This week I sat down again with Eric Karkovack to talk about the WordPress stories and topics that are on the top of our minds. Independently, we made nearly the same selections. There’s a single throughline in this episode — what works, what doesn’t, and what will take WordPress businesses forward in the product, agency, and hosting spaces.
Estimated reading time: 36 minutes
This week I sat down again with Eric Karkovack to talk about the three top WordPress stories on the top of our minds. Independently, we made nearly the same selections! And they’re all very related. It seems the temporary loss of active install stats at WP.org has created an opportunity to rethink long-held assumptions and find new ways forward. So there’s a single throughline in this episode — what works, what doesn’t, and what will take WordPress businesses forward in the product, agency, and hosting spaces.
Are Active Install Counts Irrelevant to Your Plugin Business’s Success? (Even if they were accurate?)
First up is Alex Denning‘s article at Ellipsis, “WordPress.org is ineffective for plugin distribution in 2022.” Alex argues the likely temporary loss of Active Install Growth data for plugin owners is not a bottom-line, business-relevant concern. Apart from the revelation that that data itself was not just obfuscated and inexact but “basically garbage,” Alex draws on Ellipsis’ marketing experience and extensive data (as well as Iain Poulson‘s insights at WP Trends) to show 1-2% conversion rates are the norm for plugins in the WP.org repository. Only a couple of big players can crack the 100k+ install tiers today.
The Plugin Repo’s Glass Ceiling
Alex notes this “glass ceiling” has a lot to do with how the repo’s search algorithm works. It’s biased to favor plugins that have many active installs already, so if you’re not there yet, it’s not going to help you get there. As a result of these observations, Alex disrecommends the plugin repo for anyone thinking about launching a business there on the freemium model. He considers WP.org a poor distribution channel and assumes the freemium product model’s fate is tied to it. On that point, we’re doubtful and optimistic about exceptions and opportunities for plugin developers to make their own way, with or without the repo.
While Eric and I don’t fully agree with Alex, his data-based analysis does establish that the plugin repository is “broken” if it’s intended to be a place where a small entrepreneur with a good product can break in and take off.
Let’s Fix What’s Broken (The Plugin Repo) Not What Isn’t (The Freemium Model)
Matt Cromwell politely disagrees with Alex in a long, thoughtful post of his own: The Case for the WordPress Plugin Freemium Model. (There’s a great Post Status Slack thread on it too.) In it, Matt describes ways plugin owners can make the wp.org plugin search engine work better for them, but he also notes a few of its deficiencies as well. His best point is that an average conversion rate is just that — an average. He’s seen much better results due to marketing efforts he feels are accessible to many plugin vendors. Matt also points to examples of successful freemium plugin shops, like Paid Memberships Pro which recently did an A/B test with their pricing page, and the version with a freemium option converted better.
Where Alex and Matt agree is how much the plugin repo has changed due to market saturation. It isn’t an easy place to win in anymore. And I’m pretty sure Alex would agree with Matt this is true across the web as a whole — you can expect to have to work hard with stiff competition and give high attention to Google as well — not to mention all the other things that go into making and supporting a good product.
Ideas for Improving the WordPress.org Plugin Repository
Eric and I also discussed the excellent suggestions for useful, actionable data that product owners — and even agencies — would like from a new, improved plugin directory. Vito Peleg‘s ideas are especially exciting and seemed to draw a nod from Matt Mullenweg on Twitter. We also note how better data for plugin owners might satisfy some needs that historically have led them to try all kinds of (often unpleasant) gimicks in the WordPress backend to connect with users and upsell or cross-market their products. In a comment at Post Status this week, Justin Labadie imagines how this could work as part of the plugin install process, along with other suggestions. Eric connected this line of thinking with Mark Zahra‘s question in a recent post at WP Mayor, Is Deceptive Marketing Ruining WordPress’ Reputation?
Plugin Developers Must Make Their Own Way
Eric asked (and answered) a big question at the WP Minute: What should plugin developers expect from WordPress? You’ve got to make your own way is a message I agree with, and I brought up my conversation with Till Krüss about Performance and the Plugin Business as an example of all the possibilities that open up if you think about meeting big needs nobody else is meeting or solving big problems others are creating!
Follow the Leaders, Adopt Standards
Where we end up is 10up‘s newly released resource site for Gutenberg Best Practices. It’s got tutorials, resources, references, example code — and they’re encouraging use of their GitHub discussion board for the site. It’s intended to go beyond the official WordPress documentation, according Fabian Kaegy‘s launch announcement. It’s a “more client-services-centric approach tailored to engineering enterprise-level editorial experiences.”
