Shopify Summit 2023

Shopify set up shop (yes, we know) in Los Angeles this month for their annual Shopify Enterprise Partner Summit, a three day event highlighting the importance of partnerships and growth with agencies who work with the largest and most complex commerce businesses on the platform. With speakers ranging from Shopify leadership to members of the Meta and Google technology teams, the future of commerce is top of mind for Shopify as they push more features and improvements than ever before.

Personalization: Generated and Intentional

With the announcement of Shopify Sidekick (their admin AI tool due to release Q1 of 2024) and international contextualization, Shopify has been leading the charge in creating generative content that works for merchants and their customers. At Enterprise Summit, Shopify demoed their latest updates to personalization and admin tooling, and it was mind-blowing. 

Shopify will soon launch context based personalization, allowing merchants to entirely change content based on customer segment, enabling full control over what your customers see and the journey you want them to take. For merchants it will be as simple as merchandising based on Men vs Women’s, Handbags vs Shoes, or other general segments created by base customer metrics. For others, the ability to merchandise based on color and style preferences, dollar spend, or other key performance metrics can take the user journey to heights that in the past were only offered by third party tools and services.

You may have seen that Shopify has launched their generative product description tool, and a handful of other features allowing merchants to skip the small stuff and focus on what matters to their business. Sidekick makes the process of updating and maintaining your site even easier. With just a conversation, you can update your entire site with new fonts, assets, and color schemes based on your promotion, your brand shift, or just your whim. Sidekick can prioritize content based on what products perform well and how your customers shop, removing the guesswork and putting the data you collect to better use for your business and your customers.

Bigger Business, Easier Integrations

As B2B continues to become the new business as usual for Shopify, they’ve begun to roadmap a bevy of features to support one of their fastest growing market segments. Although some of these things are extensions of their existing D2C offerings like discount codes, single page checkout, and discount functions, they have big plans for big business in 2024. Some of these incredible offerings are included below:

  • Sales rep support (Admin ordering)
  • Headless support
  • ERP integrations (out of the box)
  • Extensibility in customer accounts
  • Exposing metafields on customer accounts
  • Digital goods
  • Quick order form
  • B2B Flagship Theme
  • CSV upload for bulk ordering
  • Discount codes for B28
  • 1-page Checkout for B2B
  • Order deposits
  • Installments
  • Split payments
  • Flexible deferred payments
  • ACH
  • Min/max order value
  • Quick order grid
  • Sales rep support (Buyer impersonation)
  • Discount Functions for B2B
  • “Login as customer”
  • Credit limits
  • PO number configuration
  • 3P Authentication Support on Customer Accounts
  • Customer Accounts login customization
  • Display MSAP for B2B
  • Buyer approval workflows
  • Business Company-level admin

 

 

For larger brands in the D2C space, there are an equally exciting array of new features coming in the next 12 to 18 months. You will soon be able to create Staging environments (and feature flags) to test new apps and features, properly manage and extend store and user permissions, and customize the admin interface. We’ll release more on these as more information is available but this is big news for not only merchants but also their development partners!

Inventory Management: Elevated

Shopify has spent the better part of the last 18 months creating a better, more uniform checkout  for the purposes of expansion and extension. With the upcoming changes to how a customer pays and how they receive their order, they are showing merchants why the wait was worth it.

Split shipments will be the next big breakthrough in the Shopify Checkout process. The ability to not only split an order by which items are available for pickup and delivery, but also to split them by the same level of granular rulesets as order routing, will forever change fulfillment on the platform. Bundled with UI improvements and the ability to show this in the cart and on the product pages as well, this will create a cohesive and non-frustrating way to help customers get what they want, when they want it. This feature is still currently in development but has been hinted at being released generally as soon as H1 2024. We can’t wait to get access for our merchants and take full advantage of this new and exciting set of offerings!

Breadcrumbs: To Crumb or Not to Crumb: Weighing the Benefits and Drawbacks of Website Breadcrumbs

Summary:

Breadcrumbs are a website navigation technique that enhances user experience by providing improved navigation, enhanced orientation, time and effort savings, contextual understanding, and increased findability. They help users understand their current location within a website’s hierarchy and allow for efficient navigation and exploration. Breadcrumbs come in different types, including hierarchical, attribute-based, and history-based, each serving specific purposes based on the website’s structure and content. While there are some potential cons to using breadcrumbs, such as limited screen space, visual distraction, redundancy with browser navigation, confusion with complex structures, implementation challenges, and localization issues, these drawbacks can be mitigated with careful design and implementation. Furthermore, breadcrumbs can indirectly impact SEO on ecommerce websites by helping search engines understand the site’s structure, improving user engagement metrics, and enhancing click-through rates. Optimizing breadcrumb labels, using consistent and canonical links, and implementing structured data markup can further optimize breadcrumbs for SEO. Overall, breadcrumbs contribute positively to website usability and can have SEO benefits when implemented effectively.


Types of Breadcrumbs

The three types of breadcrumbs commonly used on websites are as follows:

  1. HIERARCHICAL BREADCRUMBS: Hierarchical-based breadcrumbs, also known as location based breadcrumbs, display the user’s current location within the website’s hierarchy. They typically show the path from the homepage to the current page, with each level of the hierarchy represented as a clickable link. For example: Home > Category > Subcategory > Current Page.
  2. ATTRIBUTE-BASED BREADCRUMBS: Attribute-based breadcrumbs, also known as attribute filters or facet breadcrumbs, are commonly used in ecommerce websites with filtering options. They display the attributes or filters applied by the user to refine their search results. For example, if a user selects “Brand: Nike” and “Color: Black,” the attribute-based breadcrumb might display: Home > Category > Brand: Nike > Color: Black.
  3. HISTORY-BASED BREADCRUMBS: History-based breadcrumbs, also known as path-based or trail breadcrumbs, show the user’s navigation history within the website. They display the sequence of pages visited to reach the current page. This type of breadcrumb can be useful when users want to backtrack or revisit previously viewed pages. For example: Home > Category 1 > Subcategory 1 > Category 2 > Current Page.

It’s worth noting that these types of breadcrumbs are not mutually exclusive, and a website can incorporate multiple types depending on its structure and user interface. The choice of breadcrumb type depends on the website’s goals, content organization, and user experience considerations.

