Angry Birds: Kickin’ Ass with Their Shopify Store

angry birds and shopify

entrepreneur logoOne of the best-known of Shopify’s nearly 14,000 stores is the Angry Birds store, where you can buy plush versions of the birds and pigs from the insanely popular videogame. Entrepreneur magazine has a story titled Anger Management, which covers Rovio (the people behind Angry Birds) and why they chose Shopify to sell their merch:

"We looked at a number of different options, but Shopify made the most sense," [Niklas Kari, head of retail] says. "We had strong recommendations from other partners, and setting up the store was easy."

The Angry Birds store opened in October 2010 with the assistance of Mark Dunkley, one of our superstar designers, who cranked out a whole store design from concept to working ecommerce site in 72 hours. Since its opening, they’ve sold 2 million plush toys.

angry birds store

Check out the article in Entrepreneur, and if you’re thinking of starting an online store, Shopify’s the one to go with!

This article also appears in The Adventures of Accordion Guy in the 21st Century.


Ottawa Techie Events Tonight!


Don’t forget:

For more details, see my earlier post on tonight’s events.

This article also appears in the Shopify Technology Blog.


BarCamp Tour Update: Seattle This Weekend, New Orleans Next Month, and Toronto…Soon!

BarCamp Seattle

seattle barcamp

This weekend, I’ll be in Seattle for BarCamp as part of the BarCamp tour, a cross-North-America sponsorship put together by five startups: Batchblue, Grasshopper, MailChimp, Wufoo and the company for whom I am representative, Shopify.

BarCamp is an unconference – a gathering that turns the traditional notion of a “conference” upside-down. Rather than the content being determined by its organizers, it’s determined by the attendees. At the start of the conference, any attendee can propose a session topic, and if it’s accepted by the group, that session gets put on the schedule grid and assigned a time slot and a room. Sessions themselves are somewhat different from sessions at a traditional conference: while there’s still roles akin to a “presenter” or “presenters” and an “audience”, the line between the two is considerably more fuzzy. They’re closer in spirit to open discussions rather than lectures.


BarCamp Tour are not your typical sponsors. Just as BarCamp is an unconference that turns the notion of a conference upside-down, you might say that we’re “unsponsors” doing the same to what is traditionally viewed as sponsorship. Yes, we provide funding to various BarCamps, but we do something that most sponsors don’t do: we show up and participate. We help out the organizers with everything from putting together parties to helping move furniture and clean up. We take part in the sessions, sometimes as participants in the “audience”, sometimes as “presenters”. While we do promote our companies, it’s not in a hard-sell way, and often, we do it by listening to and learning from the people there – after all, they’re potential customers, partners and even hires.

BarCamp Seattle takes place this weekend on Saturday, June 24th and Sunday June 25th at the Adobe Conference Center in Seattle’s Fremont neighbourhood (801 N 34th Street). Saturday is a full day with check-in starting at 8:00 a.m. and the unconference kicking into full swing at 9:00 a.m.; Sunday is a half day with check-in starting around 8:00 a.m. (emphasis on around; there’s a party on Saturday night) and the unconference resuming at 9:00 a.m..

BarCamp Seattle, like all BarCamps, is free but you need to register. To register, visit BarCamp Seattle’s EventBrite page.

BarCamp New Orleans

barcamp new orleans

My next BarCamp will be BarCamp New Orleans, also known as BarCamp NOLA. I’m rather looking forward to this one for a few reasons:

BarCamp New Orleans takes place on Saturday, July 16th and Sunday, July 17th at the Launch Pad coworking/startup space (643 Magazine Street, Suite 102). Registration on the Saturday is at a very civilized 9:30 a.m. with the unconference getting into full swing at 10:00 a.m. and running until 5:00 p.m.. Sunday is a “Hack Day” with registration at 9:30 a.m., start at 10:00 a.m. and running until 5:00 p.m..

Like all BarCamps, BarCamp New Orleans is free but you need to register. You should register soon – only 76 spaces remain as of this writing!