To me, that’s a signal WordPress has turned a corner with Gutenberg. Top agency adoption of Gutenberg is huge, and as we see a growing body of accumulated knowledge, standards, and best practices emerging, it signals and amplifies a wave of change.
Building Products to Scale Opens Doors and Creates Opportunities for Growth
Toward the end of the show I suggest that plugin developers (as well as agencies) targeting middle and low-end markets have tended to neglect standards around performance testing and security because their customers don’t need to scale and because they can treat performance and security as a hosting problem. That’s a barrier to accessing high-value enterprise clients, hosts, and agencies connected to both. It represents lost opportunities and money left on the table.
Also mentioned in the show:
Along with 10up’s Gutenberg resource hub, several other future-facing WordPress sites sharing tools and knowledge catering to different audiences emerged in the last week or so:
- Ollie from Mike McAlister is shaping up to be “a blog where WordPress creators can get handy tips, tutorials, and tools for the WordPress block editor and full-site editing.”
- WPTurbo from Alex Borto offers more than 40 free WordPress code generators, snippets saved by users, and there’s a dev blog.
- Create Pro WordPress Page Layouts in Just 10 Minutes from Jamie Marsland is a fun video tour of some layout design fundamentals that are really essential for good results with full-site editing and the block editor’s power and flexibility.
And, last but not least —WordPress 6.0.3 was released. Update as soon as you can! WordPress 6.1 is just around the corner, and its a doozy. Dave Smith has the highlights on new features in this fun video.
Sponsor: WordPress VIP
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Every week Post Status Excerpt will bring you a conversation about important news and issues in the WordPress community and business ecosystem.
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Dan Knauss: So what, what’s your top pick for, um, important news? Of the week emerging, or I guess some, a lot of this stuff is going on continually, multi, multi-week as we kind of think it over. Um, and conversations unroll. What’s, what’s the top, top one on your
Eric Karkovack: mind? I think the, the conversation around the, uh, removal of the active install growth data is just, uh, continuing, isn’t it?
I mean, we’re getting a lot of different, uh, points of view on it from developers, non-developers, and pretty much anyone else in the community who, uh, has a, has an opinion [00:01:00] on it.
Dan Knauss: Definitely. Um, and I, I’ve been kind of pleased that it, you know, it settled down a bit and pe people are coming up with some pretty creative and.
Constructive ideas of, um, well, just a lot of different perspectives on it. Um, yeah. What did you think of Alex Dennings? That, that was probably, he put out a newsletter last week and I, I summarized some of that and he put out a post. Um, now this week, um, that’s not really surprising, but maybe a little sharply worded Stu um, kind of a bit of a, a shock to actually see it there that.
Yeah. How did you, how do you feel about that? Take that, that the freemium model is not one his marketing agency would recommend necessarily as much as they did previously.
Eric Karkovack: Well, I mean, the good thing Alex did was he backed all that stuff up with numbers. I mean, he has charts. He’s showing how hard it is right now for.
New plugin to get into the [00:02:00] repository and, you know, break through with either, I think you mentioned a hundred k, a 500 k or a million active installs. Now you see like the numbers of that just going down, uh, throughout the years. And, you know, that’s kind of the issue the plugin repository has right now is that you have, you know, just a few really large plugins.
Um, you have. You know, plenty of them are, you know, related to automatic in some way. Um, and those are the ones getting, you know, the most visibility, at least when you’re first visiting the, uh, the repository. So I think, you know, Alex makes a lot of sense and, you know, just kind of gave us an honest take of what the challenges are if you’re trying to go with that model these days.
Dan Knauss: Right. Yeah, it’s, it’s definitely gotten to be. A tougher, um, tough market to break into. And yet some of his, um, important numbers come from [00:03:00] Ian Paulson. Um, uh, WP Trends put out some of that stuff too, that, um, probably the mix of, of consolidation in the market and, and just it’s own maturity. Yeah. It’s hard to debut and, and crack quickly into, into the upper tears.
I, I always look at, I always wonder what the exceptions are and there are some, and he did note, um, a few. And if, yeah, if you can bring other channels and other, other marketing, um, if you have a significant marketing empire or like, um, awesome motive, but even I think on a much smaller scale, it’s, it’s definitely gonna help.
Is this your only channel or, um, or, What did, um, what did you think of, of his take overall? You know, we have Matt Cromwell, um, kind of giving a, um, a counterpoint, [00:04:00] um, today. I saw that come out.
Eric Karkovack: Yeah, I mean, I, I think overall Alex makes a lot of good points. Um, you know, I’m not a plug-in developer myself. I’m not starting that business, but I could see.
You know, if five to 10 years ago, if you were to dream about, okay, I’m gonna create this plugin and it’s going to kind of go viral within the community and people are going to pick up on it and use it, um, it, that’s just not as realistic anymore. Um, you know, like I kind of referred to it on Twitter as like the wild west, um, you know, where anyone you could just, you know, start their own plot of virtual land and, you know, start selling and you.