Depending on their structure and content, websites can use three main types of breadcrumbs. Hierarchical breadcrumbs illustrate the parent-child relationship between pages, such as Home > Category > Subcategory > Product, and are ideal for e-commerce, education, or media sites.  History-based Breadcrumbs show the user’s browsing history on the website, such as Home > Previous Page > Current Page, and are beneficial for websites with a linear or sequential flow, like online forms, surveys, or quizzes. Lastly, Attribute-based Breadcrumbs indicate the attributes or filters that the user has applied to a product or service, like Home > Shoes > Color: Black > Size: 9, and are useful for websites with a lot of options or variations, including travel, real estate, or fashion sites.

 

How Do Breadcrumbs Help With a Websites User Experience?

 

Breadcrumbs are a website navigation technique that helps users understand their current location within a website’s hierarchy. They typically appear near the top of a webpage and provide a trail of links that represent the path from the homepage to the current page. Breadcrumbs contribute to a website’s user experience in the following ways:

 

  1. Improved Navigation: Breadcrumbs act as a secondary navigation aid, allowing users to quickly understand where they are in the website’s structure. They provide a hierarchical context, making it easier for users to navigate back to higher-level pages or explore related content.
  2. Enhanced Orientation: Breadcrumbs provide users with a sense of orientation within a website. They help users understand the relationship between pages and how they fit into the overall site structure. This reduces disorientation and allows users to maintain a mental map of the website’s organization.
  3. Time and Effort Savings: By displaying a clear trail of links, breadcrumbs allow users to jump directly to higher-level pages without having to rely solely on the browser’s “back” button or retrace their steps. This saves time and effort, especially when users are exploring deep within a website.
  4. Contextual Understanding: Breadcrumbs provide additional context to users, allowing them to anticipate what they might find on higher-level pages or related sections. This can help users make informed decisions about their next actions, such as choosing a different category or topic.
  5. Increased Findability: Breadcrumbs can improve the findability of content within a website. Users who arrive at a specific page through search engines or external links can quickly understand its position within the site structure. This aids in discovering other relevant content or exploring different sections of the website.

Overall, breadcrumbs contribute to a positive user experience by enhancing website navigation, reducing user confusion, and providing valuable contextual information. They improve the overall usability of a website and help users accomplish their goals more efficiently.

 

 

What Are Some Drawbacks About Using Breadcrumbs on a Website?

 

While breadcrumbs can provide numerous benefits to website navigation and user experience, there are a few potential drawbacks to consider:

  1. Limited Screen Space: Breadcrumbs can consume valuable screen real estate, especially on smaller devices or pages with limited horizontal space. If the available space is already crowded, displaying breadcrumbs may result in a cramped or cluttered layout.
  2. Visual Distraction: In certain designs, breadcrumbs can be visually distracting or overwhelming for users, especially if they are styled in a way that doesn’t align with the overall aesthetic of the website. This can detract from the overall user experience and may cause users to overlook important content.
  3. Redundancy with Browser Navigation: Modern web browsers already provide built-in navigation features, such as the back button, that allow users to retrace their steps. In some cases, relying solely on the browser’s navigation features may be sufficient, rendering breadcrumbs redundant and potentially confusing for users.
  4. Confusion with Multi-Level Structures: Breadcrumbs may not be suitable for websites with complex multi-level structures or dynamically generated pages. If the hierarchy is intricate or changes frequently, breadcrumbs may struggle to accurately represent the path or may become misleading for users.
  5. Implementation Challenges: Implementing breadcrumbs correctly and maintaining their accuracy can be challenging, especially for larger websites with constantly changing content. If breadcrumbs are not properly maintained, broken or incorrect links can frustrate users and diminish their trust in the navigation system.
  6. Localization Issues: Breadcrumbs that rely heavily on text labels may face challenges when it comes to localization and translation. Translating breadcrumb labels into different languages while maintaining consistency and usability can be complex and may require additional development efforts.

While these cons should be considered, they don’t negate the overall benefits of breadcrumbs. With thoughtful design, careful implementation, and considering the specific needs and characteristics of the website and its users, these potential drawbacks can be mitigated or minimized.

 

Do breadcrumbs have a direct impact on SEO rankings on an ecommerce website?

Yes, breadcrumbs can be beneficial for SEO. Breadcrumbs can help search engines understand the structure of your website and the relationship between different pages. This can help improve your website’s ranking in search results. Additionally, breadcrumbs can help users find the information they are looking for more easily, which can lead to lower bounce rates and higher time on page.

Here are some of the ways that breadcrumbs can benefit SEO:

  • Breadcrumbs can help search engines understand the structure of your website. When search engines crawl your website, they use breadcrumbs to help them understand the hierarchy of your pages. This information can help improve your website’s ranking in search results.
  • Breadcrumbs can help users find the information they are looking for more easily. Breadcrumbs provide users with a clear path back to the home page and other related pages. This can help reduce bounce rates and improve time on page.
  • Breadcrumbs can help improve your website’s click-through rate (CTR). When breadcrumbs are displayed in search results, they can help users understand what your website is about and why they should click on your link. This can lead to an increase in CTR.

Here are some tips for optimizing your breadcrumbs for SEO:

  • Use descriptive breadcrumb labels. Your breadcrumb labels should be clear and concise, and they should accurately reflect the content of the page.
  • Use consistent breadcrumb labels. Your breadcrumb labels should be consistent across all pages of your website. This will help users understand the structure of your website and make it easier for search engines to index your content.
  • Use canonical breadcrumb links. If you have multiple pages with the same content, you should use canonical breadcrumb links to point to the most important page. This will help avoid duplicate content penalties from Google.
  • Rich Snippets: Breadcrumbs can be marked up with structured data using Schema.org – Schema.org markup. This markup enables search engines to display the breadcrumbs as rich snippets in the search results, providing users with additional information about the website’s structure. Rich snippets can enhance the visibility and click-through rates of search listings, which can indirectly impact SEO performance. Rich snippets do not improve SEO, directly. Having structured data markup on a page will alone not increase its chances of ranking higher in search results. At least, that’s what Google says about structured data. However, rich snippets can indirectly help your SEO.

