May 14, 2015

This episode covers some best practices around building out documentation for your plugins and themes, how to get started selling your own plugins, and a few updates from Brad and Pippin.

This episode is sponsored by Foxland Themes and Plugins.  Sami over at foxland.fi is creating some awesome plugins and themes around Toivo and Edd.  Head over to check out his beautiful and easy to use themes and plugins.

This episode was also sponsored by WP Ninjas, the creators of Ninja Demo and the highly popular Ninja Forms plugin.

 

Show Notes

  • Brad Update
    • Working on the marketing site
    • Renaming the plugin due to trademark
    • Snag: CSS/JS Addon
  • Pippin Update:
    • LoopConf
    • RCP 2.1.x releases
    • Amazon Login and Pay integration
  • We also tackle a few listener questions in this episode.  Check it out:
    • John McAlester – How do you best set up to provide documentation and support for customers?
    • Robert Wilde – What are some best practices for selling premium, commercial plugins?

We got a few recent Reviews from iTunes.  Thanks a ton to szyam and josheby for your reviews.  That’s awesome!

If you’re enjoying the show we sure would appreciate a Review in iTunes.  Thanks!

Transcript
INTRO: Welcome to Apply Filters, the podcast all about WordPress development. Now here’s your hosts, Pippin Williamson and Brad Touesnard.

PIPPIN: Welcome back to Episode 40 of Apply Filters. Today, Brad and I are going to go back through a couple of updates from the last couple of weeks, and then we’ve got a couple of questions from listeners that we want to dive into that are really great ones to really consider if you are building plugins or themes, especially commercial ones.

Before we get into that, however, Sami from Foxland Themes and Plugins was kind enough to come back and sponsor another episode today. Go check out his work. You can find it at Foxland.fl. He just released a brand new theme called Toivo that is really, really excellent looking.

BRAD: How do you say that?

PIPPIN: I’ll be honest. I’m probably doing it wrong, but I think it’s Toivo.

BRAD: Toivo, T-o-i-v-o. Toivo.

PIPPIN: Yeah.

BRAD: Yeah, that sounds right.

PIPPIN: I think it’s right. That’s my best guess at it anyway. That is a commercial them that he has got available at Foxland. Then he also has a lite version of it, which was just released a couple weeks ago, but has already got a lot of downloads, got five-star reviews, looks really nice.

Then he also, recently, has done three other things. He’s been busy.

BRAD: Man, has he ever.

PIPPIN: He wrote two plugins for Easy Digital Downloads: one for membership. If you want to have content that’s restricted to paid members, there’s a plugin for that. We will include links to all of these in the show notes.

Then he wrote another one called EDD Feedback that lets you send automatic emails to customers at a specified time period after they purchase. If you want to send someone an email two days after they purchase and then another one at three days and then five days or several weeks, you can do that.

Then, lastly, Sami also wrote a really, really excellent post on PostStatus about how to create better and more accessible WordPress themes. He gets really into detail about screen reader text, ARIA, headers and sub-headers, etc., things that are really, really important if you want to build topnotch themes. We’ll have links to all these in the show notes. Go check them. Thanks, Sami, for helping us produce this show and get it put together.

BRAD: Awesome. Thanks, Sami.

PIPPIN: Brad, why don’t you take us through what you have been up to?

BRAD: Yeah, for sure. I’ve been personally working on the marketing site for the Amazon plugin that we’ve been working on for, like, five or six months, and just working on the messaging and kind of how to portray it that it’s worth buying, right? The plugin is called Amazon S3 and CloudFront. That’s the name of the plugin on the WordPress.org repo. It’s using Amazon’s trademark, right? Amazon S3 is a trademark owned by Amazon, and CloudFront is also trademarked.

I realized this is a bad name for a commercial product because I’m using someone else’s trademarks. I brought that to the team, and we started throwing names around. We kind of settled on WP Offload because you’re offloading your media library, so it kind of made sense.

PIPPIN: Sure.

BRAD: We decided on WP Offload for Amazon S3 and CloudFront.

PIPPIN: There we go.

BRAD: Because they allow you to use the “for,” right?

PIPPIN: Right.

BRAD: That’s a really long name though. That’s like–I don’t know–15 syllables or something, right?