Break through that market. Now you are, as you said, you’re up against these companies with large marketing budgets. Um, they, they’re very skilled at getting the word out about their products. So if you were going to do this just through the repository [00:05:00] and, you know, as an individual or small agency, I’m not sure, you know, you’re gonna have a lot of success without just a major commitment and probably a little bit of luck and a great product.
Dan Knauss: Right. Yeah. His, um, his headline, um, Alex is, is the.org repo is ineffective for plugin distribution. You know, kinda generalization as of this, this year or so. Um, I would say that’s, he’s really saying ineffective as maybe a single channel for, for distribution. A freemium model rooted just in.org is a, i I would say that’s always been, you know, why limit yourself?
You know, why not, Why not cultivate other, other channels? And, um, we’ve promoted partnerships a lot. A lot of people open up, um, other ways to get their, their plugin out by having hosting or agency partners that, um, make it easier. [00:06:00] Or required. It comes along with, with another product. Um, see Main WP is, um, packaged in with, at Tarm, which is packaged in with rocket.net.
That’s a, that was an interesting development there. Um, veto on, on Twitter was proposing a number of things that would be useful to get from data that, um, Matt Mullenweg, um, said, Hm, these are, you know, he gave some positive signals about that. Um, did you catch.
Eric Karkovack: I did. Yeah. And I, I think something will come back eventually, um, you know, as to what that is and how long it’ll take Will.
Mm-hmm. be interesting to see. But, you know, I, that kind of goes into, you know, what should they be providing to plugin developers and what should they, you know, what, what should anyone really expect about that? I’m sure that’s something we’re gonna kinda get on in a bit.
Dan Knauss: Right. Yes. Um, I’ve seen a lot of reasonable opinion just come that the [00:07:00] more and more to, let’s do what dr.org does.
Just release all the raw data. Don’t interpret it on.org maybe, but leave that to however people choose to use it. And, and you could do an opt-in, opt out if you don’t want your, your, um, your metrics in the mix. You can opt out or privatize, you know, only I get those. But the aggregate, uh, signal coming out of there is of high interest to.
On a lot of levels to a lot of people, including researchers. Um, and as, as Alex mentions, I’ve said a lot, it’s a data poor market and anyone who’s curious in understanding it, uh, WordPress ecosystem, you want the, want the data, um, what you do with it, what you think it means is a whole, whole nother thing.
Um, and I think it seems like there’s an agreement too, kind of a consensus emerging that, um, Actually that growth, that growth number isn’t [00:08:00] or hasn’t been, um, terribly useful. So it’s sort of irrelevant to, um, on a lot of levels Alex would say, because it’s, it’s not gonna help you, um, in this market anyway.
Um, but, um, you know, there’s, there’s other more useful things we could potentially get out of there. Um, yeah, so Matt’s, Matt’s take, I think the, for both of us, those are the two. This dialogue is um, kind of the top of mind thing here. Um, did you get a chance to break into, think through Matt’s comments today?
Eric Karkovack: Yeah, so Matt Cromwell kind of gave a, a very respectful rebuttal to, uh, Alex Denning, um, which I like to see. Cuz you know, we can have those disagreements and you. And still talk about it rationally and, you know, uh, as community members and not as adversaries necessarily. So I think that that was the absolute right approach.
Um, so, you know, Matt kind of went [00:09:00] into the plugin repository search algorithm and says that, you know, if, if you go in there and optimize your product with the right name or, um, tag your product under, you know, relevant, uh, terms, You can still be found in the search engine. Um, it’s not necessarily, um, that you’re gonna have the immediate visibility.
Let’s go going on the repository and, you know, seeing like, um, the classic editor or Yost or something like that. But you’re going to be able to be found if you, if you optimize. And he also said that, you know, in his experience with plugins and he’s worked with a few of ’em, give WPS the one that comes to mind.
Um, You can actually convert a lot more, uh, freemium users into, uh, paying customers than the one to 2% that, uh, Alex Denning was uh, mentioning in his post. So, uh, I, I think that’s, you know, so he, he’s actually lived it a [00:10:00] bit and I think that’s, um, mm-hmm. , you know, very relevant, I think kind of good news for other people that are trying to break into
Dan Knauss: the.
Yeah, I’ve always thought that if you’re using that model or any model, you should be doing everything you can as soon as you have any kind of audience to get in relationship with your best users. You know, figure u usually you’d have some kind of persona, you know, you, you know who your, your target audience is, and then maybe that revises over time as you, you get to actually know them.