Breadcrumbs can be a valuable tool for improving your website’s SEO. By following these tips, you can ensure that your breadcrumbs are optimized for search engines and that they help users find the information they are looking for more easily.

In summary, while breadcrumbs may not have a direct impact on SEO rankings for an ecommerce website, their implementation can improve user experience, facilitate navigation, enhance internal linking, and provide additional context to search engines. These factors can contribute to better SEO performance and potentially lead to improved rankings and visibility for your ecommerce site.

 

REFERENCES:

 

Breadcrumbs In Web Design: Examples And Best Practices — Smashing Magazine

https://uxplanet.org/a-quick-guide-to-breadcrumb-navigation-why-do-breadcrumbs-matter-for-seo-fb7acb4134d4

Breadcrumbs: 11 Design Guidelines for Desktop and Mobile

Shopify’s New & Improved Order Routing

Shopify is about to launch a new and improved Order Routing UI that brings further control to merchants over their fulfillment process on the platform. Here, we look at some of the features and functions of this release and what it means for online merchants of all sizes, as Shopify continues its march toward ecommerce domination.

Out with the Old

Shopify has long since run their shipping and fulfillment services under a simple premise: Keep it simple. Merchant’s set a primary or default location and orders are fulfilled from that location so long as there is stock available, after which it defers to the next prioritized location. This is referred to as their “Preferred Locations” model, and in a few short weeks it will be a thing of the past.

In with the New

Smart Order Routing (Also known as Location Prioritization 2.0) is a complete overhaul of the existing fulfillment location prioritization, doing away with default locations and creating a robust UI for creating complex shipping rulesets based on proximity to customer, destination market, minimizing split fulfillments and preferred locations. Each of these options can be added and ranked to create a truly unique system that can fit any merchant’s needs. Smart Order Routing works by automatically applying these rules to an order and then prioritizing locations based on the results. The locations with the highest priority ranking are selected to fulfill the order based on the provided rules.

Rules run from top to bottom, and each rule is compounded with the former. If a rule fails or no shipment locations are found, it will proceed through the list until it is either found fulfillable or determined that it cannot be fulfilled.

Shopify Locations Shopify Locations Shopify Locations

Locations and Markets

Easily the most exciting set of features are related to Customer Location and Market. The service of shipping from the closest location or in the country/region of the customer has generally required at minimum a 3PL or ERP system integrated into Shopify, but this piece of the fulfillment puzzle has now been added directly to the platform itself. Location based shipping works by geocoding the user’s address in checkout and determines the closest location by measuring distance in a straight line using the Haversine formula. For Markets, it takes into account existing Shopify Markets and shipping zones on the merchant’s store selects the location based on country, state, province, or region. You can learn more about Shopify Markets and how to set up profiles and zones here.

Checkout and API

Checkout isn’t the only place to leverage this new subset of features. Each of the cart shipping rates API’s have also been updated to accept the customer’s location to generate real time rates and service before the checkout experience. This location is accepted in the form of 2 new parameters (Lat and Lng) so to take advantage of these new features on the storefront you will need to leverage your preferred geocoding provider.

Though currently limited to select partners and stores, Smart Order Routing will begin a wide rollout later this month. If you would like to learn more about this new service and begin planning your shipping future with Shopify, you can read more here.

SWEDEN the Band: Origin Story

Before, SWEDEN UNLIMITED was known as the go-to design agency for anything fashion or ecommerce related the three founders were known simply as just SWEDEN, the band. A Casiocore electro-rock group with a unique symmetrical look that often headlined at lower east side nightclubs or music venues.

Formed in the mid-1990s, SWEDEN was a New York City-based trio comprised of twin sisters Alex and Leja Kress on vocals, guitars, and synths, with Richard Agerbeek on Casio guitar and drum machine. They explored a sound that took the shoegaze fuzz of Spacemen 3 and mixed it with an electro-pop, drum machine-heavy, New Order-like atmosphere. Richard’s voice had an abrasive quality echoing Mark E. Smith’s ruggedness in Manchester’s post-punk heroes, the Fall. Meanwhile, the sisters shared lead vocals and harmonized in what sounded like early-80s Bananarama on psychedelics.

 

 

The journey started when the three found each other through the downtown art and fashion scenes. Leja and Alex were in front of and behind the camera, modeling at fashion shows and shooting interesting people in the NYC downtown fashion and music scene. Richard was the frontman in a few indie bands and a usual suspect in art and fashion circles.

They bonded over a shared love of Spectrum, Suicide, Stereolab, Stone Roses, and The Smiths—telling themselves that if they started a band, the name must begin with an “S” so they could be filed in with their favorite artists. So a good friend and artist, Jack Early, who had a knack for turning nouns into adjectives, took one look at the retro 80s-loving trio and said, “You guys look so SWEDEN; your band name should be SWEDEN.”

SWEDEN emerged as a regular fixture of the downtown music scene, playing at trendy spots like Coney Island High, Luna Lounge, Don Hills, Mercury Lounge, CBGB’s, and Spa. They released a full-length called “4-Track Demo” in 1999, a full-length CD called “CD-8T12” in 2000, and in 2002, issued a single twelve-inch titled “Keep It Set.”

But even aspiring rock stars need to eat and pay rent, so while at night we played Club Spa for drink tickets, during the day we were making some of the earliest ecommerce and flash websites for New York’s fashion insiders.

 

On Apple Music:

 

Shopify Unite. Sweden’s Take

Shopify Unite returned this year with a renewed focus on the development community, hosting developer conferences in three countries and packing the days with panels and workshops. For myself and those in attendance, the conference focused on the “current state” of platform development and the “next evolution” of some long standing features, but what does this mean for merchants and their partners? Why is that important? What are we here to talk about?

 

Shopify Unite

Checkout Extensibility. Shopify Functions. The Shopify Content Platform. Let’s crack on


Shopify is on a path of self improvement, with new features being loudly and quietly released almost daily. Just this year they’ve implemented their own filter and search engine, their own method of managing metafields, B2B functionality, and so much more (You can read
Summer Editions ‘22 for a full list of earlier releases). This month, it’s all about the checkout and creating its next evolution, and they are doing so with Checkout Extensibility and Shopify Functions, and making the case for why Shopify Scripts and the checkout liquid edits are things of the past.

