A guide to building your first plugin, presented at the WordPress Stellenbosch Meetup on 30 January 2019.
If you’re reading this because you found me through the various Divi Facebook communities, you probably know that I am/used to be a Divi plugin developer. You may have already purchased one of my plugins and found this link on the Atlantic Wave home page.
When I first started in the WordPress space I built a few custom plugins for the Divi theme and sold them on Elegant Marketplace, the most recent (and probably most popular) one being Rebrand DE.
Rebrand DE was launched in June 2016, over two years ago. Since then I’ve not released any new Divi plugins and I’ve only released one free plugin on WordPress.org, roughly at the end of 2016. I’ve also not added any new major features to any of my existing plugins. So why no new plugins, or plugin features, in almost two years?
The first mistake I made when releasing my plugins was not pricing them properly. Take a look at Rebrand DE, it sells for $18 once off, which is great for the consumer, but a bad business model for me as a developer, trying to support the plugins. I probably ended up making about $250 a month from Divi plugin sales, but spent at least 5 times as much on support queries, which meant a net loss for me.
However the income I was (or wasn’t) receiving from the plugins wasn’t the major problem, the major problem was…
Building a plugin empire is a game for those who have a lot of free time on their hands. In the first month I made $1500 on plugin sales, but each month after my sales dropped, until they reached the average of $250 a month income I mentioned earlier. At the same time I was supporting customers who purchased the plugin, as well as trying to fix bugs and add new features to the plugins. So I struggled to find time to market the plugins to new customers, or look at how I could do things like increase the price or implement new features.
Essentially the time I spent on the plugins was cannibalising what I made out of them, as well as my main source of income, custom client work. I had to start making excuses for why I wasnt able to fix bugs as quickly or ship new features. As a husband and father it also meant I was spending more of my time on supporting the plugins and less with my family.
I soon came to a realisation.
Having enough time to fix bugs or ship new features meant I would have to increase the cost of the plugins to accommodate. Because I was not clever enough to launch the plugins with things like yearly license/support renewals this meant upping the price dramatically for any new customers but still supporting the existing customers on the old prices. For whatever reason, this didn’t feel right. It was not fair to ‘punish’ new customers for my mistakes.
So, where does that leave us?
Before WordCamp Europe 2018 I decided that it was time to make a decision about the future of the plugins. I had a chat with the owner of Elegant Marketplace and we agreed that they would take over the bulk of support requests and would only contact me if major bugs occurred that needed fixing. I would take a much smaller cut of the profits, leaving me more time to focus on other things. It also meant that the plugins would be ‘feature frozen’ and any new (or planned) features would not be added going forward.
“I want feature x in one of your plugins”.
If you are reading this because you clicked on a link from the Atlantic Wave site and you want a specific feature in one of my plugins, then you do have the option of hiring me to build it for you. If you choose this route I’m open to a ‘profit sharing’ option, if you’re willing to let me upgrade the plugin for the public domain (ie to be sold with the new feature on Elegant Marketplace) I’ll build the feature at a 50% discount on my development time.
Basically what it boils down to is helping to cover the cost of my development time, should any new features be requested to be added to any of the plugins. That way you benefit, as you get the feature you want for half of what it would cost you actually build it, and I benefit from the profit share I make on the plugin sales over time.
I will still fix bugs.
I’m still committed to keeping the plugins up to date, so if you find a bug in any of my Divi plugins, please do email me, let me know and I’ll fix it as soon as possible.
I’ve had reports that a few of the plugins are breaking on newer versions of Divi. This is because the Divi theme has undergone some major breaking changes, that affect third party plugins. If your plugin has stopped working due to these updates, I’m afraid I cannot fix this for free, as it will probably require a major plugin rewrite. If you would like to get the plugin updated, you’re welcome to hire me to do so. I am also open to the ‘profit sharing’ discussed above.
We’re already halfway into the month of October, so this post is a little later than planned. I’ve just got back from a short break with my family and I’m recharged and ready to create new blog posts and plugins (or complete existing ones) until the end of the year. I thought it might be fun to post a little about what I have in store for what’s left of 2016.
I haven’t touched Elegant Forms since I blogged about it but I am recommitted to completing and releasing the plugin before 2016 ends. The one area that Divi is sorely lacking in is a better form module so I hope to bring this to the community as soon as possible.
On of the great ideas that came out of the Divi Theme Users group was a plugin that automatically updates the admin title of a module based on a specific field in the module itself. I coded up a proof of concept on the night of the discussion but it pretty much stayed there, so I want to revisit and release this little plugin as soon as possible, specifically for all the site builders out there.
I want to start moving into Divi Layout and Child Theme creation. As I am not a designer I have to rely on the work of others to help fuel this, so today Atlantic Wave released a bunch of Elegant Themes inspired layouts for Divi. I have a few child themes I am working on that I also plan to release in the very near future, also inspired by the Elegant Themes demo designs, but with a little Atlantic Wave development twist.