But that’s the best data you, you can get. Finding ways to develop that, um, that relationship is, um, is really key. There’s then you, you kind of take control of your, you’re not sitting back passively looking for a number to come in that might be dubious, um, is a big generalization. Um, can you get together a focus group or something like that?[00:11:00]
The, um, the thing that. I, I think, uh, resonated seems be resonated with a lot of people. With, with Matt’s, is that that number you mentioned yet? Alex, Alex is speaking of, um, this, going through a lot of data. This is a general figure. This is the, the kind of conversion you can expect on a freemium plugin in, in the, um, what do you, uh, in the, in the.org repo.
And that’s, that’s an average. So, An average for 50, 60,000 possible. Um, I suppose I’m not, I’m not sure what the restricted, um, data set is that they’re looking at. Maybe it’s a little more targeted than that, but, um, you may not be the average. Do you want to be the average? Do you want, do you wanna market yourself and, and consider your, your success based on relative to, to an average?
Do you wanna do 200 [00:12:00] times better than that? Um, and I, I would say, yeah, shoot for that is, is, is that kind of where you, you see Matt, um, saying, Look, there’s, there’s plenty of ways to be an exception to this.
Eric Karkovack: Absolutely. Yeah. I mean, one of the things he mentioned was, you know, it also depends on the category, the type of plugin you’re in.
Mm-hmm. . If you’re competing against the big SEO plugins or form plugins, for example, you’re gonna have a hard time. There are a lot of established plugins out there that do these things and that have massive install numbers. Um, but if you have a great product that is in the right niche at the right time, there’s no reason why you still can’t have success.
Um, yeah, I mean, one to 2% is kind of low. Um, but that doesn’t mean your particular plugin is going to have to settle for that. I mean, Regardless of where you put your plug in. And I, I think, um, both [00:13:00] gentlemen agreed that, you know, dot org is a lot different than it was a few years ago, But regardless of where you put that effort, you still have to put in a lot of work in order to get good results.
So, you know, Right. It, it’s, you know, it ultimately it’s up to the, to the developer, um, to market their product, to make a great product. And, you know, That, that’s what’s gonna lead to the results more than just, it’s, it’s home on the web basically.
Dan Knauss: Right? Yeah. There, it, it seems to me like there’s a, there’s an important perspective, um, shift that it’s, it’s worth, um, considering if there’s kind of, there’s a, there’s a, you can look at at general.
Overall market numbers. You can try to look at how peers are doing within a certain trench there. And, and then there’s the numbers you generate yourself and the, and it, it’s somewhat, it [00:14:00] can be somewhat disempowering to, to get over occupied with, um, um, comparison to others. Um, just the whole psychology of that is that really doing well.
Um, Or do you wanna define your own? I remember when, um, like some years ago, MailChimp or people in the newsletter marketing, um, world posted, here’s industry averages on open rates and click rates, and I don’t know where exactly how they computed this. Um, uh, I think the ones coming from MailChimp are based on their data.
So, Okay, this is probably reliable. And then, and then some years later, I’ve, I’ve seen totally. Figures, but um, in reference to that, like, wow, we’re consistently two, three, even four times over that. So great . But is there really any actionable, um, data in that there, there’s such broad, um, broad [00:15:00] figures. What, what, what do you think are the useful, um, practical things coming out of this, out of this conversation?
I see Matt has some things that they agree. It is tougher these days. Um, the market has changed a lot. Um,
Eric Karkovack: yeah, I, I, I just think it’s, it’s a long overdue conversation. It’s kind of funny that it took this particular incident to kind of spark it, but mm-hmm. , you know, as I said, if you’re starting a, uh, a plug-in business today, it’s so much different than it was a few years ago.
You know, I, I think this could only benefit people in that position. Right now. They’re, they’re seeing both sides of the argument. They’re seeing, you know, how they fit into, to what’s happening out there in the WordPress community. So, you know, it, it’s, it is very productive at the very least. And hopefully it leads to, you know, Some rethinking of the [00:16:00] statistics that really matter and that allow developers to make good
Dan Knauss: decisions.
Right? Yeah. Um, I’d, I’d really like to, I’m one of those who likes more data just to out of curiosity and analysis of, you know, understanding. The market as a whole, but when you’re, when you’re actually doing, making practical moves for your, your business, everyone’s unique or different and, um, you know, or do you have a extension in the W commerce, uh, marketplace?
That’s a growth area. Uh, that’s, is that, do you have all your eggs in one basket? Um, everything that Matt says at the end, that’s a practical tip is like kind of a no brainer, but you get distracted from that. Pretty easily by looking over your shoulder at another side, I suppose identify your niche should keep it focused.