PIPPIN: That is really long.

BRAD: It is really long. And I’ve already had a hard time with WP Migrate WP Pro, right? I’ve already said that so many times, “I wish it was shorter.” I’ve decided to shorten it to WP Offload S3, so it’s nice and compact and short.

PIPPIN: Yeah.

BRAD: We’re going to say, on the site and everywhere else, Amazon S3.

PIPPIN: Right.

BRAD: But just for the name of the product.

PIPPIN: Do you think that, just based on the naming convention, WP Offload, do you think that will ever lend itself to creating other companion plugins like Offload DropBox, Offload Rackspace, Offload etc.?

BRAD: Yeah, it’s possible.

PIPPIN: Do you think that’s possible?

BRAD: We have talked a little bit about that. I don’t know if we’re going to go down that road particularly if we’re going to go with DropBox, Google Drive, and all those other cloud services. I feel like we should stick with Amazon, at least for now, in the short term, so we could do things like WP Offload SES (Simple Email Service), so just offload all your email sending to Amazon. That’s kind of the next step, I think, for us.

PIPPIN: I love that idea. That’d b awesome.

BRAD: Another update about this plugin, we’re doing or we had planned to do a CSS JS add-on. I think I talked about it before on the show where we would be hooking into the enqueuing functions in WordPress and uploading those assets to S3 and then serving them from there.

PIPPIN: And that would allow you to grab the assets from all plugins, all themes, that were at least the ones that were enqueued.

BRAD: Yes, but a huge problem that we ran into that we didn’t foresee. Let’s say you’re enqueuing a style sheet. Well, within that style sheet, there are other assets that have relative URLs.

PIPPIN: Right. What do you do with those?

BRAD: If you upload that style sheet and start serving it from S3, those assets that are within the style sheet, like pings or even other style sheets, those have to be up on Amazon as well because they have to be in a relative path.

PIPPIN: Did you find a way to resolve that?

BRAD: Yeah, we’re going to upload everything.

PIPPIN: That’s awesome.

BRAD: We’re going to scan for all the assets that are in your install and upload those. That’s really the only way to be sure that we get everything; that there’s not going to be something broken. That’s the best solution that we’ve come up with.

PIPPIN: I would assume that’s probably the same solution that things like W3 Total Cache and other plugins that integrate with, like, Max CND and such.

BRAD: Yeah.

PIPPIN: I would assume do the same thing, right?

BRAD: I think so. I think that is how W3 Total Cache does it. I think they just scan everything. It’s really the only way that you could be sure that you’re not missing anything, right?

PIPPIN: Yeah. I can’t think of a way to do it otherwise.

BRAD: Yeah, and there are other things like assets, like the fav icon that might be actually hard coded into the theme that they might want to update to serve from S3 as well, right? Yeah. You have to kind of get them all, all those assets. Anyway, what have you been up to?

PIPPIN: Well, this last week has been mostly catch-up because, the week before that, I was at LoopConf, along with most of the EDD and Affiliate WP team. We had five, six of us out there, I think, for the LoopConf. It was just outside of Vegas in Henderson at the nice Westin Resort. It was awesome.

For anyone that doesn’t know, LoopConf is a WordPress developers only conference put together by Ryan Sullivan, the guy from WP Site Care, and his team. It was awesome. It was structured much like a WordCamp or like PressNomics, if you’ve been to either of those, but it was all development based, so there was no marketing. There was no design. There’s no user tracks. It’s all development.

BRAD: Was it a single track or were there several tracks?

PIPPIN: Yes, it was single track. It was a whole lot of fun. It was cool to be able to have two full days just devoted to development.

BRAD: Awesome. I like the simplicity of a single track event because you don’t feel like you’re missing out on other talks. You don’t have to decide.

PIPPIN: You don’t have people going at the same time; which one do I go to?

BRAD: Yeah.

PIPPIN: And so that was great. There was a lot of time spent there just socializing with other developers, people from around the world. There were attendees from every single continent except Antarctica. I think it was around 300 people or so.

BRAD: Wow.

PIPPIN: Yeah, it was really excellent. I got to spend a lot of time with a lot of people that we knew and some that we didn’t. If they do #2, I would highly recommend going.

