Extensible Software: Benefits, Examples, How To Choose

Extensible software

When you choose business software you spend time learning it, entering data, and making it part of your daily workflows. Once you’ve invested time and energy, you want it to keep up with your business needs—so you aren’t starting from scratch with new software.

This is why software extensibility is essential. An extensible software system can adapt because the vendor sends updates with new features or because you can expand its functionality with third-party plug-ins, extensions, and application programming interfaces (APIs). Here’s an explanation of extensible software and tips for choosing the right tool for your ecommerce business. 


What is extensible software?

Extensible software is designed to expand beyond its core product code and initial set of functions, to allow new functionality and capabilities to be added. By providing well-defined application programming interfaces (APIs) or plug-in systems, extensible software allows you to add new code without making large changes to the core codebase. This means components can be developed independently and plugged into the core software, adding improvements without disrupting its central functionality.

Imagine after you start using your customer relationship management (CRM) software your provider releases a new feature that lets you track customer orders via FedEx and UPS. This feature can be added because the software is built on an extensible system, where software engineers can build on the existing code and develop components to improve the product. The software gets new features but otherwise functions as it always has.

Extensibility vs. scalability 

In software engineering, extensibility is different from scalability. 

  • Extensibility. Extensibility is achieved through modular design principles, like component-based architecture or the use of plug-ins. An extensible design can expand beyond the program’s core purpose—for instance, shipment tracking software can be customized to send automated emails to customers. 
  • Scalability. Scalability describes software’s capacity to be changed in size or scale. A scalable software design is one that lets you build up in volume—for example, going from tracking 50 to 5,000 orders at a time. 

Extensible and scalable software systems let you plan for future growth, but only an extensible design allows you to add new functionality.

Benefits of extensible software

Extensible software can greatly benefit small businesses. Here are key benefits of software built with an extensibility framework:

Expanding functionality

Extensible software uses a combination of iterative development (updates), program extensions (plug-ins), and integrations with other software to increase the software’s features and functions. This means you can add new functionality over the product’s lifetime.


With extensible software, you can accomplish more tasks using fewer applications. The program’s extension framework lets developers build on its source code, adding new functions that might otherwise require a separate piece of software. This means you’ll buy less software and save money as a result. 

Customize for your specific business

You can often tailor extensible software to meet your business’s specific needs. Many programs allow you to incorporate custom code, allowing changes to their function and appearance. You might use this to alter the software’s front-end design to represent your business’s colors and logo or build custom storefronts. You could also create custom modules, like videos that appear when customers scroll through your ecommerce product pages.

Easier implementation

In many cases, you can change extensible software on your own without a background in software development. Rather than learning domain-specific language, a software developer can create an easy-to-use configuration UI (user interface) that lets you change how the software works..

Maintenance and upgrades

An extensible architecture makes it easier to maintain, update, or fix issues in the software because changes are localized to specific modules or extensions.

4 examples of extensible software for ecommerce businesses

  1. Shopify
  2. Google Chrome
  3. Adobe Commerce
  4. WooCommerce

Even if you’re new to the concept of extensible software, chances are you’re using some right now. Web browsers often feature extensible code to facilitate their continued development. Many leading ecommerce applications are also extensible, offering an expanding suite of functions. 

Here are four examples of extensible software for ecommerce businesses:

1. Shopify

Shopify is an ecommerce platform that can handle everything from website hosting to sales transactions, accounting, tax liability tracking, marketing automation, inventory management, and email marketing. Rather than purchase, install, and maintain separate software for each task, you can do them all with Shopify. As a cloud-based program, it can run on your web browser or its iOS or Android mobile app.

Shopify also supports third-party extensions through its App Store. These extensions take advantage of Shopify’s extensible programming language to further expand what you can do on the platform. For instance, the Dropified app runs atop Shopify’s software infrastructure to help ecommerce merchants with dropshipping. These apps let you expand Shopify’s capabilities without losing any of the platform’s core functions.

2. Google Chrome

Google Chrome is the world’s most popular web browser. It’s known for adding features like support for new video codecs, blocking pop-up ads, and integrating calendar reminders. 