 

Shopify Checkout Extensibility

 

Customizing the checkout in Shopify has constantly been a thorn in the side of merchants, creatives, and developers alike. The limitations placed on these edits, when they’re available at all, have led to the Shopify checkout being both iconic and ordinary. Being stuck inside of the ‘checkout.liquid’ file, using javascript to hook into various steps in the process, and attempting even the most basic extensions without having a 3rd party app has been a constant struggle. With Checkout Extensibility (and a little help from Shopify Functions), this becomes a maintainable, deployable set of app based features that can be used by partners and merchants across stores and themes. From post purchase offers and in-checkout upsells to gift messaging and shipping restrictions, the possibilities are only limited by the imaginations of merchants and their development partners.

 

At its core, Checkout Extensibility offers merchants and their partners the ability to add styles, content, and additional functionality to their checkout experience. They’ve done this by creating an app based way to deploy these features to a store, and then add them to the checkout page with a brand new checkout customization tool that mirrors the existing Customize tool. You’ll be able to page between steps in the checkout process and customize them accordingly, adding messaging, content, inputs, and other pieces of content and data wherever it’s needed. Additionally, with the new Pixel API, you’ll be able to mold and utilize the data layer in a way never thought possible in the checkout process, tracking events and interactions as you see fit, not just as the platform allows.

 

Unlike recent features, the creation and usage of a ReactJS based platform enables this functionality to be widely accepted and implemented by partners big and small, but at the moment any custom app features will be limited to those on the Shopify Plus plan. As it rolls out to all merchants over the next few weeks, we can’t wait to see what’s next in this new evolution of the customization of the checkout experience.

 

Shopify Functions

 

The backend of Shopify has eternally been its most closely guarded secret, preventing any changes to the way in which it functions without an immense amount of backend development knowledge. If Shopify Scripts cracked the door to reveal a much larger set of customizations than have ever been available before, Shopify Functions will break the door down. They are rightly starting by evolving the way that discounts are handled in the platform. Gone are the days of writing Ruby in an editor and scheduling script changes with Launchpad. Now these pieces of functionality can be brought directly into the discounts area and made completely configurable by the client in the existing discounts UI.

 

Before excitement levels get too high, it’s important to remember that functions are in no way as readily available as Checkout Extensibility. Functions are created with a custom app built on Rust (or an equally complicated WebAssembly language that compiles to WASI) and will be pretty gated for those agencies and partners without a backend team. Likewise the ability to add functions from a public app is now available to all merchants, but unfortunately custom apps are still available exclusively to Shopify Plus merchants. Shopify is also only currently running the program on discounts, but their roadmap includes every piece of functionality currently available to scripts as well as the ability to customize the way customers pay. With these limitations in mind and a bright future ahead for the service, we look forward to offering these services to our clients as they roll out and can’t wait to see what we can build together!

 

Shopify Content Platform

 

Shopify did something that it does rather well at Unite, which is to casually mention a platform evolving feature midway through a talk as calmly as discussing the weather. Something that large scale content management systems have always done well is the idea of modeling, giving structure and organization to your content. This is done, in its simplest terms, through the creation of content types that allow you to reference the same piece of content in multiple places. This has far reaching applications on the platform and for merchants that use content fields such as FAQ’s, size guides, or other content pieces that are site specific instead of page specific and that are generally difficult to manage. The possibilities are almost endless, limited only by the imagination of marketers and their partners, some of which were shown at Unite in the form of on page personalization and upsells/purchase refinement based on customer metrics. A beta program is currently underway, and as we get more involved we cannot wait to share more of what the future holds for the platform and its views on content.

 

The End

 

Shopify’s focus on developers enabling merchants to do what was previously not possible has been the theme of the quarter. Built with tools and platforms that developers understand to offer easily implementable features that work with a UI that merchants use every day, Shopify Checkout has become the latest target of the focus on content. What started with pages and sections everywhere last year has extended to a truly configurable checkout and deep content modeling, enabling Shopify to rival the content management systems it has long been compared to, and making it a more formidable force in the e-commerce space. This is only a small piece of what’s been coming out of the platform in recent months (most of which have only been in recent weeks), and now the fun and implementation begins.

Slackathon Spotlight: Aaron and Tom

As we welcome our new Director of Technology Aaron Smith into the Sweden family, we were looking for a way for people to understand his approach to technology and ecommerce. So we thought what better way to get that out of him than an interview with his opposite : our creative director, Tom.

An interesting (and often obscure) conversation via Slack worth reading as Aaron imparts some of his vast knowledge around the topics of modern ecommerce and of course, a perspective on Web 3.0.

 

Tom 1:55 PM
In response to your line
“But I think they underestimate how weird we can make this interview lol”
I got the vibe from you – pretty much as soon as we met, that you like weird, Or at least, you’re ok with it. I’ve always found it easier to get on with people of that mindset. Like – not much is out of bounds.
Are you a mushroom advocate?

does that feel to ‘interview-y” ??

 

Aaron Smith 1:56 PM
I don’t think so?
Because tbh I would respond with:

I’ve been an advocate of mushrooms since before I could speak

via GIPHY

 

Tom 1:57 PM
haha. A true gamer. You don’t look old enough for that

I mean, to have that when you were a kid

If someone banished you to an island with just one DVD (and player) or a game for company, what would you take?

 

Aaron Smith 1:59 PM
Depends on the situation. If I wanted to rewatch something without end I would take “Empire Strikes Back” (in no way shocking) but if I wanted something that would last longer than my lifetime I would take an Elder Scrolls game. I have still never had the will to actually finish one.

 

Tom 2:02 PM
Everyone seems to love Empire Strikes Back, but I still like A New Hope best. Same with LOTR – I like the first, but each to their own. I think i’ve heard of Elder scrolls, but we can’t veer too far into geekdom, I’ll quickly get lost.

so what’s this I hear about you once being a designer? I think you mentioned it to me. How ‘serious’ were you ?

 

Aaron Smith 2:03 PM
Serious as a jammed production printer honestly.

 

Tom 2:03 PM
LOL!
FYI. I am actually laughing too.

 

Aaron Smith 2:04 PM
I actually started as a real print designer doing mailers and collateral for (large telecom name redacted). I had a corner office that they converted to a print shop so I was pushing out 40-50k pieces a month

 

Tom 2:05 PM
Jeez. thats pretty serious then. So what made you ‘change teams’ so to speak?

