Where Did Shogun FrontEnd Go?
ShoGun Frontend seemed to disappear. We've got the details on where it went, and where you continue your headless eCommerce investigation
Shogun is a SaaS company that builds interface creation products for Shopify and BigCommerce. Their general philosophy is to allow users to create a customized online store without the need for coding or web development experience.
As an agency that specializes in headless eCommerce, we like to keep an eye on all the great products out there. Shogun may not seem like it falls under the “headless” blanket, but it actually does, or more accurately, it did, until March of 2023. Shogun had two products; their most popular Page Builder and a more sophisticated FrontEnd.
Businesses that reach out to us for advice on going headless have often brought up Shogun’s FrontEnd products, asking how it works and whether it’s worth looking into. Even though the product has been sunsetted, we still get these questions, so we figured it would be worth writing an article to address them.
In this piece, we’re going to give you a broader take on Shogun’s products and then expand a little more on the FrontEnd product.
Shogun’s Page Builder
Shogun's flagship product is a website-building interface that plugs into the two most popular monolithic eCommerce platforms; Shopify and BigCommerce. It’s designed to be user-friendly and intuitive, with a drag-and-drop interface that lets you easily add and customize various elements of their website. The platform offers a wide range of pre-built blocks and templates, allowing users to create a website that meets their unique requirements.
Page builders are the natural enemy of developers, so we don’t want to give this topic too much oxygen. Generally speaking, they carry a ton of overhead and cause crappy user experiences because of the unnecessary code that is required to build a UI.
And to no one’s surprise, running a lighthouse test on the first three sites listed under the Shogun case studies, they all have garbage performance and provide a mediocre user experience.
Who is Shogun Page Builder aimed at?
The platform is suited for small and medium-sized businesses that are still finding their way in the world. These businesses can save some coin by building their own store pretty quickly and end up with a half-decent result.
Most of these companies will never reach the level of maturity where they need to consider optimizing their page speed, creating a unique brand, or building innovative frontend features, so using the Page Builder makes complete sense.
However, any online retailer turning over $10M annually is probably going to spend some time figuring out if their store can be better. Can they provide quicker page load times? Can they run more complex A/B tests? Should they implement a new innovative look for their cart to improve conversions?
The need to “be better” than Shogun’s Page Builder was the reason they created FrontEnd.
What was Shogun FrontEnd?
FrontEnd, as its name suggests, was a decoupled front-end product that let users assemble a user interface.
I’ve specifically used the term “assemble” instead of build or design, because the way it worked was to pick pre-styled blocks from a library, lay them out, and fill in the content.
This approach is exactly how we build our headless websites, except Shogun had built the equivalent of a headless content management system and slapped their name on everything.
This diagram from the Shogun docs does an excellent job of explaining the architecture.
If you look at how they’ve depicted a normal headless system compared to their FrontEnd, the two are the same. The difference is that if you work with an agency like Clean Commit to build your headless system, you aren’t locked into one technology - and we won’t charge you $15,000 a month for the system.
FrontEnd pulled all the Shopify data into the frontend by API where it could be styled according to the pre-built blocks.
We’ve written extensively on headless eCommerce and how it works, and don’t want to rehash too much of that story.
Pros of Shogun’s FrontEnd
At its height, PageBuilder had over 50 clients, which is pretty impressive given headless eCommerce is still in its early adoption stage.
These were the advantages of Shogun’s FrontEnd:
1. Quicker time to market than an agency
This was arguably the biggest benefit of FrontEnd. There was no need to work with a software agency to build the Shopify or BigCommerce API connection from scratch.
We’ve done this a bunch of times, and each time it becomes faster, but since we’re working with completely custom designs and functionality each time, it takes several hundred hours of development (i.e. it’s expensive).
FrontEnd came loaded with a bunch of pre-styled blocks, and the blocks were pretty universal to eCommerce, like banners, product carousels, calls to action, etc. Spinning up a new site could take weeks instead of months.
2. Better performance and flexibility than PageBuilder
The whole reason Shogun created FrontEnd was to offer a solution for companies that cared about their performance and wanted to do things on their front end that wasn’t supported by the PageBuilder.