Google regularly improves Chrome with new code through frequent updates that don’t require installing new software. You can browse extensions in the Chrome Web Store that run atop the program’s source code and add additional functionality. 

Using a powerful browser enables you to take advantage of software that runs in the browser, rather than launching another application. For instance, if you use Shopify for ecommerce management, you can access its many features—including website building, checkout, sales tracking, and email marketing—using your browser. 

3. Adobe Commerce

Adobe Commerce (formerly Magento) is an ecommerce software tool that integrates with other Adobe programs like Analytics, Real-Time CDP, Target, and Experience Manager. 

Adobe Commerce uses Adobe’s Sensei AI tool to improve user product recommendations and site searches. It also profiles shoppers based on their purchases and behavior. Adobe uses a cloud-based software model, letting its programmers add functionality without requiring user downloads. When you log in to your account, you’re using the most up-to-date version of Adobe Commerce. Learn how Adobe Commerce compares to Shopify

4. WooCommerce

WooCommerce is an open-source plug-in for ecommerce sites created using WordPress. WooCommerce promises “no-code customization” that allows custom ecommerce store design without interacting with source code. 

Its extensible design allows for a user experience that feels unique. It allows customized stores using a mixture of Woo Marketplace (which functions like an app store), a theme library, and add-on extensions that mostly run as APIs. Learn how WooCommerce compares with Shopify.

How to choose the right extensible software for your ecommerce business

You can select from many extensible software programs to help your growing business. Here’s how to select the right program:

Determine your business needs 

Any piece of software—extensible or fixed—must fit your needs and work model. If your business uses agile methodologies, which focus on effective communication and collaboration among team members, you may significantly benefit from software that continually adds support for tools like Slack and Zoom. If your business requires payment processing, you may need extensible software that supports the most up-to-date payment security protocols. 

Extensible software may also help your ecommerce businesses stand out with a unique look or feature. You can use extensible website-building software to add a video streaming API to your ecommerce store’s homepage, distinguishing you from similar merchants with basic homepages.

Compare features

Ecommerce software can be extensible in different ways. Some programs focus on customization, such as creating a unique storefront and checkout experience. Others are known for a constantly expanding feature suite, enabling you to replace single-function software. 

Research the features available and meet with sales reps for more in-depth demonstrations of the software. Ask for trial subscriptions to see whether you’d get what you’re looking for from a program.

Evaluate what makes the software extensible

Software can be extensible because the developer continually updates its code, extending its functionality. It can also be extensible through plug-ins and APIs that add third-party functions. 

As you research ecommerce software options, look into app stores and feature suite rollouts. These give you a sense of how far you can expand the software’s functionality. Consider reliability also; if a developer promises regular updates, see if they provide an implementation schedule, which can help you estimate when new features will be available. 

Consider cost and scalability

You want to keep using the same software as your business grows, sparing your employees from training on new applications and importing information to a new database. Look for scalable software, so it can accommodate larger work teams and workloads. These attributes increase the likelihood you stick with the software because you want a platform that can grow with you.

Drive your business forward with Shopify’s analytics

Shopify’s user-friendly reports and analytics capabilities help you make better decisions, faster. Choose from pre-built dashboards and reports, or build your own to spot trends, capitalize on opportunities, and supercharge your decision-making.

Extensible software FAQ

What are the disadvantages of using extensible software?

By its nature, extensible software can change over time, and not all changes are for the better. Iterative updates can sometimes make the software less functional, and third-party plug-ins and extensions can be buggy or vulnerable to hacks. For this reason, some businesses approach extensible software with caution.

How can I ensure my extensible software is secure?

Many of today’s extensible software applications function in the cloud, meaning your computer constantly sends data over the internet to use the program. Protect your data by ensuring your software vendor uses encrypted connections and robust sign-in security like passkeys or two-factor authentication.

How can I customize my extensible software to meet my business needs?

Look for software that has a feature suite relevant to your work and supports API integrations with other programs you use. Avoid software that requires you to change your operational model to use it.