Inviting Trouble into Your Home: How Third-Party Apps Can Damage Your Store
June 16, 2023 • 7 min read
When you’re running a Shopify store, adding new apps is like a box of chocolates – you never know what you’re going to get. Despite the trustworthiness of Shopify’s app store, it’s important to consider the significant risks when installing a new app on your Shopify store. Even if an app doesn’t contain any malware and developers remain reliable, it could still cause major disruptions to your store: your catalog data could be in disarray, your theme code could be a hot mess, and you could be stuck manually sifting through mountains of data.
Our support team has witnessed such experiences firsthand, and we’d like to share one of the worst in this article. But don’t worry, we’ve got you covered with practical and effective advice on how to thoroughly evaluate apps before installation and prevent potential mishaps.
The Day Lexy Learned to Never Believe an App (Blindly)
Lexy was a pro at managing the product catalog for the car supply store where she worked. She knew all the Shopify tools like the back of her hand and took extra care with Shopify Collections. She had created dozens of custom collections and sorted everything meticulously, making it super easy for customers to find what they were looking for.
One day, she had to transfer a ton of products from the European store, which used a different platform. Her manager suggested using a bulk product import app to make the process faster. So, Lexy did some research and found an app that was affordable, had a free trial, and had a few good reviews. She thought it would be perfect for the job.
Everything seemed to go smoothly as she started the import process. The app showed all the products in full. But when she tried to manually add a new product later, she discovered that she couldn’t add it to any collection. All the collections were gone, and months of her hard work had vanished into thin air.
Lexy was devastated and called her manager right away. He reassured her that the company had a backup plan in place and asked Lexy to contact the backup service support team. She needed to know how to restore the collections without affecting any other data in the store. Luckily, they were able to do it quickly. If there hadn’t been a backup, Lexy would have had to reorganize the entire catalog, which would have taken her weeks.
After that experience, Lexy realized the critical importance of having a backup system in place at all times. Unfortunately, she also learned firsthand how an incompatible app could easily delete or overwrite vital data, causing significant losses. Now, she’s become extremely cautious and carefully evaluates every app before installing it, taking all the necessary precautions to ensure safe usage and protect her store from potential harm.
How do Shopify experts view the safety of third-party apps?
Third-party apps are a great way to boost the functionality of Shopify storefronts and create a successful online business. The Shopify App Store provides you with access to a range of apps that can be used to personalize the way your Shopify store function and improve customer engagement. However, there are also potential dangers associated with using these apps. One of the biggest risks is the potential for data corruption, loss, or damage. This can occur if a third-party app is not properly developed, maintained, or tested. It’s also important to ensure that any third-party apps you use are compatible with your Shopify store and that you are using them correctly.
In some cases, a third-party app may not be compatible with your store’s theme or other installed apps, which can cause data to become corrupted or lost. Additionally, poorly developed or maintained apps may have bugs or other issues that can interfere with the proper functioning of your store.
Furthermore, some third-party apps may collect and use your store’s data in ways that are not in line with your privacy or security standards. This can put your business and your customers at risk of data breaches or other security incidents.
Here are some common risks to be aware of:
We shared Laura’s story with you to highlight the potential dangers of working with CSV files. Unfortunately, technical issues like this are common, as incorrect or broken CSVs can cause a multitude of problems for online store owners. On Shopify import products from CSV can be really dangerous. While CSVs are a useful tool for importing a large amount of data, a single error or misplaced character in a CSV file can wreak havoc on an entire store’s inventory, causing lost or missing data, incorrect prices, or missing images. This could potentially damage the store’s reputation and customer trust if not resolved quickly.
- Security: Third-party apps may have vulnerabilities, potentially exposing your store and customer data to security breaches.
- Compatibility: Third-party apps may not be compatible with your theme or other apps you’re using, causing conflicts that can lead to errors and downtime.
- Performance: Third-party apps can slow down your site, affecting page load times and user experience. This can negatively impact your SEO and conversion rates.
- Quality: Third-party apps may not be well-designed or maintained, leading to bugs, crashes, and other quality issues that can damage your brand reputation.
- Cost: Third-party apps may come with hidden costs or unexpected fees that can eat into your profits.
- Data privacy: Third-party apps may collect or share data about your customers or your store, potentially violating privacy laws or causing customer trust issues.
- Customer support: Third-party apps may have poor customer support, making it difficult to get help when you need it.