BRAD: Cool.

PIPPIN: Once I got back, it was just kind of some catch-up. Two weeks ago or a week and a half, I pushed a big release to Restrict Content Pro version 2.1 that had a bunch of major changes. Since then, I’ve pushed a few point releases to fix some minor bugs, a few backwards compatibility glitches that I missed. For example, I realized that some of the new changes I put in depended on changes to template files, and so if somebody had modified a template file, those changes weren’t there and things broke. I had to push a few fixes. Then, over the last couple of days and for the next two weeks, myself and Chris Klosowski are working on an integration for EDD with Amazon login and pay.

BRAD: Okay. What is login and pay?

PIPPIN: Login and pay are kind of like PayPal. Amazon has a whole lot of products.

BRAD: Yes, they do.

PIPPIN: And they get kind of confusing. We’re had various payment integrations with Amazon for EDD over the last three years. We had Amazon FPS. We had Amazon Pay, and now with Amazon login and pay.

Login and pay is their new one, and what it allows you to do is, during your checkout process, you can actually log into your Amazon account, authenticate, kind of in the same way that a social login works, and then all of your address, your email, your billing details, your payment, etc. gets pulled from your Amazon account. You never enter any payment info. You never enter billing info or anything like that. You just select the ones that you want from your Amazon account.

BRAD: Aah.

PIPPIN: Yes, so we’re working on getting that built out.

BRAD: It sounds almost like PayPal Express, like PayPal Express flow.

PIPPIN: Yes, it’s the same idea in that you will tokenize a user, so they will authenticate, and you will get a token back. Then, with that token, you can go retrieve information from their account.

BRAD: Hmm.

PIPPIN: And so we’re building that out. Chris is doing all the heavy lifting on it. But it’s going to be actually introduced into EDD Core, so we’re going to be releasing it as an official payment gateway that’s included in the free plugin for everyone. That’ll be a cool update and that we’re hoping to have live within about a month, maybe a month and a half.

BRAD: Neat.

PIPPIN: Yeah. Yeah, that’s what’s keeping us busy.

BRAD: Should we get into some listener questions now?

PIPPIN: Yeah, I think so. We’ve got two of them, and they’re both really good subjects. Why don’t we start with support?

BRAD: Sure.

PIPPIN: Do you want to read John’s question?

BRAD: Yeah, sure. John McAllister wrote in. Actually, I think John came to the first Big Snow Tiny Conf, you know not this year, but last year. The one I didn’t make it to.

Anyhow, he says, “I’m creating my first plugin, and I’m gearing up to provide documentation and support. Any suggestions on the best way to create documentation? What do you guys recommend for support apps? I know we’ve all spent time digging through forums. Sometimes they work, but often they’re just frustrating. Is there a better way?”

What do you think, Pippin?

PIPPIN: Yeah, such a good question, or a series of questions. Well, we’ll start with documentation. One really way to do documentation is to utilize what most of us know pretty well with custom post types. You can create a really, pretty high quality, documentation site just through a simple post type and taxonomy or two combined.

BRAD: Yeah, that’s what we do, actually.

PIPPIN: That’s what we used to do. We recently moved, but not really because of limitations. It had to do with other things.

BRAD: Okay.

PIPPIN: It works really well. Then if you combine it with something like Search WP, that can provide you really good search results.

BRAD: Yeah, that’s exactly what we do.

PIPPIN: Awesome! That’s exactly what we used to do until we changed it recently.

BRAD: Okay. What did you change it to and what are the reasons?

PIPPIN: We changed to Help Scout Docs, and we did it mostly for a couple reasons. The biggest one being that we wanted to stop spending time building our docs system when we should be focusing on building the product. And so, we decided to just offload it to a service, more or less, which was Help Scout.

But it also provided the added advantage that it directly integrated with our support ticketing system so that we could very easily link to a doc from a ticket. We have a search form inside of our ticket response. We can actually turn a ticket into a doc or vice versa, things like that. But if you’re just getting started, you could absolutely go that route, but using a post type and taxonomy is a super simple way to do it.

There is also — somebody just released a good documentation plugin that does exactly that, but instead of building it, it just gives it to you. I think it then had short codes for displaying stuff. I don’t know who did it or what it’s called, but I suspect, if you search the plugins repo for documentation, I bet you it’s there.

