WordPress Plugin Marketing and Usability

I’ve been doing some research on my competitors and I think that I have a major strength that they don’t have.  Marketing and Usability skills.

Yes I have some significant development expertise, but honestly many of my competitors are probably better at it than I am.  Thankfully, my career took a wild swing several years ago and got me exposed to marketing expertise at the highest level.  I’ve had the pleasure of working with some of the best digital marketing groups in North America and the UK for more than 3 years so I’m intimately familiar with what is required to sell products.

What my competitors are doing, is not it.   I’ll break this into two major themes.

1. Usability – of lack thereof

Without exception, every paid gallery plugin I reviewed was a usability nightmare.  So many needless options exposed on the first  settings screen that won’t be used by 98% of users.  Very complicated workflows, requiring all sorts of manual effort.  Why isn’t it simplified?  These are blog plugins.   The majority of bloggers aren’t technical.  In the day and age of smartphones and macbook pros, even technical people don’t like to have to learn a silly workflow and which options they have to pay attention to in order to get something basic out of a plugin.  If you have to spend 30 minutes reading documentation or watching videos on how to configure a plugin so it will do something basic for you before you buy it you have lost an astounding amount of customers.  If your plugin truly needs a lot of options – fine.  Just hide them in an advanced tab.  There isn’t any excuse you can make to me that your plugin can’t have default settings and you can’t make it easy enough that your mom/grandma/<some relative that needs help getting email> can figure it out.

Most admin interfaces seem to be an ad-hoc mess.  I’m sure there weren’t paper mock-ups, wireframes, or user stories/paths at any stage of the development process.

2. Marketing/Growth Hacking

The extent of the majority of the gallery related plugins seems to be to put it on code canyon and hope for the best.  I can’t imagine putting in all of the work to create a great product, and then leave the likelihood that it will sell to chance.  If there is a free product, where are the links to give it a five star review?  Where is the content marketing – guides to tell people how to solve pain points (with a handy paid plugin), customized for industry and vertical.  Why isn’t everyone with a free/pro version adding a pro-lite version where the only requirement to get it is an email address (to generate recurring eyeballs for that content marketing).

If I were a more underhanded type of person I would be tempted to fork some really good free plugins, make minimal updates, market the shit out of them and laugh all the way to the bank.  It would be perfectly legal according to the GPL license – I would just have to provide the source code on demand, but it would not matter, because the audience that I would be marketing to is not the type to be installing things from source, plus I would own the conversation with them, not the original developer.  Alas I am not that  type of person.  At the minimum, I will make massive usability improvements to existing plugins.  I believe that marketing/selling those would both add value and benefit the community.  In the end all wordpress plugin authors who want to be paid are standing on the back of the wordpress platform, so we’re all benefiting from someone else’s work.  Once I get a little more familiar with the code base it will likely be easier for me to make most of my ideas from scratch anyway.

If someone forks my GPL code then so be it.

Committed to starting a software business

I’ve decided to start a software business on the side.  I have a full time job right now, but I feel like I want more.

I have experience as a software developer as well as a marketer/analyst.  I think I’m well suited for it but I know it will be a lot of work.

My first product will be a wordpress plugin called visual recipe index.  I quickly forked an existing plugin and made several modifications to simplify it and make it much easier to use.  My plan is to make a pro version that goes along with the free version.  The pro version will incorporate many new features and a streamlined interface.  You can sign up for information and early access to the pro version at http://kremental.com/visual-recipe-index.

I originally designed the free version in an attempt to build links for my wife’s food blog: Strawberries for Supper.  I’m not sure how well it will work out, it was definitely worth the effort just to get something out the door and establish a quick win to keep me motivated.