As always, I constantly on the lookout for new ideas and new areas of development. If you have a plugin or theme development idea you would like to work on, feel free to get in touch.
I’m a huge fan of simple plugins. My first plugin was a simple one. The Divi Image Overlay plugin was meant to do one thing, overlay an image onto another image with a nifty animation. Since it’s launch I’ve had one or two bugs to fix and a few requests to extend it further (which will turn into other plugins later on) but it’s still my favourite plugin as it is and it’s doing reasonably well on Elegant Marketplace.
Simple plugins focus on one task and perform that task to the best of their ability are great. They’re quick to write, easy to maintain and you get what it says in the box. Some of the most popular WordPress plugins are simple ones.
So when my fellow South African and WordPress developer Andrew Lima released his When Last Login plugin I had to check it out.
When Last Login does what it says on the box. It adds a column to your users lists showing when last that user logged in. It also integrates with Paid Memberships Pro by adding a ‘Last Logged In’ column to the ‘Members List’, but as I don’t use PMP I’ll never know about it.
While it’s a simple plugin, its uses are plentiful. I forgotten how many times I have to prove to a client that they did in fact login to the site when they accuse me of not sending them login details or (on the other hand) showing the site owner that their product manager did in fact only login last a month ago, so there is no way he could have updated that product as he said he did and it’s not the CMS that lost that data.
Actually, now that I think about it, this plugin is more about managing people than anything else. Who knew plugins could help you do that?
A little background…
Recently I was in the interesting position where plugin I had always used started giving me some hassles.
Now normally I would simply contact either the theme developer or the plugin developer and see who was at fault. In this case I asked around and it seems there was some issue with the plugin and the theme I was using. Not prepared to change themes at this point in development I looked into an alternate SEO plugin and came across the All in One SEO Pack from Semper Plugins. A quick install later and all was well.
Now to the point of this introduction. As part of the free version of the plugin I was able to subscribe to their newsletter to receive updates and download a free SEO Tips ebook. As someone who is always keen to improve my knowledge I downloaded the book for future reading. While the books contents are valuable, my favourite part were a list of ‘5 SEO Mistakes to Avoid’.
Whether you’ve been optimizing your web pages for quite some time or are new to the strategy, everyone makes mistakes. While the bad news is that these mistakes can have a significant effect on your page ranking, the good news is, they’re reversible. Here are five SEO mistakes to avoid (And if you’ve already made them, not to worry, you can make changes and move forward with your SEO strategy).
SEO Mistake #1:
Not using keywords correctly. Many webmasters are concerned about being banned from the search engines for keyword spamming or stuffing so they limit the use of keywords on their web pages. As long as your content sounds natural and reads easily, the chances are you have not overused your keywords. Make sure your keywords are included in the first and last paragraphs, in your headings and in your title and meta tags.
SEO Mistake #2:
Trying to fool search engine spiders. Search engines are a lot more sophisticated than most of us realize. They recognize – and penalize – hidden text, keyword spamming, and cloaking, which is showing different content to the search engine spiders than to your visitors. All of these practices only serve to hurt your page ranking and can in fact cause your website to be banned by the search engines, which means no one will find you – and no traffic means no profits.
SEO Mistake #3:
Using Flash Flash is a great presentation tool and can be dramatic and effective if used sparingly. It’s particularly appropriate if you have a media related website and want to demonstrate your industry savvy. However for most website owners it’s just not necessary and can harm your page ranking. Search engine spiders cannot read content embedded in Flash files, which means they’re not recognized or indexed.
SEO Mistake #4:
Using Your Company Name (and Only Your Company Name) As a Title Tag Unless you’re branding your company name, your company name shouldn’t be the only element in your title tag. Feel free to include it, however it’s also important to use your primary keyword for each webpage title tag. This is more useful for your customers and helps the search engines identify the various pages on your site.
SEO Mistake #5:
Using A Splash Page A splash page is a web page with a large graphic or company logo, and a link to enter the site. This is an ineffective strategy for a number of reasons:
- No keyword rich text on the page, nothing for the spiders to index.
- Only one internal link on the page
- These pages often have a redirect which often causes spiders to ignore them
If search engine optimization is important to your business, you may need to forgo the splash page. Your home page should be easy to navigate, content rich, and link visitors and spiders to other main web pages. In general, unless you’re trying to outsmart the search engines and using nefarious tactics, the majority of search engine mistakes are reversible. If you’ve committed a few of these mistakes, simply correcting them can increase your page ranking almost immediately. Take some time to evaluate your SEO strategy and eliminate these SEO mistakes.
Often I come across sites that break these rules and quite a few of them are also not recommended web practices but until now I didn’t realise their impact on SEO. Really valuable information for web owners and developers.
I liked Semper Plugins SEO plugin so much, as well as the information in the ebook, that I signed up as an affiliate for the pro version of their plugin. If you are in the market for a premium SEO plugin, I highly recommend All in One SEO Pro.