BRAD: Right. We chose to go the route with Search WP and just the custom post type. I really did — I looked at this for a long time to figure out which way was the best way to go because, when we first launched, all we had was our documentation consisted of one single WordPress page with anchor links. It started to grow and become completely unmanageable pretty soon after launch.

PIPPIN: Right.

BRAD: And so, we looked at Help Scout, and Help Scout looked really good. I really liked the integration thing, and I really wanted that, that feature where, as the person was typing their support request, it would give them documentation suggestions. Isn’t that one of the features, or am I thinking of a different system?

PIPPIN: No, it has that. We actually don’t — I don’t think we used that feature specifically. If you use that one, the documentation in Help Scout has an option to turn on a contact form. Up in the corner there could be like, “Didn’t find what you’re looking for? Shoot us an email.” When you do that, as you’re typing in your subject, I think it shows you docs.

BRAD: Yeah.

PIPPIN: We chose to disable that feature only because we want them to request additional information on the submission, and you can’t customize that contact form.

BRAD: Right. Another feature it has though is when you’re responding to a support request. You can easily look up the documentation and insert a link, right?

PIPPIN: Yeah, super easy. I just use a keyboard shortcut, so I just do command slash (Command/), type in the name. It quickly pops open a list of found docs. I select the one I want, hit enter, and it’s there.

BRAD: Yeah.

PIPPIN: It dramatically sped up the process of sending someone to documentation.

BRAD: That’s what we’re missing right now. That’s a feature that we would really like to have.

PIPPIN: The other one, and you could do it. You can absolutely do this with things like Google Analytics. But, Help Scout gives you stats on docs.

BRAD: Right.

PIPPIN: It tells you popular searches. It tells you searches that failed. It shows you the top articles. And it also shows you trends, like if you have a particular article that’s being hit a lot more this week than there was the previous week. It tells you that. There are things like that, which you could absolutely set up, but sometimes I go back with the idea of, look, maybe we should spend time building our product, not building our infrastructure.

BRAD: Yep, absolutely.

PIPPIN: That was our main reason for switching to it. Now, all of that being said, I will say there are a lot of issues with Help Scout Docs.

BRAD: Is that right?

PIPPIN: That we have. There are some buggy things in it, for sure. Mostly that Help Scout is a ticking system, and sometimes it feels like docs are the afterthought.

BRAD: Aah, yes. Okay.

PIPPIN: Which is okay. I mean every system has something that’s bad about it. But, overall, it does work very, very well.

BRAD: Okay. The main reason we went with kind of the custom solution is I wanted it really well integrated into our site. I didn’t want it to feel like you were leaving our site to go to the docs.

PIPPIN: Right. Yeah.

BRAD: I looked at the customization, the ability to customize the Help Scout Docs, and it was pretty limited.

PIPPIN: Yeah, it’s super minimal.

BRAD: Yeah, and so I just decided, you know what? We’re just going to try to have — I wanted the seamless experience for the documentation.

PIPPIN: That’s one of the original reasons that we went with the post type route was for that exact reason. I think that’s an excellent reason to do it.

BRAD: It really depends what you’re after, I guess, in the end.

PIPPIN: Yeah. The second part of his question was related to support apps.

BRAD: I think people could probably guess what we’re going to say about that since we’ve been talking about Help Scout so much.

PIPPIN: Yeah. Okay, so what do you use right now for your support?

BRAD: Help Scout.

PIPPIN: Help Scout. We actually have a combination right now. We’re Help Scout/bbPress Forms.

BRAD: Aah, okay.

PIPPIN: I have something I want to mention, specifically because John said, and I quote, “I know we’ve all spent time digging through forms. Sometimes they work. Oftentimes they’re frustrating.”

There’s a really cool trick that you can use that’s super simple for looking through forms. Forget about the internal form search features.

BRAD: Yeah.

PIPPIN: Drop them. They’re worthless. Every single one, even the ones that are decent, are almost worthless if you really want to try and find an answer. Instead, use Google.

BRAD: Google site search.