BarCamp Toronto


A couple of weeks ago, I put out the call for help in getting together a BarCamp in Accordion City. We haven’t had one in four years and I think it’s about time! The other folks on the BarCamp Tour, most notably Jonathan Kay of Grasshopper who absolutely loves “Toe-RON-toe”, have expressed interest in having one in Canada and are willing to be a sponsor.

A great collection of people have stepped forward and volunteered to help. I’ll be meeting with them online very shortly (I’m in Ottawa for the summer, but I return to Accordion City in the fall) to discuss what happens next, but know this: the first step toward bringing BarCamp back to Toronto has been made.

This article also appears in the Shopify Technology Blog.


Shopify: Developers Wanted!

looking for coders right nyan

Do you rock at iOS/Objective-C? How about Ruby and Rails? Or perhaps JavaScript and CoffeeScript? Would you like to do some fun, challenging and profitable work at Shopify? We’d like to have a word with you. Don’t forget, the job has some awesome perks!

Drop me a line at and we’ll talk.

This article also appears in the Shopify Technology Blog.


Wednesday is Techie Get-Together Night in Ottawa! (“Land Your Dream Job 2.0” and “Node.js Ottawa Pub Nite”)


If you’re in the Ottawa area on Wednesday and you’ve been looking for tech get-togethers or a chance to meet the Shopify crew, you’re in luck! We’ve got a couple of events taking place, and as the Shopify spokesmodel, I’ll be at both of them:

Land Your Dream Job 2.0

The Venn diagram below shows where your dream job is: smack in the heart of the “Hooray!” zone:

dream job

I’ve been fortunate enough to live in that zone for a good chunk of my career, and my current job as Shopify’s Platform Evangelist certainly applies. I’ve landed these sorts of jobs in rather atypical ways and I think that going outside the “expected” or “typical” gives you the best odds at landing your dream job.

smarTALKSThe Land Your Dream Job 2.0 event is part of OCRI’s smarTALKS series and all about doing just that. My fellow Shopifolks will be among the people there talking about how you can land that job that blends what you do well, what you want to do and what you can be paid to do.

You’ll learn about:

  • The unusual methodologies and tactics that people who land dream jobs use when approaching employers
  • What you can do to land a job at the tech firm or startup of your choice
  • The current trends in hiring practices, what’s changed over the past few years and how you can tune your job search tactics around them

And you’ll hear from:

  • Brittany Forsyth, Head of HR, Shopify
  • Mike Freeman, Marketing Dude, Shopify
  • Luc Levesque, Founder and GM, TravelPod (TripAdvisor)
  • Doug Tetzner, Partner, Odgers Berndtson
  • and Harley Finkelstein, Chief Platform Officer at Shopify, who’ll be moderating the event

Land Your Dream Job 2.0 takes place this Wednesday, June 22nd at Mercury Lounge (56 ByWard Market Square) from 4:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m.. This is a FREE event, but you do have to register.

register dream job

Node.js Ottawa Pub Nite


If you’re into JavaScript, Node.js or related tech like CoffeeScript, come to the Sir John A. Pub on Elgin later Wednesday night for Node.js Ottawa Pub Nite! We’ll be there to talk about Node and related technologies, as well as to get to know what people are up to, talk about our projects, answer the “What is Node, anyway?” questions that are still floating about and discuss what we’d like to see happen with the Node.js meetup group.

Node.js Ottawa Pub Nite takes place this Wednesday, June 22nd at the Sir John A. Pub (284 Elgin Street) from 7:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m.. This is also a FREE event, and we recommend that you register so they have an idea of how much space to claim in the pub.

register node pub nite

This article also appears in the Shopify Technology Blog.


Selling More Shopify Apps, Part 2: Pictures

What’s This All About?