Can we say “jeez”?

 

Aaron Smith 2:05 PM
Have you ever done EXCLUSIVELY print materials? That’s reason enough lol
There’s only so many ways I can make an NFL package seem worth 200$ a month

 

Tom 2:07 PM
No I’ve not actually. I’ve done a lot of print, but its scary cause once you hit print. thats it.
Oh, that doesn’t sound like much fun. Did you do any packaging etc?

 

Aaron Smith 2:09 PM
Not outside of coursework in school. I graduated with Graphic Design and Advertising degrees which helped get my foot in the door at agencies but really limited my options for my first dev jobs.

But I’ve been building computers and doing development work since I was about 13 so I wasn’t completely without the necessary skillset.

 

Tom 2:11 PM
so can we blame designing boring sales literature for you hanging up the paintbrush and replacing it for code…

 

Aaron Smith 2:13 PM
I wouldn’t call it blame as much as thank. The trajectory I was on would have had me firmly placed in sales and marketing long term and less in development and ecommerce. I feel like my clients over the years have appreciated the switch

Also could you imagine the lack of work that would get done if I was actually on your team? Every call would be derailed

 

Tom 2:16 PM
haha, we’d probably have a decent collection of half-baked app ideas in a year, but yes…
Without blowing your trumpet for you, I love how you seemingly still keep your ear to the ground on new stuff and clearly also understand trends in coding, a lot of people once they move out of day to day coding and into managerial, they loose track of that stuff

 

Aaron Smith 2:20 PM
I think something that always struck me early in my career was that all of my Directors were Project Managers or some other position that got promoted, and generally they didn’t understand the day to day. I always promised myself I would never be that way. Part of the reason I have my ear to the ground so to speak is because I always want to be able to jump in and help if necessary, whether from an architecture/documentation perspective or actual development.

This week for example, to speed up the Sprint 0 aspect of development at Sweden, I’ve been creating a new build tooling kit with the team to create a sort of “Sweden Base”

 

Tom 2:24 PM
oh wow, thats so good. And it’s also fun right? To get back in and make stuff. I don’t think I could just oversee people’s work and not do it myself. I suppose thats why I’m still designing at 45, while others just direct teams. I think it proves that we still love it and have ideas ourselves. You’re obviously similar.
How long have you been a Shopify advocate?

 

Aaron Smith 2:26 PM
It’s what makes the job worth doing for me. It makes me actually love my job and not just like it, which is a really hard thing to come by these days>
It’s been about 4 years now I would think since I was firmly an advocate. I was working at a Magento agency at the time and actually convinced them to add Shopify as an offering. I built the team, hired the devs, and had a hand in almost all of the projects they put out. After that I was pretty much hooked.

 

Tom 2:28 PM
cool – here’s a thing – you think that’s it now? I mean, Shopify was once considered not serious for bigger businesses, that you had to have Magneto or Sales Force etc but is that generally not true anymore? Does e-commerce have to be so ruddy “scary” with these enterprise platforms and instead just be easy to use and more user friendly?

 

Aaron Smith 2:32 PM
For 90% of online sellers, Shopify is a perfect platform. The CMS is robust, products and collections are easy to setup and maintain, and the reporting aspects are top tier. They have a strong set of API’s that allow for easy integrations with third parties, and most of what the platform can’t do is covered in the App Marketplace. I think a lot of the areas that Shopify fell short in previously have been addressed in the last 12 months or so, creating a much more robust platform that works for merchants big and small

To answer more succinctly, I think Shopify has become not just the starting ground for small businesses but also the place to expand into something greater.

 

Tom 2:38 PM
Glad to hear it. I mean one of our clients that is MASSIVE is going on Shopify, which I think is so cool and should go some way to promote it as a platform suitable for bigger corps that previously expect to have to use these enterprise systems which just are eyewateringly expensive and I often used to wonder, is it really necessary?

I could have used some better punctuation there.

 

Aaron Smith 2:46 PM
RE: The Platform
I’ve spun up sites for some of the largest makeup brands in the world, one of which was valued at a billion dollars and doing over $150 Million annually through the store. The time for it being the “mom and pop” online shop is over.

 

Tom 3:04 PM
What are your thoughts on as we evolve and more and more stuff becomes automated (The no code movement) what will developers be doing in 5 years time – or even three?? Do you think designers will be able to press a button in Figma and their designs are turned into full fledged custom stores? I know you can already do that to some extent, but from what I’ve seen its not great.

 

Aaron Smith 3:26 PM
I think something that has been proven time and time again in my career is that no matter how “simple” something becomes, people always want more. Integrations and custom features will always be something that cannot be seen. Unless Figma’s R&D team has some sort of crystal ball or an all seeing eye?

 

 

Tuesday, August 2nd

 

Tom 12:46 PM

yeah, so apologies for my tardiness on our ‘interview’, but as before, I’d like to venture into this whole web3 thing. Which, when I say it like that, really makes me seem like an old b*****d, but I am, so… if I can explain:
I’ve been involved almost since the beginning of what we might call the web’s ‘formative’ years, (I designed my first website in about 1998) and throughout that period I’ve learned to trust my gut. I saw something in the web when few people did (I quit my job in accounting firm to go take a punt on it!) and since 99, I’ve seen all the various evolutions where things advanced significantly (the birth and death of flash, WCAG, WAP, mobile, video, web 2, social media) and also ‘hype’ which caused a stir, but never really came to much (beacons, WAP and countless other flash in the pan trends).
I’m far from a wizard, or a wannabe Nostradamus, but like I say, I feel I’ve learned to trust my gut when something is worth investigating and when it’s not. I’ve dipped my toes in the water of web 3, to try and understand all these various facets (AR, AI, Crypto, Metaverse) that seem to make up what’s referred to as ‘Web 3’ and I still feel I have some way to go to fully understand it, but one thing i CAN say, is that I’m getting that same ‘spidey sense’ tinging that I got in those early days of ‘The Internet’. I’m quite excited by this concept that the Metaverse will be effectively, what real life would have been like if Creative’s were allowed to make all the decisions as opposed to politicians and big businesses.
So my question to you is, what’s your favourite kind of burger relish?
I jest.
What do you feel about it in general and perhaps more importantly, which areas do you think will have the greatest impact on brands ? (ie. the industry we work in) – less, how influencers will be making money and how Kanye West will be dropping his new records, I’m talking about every day businesses that depend on it to exist – what should they be looking to spend time and money in researching?
(Sorry).