Um, launch day one with your free and paid options. Focus on user experience and excellent customer [00:17:00] support. I think those are, those are really key and are under, under practiced, um, across the, the board, um, user experience all the way to plays well with others. How, you know, whether you’re bombarding people with notifications to, to upsell them.
Um, there was, someone recently suggested a standard, um, a kind of industry, uh, standard way of doing that, that was part of the discussion. Um, maybe like the in line with WP Notify, What if we get to a consensus on, um, ways to reach. With freemium plugin plugins to, to the audience instead of all trying our own things inside the dashboard.
Is there anything else in that discussion or any other contributions to it that, um, you’ve been reflecting on this week? Any anyone else writing in [00:18:00] on it?
Eric Karkovack: Yeah, I, I think you know, what you just mentioned about the notifications is interesting because we had, uh, You know, the post that Mark Zara, uh, had a couple of weeks ago about the marketing tactics, it kind of got me thinking about this data.
I mean, if you have accurate, actionable data, do you need to really go down the rabbit hole with some of these unsavory, I guess I’ll call them marketing tactics, You know, if you had that access to the right data. You know, right now it’s so open to experimentation because people may not exactly know what the right path is for them.
So they’re going to experiment. They’re always going to be developers who push the envelope when it comes to, you know, littering the dashboard and, and just making it, uh, uh, a difficult user experience, I guess I should say. Um, [00:19:00] maybe data is part of the way we solve. Yeah. I,
Dan Knauss: I, I think that that’s a good, a good tangent for this to, to go in tho Those two seem related to me as well because they’re, they’re two parts of that transaction.
Um, they’re due to the not having. Telemetry and you’ve gotta find some other way to reach out. And the easy, the low hanging fruit has seemed to be, well, let’s put in a big, you must respond, you know, something where people are gonna click on it and, um, and respond. Um, but then there’s all this pushback against that.
Other, other forms of marketing, like you’ve, you’ve mentioned, like Mark’s mentioned, I should bring that up with him and see what his thoughts are since he’s recently weighed in on both. And that that is ultimately though the user experience is where you get the, the pushback. Um, they want [00:20:00] someone using your plugin, um, may actually want to give you feedback.
Can you find an appropriate channel? It’s such a, it’s such a one way transaction. Um, yeah, I don’t, it seems like there should be some opportunities there and if there was collaboration, In the plugin industry to, hey, this is how we’re all gonna do this. If there was a cluster of, of people or, or one particular company or, um, a group that agreed, let’s try this particular way of, um, standardizing how we do this part of the interface, how we reach out to customers.
And, um, I don’t think we do anything as a community to set expectations at all or to educate people who are just casual users. And that cascades into them. Just, you know, never really entering more deeply into, into the WordPress project as maybe as much as they would. Um, [00:21:00] I wonder if there’s lost opportunities there.
Um, that’s a good one. The notification thing I is a pet issue for me too. No one likes it. . No. No. Well, the other, the other thing I was gonna. Mention ties in into your, your other pick too. You, you wrote a piece on what developers should expect from, um, from WordPress and, Yeah. What, Let me walk us through your, your main points there.
Eric Karkovack: Yeah. So, you know, with, with all the, the talk about the data being removed, that also kind of got me thinking of, well, you know, what is it that if I’m a plugin developer, what should I expect from the WordPress project? You know? And my conclusion is that I don’t know that the WordPress project is necessarily interested in helping you make money off of your plugin.
You know? Mm-hmm. , they’re providing us with a [00:22:00] platform. That we can build on. So there’s the opportunity to make money, and they’re offering us, you know, documentation and, you know, different events and things like that to help us learn, um, how we can use the platform for, for our needs. However, you know, when it gets to the point of, you know, are, are they in the market to help any big plugin developer make.
I mean, should they be, Is that something that. You know, we should reasonably expect them to care about, um, you know, like personally, I felt like the data that was there, they should have done a, a much better job in explaining why it was removed. Because I think that is the part of it that gets people fired up the most perhaps, is that there’s just no explanation for it.
There’s no official word. You know, there’s a, a rumor here and there. In, when you look at it [00:23:00] in, in a, uh, broader view, is that data something that WordPress owes to plug in developers necessarily? Right. So that was kind of my point as to, you know, Yes, we’ve missed this data and it could be useful, but we also have to realize that every one of these plug-in developers is a third party entity.
Many of them are commercial, including automatic, and so. , you know, are we going to expect WordPress to facilitate our money making? You know, that’s ultimately up to the company. That’s up to the developer, right? Um, they’re giving us the tool to build upon and you know, we take it from there. And that’s right kind of where it ends.
