4 types of Shopify Apps – which one is best for your business?


Are you confused with all the types of Shopify apps? Do you still not know which type of Shopify apps is best for your business? Or did you read the Shopify Help page and still don’t know what the hell is going on?

Look no further, because we have identified and visualized the idea behind each of the 04 app types, as well as identifying their strengths and weaknesses.

Types of Shopify Apps

Public apps

What are public apps? Public apps are apps that are made for the masses, for the general Shopify Store Owner audience. There are two types of public apps, listed and unlisted. Listed apps are available on the Shopify App Store, while unlisted apps can only be found on the developer’s website. They still have a listing page however, but this listing page will not appear in Shopify App Store search results or categories (e.g apps that are no longer supported by Shopify or the developers, but there are still users that continue using it after it was shut down).

Private apps

Private apps are the opposite of public apps, which means that they are only available to your store. They are not listed on the App Store, and they are made with direct API access to your store and Shopify admin. Generally, this type of apps is made by the Store Owners themselves, and/or with the support of a third-party developer.

Custom apps

Similar to private apps, custom apps are also only available to your store. They are built by a third-party developer, not the Store Owner, to address the stores’ specific needs and wants. They are very similar to a public app, in the sense that it does not require API access to your store or Shopify Admin to be built.

Draft apps

Draft apps are apps currently in development, and can only be installed on development stores for testing purposes. After completing development, draft apps can become public, private or custom apps.

Advantages & disadvantages

To better understand the app types available to your Shopify Store, we will compare and analyze the strengths and weaknesses of public apps, private apps and custom apps. We will not go over draft apps since they are essentially an unfinished version of an app, or private apps since they are basically custom apps without an admin page.

Public apps

Firstly, public apps. Public apps are available for everybody to purchase and install, which makes them the most popular types of app for Shopify development. The Shopify App Store covers a wide range of app categories, like shipping, sales, finance, inventory management, etc. The number of apps on the App Store has also increased significantly over the last few years, going from just 2,600 apps in 2019 to over 4,000 in 2020. This means that if you have a problem that needs addressing, it’s very likely that there’s an app for that. Also, with high competition and demand for app development, developers have no choice but to price their products at a reasonable amount to compete with other apps. Big market, cheap prices, a win-win for customers!

There is a disadvantage to this however since these apps are made for the masses, they often fail to address problems that are unique to a business. If that’s the case, custom apps might just be what you need.

Custom apps

Secondly, custom apps. Unlike public apps, the number of custom apps that have been developed is extremely insignificant. As we’ve discussed, the majority of needs and wants Store Owners have can be addressed by browsing the App Store, but as for the remaining 10%, as for the needs and wants that are unique to some businesses, building a custom app is the most viable solution.

With custom apps, if you manage to reach a good development team with your request, you can rest assured that all your problems will be taken care of. Custom app developers will build and design an app for you that could solve any of your problems, as well as optimize it in a way that you prefer. User navigation, usage and experience will be a breeze for you with a custom app.

Like public apps, there is a weakness to this as well. They are a big investment. Even though it is a one-time payment and might cost less over the long run, they still won’t be an easy decision to make. If you want to have a custom app to fix or add something, make sure that you absolutely can’t live without it and you have found a developer that can deliver it to you.


Now you know what the advantages and disadvantages of each of these app types, you might now be able to choose between them to solve your own specific problems. If you need public apps, you know where to look. If you need a custom app, there are Shopify Experts out there that are up for the challenge.

We’ve recently launched our own Custom App development service after spending 02 years working on Shopify store services & public apps. If you are interested, please visit us here or send us an email at [email protected].

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