 

Aaron Smith 1:28 PM
I’ve been in multiple camps over the last year or so when it comes to web3 actually.
Phase 1: Fanboy
Any time you talk about “decentralization,” no matter the avenue, people tend to have full blown panic attacks. Distributed ownership sounds a bit like “Web Communism” but Web 3.0 kind of lands on that. These large tech companies would own a piece of it all the same as you and I would, as opposed to the current structure where we pay for the privilege of being in their cities. We would own all that we create and purchase through NFT’s, and no one would have the power to take it away from us. To that end, no one would own our online data either. It would live on the blockchain with everything else, and when we decide to leave a platform or service, we take it with us. We, much like Prince Adam/He-Man, have the power.
Phase 2: Skeptic
There is a huge issue with the cost and learning curve. Because of the nature and complexity of these ideas, the infrastructure could only be set up in wealthier nations and parts of the world, and basically no one before Millennials would probably be able to operate it properly, having been ingrained with the web from a young age. There is also this idea around deregulation and a lack of gatekeeping, people believing that they will have a greater freedom of speech. The opposite side of that coin is equally true. With no regulation or moderation, people are truly free to do as they wish on the internet, something that has proven in many cases to be quite dangerous.
Phase 3: Realist
Right now, the entirety of Web 3 is reliant on a centralized framework of systems to make it work, inherently destroying its fundamental idea of decentralization. It requires having a set up wallet on one of far too many available blockchains that don’t properly communicate with each other, requiring people to sign up for many or risk being gated from a service or platform. It is not the open and inviting system that it promises to be, and we still have years to go until the world catches up to the idea. It took almost 15 years for the web to even become a user generated content hub, which was a significantly easier feat. Since this idea really started popping up in the mid 10’s, I would say it won’t be a reality for at least 5-10 more years unless something significant happens in hardware/software in the next 2-4 years to make it easily accessible to the masses.

I dont think that was quite as cohesive as I wanted it to be but you get it ????

 

Tom 1:38 PM
Let’s hope the readers do ????

 

Aaron Smith 1:38 PM
I thought I made it pretty non technical ha

 

Tom 1:38 PM
No, thats great though. Good structure to it
????

Wednesday, August 3rd

 

Tom 7:46 AM
I just read that again with fresh eyes and its probably the best summary of what it will mean to most people… nice. Maybe you should be a tech writer ????
Coming back to my original point – how do you think it’ll impact brands and businesses in the short term? I mean, for example, will your average clothing or make up brand have to start producing 3D renders of everything to stick on models in space as opposed to shooting them on white backgrounds? Will they be making digital versions of their clothing to wear in the metaverse as people will be as interested in looking good in there as they will in real life?
????

 

Aaron Smith 4:05 PM
I honestly don’t believe it will affect brands more than it already has. The advent of virtual try on, AR viewers, and payment through crypto are already the top tier of current market utilization. I think it will be another year or 2 before you see a true shift into the supposed “metaverse” and people market and sell for it directly. If Second Life and the Sims have taught us anything, it’s that people can only spend so much time and money on a virtual world before the next gimmick is needed.

 

Thursday, August 4th

Aaron Smith 7:01 PM
I think my lack of hoity-toity professionalism is what makes me so successful lol

 

Tom 7:02 PM

????

You’re still Jenny from the block

 

Aaron Smith 7:05 PM
“Used to have a little now I have a lot”

 

Tom 7:06 PM
…. “of ice cream” !

 

Aaron Smith 7:07 PM
More like of sushi

Went real high end last night lol

 

Tom 7:08 PM
“someone’s doing well”
Oh – your wife’s Bday?
Happy birthday to her !

 

Aaron Smith 7:10 PM
Hey thanks

 

 

Sweden Summit 2022

It wasn’t so long ago, coming into the office and seeing all your friends / colleagues for meetings, coffee, work and idle banter was an everyday occurrence for most of us.

Then 2020 happened.

Despite the difficulties and sadness brought about by the pandemic, some good materialized. One was our expansion to a more global team.

We realized that – as we’re working from home, we could look for even more talented folk who aren’t local to us.

And so it was; post pandemic Sweden became a multi-national agency – almost overnight.

So as we eased into 2022 it quickly became apparent that – some of us had never even met in person – which meant only one thing. A Sweden global gathering. Or, The Sweden Summit as we named it. We were fairly serious about it – there was even a T-Shirt….

Sweden Summit 2022

Arriving in the Big Apple

So on April 27th, 14 people traveled into NYC from all over the USA, France and England to gather for 3 days of meeting, greeting, some spirit lifting team games and just possibly, the odd drink.
The first day kicked off with some of the team making ‘IRL’ acquaintances at Sweden HQ, which of course, some had never seen and had an opportunity to admire Richard, Leja and Alex’s vast collection of curiosities and beautiful “objet d’art”…

Then it was early to bed as we prepared ourselves for the next two days of challenges, chatting, eating and drinking.

sweden unlimited working

Day 2

To give the office dwellers a break from the office, the team decamped to a beautiful rented house in Greenpoint used previously by the likes of Ghostface Killah and Dolly Parton for recording sessions.

Sweden – as an electro rock band gigging around New York in the 90’s which eventually evolved into a creative agency.

This was to be our home for two days for some good old fashioned team building sessions. Clearly, we were walking in the footsteps of greatness. No pressure then for extraordinary ideas…

Sweden Unlimited Summit 2022

We began the day with a wonderfully detailed (and often hilarious) presentation by the Sweden founders as they took us back to where it all began: Sweden – as an electro rock band gigging around New York in the 90’s which eventually evolved into a creative agency. Like you do.

Sweden Sweden the band

We adjourned outside for lunch and exchanged stories of our best and worst agency experiences. Too many to mention, but rest assured, if you’re a client reading this, don’t ask Kate to coordinate your photoshoot. (ask her).

Sweden Unlimited Summit 2022

After lunch we proceeded headlong into the first team challenge : The Marshmallow Challenge.