Dan Knauss: Exactly. Um, yeah, it’s a bit of a humbling message, but I, I think it’s, it’s an over overdue one. And, and maybe that’s actually a good, explicit conversation to [00:24:00] have. What, what should, what should the project set as expectations? Um, can those be explicitly laid out, um, to people who are in the extender category of, you know, building plugins and themes and services?
Um, you, you often, You know, Des describing. The very large realm of third party, um, businesses built around WordPress, um, describing them as, as super fans, um, is, is an interesting thing. I I, I kind of had a chuckle out of, because I, I think there’s another side of that perspective where it’s like, you know, with friends like these, you , like this is the, the people who.
You know, con, you know, everyone, everyone who’s had some success or prominence in, in the market, there’s a, there’s a strong tendency towards maybe conveying, you know, especially if you’re Twitter, active personality, God’s gift to, uh, [00:25:00] to WordPress and expanding the market here and well from, um, from other, other perspectives.
Compared to other projects, testing performance is, uh, something that a lot of third party, uh, products have delegated upward to hosts to deal with. Um, it’s not just WordPress core, although that’s there, but, um, the tightening focusing in on performance now, I, I think is really important. But it’s something that, um, you know, unlike other projects, Testing is not as, um, aggressively implemented or standardized, um, across the board.
You can get stuff in the, in the repo without, you know, necessarily doing, you know, end to end deep testing of, um, for security and performance. And I think any, anything, any developments on [00:26:00] that front are, are to be encouraged. There’s. That’s ongoing. But, um, if, if plugin developers really took charge of that, um, that’s an area that there’s clear.
Clear synergy and, uh, alignment of interest with e everybody. And I think that’s where everyone benefits. Um, you, you may not be owed anything, but um, for your, for your, your contributions, but everyone benefits when, when those are good, when, uh, when everyone’s kind of aligned and, and, uh, performance and, and security are, are ones where just absolutely everyone is.
In, in it together? No, no one, um, everyone has an interest in, in everything performing as well as possible and being as secure as possible. So that, that kind of touches the, um, the other thing I wanted to bring up, which is one of our own, um, back in August, [00:27:00] I, uh, recorded a, a conversation with Tell Chris, um, who’s Object Cash Pro and is working on a success.
Product, Um, and has had huge success with a high value hosting market. Partnerships with, with that, he has a freemium plugin that is also super valuable. That is originally from a forked product of, um, I think some core, core developers quite some time back about a decade, um, that they, they established and then left and, and till took over.
Um, with his own, his own versions, he has over a hundred thousand. Installs tracked on the on the.org repo with that. But his premium product, which actually is not open source to protect, to protect it as intellectual property, um, that is where you get the big, the bigger revenue from fewer clients [00:28:00] because it appeals to hosts who have such, or anyone who has such a high volume of traffic paying you a thousand bucks.
Uh, a month. Is saving me 20 20,000 on the bandwidth that, so it, it’s kind of, um, it’s a, it’s a really fascinating model that I think doesn’t translate to everybody. It’s a niche product, but there are lessons from it that really do, and it’s how can I build something that’s so tested rigorously and so performant that I don’t have more than like five minutes of support time a day.
All plugin developers complain, , plugin, plugin businesses are complain about support. So amazing relationship there with kind of sell itself and, and two, this is coming from someone who is self taught, I believe, largely self taught developer who then spent time outside of WordPress in Lve and got deeply into performance and, and testing and brings a [00:29:00] rigor from that project back to WordPress, which is sad.
Not common and not part of the culture and not intensely supported and taught. Um, so I, I think those are things plugin developers can look to and, and learn from. I don’t know if you had a chance to listen to that. I, I actually did more writing about, about that conversation the more I thought about it than I usually do.
Eric Karkovack: Yeah. Hi. His story is very interesting and I said going to the hosting market. Is really unique. No, I mean, how many WordPress plugins are really doing that? And I think what he shows is that there are still opportunities. If you have something that is very niche that you don’t have to necessarily even worry about the plugin repo so much.
Dan Knauss: Yeah. And it’s partly an opportunity that’s been, it’s very stereotypical. It goes back a long way. It’s an [00:30:00] structural feature of, of WordPress culture and, and software engineering. Um, he’s solving a problem that exists because WordPress. Is is not super competitive on the performance front. More and more, that’s more and more an issue at time, uh, over time.
So it’s being more aggressively dealt with now. Uh, but a large part of that, I remember 10, 15 years ago, you know, hosts, it was like a glass half full glass, half empty. Everyone’s installing WordPress and 250 plugins, and some of them are nuts, . And it’s like it brings it to a crawl. Um, so there’s been this huge boom.
Managed WordPress hosting and really to cater with that to, to that. Um, and I think, and it’s not just that all P h p MyQ, um, CMS platforms that got popular around the same time, you, you can, you [00:31:00] know, left to your own devices someone can install and quite a lot of stuff on there and. That’s never, performance, hasn’t been pushed to as a core competency and responsibility of third party developers in, in WordPress.
