Over the last year, there has been a lot of talk about Shopify's Online Store 2.0. Early this year I wrote about when you should upgrade to a 2.0 theme with my overall consensus that if it's not urgent for you, it can probably wait.
That is no longer the case or my advice.
If you haven't already upgraded to a 2.0 version theme, I highly recommend you plan for this as soon as possible.
What's changed that I should upgrade to a 2.0 theme?
I get that some folks don't want to change their theme or don't want to invest time or money into something that isn't urgent. But that urgency is coming.
In February 2023, Shopify announced that the Assets API, though commonly used, will no longer be available.
What does the Assets API have to do with me?
Most of you most likely don't even realize this change impacts you, but it may.
Many apps use the Assets API as a way to add their code to your theme. Once Shopify removes the API, any app without a rare exception and without an alternative will no longer be able to add its code to your theme.
As an example, JSON-LD for SEO now uses the Assets API for the legacy version of our code. When a store installed the app, we automatically added code to your theme files. When the Assets API goes away, we will no longer be able to automatically add code to your theme.
In preparation for this, JSON-LD for SEO uses the Shopify 2.0 App Embed and has done so since January 2022. That's also why JSON-LD for SEO is now enforcing that all stores migrate to the latest version if they haven't already.
With JSON-LD for SEO, we're lucky that we work on all themes and that the transition is super easy.
Not all apps are that lucky and some app may have to rewrite their entire code base. Over the coming months, apps will start to require stores to move to a new version of their code.
What does this have to do with Shopify's 2.0 themes?
For many apps, the only way for them to add code to your store going forward will be through App Blocks or App Embed Blocks, which I describe in this article.
If you are NOT on a Shopify 2.0 theme, not all apps will work with your theme.
What's in it for me?
Upgrading your theme can be super frustrating and Shopify knows it's a pain. But I don't think they really care. Their advice is to "encourage merchants to migrate to a 2.0 theme".
Moving to a 2.0 theme will be good for you in the long run despite the potential headaches a new theme may bring.
Here are just a few of the benefits of moving to a Shopify 2.0 theme:
- Site speed improvements
- Increased flexibility with App Blocks
- New features and apps only compatible with 2.0 themes
- Easier upgrade path when new theme versions are released
- Apps may not support legacy themes going forward
You also have a lot more choices of themes to pick from. Previously, theme developers were still rolling out their updates but now, there are plenty to choose from on the Shopify Theme Store. Any of the free themes in Shopify's Theme Store would work though you can pay for a premium theme if that's you're preference.
If you need help migrating to a new Shopify 2.0 theme and are a creative ecommerce shop, I recommend the fine folks at Aeolidia. I'm happy to make an introduction if that's helpful for you. Alternatively, you can also contact TaskHusky or StoreTasker depending on the help you need.
Is there a hard deadline as to when I should migrate to a Shopify 2.0 compatible theme?
This is where it gets a bit complicated and confusing.
Shopify removed access to the Assets API as of April 1st of which some apps may already be in the process of implementing. Shopify then communicated to apps that they have until the end of the year to migrate. I say it's complicated because some apps may get an exemption and there was a lot of pushback from app developers so this may shift again.
Some apps may implement an earlier deadline for stores depending on their cycle of API updates. For example, JSON-LD for SEO will no longer use the Asset API somewhere around August.
So if you're using an app that will require you to be on a 2.0 theme, their deadline may speed up that timeline for you.
How do I know if my theme is a Shopify 2.0 theme?
The best way to know for sure is to ask your theme developer. I will say that Shopify released Dawn, the first 2.0 compatible theme in the summer of 2021. So if your theme is older than this, it's likely not a 2.0 theme.
You can look at your theme files, but this may not be 100% reliable. The most obvious change in Shopify's theme structure for 2.0 is that theme template files are .json instead of .liquid files. Go to Online Store -> Edit Code and look for the templates folder. If the files in there are mostly if not all .json files, it's likely a 2.0 theme.
Should I contact Shopify apps and ask if they are ready for Shopify to remove the Assets API?
It's on the apps to migrate off the Assets API which has been clearly communicated by Shopify. Most apps have already started their migration process or are in the process of providing an alternative solution.
It's on the app to notify you of what you need to do, if anything, to continue using their app but you can always reach out and ask them.
This article was specifically about updating your theme to a 2.0 compatible theme which is on YOU to update.
Can I update to a Shopify 2.0 compatible theme on my own or do I have to hire someone?
Generally speaking, most stores can update their theme on their own. If you have a lot of custom development on your current theme, hiring someone to help may be invaluable!
There are 3 different ways to move to a Shopify 2.0 compatible theme.
- Some theme providers provided an upgrade path. For example, Turbo by Out of the Sandbox has an upgrade path, so this should be easier for you. Plan on this being a small-medium level project that can take a few hours depending on your customizations.
- Choose a new theme. Every legacy theme built by Shopify is no longer available and you must pick a whole new theme. That means none of your theme settings will transfer over. This option will be a heavier lift than if your theme has an upgrade path. Expect this to be a medium-high level project depending on your customizations.
- Pay a developer to modify your current theme to be Shopify 2.0 compatible. I do not recommend this path if you can avoid it. Manually updating legacy themes can get costly and can be a behemoth of a project. Plus, as new features come out, you'll need to keep paying a developer to update your theme. Depending on your level of customization, this could be a medium-high+ level project. But this is the "gift" that keeps on giving, so be careful.
My recommendation is to go with a theme-provided upgrade path if available or choose a new 2.0 compatible theme. Especially if you are not technical and budget is a factor.