The team was divided into 3 groups and each was given several boxes of spaghetti (uncooked), sticky tape, a ball of string and 45 mins. The goal was simple, build the tallest structure you can and balance the marshmallow on top.

TLDR; Designers : yes, structural engineers: no.

A betting man (or woman) would place their money on the team with more of the creatives to win, but it turned out the winning team was the one led by the more pragmatic folk (although they did have one designer in their team – which, I’ll argue is why they won). The heroes of the hour built a simple structure based on stacked squares fixed together with tape; Unconventional, but you can’t argue with results.

The other teams? The less said about them the better. Despite careful drawings and concepts that appeared to adhere to traditional building structures, their attempts were thwarted by our old friend gravity. I believe team 2 took the award for the most sticky tape used though. Every cloud…

Marshmallow Challenge

The evening soon rolled around and we packed up and headed off to a local grill-style restaurant a short walk from the house for cocktails and burnt eggplant. (more delicious than it sounds).

Day 3

The next challenge for the team was a Conflation Pitch: a two part affair designed to test our limits of creativity, decision making prowess and teamwork. The first part was an all-hands (heads?) brainstorm session. The team were asked to shout out random things to add to a two column list on a whiteboard . The two columns were titled:

  • Platform / Technology / Action
  • Household Items

What began as a sensible exercise with the sort of suggestions one might expect from a modern creative agency (NFTs, Banking, Blockchain and Remote control) swiftly descended into all out joviality as minds began to think outside of the box (Birthing, self-medicating, and pooping).

a breathtaking concept which, quite frankly – astounded everyone as to why nobody has created something as critical for humanity.

Once the board was complete, we broke for lunch and awaited Part two where we were to discover what possible challenges lay in store for us.

Conflation Pitch

With our list of technologies, platforms, actions and household items complete, we were briefed on the main objective; take one (or more) items from each list and combine them to create a (as far as we knew) new business idea. Divided back into our previous teams, in one hour we had to present our idea in whatever format took our fancy.

The three ideas were equal in merit with the first being a breathtaking concept which, quite frankly – astounded everyone as to why nobody has created something as critical for humanity.

Designed by our predominantly female team, the ingeniously titled ‘SOFIT’ was a simple concept – a sofa and gym combined. What’s not to like? Simply pick the sofa style you like and then bolt on the gym equipment in a kind of ‘lego’ format. Weights, rowing machine and even a fan to keep you cool were optional extras. Strategy had been considered, and to encourage early adoption the product could be purchased on a subscription basis. Touche Peloton, let’s see if you can eat chips and watch Netflix while cycling…

The second idea, from our Round 1 champions, delivered an extraordinarily forward thinking idea combining aerial drones and household plants in order to solve your watering conundrums. “BotBot” (The Botany Robot) is a friendly looking ‘flying gardener’ you control via your phone. Simply fill BotBot with water and plant nutrients and he does the rest. With a built-in ability to detect when a plant needs refreshing, it’ll fly to it and deliver just the right dose ensuring healthy, happy botanicals. Special mention goes to the brand strategist in the team who not only created a wonderfully apt name, but managed to shoehorn in an extremely stylish look to the whole package.

 

BotBot

Our final pitch was team 3 with a revolutionary concept based around communicating with people that have passed. That’s right. Talking to the dead. In the Metaverse. The aptly named “Ouija”, isn’t half as creepy as it sounds when you start to think of the infinite potential. Picture this; you’re unable to solve a space rocket-based physics equation. Elon seems rather busy, but what about a chat with Albert Einstein?. To be frank, a lot of the tech behind it went over my head, but how powerful an idea. Learning to play guitar? Ask Jimi. Need guidance on living well in our modern age? Drop by Socrates’s for a coffee.

Whether they were listening in or not remains to be seen, but it appears Microsoft have actually patented a similar concept which they plan to introduce in the future. Which isn’t at all concerning.

The important thing about this challenge was that there were no winners (our team won). It was a rare opportunity to see how we all came together, shared ideas and enjoyed the process of taking part in a group exercise (our team definitely won).

There was but one final act in store for the team as we edged towards the final evening.

After a glorious dinner in a restaurant atop a hotel with stunning views of Manhattan, we took taxis to a karaoke bar in town. There we were treated to an eclectic mix of heartfelt renditions of Adele, Liam Lynch, New Order, Oasis and Lou Reed to name a few, along with an ongoing Eminem rap battle between Leja & Marina. Talent swung between beautifully sublime and – let’s be honest, outright terrible, but with the help of cocktails, energy, spirits and confidence was high.

It’s safe to say, the goal of building bonds between the team was successfully accomplished. After all, once you’ve performed a duet of Aqua’s Barbie Girl with a teammate, what is there you can’t handle together?

Roll on Sweden Summit Part two.

Pros and Cons of Using a Headless Code Approach for Your Shopify Build

Introduction

The rise of headless eCommerce has significantly shifted how online stores are built and managed. A headless architecture detaches the front end from the back end, providing greater flexibility and control over website design and functionality. This white paper aims to evaluate the headless approach specifically for Shopify websites, outlining its benefits and challenges to help businesses make informed decisions.

Understanding Headless Architecture

Headless architecture separates the concerns of data, business logic, and rendering. Unlike traditional Shopify architecture, which uses Liquid templates to handle these aspects within a single framework, headless architecture connects them via APIs. This modular approach allows for more flexibility in managing and updating each component.

Traditional Shopify Architecture

In traditional Shopify setups, the platform’s robust but somewhat rigid architecture handles the back end and front end together, using Liquid templates to render content dynamically. While this is convenient for smaller stores or those without complex needs, it can become a limitation for businesses seeking advanced customization and performance enhancements.

 

PROS: Benefits of Going Headless with Shopify

URL Customization

One of the standout benefits of a headless approach is the ability to customize URL structures freely. Shopify’s native URL structure can be restrictive, affecting SEO performance. With headless architecture, businesses can create SEO-friendly URLs that improve visibility and rankings on search engines.

Improved Website Load Time

Headless architecture can significantly enhance website performance by simplifying the site’s architecture and reducing load times. By decoupling the front end and back end, the front end can pull data via APIs, eliminating excess code that typically slows down websites.