PIPPIN: Google can index, has everything indexed, as long as it’s a public form. You can do a search on a specific site. We actually ended up throwing away our bbPress search and just replaced it with a Google search that specifically searched out site, and it made things so much better.

If you do use forms, I would definitely put a Google search form on your site instead of the default search. The same thing goes for if you’re trying to find an answer in someone else’s form, just use Google to find it.

BRAD: Yeah. That’s a good tip for sure.

PIPPIN: We are in the process of actually moving away from our bbPress forms.

BRAD: Are you?

PIPPIN: Hopefully, on June 1, they will be gone. They’re not going to be gone. We’re leaving them. They’ll be there forever, but we are moving all new tickets.

BRAD: Is that just because it’s too hard to manage two things: email and forms?

PIPPIN: Yeah. It’s fragmented, basically. We spend a lot of time in the forms. We spend a lot of time in Help Scout. We have both of them because the plan was to move. It’s just been a slow process.

BRAD: Right, so you had forms earlier on only.

PIPPIN: Right.

BRAD: Then you moved to email support only.

PIPPIN: Correct.

BRAD: You’re trying to move. You’re going that direction.

PIPPIN: Yep.

BRAD: What was the motivation to move from forms to email support?

PIPPIN: We’ve been using emails for Affiliate WP and then also for the plugins that are on PippinsPlugins.com. We just had a really great experience with it. The efficiency with which we can manage support is so much faster.

BRAD: Right.

PIPPIN: Also, having reporting, knowing exactly how many tickets each staff answer, what their individual response times were, their customer satisfaction, all of those things. When we’re starting to do higher and higher ticket volumes, we’re talking maybe 1,000 tickets a week are being touched. Stats matter, and they matter a lot more as we get bigger and bigger and bigger.

BRAD: What are the important stats that you’re looking at regularly?

PIPPIN: We’re looking at several of them. Number one is number of tickets. Especially now, we’ve hired a full-time person to do documentation. I really want to be able to start monitoring and see, do our tickets go down in the number of tickets that we have, or do they keep going up? And so, we’re going to be able to start doing better at measuring support based around, like, as we introduce new documentation, as we make changes, etc.

We can also see how active each person is, so if we have part-time staff or full-time staff, we kind of want to get a general idea of how they’ve been doing over the last month. We can go and see exactly how many replies they sent, how many unique customers they helped, what their average time per ticket was, what their resolution time was, what their happiness score. We can see all of these things. I think that’s something that’s really important, as we get bigger.

BRAD: I’ll tell you why I like Help Scout. The main reason that I recommend it to people is because it doesn’t get in our way. It’s really like using Gmail, but without all of the pains that you would have to go through if you were using Gmail with a team of people.

When we first started out, it was just me and Chris doing support, so it was easy to share a Gmail account and do support, and we did for almost a year. Then we switched to Help Scout, and it was just like, oh, this is just like using Gmail, but a little bit better because we each have our own user account, and we’re not stepping on each other’s toes necessarily.

Now, when we add this third person that was just coming onboard, which is the real reason we switched to Help Scout, we won’t be replying to the same ticket, you know two people replying to the same ticket and that kind of thing. I found it just stays out of the way is kind of good selling feature.

PIPPIN: I would definitely second that. We had another question from Robert Wilde. This is a really nice follow-up question. We kind of picked these because they go together.

Robert said, “I am a WP theme and plugin developer who recently finished two plugins for a colleague that I would like to promote and hopefully sell. Loved the last episode about business models. Interested to hear your stories regarding how you started selling your first plugins. Also, any tips for taking a plugin you use on your own projects and make it distributable either with WordPress.org or something like CodeCanyon.”

Do you want to start?

BRAD: Yeah.

PIPPIN: How did you go about selling your first plugin?

BRAD: The way I did it is I did it pretty strategically. I had a plugin that was already doing well on WordPress.org. It was kind of gaining momentum. Then I surveyed the people that were using it, so I stuck a little survey in the sidebar.

It said, “Pro Version?” and said, “What if there was a pro version that had these features?” And I listed them out. “Would you be interested in that?” And it just said yes or no and a submit button. If they chose yes, then it would slide down, and it would ask how much you’d be willing to pay for that and a couple other questions.