Welcome to the second installment of Selling More Shopify Apps! In this article series, I show developers how to sell their apps — add-on applications that extend Shopify’s capabilities. Since this is really more about selling than developing, the series appears here in the Shopify blog instead of in the Shopify Technology blog, even though it’s aimed at developers.

Oh, yes: for those of you who’ve been wondering: I will do a series of articles for shopowners who want to sell more stuff through their Shopify stores. Soon! But in the meantime, give this series a look — even though this series is about selling apps, there are some principles that do apply to regular stores.

A Quick Recap

In the previous article in this series, I talked about the decision-making process that users go through when perusing the app store and deciding whether to buy your app.

They go through these steps:

  1. They see your app’s icon, name and short description on the App Store page.
  2. They click on your app’s icon, taking them to the App Store page for your app.
  3. They look at your app’s screenshots and videos first.
  4. Then they look at the rating.
  5. And finally, they read the description.
  6. That’s when they make their decision. (And hopefully, at that point, they click the “Install App” button.

In this article, we’ll look at a very effective way to make your app’s App Store page better: by adding pictures and video. Pictures and video are part of step 3 of the user’s decision to buy, and they’re the first thing the user looks at when s/he ends up on your app’s page. They make that oh-so-important first impression that can help drive a sale.

Take a look at the screenshot for an app in the App Store:

The video and pictures (which I’ve highlighted above) take up the entire right-hand side of the screen. Your eye is drawn to them. People naturally gravitate towards pictures and videos in app stores, whether they’re Shopify Apps, or apps for mobile phone and tablets or stores for desktop apps, such as the Mac OS App Store. You wouldn’t run a Shopify store without pictures of the goods you’re selling; the same rule applies to apps!

Think of your app’s page as being two sections: the show section and the tell section. The show section is the opener, and it’s where you show your app in action and give your potential customers a broad overview of what it’s for, what it does and what the experience of using it is like. The tell section is the closer, and it’s where you provide a more in-depth view of your app, listing its capabilities and showing the payoff of enhancing the customer’s store with your app.

The pictures and video of your app’s page are the show section, the rating and description of your app’s page are the tell section. You lead with show and finish with tell. Let’s talk about show right now, and in a later article, we’ll delve into tell.



People like seeing screenshots of apps. That’s why just about every app store, from mobile to desktop to Shopify includes them. Even the simplest of applications can benefit from a screenshot because they give users a better “feel” for the app, even though the written description may contain far more information useful to their decision to buy or not buy. There’s a reason why bricks-and-mortar shops invest a lot of money in storefront and in-store displays, even if you’re not going to get much information from just looking at the products: people make decisions based on appearances.

The first question that comes to mind at this point is “what screenshots should I use?” I suggest reviewing your app and keeping these questions in mind:

  • Which screen is the one where the user will be spending the most time when using your app? You’ll definitely want a screenshot of that.
  • For customer-facing apps, which screen shows something that makes the customer experience better? If your app has a feature that makes the process of going through the shop’s catalog, make a purchase decision or buying easier and it has some kind of visual element, that feature probably needs a screenshot.
  • For shopowner-facing apps, which screen shows something that makes the shopowner experience better? If your app has a feature that lets them go through their store data more easily, serve and communicate with customers better, process and fulfill orders more quickly or helps them save or make money and it has some kind of visual element, that feature probably needs a screenshot.
  • And finally, which screen just looks good? Perhaps it’s a graph generated by a shopowner-facing app or a cool-looking widget on a store page created by a customer-facing app, but if it’s attractive, you might want to consider including it in the screenshots for your app.

Screenshots Don’t Have to Be Full Screen

If there’s a feature in your app that makes the customer or shopowner experience better and it doesn’t take up the whole screen, remember that you don’t have to use a full-screen screenshot. You can simply use a screenshot of the feature without including the rest of the screen. If the feature is particularly small in comparison to the rest of the screen or if it has a lot of text, you might want to enlarge it using your favourite image editing program.