And I think that’s really overdue and is hugely in their interest and until has a, a winning product because it matters so much at scale. Um, and that’s another, that’s another thing if your plugin doesn’t. Doesn’t, wasn’t conceived of and architected towards, towards scale. Well you, are you going to be able to market this, um, in a higher tier?
Is this something that a V I P agency is gonna do code review and say, you know, we like this future set, but, um, you know, uh, uh, this is gonna, here are, here are issues with security, [00:32:00] performance and so on. I think that sort of. That sort of barrier is there and maybe not talked about as much as, as it should.
There’s a lot of learning, um, that could happen there that’s constructive. Um, if you’re going for a middle or low market, maybe you don’t think about that as much, but there’s a lot of high dollar value in having, having something that is going to be adopted by high value market.
Eric Karkovack: Yeah. I mean, if you make yourself indispensable to, uh, Larger installs.
I think you could find yourself, uh, doing pretty well in this space. But, you know, talking about performance, I mean, there’s really not a lot of formal educational opportunities out there right now for that. Um, you know, and the kind of the. Blessing and curse of programming is that you can build things more than one way.
You know, if you ask me to build you a form, I can build you a form in many different ways. [00:33:00] Doesn’t necessarily mean it’s gonna be the most performant. Um, and you know, if there’s no real standard or there’s nobody sitting there and, you know, testing all of these things, um, before they get into repository.
You’re, you could be stuck with something that you know isn’t very performant and, you know, the average site owner’s not going to know that there are faster, better alternatives. So that’s kind of the, the, uh, the challenge we find ourselves in right now.
Dan Knauss: Yeah, I’ve, I’ve said before, somewhat, you know, half serious, you know, that I would love to see statistics on, you know, what’s the average amount of, of queries, queries that this.
Plugin will add to my site if I install it. And is it arbitrarily loading dependencies and, and adding, adding page weight on, um, absolutely every page load? Or is it just doing that where it needs to? There there are [00:34:00] things like that that, um, I think public attention to would, would have a, be. Impact. Um, it just hasn’t, hasn’t really been considered.
Do you have a third, uh, third item or, or was the Alex and, and Matt, the kind of counting his too. Did, Is there one more? Um, Pick of the week for
Eric Karkovack: you? Well, I, I, I think, uh, I was really interested in, in looking at, uh, 10 UPS Gutenberg best practices site, cuz that kind of ties into this a little bit with the education.
Here’s a very big agency, does a lot of, um, large WordPress based projects and they’re kind of sharing their methods for building Gutenberg blocks, for working with block themes and the theme json file. Um, and you know, maybe that’s one of our solutions community. Mm-hmm. members that have had success and have a reputation for quality sharing, how they do things.
I know web dev [00:35:00] studios has done similar things in the past where if you can kind of see how they do things, maybe that rubs off on other developers and they also, you know, build things to be performant and sustainable. Um, you know, that’s the kind of information I think is, is really just crucial to have cuz it goes beyond just the basic documentation that WordPress
Dan Knauss: provides.
Yeah, absolutely. I, I’ve, um, I was pleased to see that come out. I’ve kind of been looking for that for years. I was like, you know, knowing that’s kind of a bellwether, you know, we’ll have turned a corner when, when you see the, um, top agencies, uh, turning. Um, case studies, documentation, tutorials, explainers that are, are really useful and, and helpful, but are also signaling, hey, they’ve, they’ve turned the corner on that.
They are, they’re doing Gutenberg first, um, with, with new, new site builds. Um, [00:36:00] and I, I think I, I’ve never seen anyone mention this, but. I, I feel that there’s a, um, there’s a need there. Maybe there isn’t enough of a hunger for, for unofficial standards. Uh, when, when back, way back when managed hosting, um, started to come out and, um, I remember WP Engine was, I think the, the first I recall where there was a public list of do of plugins.
Don’t allow or, Yeah. Um, and I was like, Cool. That saves me a lot of time, . And I, I kept up with that and I kind of, I aligned my own lists with that and, and tried to learn, Okay, why is that? And to kind of sharpen my own understanding of. How experts are, are picking and screening and you know, you look at, um, WordPress v i p documentation, I, I’ve done that from time time.
Well, what is their [00:37:00] perspective on, on ACF or, um, or, or something else that, uh, I, I don’t, I don’t know that that’s done at. People who are serving a kind of lower middle market and who can count on, let’s just, we’ll just throw more server horsepower on that, that will be the client’s problem. Um, there are, there are leaders who build the topnotch, you know, flagship sites out there.
