Category Archives: Technology

Shopify Theme Development Workflow

I started building my first Shopify theme in December and have figured out a basic workflow that is working pretty well so far. This basic walk through will explain the basics of using Foundation, Grunt, and the Shopify theme CLI to create a new theme.

The basis for starting was Foundationify, a skeleton Shopify theme built with the  Zurb Foundation framework. Included in Luke’s project is Grunt and Bower, with a  Gruntfile that builds the final project into the appropriate folders needed for a Shopify theme. The real benefit to using Grunt is that you can use something like Foundation and SASS, and let Grunt compile and minify everything down into the files needed for Shopify.

Pair that with with the shopify_theme CLI, which lets you auto upload any changed files to your test shop, and you’ve got all the tools you need. To get the CLI working, you’ll need to generate private keys for your dev shop (go to {shop url}/admin/apps/private) and use the keys to connect the CLI to your shop.

With all this set up, just run ‘grunt watch’ in one terminal window (from the root directory), ‘theme watch’ in another (from the dist folder, to which all the final files are written by Grunt), and any changes you make and save to any file with be automatically processed and output properly into dist. Then the shopify_theme CLI will look for changes in the dist folder and upload them immediately. Depending on the file(s) you’re changing, it takes just a few seconds for the change to appear live on your test site with a browser refresh.

At the time of writing, not all the available template files that can be customized are included in the Foundationify project–specifically the customer templates like the customer login page. You’ll probably want to check out the Theme documentation for more details on the templates you can customize.

As always, you should include version control in your workflow as well. I use git, and for projects like these I usually push to a private Bitbucket repo.

If you’re looking for a Shopify theme developer, let’s chat. I’m located in Utah, can work remotely, and would love to help with your shop. Feel free to get in touch via my contact form.

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Stitch People

Back in the fall of 2011, my wife Lizzy was browsing through a Martha Stewart magazine and came across a neat idea to make a cross-stitch family portrait. She decided to do it for her parents and sister that year for Christmas, and they turned out great. I suggested she sell them online and call them Stitch People. The domain name was available so we went to work.

Stitch People

She created an Etsy store and sold some pre-made holiday portraits. It never really took off. We decided to pursue the crowd that wanted custom portraits instead of pre-made items. Lizzy started reaching out to online stores to see if they wanted to list her stitch portraits.

She cold-emailed Uncommon Goods, an online retailer that specializes in, well, uncommon goods. My mother-in-law has purchased Christmas gifts there in the past, and this seemed like the kind of thing they would like. She heard back within a week saying they were interested, and the ball started rolling.

Within a few months, Stitch People went live on Uncommon Goods. At first there were only a few orders. We were worried that Uncommon Goods had priced them too high and that no one would buy. Once Uncommon Goods highlighted us in the Spring catalog, however, that all changed and Lizzy was swamped with orders. She used every spare second to stitch, and even recruited her sister and mom to help.

Stitch People Portrait

After several months of a steady stream of orders through Uncommon Goods, we decided to beef up our own online presence and sell directly from StitchPeople.com. Now we had a proven price point for the portraits and just needed to focus on advertising and building a great site.

I toyed around with the idea of building the site myself and hosting it on something like Digital Ocean. As I explored what this would take in Ruby on Rails and some ecommerce gems, I quickly realized how much work would be involved. I asked a coworker what he thought I should do, and he recommended I go with Shopify. So we signed up, used a basic theme, and officially launched our site in the summer of 2013.

Sales were very slow at first. I’m not sure we even made a sale in the first two months. I experimented with some Facebook and Google ads, which brought a decent amount of traffic to the site, but no one actually bought. I started putting time into the Facebook page and Instagram account. I grew the Instagram account to over 1,000 followers in just a few months, but that didn’t bring much converting traffic either.

As we continue to experiment with ads, we’re starting to really learn a lot about our customers. It’s a pretty high price point, which definitely puts it in the premium/luxury good status. We’ve found that most of our buyers are on the east coast, and a majority of orders are placed by women. These things have all helped us narrow the target market we’re using for our Facebook ads.

Stitch People Portrait

We’ve started getting pinned quite a bit on Pinterest, which still has a low conversion rate for us. But we haven’t done much to help guide the conversation on Pinterest, so we’re looking to spend more time there.

A good amount of traffic is starting to come from organic search results, which is really nice to see. We haven’t been running Google ads lately, but I’d like to do another round and really solidify the keywords and strategy there, too.

It’s been a really fun experience so far, and we’ve learned a lot. The orders from Uncommon Goods continue to come in, which gives us money to put into StitchPeople.com for maintenance and advertising. We’re hoping that sales on our website will pick up and that Lizzy will need to start hiring out the stitching consistently.

If you’re interested, head over to StitchPeople.com and order a portrait for yourself or your family. All of our customers so far have been extremely happy and have loved their portraits!

Stitch People portrait

A portrait Lizzy did for my cousin, Richard

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Instant Upload on Google+

Phones crap out. It happens. This summer, my wife and I were waiting in line to buy rush tickets to a Broadway show when my phone went into a reboot loop. There was no hope of reviving it. In that kind of a situation, you start going through all the stuff you don’t want to lose: contacts, pictures, music, texts, etc. Luckily, I was covered and didn’t lose a single thing.

The biggest fear for me is always losing pictures. When my phone died, we had already been in NYC for over a month, and I had snapped probably hundreds of pictures with my phone. Losing those would’ve been horrible.

The Google+ app for both Android and iOS includes Instant Upload, a feature that automatically uploads photos you take with your phone to your Google account. Your photos are then available from Google+, Picasa, and any other service that connects to your Google photos. From there, you can download them or share them across Google products.

You’ll find the option to turn on Instant Upload under Photos and Videos in Google+ Settings. From there, you can tell Google+ to only upload via Wi-Fi, for example, or to only upload when charging. I like to make sure that all my photos are saved instantly, so I upload photos via Wi-Fi or mobile data. I’m less concerned with my videos, so they upload only on a Wi-Fi connection.

Dropbox also has this feature, but each photo counts against your total storage limit. Even with the 3GB of extra storage Dropbox offers for turning on their auto upload feature, you’re going to run into that limit eventually.

Google, on the other hand, will let you store any photo up to 2048×2048 and any video less than 15 min for free. Anything larger will count against the default 1GB. With my phone camera set to take photos at 5MP, all my photos stay under that threshold. I essentially have unlimited storage space with Google for any picture or video I take on my phone.

If you haven’t turned on this feature in Google+ or Dropbox on your phone, I’d recommend doing it right now. And if you’re worried about all the photos you’ve already taken, the Google+ app has the option to Upload All photos currently on the device (see screenshot above).

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