In their App Store page, Optimizely includes a screenshot of just the portion of the page relevant to their app:


If It Helps, Annotate Your Screenshots

Sometimes it’s hard to tell what’s going on with just a screenshot. If this is the case with your app, annotate it: use you favourite image editing program and use text, arrows, highlighting or whatever else helps to make what’s going on onscreen easier to understand. Just be careful not to go overboard with the text on your screenshots: that’s what the app description is for.

Here’s a quick example of an annotated screenshot:

Annotated screenshot

You Can Include Other Graphics, Not Just Screenshots

When we built the App Store, our original intention for letting you upload pictures to your App Store page was for you to provide screenshots of your app in action. We’ve since discovered that a couple of app makers came up with the clever idea of posting graphics that aren’t screenshots but explain how their app works. We think it’s a great idea, and if you’ve got some kind of image that makes it easier for potential customers to understand your app and why they should use it, you should include it in your App Store page.

For a good example where an app maker used a non-screenshot image, take a look at the App Store page for Canned Banners. They have a screenshot of their app in action, but they also have the graphic below, which explains how you use their software to create quick and easy banner ads for your store:

Canned banners

Clever! I think it’s in the same spirit as cyberpunk author William Gibson’s line from his “Sprawl” stories: “The street finds its own uses for things.” If you’ve got an image that helps potential customers “get” what your app does, use it!

Next: Video!

This article also appears in the Shopify Blog.


Selling More Shopify Apps, Part 1: The Decision-Making Process

decision maker

Shopify? Apps? I Thought It Was an Ecommerce Thingy!

It is. If you want to sell stuff or services online in exchange for money – a business model so crazy that it just might work – Shopify is the best, easiest and most hassle-free way to do it. You can use a store that lives on our hosted service or build a program that calls our API to do the ecommerce stuff: the catalog, the shopping cart, the credit card hoo-hah, and so on.

While Shopify does a lot, it can’t do everything. Perhaps there’s a feature that you wish Shopify had, but it applies only to a small vertical or maybe even only your business. Or there just might be some feature that we haven’t thought of implementing yet.

That’s where apps come in: they’re applications that make use of the Shopify API to:

  • Access a shop’s data (with the owner’s permission, of course)
  • Programmatically perform just about anything the shop owner can do on their shop’s admin panel

Want to declare a “happy hour” where you drop the price of an item from 5 to 7 p.m. next Thursday? Shopify doesn’t do it out of the box, but an app can! Want to send a Twitter direct message or SMS text to a merchant whenever a customer places a big order, so s/he can make sure it gets handled properly? You can write an app for that. If you can think of a feature to make the experience for customers or shopowners (or both) better, you can make it an app. And you can make money doing it!

You can reach the 15,000 Shopify users – a very focused, dedicated bunch – and sell apps to them through the Shopify App Store. We know a number of developers who are doing quite nicely selling apps and making Shopify showowners productive and happy, and when our customers are happy, so are we.

That’s what this series of articles is all about: selling more Shopify Apps. If you’re a Shopify App developer (or thinking of becoming one), this series will show you how to sell them better. We’ll also be publishing articles about writing apps, from how-tos to ideas for apps that we’d like to see become real.

The Decision-Making Process

Take a look at Shopify’s App Store, and I’ll walk you through the typical customer’s decision making process when they’re looking for apps.

1. They see your app’s icon, its name and the short description on the App Store page.

app store

When you visit Shopify’s App Store, you see a page like the one shown above, featuring apps displayed on shelves. Rather than being broken up into pages, the App Store’s main page is an “infinite scroller”; you simply scroll down the page to see all the apps in the Store. For the user, scrolling — especially in the age where most mice have scroll wheels and scrolling-by-flicking is increasingly common thanks to smartphones and tablets — seems faster and more effortless than paging.

Each app is represented by its icon, with its name and a short description (140 characters maximum) to its right. Clicking on the icon, the name or the description will take you to the page for the corresponding app.