Headless stores that leverage static site generation through a framework like Next.js or Shopify Hydogen provide the absolute best performance the internet has to offer. Customers don’t have to wait for pages to load, and that has a tangible impact on their purchasing patterns.
3. Safety in numbers
Any company worth its salt steers away from risk, even when they’re blazing new trails. Shogun offered some assurance of stability and support with FrontEnd because it was a product with a dedicated support team.
There were other users subscribed to the platform, and that fact alone is reassurance for many organizations.
Cons of Shogun’s FrontEnd
FrontEnd was sunsetted for a reason, and it carried a handful of pretty tangible downsides.
1. High ongoing costs
A business owner approached us after speaking with Shogun to get a quote for going headless. He was a little vague on his budget after being spooked by the cost of Shogun.
The FrontEnd account reps quoted him over $20,000 a month, with a lengthy lock-in period to keep his store afloat. This guy was looking in the wrong places because his store had virtually no traffic and was really at the beginning of its journey.
Plenty of eCommerce companies would see $20k a month as an unbelievable bargain for supporting their store, but keep in mind that the pricing scales according to your revenue.
As a point of comparison, the cost of hiring our team to build a headless store would be absorbed in the first year of paying for Shogun, and then the costs are insignificant (less than $500/month).
2. It’s “almost” custom
The videos and resources the Shogun team shared to support FrontEnd are full of customers complaining that they can’t build pricing tables or asking how to make a button have a particular CSS effect.
These comments highlight the fact that FrontEnd was “almost” custom but mostly an extension of a pre-styled library. If your store needed a crazy new innovative feature that didn’t fit within the library, it needed to go through the development pipeline like everyone else.
This is the scenario when you don’t want to be just another number.
The alternative to this approach is working with an agency to figure out exactly how your design should be implemented from the get-go. Even if you change your mind and need new features, the process is in place, and things happen quickly.
3. You’re locked in
Composable commerce is a big deal these days. The idea is to separate the services that make up your store so they can run on their own infrastructure rather than being clumped together.
If one service isn’t cutting the mustard, it’s not a big deal to find a new one and stitch it into place.
Using FrontEnd took this opportunity away. There was no way to change CMS or add a new AI-driven product recommendation suite. You had to accept what you were given. If you decided that your stack needed to change, the only option would be to completely rebuild from scratch.
In this sense, FrontEnd was halfway to being a proper headless eCommerce solution. It sped the initial build-up and removed the tricky developer relationship but at the cost of a bunch of flexibility and technical freedom.
Are There Alternatives to Shogun’s FrontEnd?
There probably are other solutions out there, but we wouldn’t recommend them. If you want to be able to “own” your store and have full control over the customer journey, the best way is to partner up with an experienced agency like Clean Commit and build a store.
Simply throwing the switch and moving to a headless solution isn’t a silver bullet. It is an architecture that allows you to move quicker, build more, and expand your business internationally.
If you’re keen to see how some other businesses have made it work, we're been building a case study of companies that have grown their revenue and improved conversion rates through an upgrade to headless architecture. The case study is still in progress, but if you sign up for our newsletter, we'll let you know when it's available!
Frequently asked questions
Q: Can I use Shogun with my existing e-commerce platform?
Yes, Shogun integrates with popular e-commerce platforms such as Shopify, BigCommerce, and Magento, allowing businesses to manage their products, orders, and customer data from within their existing platform while taking advantage of Shogun's customization and design features.
Q: Does Shogun offer support and resources for users?
Yes, Shogun offers a range of support and resources for users, including a knowledge base, video tutorials, and live chat support. Users can also access a community forum where they can ask questions, share ideas, and connect with other users.
Q: Does Shogun offer support for mobile devices?
Yes, Shogun is designed to be highly responsive and optimized for performance on various devices, including desktops, tablets, and smartphones.
Shogun FrontEnd disappeared because it was Shogun’s less profitable and more effort-intensive product. Even though it was a “product”, it was halfway to a fully customizable solution and would have been costly to keep running. If you’ve been looking for an alternative, reach out to our team and we’ll help you plan a more cost-effective and better-fitting solution.
Tim is the face of the company. When you want to kick off a new project, or an update on your existing project, Tim is your man!