As many of you know, my brother and I launched our first official WordPress plugin, WP Coupons, back in June of this year. This was very exciting for us because we both live and breathe WordPress every day and we are proud to be able to give back to the community. Read about our experience below.
What We Learned Launching Our First WP Plugin
Our WP Coupons plugin was born out of need, which is probably where some of the best creations and ideas come from. We needed something to increase our conversions and CTR, and so we created it. After a while we got so many emails about the plugin we finally decided to develop it full time and release it to the public. Since this was our first time launching a product, we definitely learned some things along the way.
1. Leave More Time for Testing Than You Think
We knew from the beginning that we needed to test our plugin in a lot of different themes and scenarios to prevent tickets and bugs from popping up after launch. What I don’t think we anticipated was the amount of time we needed to spend testing.
So note, allot many weeks for testing your plugin. And depending on the size of your plugin, you might need to even test for months. The more you test, the easier it will make your launch. Fortunately we started testing quite early and thank God we did, otherwise we wouldn’t have met our planned launch date.
2. Pick A Solid eCommerce and Distribution Platform
Upon first thought we were going to originally launch our plugin in WooCommerce using the Digital Downloads Extension. But upon further research we decided to go with Easy Digital Downloads platform. I have always heard good things about the original developer, Pippin, and wow they were right! My brother, the dev, said the documentation for tweaking stuff was amazing and we literally had EDD up and running in a few minutes.
We launched with the following plugins:
- Easy Digital Downloads (free)
- Easy Digital Downloads Auto Register plugin (free)
- Easy Digital Downloads Software Licensing plugin ($65.60)
We decided to go with the free PayPal integration. We might be adding Stripe later on, but I keep reading about lots of charge backs and decline errors from people, so for right now we are pretty happy with PayPal. After using EDD, at least for digital downloads I will never go back to using WooCommerce again.
Not to mention that EDD is way faster when it comes to performance. Check out our speeds with EDD running. We scored a 100/100 on Pingdom with a load time of 307 ms. Let me see you do that with WooCommerce!
From the development side, one of the biggest things we had to get used to was realizing we had to develop everything including styles basically self contained within itself and not rely or count on any theme or framework being there. One thing with WordPress, it makes a lot of us lazy. We are used to relying on a theme or plugin to power almost everything we do. So when it comes to developing a plugin from scratch, you absolutely have to start from a blank slate and not rely on anything else.
4. Launch with an Affiliate Program
One of the smartest things you can do is launch with an affiliate program, this will make spreading the word much easier. We didn’t launch with one and about a week after launching, we realized we needed to get it up ASAP. When you are doing outreach and promoting your plugin, it is much easier if you can mention that you have an affiliate program. We decided to rely again on Pippin and went with his AffiliateWP plugin ($49.00).
Again Pippin came through for the win. We had the affiliate program literally installed, configured, and up and running in 5 minutes. It has an integration with EDD and they just work together flawlessly. We now have active affiliates and the data on the back-end that it provides is awesome.
5. Be Prepared to Hustle
Even though you have an affiliate program up and running, be prepared just like with any other product or service to hustle with the marketing. Don’t expect people to just come out of nowhere when you launch your plugin, I don’t care how good it is. Since ours is a premium plugin we aren’t listed on the WP repository which means we have to drive visitors to our plugin ourselves. This is also a good thing though because we didn’t have to go through all the hoops to get on the repository.
6. Leverage your Contacts
Thankfully working in the WordPress community for quite a while I have made a lot of good contacts. Leverage the crap out of your contacts! And don’t forget about your newsletter list if you have one already. Tell your friends, tell everyone you know that works in your industry. Word of mouth is still by far one of the best ways to grow a plugin. If you have a quality plugin, people will share it with others, it’s as simple as that.
7. Get Ready for Feedback
Get ready for the feedback to come in. There will always be things you didn’t think of. We had to launch a features request page because of all the things people were suggesting. There are both pros and cons to this.
First the pros are that people are very creative, usually more than you. We got a ton of great ideas that we have already implemented into the plugin that we didn’t think of. Here is an example of some feedback we are especially proud of.
Richard Lazazzera from ABetterLemonadeStand.com
“Finally! I’ve been waiting for nearly 2 years for a plugin just like this. There’s been others in the past but no where near the attention to detail and polish that this plugin has. Hands down my new favorite tool for providing value to my audience and increasing conversions.”
The cons to feedback is also that people have ideas that might not match up with what you want to add to the plugin. So you have to give and take and make decisions of whether that is something you really want to add into your plugin.
8. Give People Documentation
We had plans from the very beginning to have a knowledge base area on our website to help people. The mistake we made was not having all the docs written when we launched the plugin. This resulted in a few more emails that we didn’t anticipate and could have easily avoided. So write docs, write docs, and write more docs! We now have over 20 knowledge base documents written and the emails from people have pretty much stopped. People aren’t stupid, if you give them the info, they will find it and use it.
Also, give people a changelog please! This is a pet peeve of mine. We have links to this in our knowledge base, our plugin, and even the footer of our website. We are OCD about our changelog and make sure it is updated whenever we release new updates.
If you are thinking about launching a WordPress plugin, or are currently developing one, hopefully some of the things we learned above will help you. Always budget more time than you currently have budgeted and be ready for a lot of emails. And when it comes to documentation, there is nothing to easy. Write a doc for everything!
If you are a plugin developer I would love to hear your thoughts below. And make sure to check out our follow up post on 9 things we learned from launching our second WordPress plugin.
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