Unlimited Omnichannel Capabilities

Headless eCommerce supports streamlined content management across multiple channels, ensuring a consistent customer experience regardless of the platform used. This omnichannel capability is crucial for businesses aiming to engage customers across various touchpoints.

More Design Flexibility

Freed from Shopify’s themes and apps, a headless approach offers unparalleled design flexibility. Developers can use preferred tech stacks to create a custom front end that aligns better with the brand’s identity and marketing goals.

Streamlined Localization and Translation

Managing localization and translation becomes more efficient with headless architecture. A centralized content management system allows for easier adaptation of content for different markets, reducing the complexity associated with multiple codebases.

 

CONS: Challenges of Going Headless with Shopify

Loss of Access to Shopify Apps and Themes

Going headless means losing the ability to use Shopify’s inbuilt themes and apps directly. This can necessitate custom theme development and reliance on third-party applications, which can be complex and time-consuming.

Increased Complexity and Customization

The headless approach requires extensive customization, increasing the complexity of the site’s architecture. This necessitates a higher level of technical expertise for both development and ongoing maintenance.

Debunking Common Arguments

Many misconceptions surround the headless approach, such as it being a one-size-fits-all solution. The effectiveness of headless architecture depends on specific project requirements and execution. Simply going headless does not guarantee improved performance or user experience; it unlocks the potential for these improvements if implemented correctly.

Total Cost of Ownership (TCO)

While initial development costs for a headless setup are higher, long-term savings can be significant. The modular nature of headless architecture allows for efficiency, code reuse, and reduced risk of code degradation over time. This can lead to lower total costs compared to traditional setups.

Alternative Approaches

Hybrid solutions that combine Shopify themes with headless elements offer a middle ground, providing some benefits of headless architecture without fully committing to it. Third-party technologies like Nacelle and Shogun can bridge the gap, making headless capabilities more accessible.

 

Key Considerations for Implementing a Headless Approach

Due Diligence

Choosing the right developement team/agency and evaluating platforms and development processes is crucial. Ensuring control over hosting and CMS solutions helps maintain independence from the team.

Owning Your Architecture

Maintaining control over your architecture ensures that you can manage and update your system without being overly dependent on any single service provider. This includes controlling hosting accounts and CMS solutions.

Agility and Future Proofing

A headless approach offers greater agility and scalability, essential for future-proofing your eCommerce platform. By adopting a modular approach, businesses can adapt more easily to changing market demands and technological advancements.

 

Case Studies and Examples

Many businesses, such as Allbirds, Peloton, and Figs, have successfully implemented headless Shopify setups, demonstrating both the practical benefits and challenges of this approach. These companies have achieved faster load times, improved SEO performance, and a more flexible content management system. One of the primary reasons for adopting a headless architecture is the ability to integrate a more robust CMS for an extensive blog or editorial section. Additionally, it supports complex backend or back-office integrations.

However, we’ve encountered numerous clients seeking to revert their headless builds, often due to the setup becoming unwieldy, bloated, and expensive to maintain. Their primary complaint? Over-reliance on their systems integrator (SI), losing access to Shopify apps, and missing out on new benefits and features. Clients also report that updates in headless builds are more complex, slow, and costly, whereas, with native Shopify, updates are closer to a flick of a switch.

 

To Wrap it up

Reasons to Avoid Headless

  1. Higher Project Costs: Headless setups involve more development and complexity, leading to larger projects and higher initial costs.
  2. High Ongoing Costs: Maintaining a headless architecture requires specialized skills, often necessitating agency support or experienced developers.
  3. Limited App Integration: While apps can be integrated, they require custom approaches and API availability, eliminating “plug-and-play” simplicity.
  4. Loss of Theme Editor: You will lose Shopify’s WYSIWYG editing and previewing features, needing alternative tools for content management.
  5. Delayed Access to New Features: Shopify’s latest features won’t be readily available, requiring additional development to incorporate them.

 

Conclusion

Adopting a headless architecture for a Shopify website offers numerous benefits, including enhanced customization, improved performance, and the ability to handle complex requirements. Development purists may advocate that headless as the “right” way to go. However, it also presents challenges such as increased complexity and the loss of access to Shopify’s native themes and apps.

It’s important to carefully evaluate your needs and resources before going headless. You’ll either need a robust in-house development team with well-managed processes, ticket management, sprints, version control, a QA team, and hosting management, or be forever bound to a development agency. These are all headaches that can lead to much unhappiness for some businesses.

Ultimately, the headless approach can be the “right” way and best solution for those looking to future-proof their eCommerce platform and provide a superior customer experience. But as some wise person once said, “You can be right, or you can be happy.”

 

 

Appendix: Shopify’s Hydrogen and B2B Headless Support

UPDATED JUNE 2024

Hydrogen: Simplifying Headless Commerce

Shopify has introduced Hydrogen, a framework designed to simplify the creation of headless commerce storefronts. Hydrogen offers pre-built components and starter templates, enabling developers to build custom storefronts faster and more efficiently. This framework leverages React, providing a familiar environment for front-end developers and making it easier to create high-performance, scalable eCommerce sites.

B2B Headless Support

Shopify now supports headless commerce for B2B scenarios, offering robust APIs and tools to manage complex B2B transactions. This allows businesses to create tailored experiences for their B2B clients, integrating seamlessly with existing systems and offering the flexibility needed to meet diverse business requirements.

For more information on Hydrogen and B2B headless support, visit Shopify’s headless documentation.

Agency Promotions: Muña Qamar

We are pleased to announce the promotion of Muña Qamar to Senior Product Lead.

Muña Qamar celebrated her fifth year at Sweden with a promotion to a new role as Senior Product Lead.  Muña has proven herself to be a consummate project management professional, exhibiting a great passion for her projects and being a trusted partner for clients such as Lunya, Sarah Flint, First Aid Beauty, Petrossian Caviar, and Lenox, among many others.  In this new role, Muña will apply her gift for balancing process and instinct to lead the way we develop Products at Sweden as a whole

 

A New Ecommerce Experience for Living Proof

We are thrilled to be chosen for the redesign of Living Proof’s ecommerce flagship site on Salesforce Commerce Cloud utilizing the SFRA framework.  We hope to highlight the brand’s rich offering through a more comprehensive content strategy, introducing new storytelling modules, educational content and diagnostic features.

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