“Since the beginning the web has evolved, constantly gaining new capabilities. Every once in a while these capabilities come together into a new approach, or a tech-stack, that really captures the imagination of that particular time.”
These are Tobi Lütke’s words from the accompanying launch video for Shopify Hydrogen.
Shopify is the largest provider of online stores, and their new Shopify Hydrogen and Oxygen update has the potential to change ecommerce as we know it.
The new tech-stack is dynamic, fast, reliable, and responsive, which will allow customers to have a better experience when shopping online.
Shopify's goal is to make it easier for businesses to sell directly to consumers, and with the new Shopify Hydrogen and Oxygen update, they are one step closer to achieving that goal.
Read further to learn how Shopify Hydrogen works and why it is such a game-changing update for the ecommerce industry.
Shopify’s Future: Greater Flexibility, Scalability & Performance
Shopify's new Hydrogen and Oxygen upgrades are empowering developers and merchants to effortlessly create truly original online experiences for customers. These developments will define the future of ecommerce.
In the Fourth-quarter 2021 Merchant Solutions Revenue exceeded $1 billion for the first time
According to Harley Finkelstein, the Shopify President, in 2021 Shopify nearly tripled revenue, more than doubled GMV and the Shopify team, and the number of merchants using Shopify is now nearly twice as big as 2019 levels.
Total revenue for the full year 2021 was $4,611.9 million, a 57% increase over 2020.
Subscription Solutions revenue grew 48% to $1,342.3 million.
Merchant Solutions revenue grew 62% to $3,269.5 million. (Source)
After the release of the Shopify Hydrogen and Oxygen, these numbers are expected to rise significantly.
Shopify has always been known for its ease of use and flexibility, but the recent redesigns have taken things to a whole new level.
The new Shopify Hydrogen and Oxygen platforms are faster and more user-friendly than ever before, and the launch of new developer tools and infrastructure investments have made custom Shopify development simpler than ever.
As a result, stores hosted on the platform will be much faster and more user-friendly overall.
This is a huge benefit for merchants who want to develop more engaging websites, as it will allow them to create even more customized and user-friendly stores.
What is Shopify Hydrogen?
Shopify Hydrogen is a new React framework that allows developers to create genuinely unique custom Shopify storefronts.
Shopify store development is currently only available with Shopify Liquid, the platform's in-house coding language. Liquid is a solid coding solution, but it does have limitations, particularly with regard to site performance.
Those familiar with headless development practices on Shopify Plus will know that React is a common choice for building headless stores. These stores are more advanced than native Shopify solutions and are capable of delivering more flexible, memorable and scalable e-commerce experiences for the customer.
Introducing React into Shopify store development will improve the standard Shopify store experience and open a world of opportunities for building unique stores on the Shopify Platform.
Shopify have recognised this and moved to harness the power of headless development in their native setup. This will give more brands access to a tech-stack that was previously only available to those working with headless developers.
The opportunity to deliver the top ecommerce experience from a native Shopify solution will also subsequently raise the general standard of Shopify stores.
In addition to the Hydrogen launch, Shopify has prepared a list of React components that are ready to seamlessly integrate into its new stores. These will improve the development process and make a developer’s experience more enjoyable.
Shopify’s Hydrogen is a Game-Changer for Headless Commerce
Shopify Hydrogen marks a pivotal step toward a future of headless commerce.
For those of you unfamiliar with the term, headless commerce essentially refers to removing the “head” (what you see when you visit the site) from the ecommerce platform itself (hence “headless”).
Why would you want to remove the head of a website from its underlying ecommerce platform?
Because it allows for the utmost flexibility and control for companies to create highly customized and performant user-facing experiences using the same advanced technologies that power web applications such as Gmail, Google Docs, Facebook, etc.
In a nutshell, headless commerce allows developers to build rich customer experiences that wouldn’t otherwise be possible due to the technical limitations of the underlying ecommerce platform.
The Future of Commerce is Dynamic and Personalized
Hydrogen was created to solve a problem merchants—especially larger merchants—were facing:
How do I use Shopify’s storefront API to build a custom storefront without losing everything I get for free with a Liquid storefront?
Before the creation of Shopify Hydrogen, merchants would get the benefit of a completely custom storefront, but they would also face problems like picking a framework, building primitives for cart and product selection, performance, testing, accessibility, hosting, scaling, observability, and analytics.
Before Shopify Hydrogen, merchants were left with other framework options that required them to start with bulky templates or build something entirely from scratch.
Shopify Hydrogen aims to solve all of these problems for merchants by default, speeding up development time.
Shopify Hydrogen Framework features
Hydrogen is a front-end web development framework used for building Shopify custom storefronts. It includes the structure, components, and tooling you need to get started so you can spend your time styling and designing features that make your brand unique.
Hydrogen provides a quick start, build-fast environment, so you can focus on the fun stuff building unique commerce experiences.
Custom storefront developers no longer have to choose between fetching data at build time, for a fast but static site, or on the client for a personalized experience at the cost of performance.
How Hydrogen works?
Hydrogen comprises a quick-start environment with commerce-specific components and developer tools that are ready to be utilized:
Hydrogen framework: There’s a Vite plugin that offers server-side rendering (SSR), hydration middleware, and client component code transformations.
Hydrogen UI components: Components, hooks, and utilities that support features and concepts that already exist in Shopify.
