also implemented a loyalty program.

As a result, we ensured that the app was accepted for consideration in the Shopify App Store. So, Showfields continues to operate seamlessly, providing their unique online-to-physical marketplace services to customers.

Staying on top of development

It is common to start developing an app before new Shopify features or updates are released. By the time you finish, the documentation, requirements, and other documentation may have changed. It is important to review the documentation thoroughly at the beginning of development, but it is also important to stay up-to-date on changes.

If you miss a change, you may complete the project thinking you did everything correctly, but you may have missed something. This could lead to rejection in the app store and require additional work.

To avoid this, we always study updates in the Shopify documentation, both during development and on a daily basis. We also discuss any changes that are needed with the customer to ensure that they are aware of the implications.

The key to Shopify app review success

The most important factor in passing a Shopify review is not just the quality of the code or development, but also the developer’s understanding of the Shopify platform, the App Store review process, and clear communication. Shopify is a rapidly evolving platform that undergoes significant changes twice a year. If a developer is not familiar with the latest changes, they may be required to make unexpected changes to their app to pass the review.
If you have any further questions or need help with passing the Shopify app store review, please feel free to contact us. We will be happy to assist.

Philip Zhavrid

Philip Zhavrid

CTO and Shopify Expert at SpurIT, leverages his decade of eСommerce experience to help businesses grow and succeed online through innovative Shopify solutions. A highly skilled tech enthusiast and architect, stays up-to-date on the latest Shopify trends and technologies.