Shopify Unite: Raising the Bar in the Content Management Space

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Shopify’s rise through the ranks of e-commerce notoriety has been fast-paced and historic, with market share and stock prices increasing tenfold in the last 4 years. But one thing has always held Shopify back from achieving its true potential: content management. At Unite 2019, Shopify was determined to fix its content management problem. They rolled out a plan that would not only allow them to catch up to their competitors, but in many ways surpass them and improve the experience for both merchants and development teams alike. Coming later this year, these changes will revolutionize the way in which Shopify manages content, and push the platform into a new realm as a competitive force in the Content Management System space. 

The New Normal for Content Management.

Shopify is currently in the process of revamping its content management platform with the ability to add custom sections to every page of a merchant’s online store, create master pages, and content starting points for merchants and content editors. Although the homepage has traditionally had robust content editing capabilities, this functionality has been expanded throughout all pages on the Shopify platform. Users of enterprise-level content management systems such as Sitecore and AEM are familiar with some of these concepts, but for smaller merchants, this high level of flexibility and speed could give their business the tools to rapidly grow. 

Building Blocks

When sections were initially introduced in Shopify, it revolutionized its content management capabilities and moved away from the days of hard coded content and over-reliance on meta fields in the admin. The only recurring problem with the highly flexible content entry system was that it was only usable on the homepage. Although alternative means have been proposed by many development and app workarounds, there was no way of properly recreating the experience offered on the index page of a Shopify site. With the introduction of global sections, every page will have the same powerful content management system that powers the homepage, giving merchant’s total control over what content goes where across their site. Shopify has not released the full details, but the company also plans to add even more functionality to sections, allowing users the ability to build and add apps directly to any page as simply as a block of content. We’ll have to wait until its release to know the full extent of these innovations. 

Building Templates

Master pages allow merchants and their partners to define content that will appear on multiple pages. This is beneficial on pages previously unreachable by sections or global content, such as product detail pages and collection pages. Additional sections can now be added to these areas with content seamlessly applying to the entire product catalog, each collection page, or similar areas where site-wide, consistent content is needed. Once one of these master pages has been applied, each page and product will offer a subset of Master Page Overrides, which will allow merchants to tailor their content to suit any urgent or evolving business need. Starting points offer a pre-existing page template comprised of pre-configured content sections that help make store setup faster. In contrast to master pages, starting points do not share content across pages but instead help fulfill business needs such as the expedited spin-up of marketing or content pages. 

Building Drafts

Drafts are a new area in the Shopify admin where merchants can draft changes to their store pages. Previously, merchants were forced to duplicate their themes in order to make content changes they did not yet want to have published. Merchants can make edits to the content and aesthetics of new and existing online store pages without affecting their live site, and mass publish them when they’re ready. This simple change will completely change the way merchants can update their sites, allowing for promotional or seasonal changes in a way not previously possible on the platform. 

Bring Product Presentation into the Future.

Shopify has also given merchants the ability to create richer, more powerful product detail pages with the addition of site-wide sections and master pages. Because the previous implementation of product data focused primarily on simple content, limited to descriptions and product images, these pages often felt dull or lacking. 

Additional enhancements helping merchants deliver a full, informative package to users will also come through the new video and 3D model support coming natively to Shopify products. Usable across the site but leveraged fully on the product detail pages, the CDN for Shopify’s storage of product assets has been expanded to allow for new assets, bringing with it the ability to offer more to users without causing additional work for merchants. This will make Shopify the first e-commerce platform provider to make this an integral and native part of its platform, paving the way for its competitors as they break new ground on what is considered a product asset. As these features are implemented, with them comes the power of WebGL, leveraging the same speed and flexibility that the Shopify CDN and Liquid programming language already offer for other site-wide assets. 

The new online store design experience should debut before the end of the year and will make it easier for merchants to create and customize their storefronts to quickly accommodate their evolving business needs. 

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