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headless commerce with Shopify Hydrogen

Going Headless with Shopify: A Deep Dive into Hydrogen Development

Are you considering switching to headless commerce with Shopify Hydrogen but unsure what to expect? Get your answers here!...

So, you are a developer or marketer working for an e-commerce brand excited about entering the headless e-commerce ecosystem and its plethora of promises. In the current e-commerce landscape, where customer expectations are evolving rapidly, traditional monolithic e-commerce platforms struggle to keep up. This is where the concept of headless e-commerce comes in, offering a more flexible and scalable solution. 

However, you are unsure about the whole process of switching to a headless e-commerce platform and its intricacies.

This blog will walk you through the following:

  • What is headless commerce
  • Introduction to Shopify Hydrogen
  • Benefits of using Shopify Hydrogen
  • Setting up your Shopify Hydrogen project
  • Building your first Headless storefront
  • Deploying your Hydrogen Storefront

By the end of this blog, you will be better positioned to know if a headless tech stack is the right choice for your e-commerce business on Shopify and how to build your first Headless storefront.

On that note, let’s go all ‘Nearly Headless Nick” on this one amigos! (Harry Potter fans in the house, give me a cheer! 😉 )


What is headless commerce?

Headless commerce is an architecture where an eCommerce platform’s frontend (the “head”) is separated from the backend. This allows developers to use different technologies and frameworks to create the frontend while still leveraging the robust backend functionality of platforms like Shopify. The primary advantages of headless commerce include:

  1. Customization: Greater control over the design and functionality of the storefront.
  2. Performance: Faster load times and better scalability.
  3. Omnichannel experience: Seamless integration across various customer touchpoints such as PWA (Progressive Web Apps) on mobile, web, in-store, smart screens POS, etc. 

Introduction to Shopify Hydrogen

Hydrogen is an app (built and maintained by Shopify) and it is using its Remix Framework for developing headless stores and Shopify apps. It was launched in the summer of 2022 as Shopify’s answer to the growing demand for headless commerce solutions.

Hydrogen provides pre-built components, hooks, and utilities that simplify the development process and enable developers to create fast, engaging, and personalized shopping experiences.

Key features of Hydrogen

  1. React components: Hydrogen offers a library of pre-built React components tailored for eCommerce. These components are optimized for performance and easily customized to match the brand’s aesthetic.
  2. Remix Framework: Remix is a framework which runs on top of react framework and Shopify Hydrogen uses this for building its Headless and App Development.
  3. Oxygen: Oxygen is Shopify’s global deployment platform that’s built for hosting Hydrogen storefronts at the edge. It provides multiple deployment environments, so you can preview every change before shipping it to production. Oxygen supports continuous deployment using GitHub, or you can configure your own custom CI/CD system.
  4. Hooks and utilities: Hydrogen provides hooks and utilities that facilitate data fetching, state management, and routing. This reduces boilerplate code and accelerates development.
  5. GraphQL integration: Hydrogen leverages Shopify’s Storefront API, a powerful GraphQL-based API that provides access to product data, customer information, and more.
  6. Performance optimizations: Hydrogen includes built-in performance optimizations such as server-side rendering (SSR) and code splitting, ensuring a smooth and fast user experience.

Benefits of using Shopify Hydrogen

Shopify Hydrogen offers a range of advantages for businesses looking to improve their eCommerce operations. Here are some of the key benefits in straightforward terms:

1. Customization

Hydrogen allows you to create a highly customized storefront. You can design unique layouts, add personalized features, and tailor the shopping experience to your brand’s specific needs. This flexibility ensures that your store stands out and delivers exactly what your customers expect.

2. Performance

Hydrogen is built with performance in mind. It includes features like server-side rendering (SSR) and code splitting, which help your store load faster. Faster load times improve user experience and lead to higher conversion rates, as customers are less likely to leave a slow-loading site.

3. Developer-friendly

Hydrogen uses React, a popular JavaScript library. This makes it easy for developers to work with, as many are already familiar with React. The framework includes pre-built components and hooks that simplify common tasks, speed up development time, and reduce the amount of custom code needed.

4. Seamless integration with Shopify

Hydrogen is designed to work seamlessly with Shopify’s backend. This means you can leverage Shopify’s robust e-commerce features, such as inventory management, payment processing, and customer accounts, while having the freedom to design your frontend independently.

5. GraphQL support

Hydrogen uses GraphQL to fetch data from your Shopify store. GraphQL is efficient and flexible, allowing you to request the data you need and reducing the amount of data transferred. This can lead to better performance and easier data management.

6. Enhanced user experience

With Hydrogen, you can create interactive and engaging user interfaces that respond quickly to user actions. This can make your store more enjoyable to navigate and shop, encouraging customers to spend more time on your site and make more purchases.