There are a number if ways users can sift through the apps in the store. They can filter the apps by category, as shown below:


They can also filter apps by which software or services they integrate with:


And they can also change the way the apps are sorted in the store:

sort order

The default sort is “from newest to oldest”, and the other three options are:

  • From highest-rated to lowest-rated
  • From most to least popular
  • Whether or not to limit the results to free apps

Ideally, you want your app to be as close to the top of the App Store page as possible – what they used to call “above the fold” in the newspaper world. Being on top of the list puts you in the user’s path of least resistance and makes it more likely that the user will move to the next step on the path to purchasing your app: your app’s page.

Your app will be on top of the list just after you submit your app for the first time, as it will be newest. However, your app won’t remain the newest forever, so your eventual goal will be to make your app the highest rated, the most popular, or preferably both.

You’ll also want to make sure that your app makes a good first impression on the App Store’s main page. The good news (and the bad news, too) is that once the user sees your app on the page, there are only three things that you have at your disposal to catch his/her attention:

  1. Your app’s icon. Is it visually appealing? Does it hint at what your app does or what its effects will be?
  2. Your app’s name. Is it catchy or memorable? Does it give the user an idea of what your app does or what its effects will be?
  3. Your app’s description. Does it clearly state what your app does or why someone would want to use it, all in 140 characters or less?

Get all three right, and you’ll increase the odds that the user will get to the next step in the decision-making process: moving away from the big list of apps and focusing on just yours.

2. They click on your app’s icon, taking them to the App Store page for your app

app page

If your app has piqued the user’s interest on the App Store’s main page, s/he’ll click on it and be taken to your app’s page, which displays a lot of information about it, namely:

  • The app’s icon
  • The name of the app
  • The app’s publisher
  • The app’s rating
  • How much the app costs
  • Any additional software required by the app
  • The “Install App” button
  • The full description of the app
  • A list of the services that the app can integrate with
  • One or more screenshots of the app
  • [Optional] One or more videos of the app
  • User reviews and responses from the publisher

Each of these items affects the user’s decision-making process, and in this series of articles, we’ll look at what you can do with them to make it more likely that the user will buy it.

Based on experience with app stores of all sorts, from Shopify’s to shareware to smartphone and tablet stores, here’s what the users typically do next…

3. They look at your app’s screenshots and videos first.

pictures first

Eye- and click-tracking studies show that once the user has landed on your app’s page, they tend to look at the screenshots and videos first. This means a couple of things:

  • You should make sure that you include at least one screenshot of your app in action. Better still, you should include a screenshot for every major feature of your app.
  • Although it’s optional, you should include a video. It could be a video capture of your app in action or something that explains what your app does and why you’d want to buy and install it. The better selling apps tend to include videos on their app pages.

In this series of articles, we’ll cover ways to get the most out of the video and pictures on your app’s page.

4. Then they look at the rating.


A very important factor affecting how well something sells online is the rating. Ever since Amazon, we’ve become quite accustomed to checking the ratings before buying something. It happens not just online, but in real life; I’ve seen people at all sorts of bricks-and-mortar stores – restaurants, liquor stores, big-box electronics stores, car dealerships – whip out their smartphones and check out the ratings for something they’re thinking of buying. That’s why social media and word-of-mouth marketing are hot topics these days: they influence people’s opinions, which in turn can make or break sales.

“Get a good rating” is the obvious advice. Less obvious is how you get that rating. We’ll cover what we believe are best practices for getting good ratings, and through them, good sales.

5. And finally, they read the description.

then description

Once the user’s done with the quick-and-dirty visual scan of your app’s page, they then look at your app’s description. If the user has come this far in the process, they’re close to the point where they make the decision to buy or not buy. The description is where you close the deal, and we’ll show you what successful apps do in their descriptions.

6. That’s when they make their decision.

install app button

If you’ve done everything right, this is when the user clicks the “Install App” button. Get enough users doing that, and life’s like this:

oh yeah

Next: A picture is worth a thousand…bucks?

This article also appears in the Shopify Blog.