Basically, I was getting feedback from people, but I was also collecting email addresses so that when I launched the plugin, I would have people to tell that, “Hey, remember that thing that you wanted? Well, it exists now, and you could buy it over here.”

PIPPIN: That’s great.

BRAD: I didn’t just launch it and hope for the best. I was pretty strategic about how I went about it and to kind of minimize the risk of failure.

PIPPIN: Right.

BRAD: At that time, I had an employee and a runway, so it couldn’t fail or I would be back to freelancing and so would he.

PIPPIN: What kind of thought process did you put into how you wanted to sell it? I know that you landed on selling it through your own site. Did you consider whether or not to sell it through a marketplace like CodeCanyon or to try and sell it under another brand? Any thought process behind that?

BRAD: Yeah. I think I did think about CodeCanyon just because it’s such a huge marketplace, and you wouldn’t have to do all the marketing and that stuff. The problem was just the share and the exclusivity thing. This was like three years ago, two and a half years ago. At least at that time CodeCanyon’s policy was like, if you are not exclusive, so if you’re selling the plugin elsewhere, then your commission is–what was it–30% or something that you’d get.

PIPPIN: Right.

BRAD: And CodeCanyon would take, like, 70% for any sales off their platform. I did want to sell it on my own because I wanted to learn a little bit about marketing stuff, so that’s kind of what did it for me. It was like, okay, that doesn’t make any sense. But, if you’re not interested in marketing, if you really don’t want to do that and you really want to leverage that huge audience that CodeCanyon already has, I think CodeCanyon is a really great place to start for certain people. Pippin, didn’t you start on CodeCanyon selling plugins?

PIPPIN: I did. My first plugins all started on CodeCanyon. I’d say my first 15 or 20 plugins were all on CodeCanyon. Now, I think there’s an interesting difference here. You were very calculated. You were very thought out and careful about how you went about selling your first products because you were going into it with the plan of, look, we are making a business out of this.

I, on the other hand, had no real intention of making a business out of commercial plugins when I started. My first five or six plugins were built and then just kind of put on CodeCanyon as a “why not?”

BRAD: Was it almost an experiment to see if anybody would buy?

PIPPIN: Well, the very first plugin, I don’t even know if I would call it an experiment. It was more of, hey, there’s this marketplace thing. I made a plugin. Maybe I’ll get $10, so I put it up there. I had never sold anything before. It was my very first plugin I ever wrote. It turned out it actually worked out really well.

The next couple of plugins were a bit more of an experiment to say, “Hey, I know that this first one actually did stuff that I had not anticipated. It actually made sales. Let’s see if we can go ahead and keep this going.” By maybe the fifth plugin or so, I started looking at it as, “Hey, this could be a business. This is something that could potentially live off of if I keep working at it for the next six months or a year.”

Mine was really not calculated, not thought out at all. It was kind of a, “Hey, here’s a marketplace. I have a plugin. Why not?” I didn’t think about branding. I didn’t think about marketing. I didn’t really do any of that.

BRAD: That’s kind of like the first software that I ever sold. It’s kind of the way I did it as well. I didn’t put it on a marketplace. I put it on–I don’t even know–I think, my own website.

I was working at a company called SmartForce at the time. I think they’re now SkillSoft. Anyhow, it was doing ASP Classic stuff, and they had a product that they’d bought, a component for ASP. They were called components. Basically, it was just a library and it would produce the tree view.

PIPPIN: Yeah.

BRAD: You know, like in a file listing, you can get a tree view, and you have the little plus, and you can expand and contract. That’s what it would do. You’d feed it some data, and it would produce that tree view. It’s actually kind of hard to build one of those if you’ve ever tried to code one up.

And so I said, well, what if I — I did some searching around, and there was none in PHP. It’s like, what if I build a PHP version of this and called it PHP Tree View, because the ASP one was called ASP Tree View?

PIPPIN: Yep.

BRAD: And so that’s what I did, and I just threw it up on my website. I sold–I don’t know–over the course of five years or something, I probably sold like a dozen licenses for it. But it was just through organic search, people coming to my website from Google.

PIPPIN: Sure. Why don’t we take these two sets of questions and kind of put them summarized into a few pieces of general advice for John, Robert, and everyone else. I’m going to start if you want to then follow up with what you have.