7. Future-proof

Going headless with Hydrogen means your frontend is decoupled from the backend. This makes it easier to adapt to new technologies and trends in the future. As the e-commerce landscape evolves, you can update your frontend without needing to overhaul your entire system.

8. Scalability

Hydrogen’s architecture allows your store to scale efficiently. Whether you’re a small business experiencing rapid growth or a large enterprise handling high-traffic volumes, Hydrogen can support your needs without compromising performance.

9. Global reach

With Hydrogen, you can optimize your store for international markets. Features like multi-language support and localized content help you reach a global audience more effectively, enhancing your store’s accessibility and appeal worldwide.

Benefits of using Shopify Hydrogen

Setting Up your Shopify Hydrogen Project

  1. Install the Hydrogen app from the Shopify app store.
  2. Create a new Hydrogen Remix Project

To create a new Hydrogen Remix Project, you can use the Shopify CLI. Open your terminal and run the following command:

npm init @shopify/hydrogen@latest

Setting Up Shopify Hydrogen Project
  • Choose and link your Shopify account.
  • It will redirect you to your browser window and ask about to Login to your Shopify store.
  • Follow these steps to create a hydrogen remix project.
creating a hydrogen remix project.

This command will prompt you to enter a name for your project and set up the initial project structure.

3. Install dependencies: Navigate to your project directory and install the necessary dependencies:

cd my-hydrogen-app

npm install

4. Fetch and Link the environment files

By running this command, you will link the env files from your storefront to you Hydrogen project –

Link your Hydrogen project to Shopify:  npx shopify hydrogen link

Update your project’s environment variables:  npx shopify hydrogen env pull

5. Run the development server

Start the development server to see your project in action: npx shopify hydrogen dev

This will launch your app at http://localhost:3000

Building your first Headless custom storefront

Now that you have your Hydrogen project set up let’s explore how to build a custom storefront.

  1. Creating custom components

Hydrogen comes with a set of pre-built components, but you can also create your own custom components to match your design requirements.

For example, let’s create a custom product card component:

creating custom components
Creating custom components
Creating custom components

2. Fetching data with GraphQL

Hydrogen uses the Shopify Storefront API to fetch data. You can use the useShopQuery hook to fetch data from your Shopify store.

For example, to fetch a list of products:

Fetching data with GraphQL
Fetching data with GraphQL
Fetching data with GraphQL

3. Performance optimization

Hydrogen is designed to deliver high performance out of the box, but there are additional steps you can take to optimize your storefront.

  • Server-Side Rendering (SSR)

Hydrogen supports server-side rendering, which can improve your app’s initial load time. To enable SSR, configure your server entry point:

Performance optimization -ssr
  • Code Splitting

Code splitting is another technique to improve performance. You can split your code into smaller chunks that can be loaded on demand. Hydrogen supports code splitting with React’s “lazy” and “Suspense”:

Performance optimization -code splitting

export default App;

Deploying your Hydrogen Storefront

Once you’ve built and optimized your Hydrogen storefront, it’s time to deploy it. Hydrogen apps can be deployed on various platforms, including Vercel, Netlify, and traditional servers.

> Deploy your app:

Continuous deployment:
Anchor link to section titled “Continuous deployment”

Developers typically prefer automated systems that deploy their app whenever they update its code base. These types workflows are broadly known as continuous integration or continuous delivery/deployment (CI/CD) systems.

Hydrogen and Oxygen support CI/CD with GitHub out of the box. You can also create your own CI/CD workflows using the Hydrogen CLI.

Manual deploymentAnchor:

You can create a new deployment from your local development environment with the Hydrogen CLI deploy command. The Hydrogen CLI builds, uploads, and deploys your app, then returns the deployment’s unique URL.

From your project’s terminal, run the below command – npx shopify hydrogen deploy

Follow the prompts to complete the deployment. Shopify will automatically build and deploy your Hydrogen Remix project.

The road ahead

Shopify development can take a lot of time and effort, and you might want to outsource those needs to an offshore agency partner. If you want to know how Mavlers can help address your Shopify needs, we have a guide for that, too!

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Gautam Bhattacharya

As a Senior Full Stack Shopify Developer with over 5 years of dedicated experience, he brings a deep understanding and proven expertise in developing scalable, high-performing Shopify stores. He excels in crafting tailored solutions that enhance user experience, optimize conversions, and support business growth. His approach combines technical proficiency with a keen understanding of eCommerce dynamics, enabling him to deliver solutions that are not only technically sound but also commercially viable.

Naina Sandhir - Content Writer

A content writer at Mavlers, Naina pens quirky, inimitable, and damn relatable content after an in-depth and critical dissection of the topic in question. When not hiking across the Himalayas, she can be found buried in a book with spectacles dangling off her nose!

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