How to Create a Development Store in Shopify—and Why You Should

Rebekah Brace
By Rebekah Brace
Joel Taylor
Edited by Joel Taylor

Updated July 27, 2023.

Business owner sitting in front of laptop

Learning how to create a development store in Shopify is one of the most valuable things you can do as a Shopify developer. Development stores are simple free accounts in Shopify where you can experiment with different Shopify apps and themes, explore website functionality, and even set up accounts for clients.

Shopify partners have access to unlimited Shopify development stores, so they can test virtually any theme or app they create with ease.

Here's how you can create a development store in Shopify.

How to Create a Development Store in Shopify

The first thing you'll need to create development stores in Shopify is a Partner account, which impacts the cost of setting up a development store. Partners have complete access to the Shopify development store landscape, as well as other benefits like partner-preferred apps, documentation, and affiliate rewards.

You can create a Shopify Partner account by visiting the Partner Program page and filling out the form provided. You'll need to enter your email address and a few other details.

Once you have your Shopify Partner account, you can create as many development stores as you like. Start by logging in to your Shopify Partner dashboard, then follow these steps:

  1. Click Stores.
  2. Choose Add Store.
  3. Select Development store as your store type.
  4. Give your store a name, URL, and password. You can also enter a purpose for the store.
  5. Click Save.

Once your store is created, you can log in to it through the Stores tab in your Shopify Partner account dashboard. Here, you'll be able to start experimenting with your store or practice managing multiple stores. You can edit the password page (though it cannot be removed) and install various themes and apps from the Shopify Store.

To install an app in a Shopify development store, visit the Shopify App Store and click the app you want to add. Enter your store's address and add the password when prompted.

When you create a development store, you can also enable Developer Preview to gain access to new features for Shopify, so you can experiment with them before they're released to merchants. You can also archive your development stores by clicking the name of the store you want to archive in the Stores tab and then clicking Archive.

How to Transfer Ownership of a Development Store

One of the most common reasons to create a development store is to create something for a client. Once you've tested that your store works, you can transfer ownership of the domain to the customer in a few simple steps. Start by logging in to your Partner dashboard, then:

  • Click Stores.
  • Choose Actions next to the store you want to transfer.
  • Select Transfer ownership.
  • In the Transfer dialog box, choose your client from the list of eligible accounts created for your store.
  • If your client isn't a staff member yet, you can click Add staff account to do so.
  • Click Transfer store.

Benefits of Shopify Development Stores

Shopify development stores allow developers to experiment with store creations in a safe and secure environment. You can use your development store to test the themes and apps you've created yourself or to set up a Shopify store with other apps in the Shopify App Store to see how everything functions. This is a great way to test store functionality for clients.

The biggest benefits of Shopify development stores include the following:

  • Experimentation You're free to experiment with all the apps and themes you like in a controlled environment where you can access most of Shopify's Advanced functions.
  • Client Site-Building You can create an entire store for a client, ensure it works as intended, and share the site with your client without paying for a Shopify external license.
  • Exploring New Features Enabling the Developer Preview option in Shopify development stores allows you to explore new features in Shopify before they're released.

Features and Limitations of Development Stores

One point to keep in mind is that while Shopify development stores are free to use, they do have some limitations. You will get most of the features included in the Shopify Advanced plan in your development environment. This means you can:

  • Process unlimited test orders.
  • Assign custom domains to stores.
  • Experiment with apps and themes.
  • Create up to 10 custom apps.
  • Create unlimited, unique products for your store.
  • Explore new features from Shopify.

However, development stores will only allow you to install free apps and partner-approved apps, which may be a significant limitation. You can also only test orders using the Bogus Test Gateway or with the test mode offered by your payment provider. It's not possible to test orders with real transactions. You also won't be able to remove the Shopify store password page.

As such, it's up to you to determine whether investing time in Shopify development stores is worth it or not.

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