BRAD: Sure.

PIPPIN: When it comes to support and documentation, I’d first say just don’t worry too much about the system that you use. Get something that works for you, something that is easy to manage, and go with it. When you’re starting out, honestly, unless you have an overnight success, which is probably not going to happen, you’re going to have a lot of time to figure out the small kinks. You just need something up from the beginning just so that you can answer questions. If you can answer questions, and you can post documentation, you’re good to go.

Then, in terms of selling, if you’re doing it on the side, don’t be afraid to just throw it up on your site. Throw it on CodeCanyon, and just see how it goes. If you have a large audience already that you can definitely reach out that you can market to, whether that’s organic traffic or social accounts or an email list, probably consider doing it through your own site because of the fact that you get to keep 100%. If you don’t have that large audience yet, you’re trying to build it, I would definitely consider using something like CodeCanyon because the amount of traffic they can drive through to your product is enormous and is giant in comparison to what you will have early on.

BRAD: Yeah. Just to add to that, I think you can always get off of CodeCanyon later.

PIPPIN: Right.

BRAD: There are a couple of pretty high profile examples of that. Mike McAllister went off of CodeCanyon to do his own thing. Did he go back? He ended up just recently going back to CodeCanyon.

PIPPIN: Well, ThemeForest, but still….

BRAD: ThemeForest, yes, but he has an exclusive deal with them, some kind of really, really good deal.

PIPPIN: He started on ThemeForest, did really, really well, made a name for himself, decided he wanted to do things on his own. He wrote a blog post about this recently about some of the reasons for it, but he is now actually doing it on his own and on ThemeForest. But, because he had such a good name for himself, he was able to work out a deal where he got a much better rate than a nonexclusive author would.

BRAD: Exactly, yeah. I mean that’s a great story because you can start out. He started on ThemeForest, went out on his own because he built that audience at ThemeForest, and then came back to ThemeForest later on, and so that’s a good way to go, right?

PIPPIN: Yeah. I would also add, I would never be afraid to test multiple systems. If you want to test out the marketplaces, try CodeCanyon. Try Mojo. Try any other marketplace that’s out there. See how they work. Try your own site. Try and up-sell from WordPress.org with a free version to a paid version. Experiment. Play around with all the different business models. There are a lot of different ones.

You can change it. Sometimes business models can be difficult to change, but you absolutely can change them, so you don’t have to get it perfect the first time.

BRAD: Another thing I’ll say about going with a marketplace versus doing it yourself on your own site is if you really want to learn how to do marketing, how to write better copy that can convince people that your product is worth buying, those kinds of things, you’re probably not going to be able to do that through a marketplace. At least, you’re not going to be able to measure effectiveness as easily as if you did it through your own site. If you’re really interested in learning that, those ropes, I think doing it through your own site is a good way to go. That being said, if you don’t have an audience, maybe you should still start on the marketplace and then move it to your own site once you get some traction.

PIPPIN: I will say, for me personally, that I don’t think I would be where I am today if it wasn’t for CodeCanyon, having started there, and having spent two and a half years there. I have no idea where I’d be right now, but I don’t think I would be right here.

BRAD: What were the things that you learned being on that marketplace? Did you learn a lot? Did you learn about support or supporting your product through that?

PIPPIN: Definitely learned about support. One of the things that is very apparent on CodeCanyon and ThemeForest is that when an author doesn’t support their products, they get really bad reviews very quickly.

BRAD: Right.

PIPPIN: That’s public. To be fair, I think they should. I think providing customer support should be a requirement, whether legally it is or not. And so, very quickly learned the importance of providing support.

BRAD: What about sales and marketing, those kinds of things?

PIPPIN: Sales and marketing was definitely not as much of something for me, or maybe something I picked up a lot slower because of CodeCanyon. I think reason is that when you’re selling through a marketplace, especially one as large as the Envato ones, you don’t really think about, “Did this blog post drive a lot of traffic?” or, “Was this email newsletter successful?”

For a couple reasons: Number one, because you may just not have access to those metrics. Two, you’ll have so much organic traffic from their marketplace alone that you’re not actually going to be really watching those kinds of spikes.