Shopify Hydrogen is a powerful framework that helps you quickly create beautiful Shopify experiences. It provides the building blocks you need to achieve a balance between great commerce experiences and user experience.
Delivering these capabilities forced Shopify Hydrogen to utilize the highest potential of React and Vite, as well as pay careful attention to developing optimized components and developer tools.
In addition, Shopify Hydrogen helps you save time on scaffolding and configuration of the Shopify storefront design by including a starter template that gets your storefront started within minutes.
As this template processes the basic file structure of a project that is already integrated with a Shopify store, you can skip setup and start customizing your storefront in no time.
Thanks to Shopify Hydrogen, you can now focus on what's important: creating amazing Shopify experiences for your users.
The Advantages of Shopify Hydrogen
No doubt, exciting, here are a few of the best aspects of Hydrogen:
Shopify has put a stamp of approval on React.js as the future of dynamic, fast, customized commerce. And, you can be sure that if Shopify is making an investment in React, this is a big statement for the industry. It lends further credibility to React.js as the future of commerce or where things are headed.
You get a starter kit:
Early adopters of Hydrogen will get a bare bones template to start a site. You can see here what the starter kit includes (think: buttons, toggles, navigation). As an early adopter, you’ll no doubt need to create elements yourself too, but there are pre-built components you can get started with.
Your team can help develop Hydrogen:
Shopify is searching for support from the ecommerce development community to build Hydrogen. With Shopify's assistance, if you have a particularly strong internal development team working on this, you can help shape the product roadmap from the very beginning.
You can repurpose the components you create:
Once you get started with a basic kit, you'll be able to design initial parts that you may reuse throughout your final site on repeat as needed.
Why going headless with Shopify Hydrogen
Optimize site performance
One of the most obvious advantages of using Shopify Hydrogen in a headless configuration is improved site performance, particularly site speed.
By separating the frontend from the backend, you get the opportunity to achieve lightning-fast page loading times while yet retaining all dynamic content and features in the backend.
Switching to Shopify Hydrogen will help you cut page load time from a few seconds to milliseconds, allowing you to better use your store's Core Web Vitals.
Better ability to scale
Scalability is another common occurence that typically goes hand in hand with site performance improvement. Prior to Hydrogen, developers struggled to establish the trade-off between site speed and experience when it came to site optimization.
Any experienced developer will see that delivering a highly interactive and customized shopping experience with ultra-fast web performance may be simple when traffic is low.
However, when your shop grows in size, the site becomes unable to manage an inflow of new users every day, resulting in speed concerns and poor site performance.
Shopify Hydrogen has now addressed this issue head-on with Shopify Oxygen, the worldwide hosting option for Hydrogen shops.
Shopify has made significant investments in the Oxygen global structure, which includes over 100 server locations globally. Oxygen assures that your consumers, no matter where they are, will always have quick store loading.
This forthcoming technology provides rapid connection between dynamic storefront content and commerce structures, eradicating speed and scalability concerns.
Because Hydrogen uses a headless approach that isolates your Shopify site's shop from the backend that holds all data and site operations, it provides greater flexibility and freedom to develop and configure your storefront any way you want.
The design possibilities with Shopify Hydrogen are limitless, and you can develop unique UX/UI designs to provide visitors with a customized and dynamic purchasing experience.
Using a page builder tool that specializes in Hydrogen storefronts can help to speed up and smooth out the design process.
Shopify merchants may construct pages by dragging and dropping preset templates and blocks or by starting from scratch. No coding or design skills are required.
Outstanding business experience
While customized marketing for ecommerce businesses is not new it is not a typical strategy that non-headless companies might simply implement.
Shopify Hydrogen, with its frontend flexibility and independent CMS, presents a simple, lightweight solution that can be used by any Shopify business.
You have complete control over storefront design and content management, allowing you to create bespoke storefronts that delight clients.
Furthermore, combining Hydrogen and Oxygen provides millisecond page loading speed while keeping consistent web performance.
Shopify Hydrogen will streamline frontend development while still providing merchants with limitless design options by leveraging the fundamental framework and ready-to-use UI components.
In addition, Hydrogen helps to eliminate the complexity that was previously associated with third-party integrations and software required for establishing a bespoke storefront.
As a result, Shopify Hydrogen is one of the quickest paths that Shopify businesses can take to attain the finest headless commerce capabilities without the lengthy, difficult, and expensive development process.
The Future of Shopify Hydrogen
Today, Hydrogen is used in production at Allbirds, Shopify Supply, Shopify Hardware, and Shopify itself. The Hydrogen npm package is downloaded more than 70,000 times each month.
The future of Shopify Hydrogen is bright.
Expect to see lots of updates to Hydrogen, including deeper integration with the rest of the Shopify ecosystem, a new design for server components, a new Hydrogen router, and ways to incrementally adopt Hydrogen from an existing Liquid storefront.
If you’re looking for an edge over the competition, following the latest technology trends is a great way to go.
Shopify Hydrogen offers limitless design capability, lightning-fast page speed, and full control over storefront – delivering an excellent commerce experience.
To get the most out of it, choose a partner that is knowledgeable about your industry and will take the time to understand your unique requirements.
If you want to explore this option further or have any questions, please don’t hesitate to Contact us. Our team will be more than happy to help!
Resources for developers:
Tutorial in practice, on a live shop