You know, everyone always mentions White house.org, which used to be, which was a big brag for Duple back in the day. That was, it was originally a droople site. And if we’re going to recognize leadership and leaders like that, then I think what comes along with that is, is taking the best practices at standards seriously, and hopefully seeing more of those come out.
So there was a 10 up one, and then I also noticed really all at the same time. So Mike McAllister has, um, Launched Ollie, [00:38:00] um, WordPress tutorials and tools that are really focused on the future of the block editor and full site editing. Um, and there were a couple of others that, um, that popped out. Do you know Alex, the WP Marmite?
Um, I don’t really, I don’t know them that well,
Eric Karkovack: but, uh, that one I, no, I, I, I don’t know Alex very well. Um, I’ve heard, I’ve heard of WP Marmite, but I.
Dan Knauss: I’ve looked over there a few times. I noticed I, it is like, wow, this is a trend in the, in the last seven to 10 days. Um, new tutorial sites being launched that he has one on per, I think it’s a performance.
Um, have to look back up, up in here. W p Turbo. Um, yeah, which has got, uh, code generators, short code generators, um, familiar things from the past, but, um, gear. Um, reminds me to generate wp, um, or what was that site called? Um, I think that was [00:39:00] it. It, this, yeah, where you can, but it’s, it’s got a tutorial component too.
So, uh, kind of updating those things for, um, performance and the future of. Of the word press editor, um, Jamie Marclin put out a nice, uh, video on how to build quality page layouts in just 10 minutes. right is his, uh, sales line there, which is, which actually there, it, it’s not easy to make things look good.
I mean, you need layout, You need to learn some layout, design, skill, basics. Make hash in, um, any kind of , any kind of page builder. And I think people turning to focus on those, um, on those things is a really good sign.
Eric Karkovack: Yeah. I mean, when you think about it, it’s, you know, we have great tools and some, some tools don’t require us to write code, but you still have to have some fundamental skills in place mm-hmm.
before you can [00:40:00] really have success with them. And I think you know it, I mean, Elementor is a great product, but it doesn’t necessarily make you a designer by trade. No. Um, just from installing it, I mean, there, there, there’s, you still have to put in a little bit of work. So these kind of sites are, are nice.
To have because you, those references, you know, can help you become better at what you’re doing. Right?
Dan Knauss: Yeah. And, um, on that note, um, the WordPress, WordPress 6.1 is looking like a really, you’re gonna be a really cool release. And I noted that. Um, yeah. WordPress, v i p put out a, what they called hot takes, um, on, um, On the value of, of what’s, what’s in, um, what’s in 6.1.
That should be noted by, um, their, their audience, their clientele. So I’m, I’m, I’m interested in, in that often, like, you’re, Okay, so this is directed towards, towards their [00:41:00] clients. This is, you know, very different than the, the, you know, the, um, The broad, mid middle market. Um, and they’re, they’re focusing on things like constraints, you know, that you can lock lock blocks, um, which is huge.
I, you know, you only, I, I’ve only heard agency people and, and freelancers, anyone dealing with clients talking about, Whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa. You’ve got reusable block. You know, we’ve all found ways probably to new car work by. With reusable blocks that aren’t, aren’t locked down or, um, uh, even see Brian Cords mentioned something I’ve, I’ve done a few times, although I, I had revisions turned on so I could, I could go back.
But it’s, um, it’s quite easy to have a second tab open and forget you’ve made changes in this other tab and then, you know, wipe them out or, or something like that. There’s a lot, there’s a lot of little ways. So many more [00:42:00] options in, in Gutenberg can, um, frustrate people whose time, you know, that are, you don’t want your clients foundering in, in these kinds of things.
Um, so that, that to me is a good sign too, that we’re, we’re looking at constraints as, as a positive.
Eric Karkovack: Yeah, I mean in the old days we went to great lengths to, to lock things away from clients and now Gutenberg kind of takes that away, when it came out it’s like, okay, well now they have access to everything and they can do freak all sorts of havocs.
So the ability to lock things down is, you know, is, is key for the future, I think.
Dan Knauss: Anything else we should throw on the, on the, on the deck or,
Eric Karkovack: I think that was about it. Busy week.
Dan Knauss: No, it seems not. Not, not. No one got acquired. No major, huge business things, but, um, and still trying to digest the [00:43:00] implications of all, all the new, uh, w w commerce, hosted w commerce platforms that are, are rolling out.
Um, that’s, that’s a big deal. Uh, but yeah, another time another conversation all. Well, thanks for, uh, thanks for joining me again, and we can, uh, do a few more roundups like this, uh,
Eric Karkovack: now and then. Thank you for having me. It’s my pleasure.
This article was published at Post Status — the community for WordPress professionals.