When you’re selling through your own site or a place that you have access to all the analytics, you could push out an email newsletter or social post or whatever you’re using, and you can directly see the increase in traffic, the increase in sales. You don’t really see that in the marketplace as much. You might be able to take a guess. If you have a really good sales day, you may be able to relate it to a blog post you wrote, but it’s all pretty circumstantial.

And so, because of that, I really never started considering those things or really taking them into account until I was selling through my own site, which I think actually made it kind of hard to sell through my own site when I got off, when I started moving off of Code Canyon, because I had been in the mentality for two years of just kind of put it there and it will sell.

BRAD: Right, right.

PIPPIN: Because they’re going be driving traffic.

BRAD: Right.

PIPPIN: Then I put something on my own site and it doesn’t sell. What’s going on?

BRAD: Yeah.

PIPPIN: Oh, wait. There’s this little thing called marketing you have to do.

BRAD: Right, yeah.

PIPPIN: It was kind of interesting.

BRAD: Well, it’s definitely something for people to consider, for sure, when they’re thinking about starting something on their own. I think something you mentioned earlier is really important. If they’re doing it as a side project or if they’ve quit their job and are making a go of it, I think it’s two different scenarios.

PIPPIN: Absolutely.

BRAD: I think the latter, you need to be really careful about how you’re going about it, and you can’t just be throwing spaghetti at the wall, right?

PIPPIN: Right.

BRAD: You should really be validating your business idea and trying to figure out if people are going to be paying for this thing.

PIPPIN: Yeah. I think there’s another thing that people should consider as well. Using a marketplace is cheap. Once you get your product approved, there are no expenses. There’s no SSL certificate. There’s no card processing fees. There are no PayPal fees. There’s none of that. For all intents and purposes, it’s free, aside from the commission that they take, the marketplace takes out, which is pretty easy to justify in a lot of ways because you look at the traffic they give you. You’re paying for traffic with the commission.

Starting your own site, however, it’s very expensive or can be depending on what you’re doing. You need to start looking at SSL certificates. You need to consider how much it costs to process a credit card. It’s not that cheep. Sometimes we can think about it being cheap. Think about the cost of hosting your website, the amount that you’re going to lose in sales if your site goes down. All of these things are things to think about.

Also, licensing: If you’re buying an e-commerce plugin, you’re going to be spending probably quite a bit. Even on the free ones. Just as an example, if you were selling through Easy Digital Downloads, and you’re selling a WordPress plugin, you’re going to be spending a minimum of probably $100 because of the add-ons that you’re going to want to purchase in order to sell software in that way, to sell WordPress plugins. It could be $200, it could even be $300. Those are things that do not apply in a marketplace.

BRAD: Yep, for sure. Should we read some iTunes reviews?

PIPPIN: We’ve got two of them. This one comes from someone with a user that I cannot say. It’s szyam. It just says, “A great resource for WP developers. Current trends and issues, development and the business side are all discussed in a focused manner. Keep it up.” Awesome. Glad to hear it.

Then another one, this one just came in a few weeks ago from josheby. Sorry if I pronounced your last name wrong. It says, “I’ve been listening to a number of WordPress podcasts over the last couple of months. And, as a developer, I found the discussions in Apply Filters a great help in both getting up to speed with WordPress as well as expanding my WordPress development skills. Definitely on my must listen list now. Keep up the good work.”

BRAD: Awesome.

PIPPIN: Awesome. It’s exactly the kind of thing that we want to hear about. Having been said, I guess we should also remind people that if you want to leave us a review and then shoot us an email, if you have a plugin or a theme, I will be happy to look at it in exchange for that review.

BRAD: Do you want to give another shout out to our sponsor of this episode?

PIPPIN: Yeah. We have two sponsors this episode, so we mentioned about Sami, who you can find at Foxland.fl, where he’s got a bunch of WordPress themes and plugins, both free and commercial. Then, once again, our permanent sponsor, Ninja Forms from the WP Ninjas. Go check them out. They do a lot of great things, and they’re very generous in helping us produce this show.

BRAD: All right.

PIPPIN: Well, I think that wraps us up.

BRAD: All right. Thanks, everybody.

PIPPIN: All right. Thank you.