- Integration: Third-party apps may not integrate seamlessly with your existing workflows, making it difficult to use them effectively.
To mitigate these risks, it’s important to thoroughly research any third-party app before installing it on your Shopify store.
A comprehensive guide on how to choose a safe app for your Shopify store
Let’s walk through the step-by-step process of selecting and testing a Shopify app to choose the best, most secure option that will enhance your store’s capabilities, save you time, and not threaten the security of your data or your store. It’s crucial to take the time to carefully evaluate each app before installing it to ensure it aligns with your business goals and won’t pose any risks to your store. With a thorough selection and testing process, you can confidently choose the right app to help grow your business.
1. Set your budget. When choosing a Shopify app, the price should not be the only factor to consider. Although there are free apps available, the priority should always be whether the app solves the problem and doesn’t create more work. It’s important to set a budget and determine how much you’re willing to pay for increased productivity and better performance. Selecting an app solely because it’s free can cost you more money and time in the long run.
2. Carefully review the app description. When browsing the Shopify app store, keep in mind that app descriptions, videos, and screenshots are primarily marketing tools. Don’t be swayed by flashy marketing alone. Instead, look for clear and detailed descriptions of the app’s features and benefits. Read the app description thoroughly and review any available visual materials to understand the app’s features and functionality. Make sure they align with your needs. Also, be wary of apps that overpromise or underdeliver.
3. Evaluate customers’ reviews. Reviews provide valuable insight into the app’s functionality, user experience, and customer support. Here are some tips on how to use reviews to choose the right app for your store:
- Look for apps with a high rating: Sort by rating and focus on apps that have a rating of 4**** or higher.
- Read through reviews carefully: Pay attention to both positive and negative reviews to get a well-rounded understanding of the app. Look for common themes and issues mentioned in the reviews.
- Consider the date of the reviews: Make sure to read reviews that are recent, as the app may have changed over time.
- Pay attention to the app developer’s response: Check if the app developer has responded to any negative reviews. This shows that they are actively engaged with their customers and are willing to address any issues.
- Take reviews with a grain of salt: Remember that everyone’s experience with an app is different. Some negative reviews may be the result of user error or compatibility issues. Use your own judgment to determine if an app is right for you.
4. Assess the app’s support. By evaluating the quality of an app’s support, you can ensure that you’ll have the help you need to get the most out of the app. Here are some tips for evaluating an app’s support:
- Check the response time: After reaching out to the app developer for support, pay attention to their response time. A good developer will respond to your support request within a reasonable timeframe.
- Evaluate the quality of the response: When you receive a response from the app developer, evaluate the quality of the response. Was it helpful? Did it answer your question? Was it friendly and professional?
5. Examine the developer’s website. The app developer’s website can reveal important details about their commitment to their products. Look beyond the appearance and consider factors such as company size and experience in developing Shopify apps. Check for clear and detailed explanations of app features and customer testimonials. Don’t overlook smaller developers or newer apps as they may be more receptive to user feedback.
7. Install the app on a staging store first. Before installing an app, create a staging store and install the app there first. This will allow you to fully test and evaluate the app’s features and functionality before making it live on your main store. It’s also a good idea to test the app on different devices and browsers to ensure compatibility. Once you’re satisfied with the app’s performance, you can then install it on your live store with confidence.
8. Use a free trial. To make the most of a free trial, set clear goals and test all app features in real-world scenarios. Reach out to the support team for help and evaluate their responsiveness. Keep track of any issues and gather feedback from your team and customers.
9. Create a backup of your live site. Creating a backup of your live site before installing an app to it is crucial to ensure that your site remains safe and functional in case something goes wrong during or after the installation process. You can back up your site using various methods, such as using a backup app like BackupMaster or manually creating a backup copy of your site’s files and database with Shopify tools. By doing so, you can easily restore your site to its previous state if the app causes any issues that need to be resolved. It’s always better to be safe than sorry, so make sure to create a backup before installing any new apps.
To ensure that you choose the right app for your Shopify store, it’s important not to rush the selection process. Take the time to thoroughly research and test each app before installing it. Be sure to create backups of your store to protect against any unforeseen issues that may arise.
Pay attention to even the smallest details, such as how the app integrates with your store’s theme and layout, and how it affects your site’s loading speed. By being thorough in your evaluation, you’ll be able to select apps that can help streamline your workflow, increase your productivity, and ultimately boost your revenue.