Yesterday - June 29th - was the day of Shopify Unite 2021. This is Shopify's equivalent of Apple's keynote - it's where they unveil new features and the future of the platform.

This year, merchants and developers are in luck. We finally got a lot of new features that we've been waiting for, for years. This is going to be huge new for so many store owners.

They're calling it Online Store 2.0.

Let's get into it.

Dynamic sections everywhere

Updated Shopify theme editor with sections on the product page.
Updated Shopify theme editor with sections on the product page.

So we're all familiar with dynamic sections on the home page I hope. This is where you can add new sections and drag them around to reposition them on the page, or delete them. However they weren't available on other pages.

From now on we can build themes with dynamic sections on every type of page. This makes it so much easier to create custom landing pages. You can create an about page that tells a story, or a custom product page that highlights the products features.

Combined with the next feature this even means that you can make individual products or collections with completely unique templates!

Shopify Template creator and editor

Shopify has had alternate templates for a while. Most often you would see this on the contact page in the admin, where you need to select for it to show the contact form. Otherwise, pages use the regular Page template.

Some themes also come with alternate page templates like Page.narrow or Page.wide, and you could also create new templates for collections and products, but you usually needed a developer to do this for you. It involved creating a new file and copy-pasting code.

This can now be done entirely in the theme editor. So you can create a different template depending on the type of product. Or even completely unique product templates. If you have one special product that needs a totally different layout from the rest.

Metafields built-in to Shopify admin

We've also had metafields for a while. But we need to use apps to edit them like Metafields Guru or Advanced Custom Fields.

Metafield editing will now be built into Shopify! You will be able to create them via Settings > Metafields.

Then, you will be able to view them on the product page admin, and in the theme customizer. So if you're using individual templates for different products as I explained above, you can include content that is specific to each product.

With "Content" Shopify becomes a fully-fledged CMS

Sneak peek of Shopify Content admin screen
Sneak peek of Shopify Content admin screen

We also got a sneak peek at a new feature that Shopify are calling "Content". This is for any type of content that you want to add across your store. So whereas previously we had Pages and Blog Posts, now you will be able to create any type of content types like testimonials, images, lists and size charts. .

In the past, we used to create a Page when you need to add a block of content somewhere even though we don't want a standalone page. This was messy, hard to work with for clients, and had its own limitations. The new Content feature is exactly what we need.

A pagebuilder app killer? 

So you might be already using a pagebuilder like Shogun or Pagefly on your store. And you might be thinking if you can get rid of it and just use these new Shopify features instead.

I would say it depends, for a lot of stores with simple needs, yes this may actually fulfill all your needs and you won't need to use Shogun or Pagefly. For others with more complex pages it might not be 100% what you need. Pagebuilders are still going to be more flexible (although not by much). Either way it's too early to say. We definitely need to wait and see what kinds of themes come out before making a judgement like that.

When can we actually use Online Store 2.0?

That is the biggest question. While admin things like metafields should be available very soon (a matter of days or weeks I think), themes and theme developers will be slower to respond.

Theme Development companies like Out of the Sandbox or Pixel Union need to do a huge update to their themes, and maybe even come out with brand new ones.

I'm guessing that will take at least 2-3 months before we start seeing themes with the new features available for purchase. There is some other good news though:

Shopify Theme Store is open to new submissions

For a while the Theme Store has been kind of closed-off. There have been only around 60 high-quality themes and they weren't really accepting themes from new developers.

This has changed now so they are now accepting submissions from other companies. We should start seeing interesting new themes very soon, with the new Online Store 2.0 features.

Developer updates

There are plenty of other updates for developers, like new tools and better, faster ways of  getting things done. But I won't get into that right now. Just know that this will take things to the next level. Stores are going to be much more custom, faster and more flexible than every before.

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