As a web designer specializing in Shopify, people are always asking me what Shopify apps they should use. My answer is always the same —what problem are you trying to solve?

There seems to be a common misconception that apps are something that will magically help you get sales.

Some claim to increase trust by showing a popup like “Samantha from NJ, purchased X product just now!”. Others claim to improve your SEO. But you know nothing about SEO so your only choice is to trust the app developer’s claims and install the app.

The result is that store owners will add as many apps as possible in the hopes that some of them will do something. Even if it just makes a couple extra sales, that should be worth it, right?

Well, let’s talk about that. My goal for this article is to teach you to weigh your options and decide if you need that app or if you’re better off without it.

The problem with Shopify Apps

The biggest downside of apps is that they affect your loading speed.

Not all apps, just the ones that actually load on the front-end of your website. Chatbots, popups, special offers, tracking tools… Think about it like this, if your customer can see whatever the app does, that means it’s loading code onto the front-end of the website.

This code will include the actual content of the app, and the fonts and colors, and various scripts that make the app run.

All these various parts of the app can weight more than 1mb in some cases. For some perspective, your entire website should weigh only around 1mb, so this is a lot to add!

If you’re not too concerned about your website loading speed, you should be. It’s often said that every second of page load time results in a 7% loss in conversions.

Google even provides a calculator that measures how much more money you would be making if you speed up your site by just a couple seconds.

An example from Google’s calculator. Make $12k more per year just by reducing loading time from 5 seconds to 3 seconds. That’s $1000 a month!

But affecting loading speed isn’t the only problem with Shopify Apps. The other issue is that some can be annoying to your customer, or downright ugly! Making it an unpleasant experience to use your website.

Have you ever been in a situation where you couldn’t close a popup on mobile? Or you couldn’t read the content because some widget is blocking too much of the screen? You want to avoid those things at all costs. They create barriers for potential customers.

When it’s worth it

Don’t delete all your apps just yet! There are definitely apps that are well-made and don’t impact your loading speed much, and other apps that are simply too useful to ignore.

Sometimes, it’s forgivable that they slow down your site, because they are making you more money than you would lose from that half a second of loading speed that they added.

An example would be apps that allow your customers to customize your product. Two great apps for this are Bold Product Options or Infinite Options.

If you want your customer to be able to customize their products, you will need to use one of these apps. You have no choice, so go ahead and install them.

Some other apps that are really useful:

And as I mentioned before, not all apps go on the front-end of your website. Many are just to help you in the admin for things like inventory management. These are ok to use as much as you like. Just don’t overcomplicate things.

When it’s not worth it

When you don’t understand exactly what the app does, then I don’t recommend installing it. These apps usually fall under two categories:

Let’s take SEO apps as an example. Shopify already has great SEO features built-in, and you can do almost everything you need to optimize your store, using the standard Shopify interface. Things like adding product meta titles, meta descriptions, alt text for images, or generating a sitemap.

I’ve seen apps that basically just give you those same abilities except all in one screen. In my opinion, this just doesn’t add much value.

Next are the apps that claim something really hard to measure, like trust. The truth is that they don’t know. What works for one store might not work for another. You have to know your customer and try to guess if that sort of thing would appeal to them.

If you are selling to a fairly young audience, I can almost guarantee that they won’t be impressed by a popup telling them that “Jane from Sydney bought these earrings just now”. In fact, they will most likely assume that these messages are fake, and that your store is cheap for using these tactics.

Timers and counters are another example of this. They claim to ‘add urgency’ but can you measure their results? And can you measure how many people like them vs how many people hate them?

The last example I have is of apps that sound very useful, but when it comes down to it, it’s very rare that people actually use them. Hotjar is not an app, but a script that is used to track your customers behaviour. I’ve seen many stores where people have added the Hotjar tracking code, and then just leave it there and not actually use Hotjar for many months or years. Meanwhile, this code is slowing down their website.

Apps are for problem-solving

The bottom line is that you should install an app that you actually need. You should have a problem first, and then solve it using an app. Not the other way around, where you install an app for no reason, and now you have a problem!

In other words, what this really comes down to is having an aim. If you are asking what the best apps for Shopify are, thinking about why you’re asking that question.

Are you not getting enough visitors? Or are you getting enough visitors, but they’re not buying?

These are two different problems with two different solutions. So first establish what your problem is, and then look for an app that specifically does something to solve your problem.

“If one does not know to which port one is sailing, no wind is favorable.”
— Seneca
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