Today I did a talk at WordCamp Netherlands on user onboarding for WordPress plugins. This was my first ever WordCamp talk and it was an interesting, but nerve-wracking, experience. My slides for the presentation are below. Thanks to everyone who attended, and I hope it was useful.!
Last week I had a quick, textual interview with WisdmLabs about my WordPress work.
By now you’ve probably heard the news that Automattic (A8c) acquired WooThemes, where I was working as a developer for 3 years. July 1st I officially became an Automattician.
The weeks leading up to the acquisition were surreal; full of questions, a few awkward moments (it was top secret after all) but exciting nevertheless, and I was happy to be invited along with several others to New York to meet fellow Automatticians and be there for that bombshell of an announcement.
If acquisition were inevitable, I’m genuinely relieved that it was Automattic showing the interest. WooThemes and Automattic are very similar culturally and have similar aspirations. I know the team and products are going to be well looked after, and all the people I have met so far from A8c have been really friendly. So far my day to day activities have changed very little and everything feels completely natural.
The only challenge for me personally in this transition was parting ways with a side project/business of mine; WP Job Manager. This was a highly successful (and profitable) project with a user base 30k strong which I enjoyed working on in my spare time. Brian Krogsgard covered the story on poststatus.com in depth back in June and explained;
Automattic has a strict policy that employees cannot have paid side projects, whether client or product work. For Mike to stay at Automattic, he had to figure out what the future of WP Job Manager would be.
A8c expressed interest in acquiring the plugin and we came to an agreement which was a huge relief for me as I wanted to ensure whomever took over would actually look after the plugin and its users.
Anything was an option, including making WPJM free or selling it to a third party, but I’m glad we came to the solution we did. Since WPJM is part of Automattic now there’s no real or perceived conflict to the continuing work on it or revenue from it.
– Matt Mullenweg
Backed by A8c I think the project has a bright future. I’m still working on the dev side and I imagine more hands will be added in the coming months to keep things moving.
Looking ahead, I’m excited to continue and focus my attention on WooCommerce. Up until now we’ve had a tiny team (of ~4 developers) and it’s done fantastically well, but with more resources and people at our disposal who knows what we can achieve. We’ve already had some new people come over on rotation and its great to get fresh eyes on all of the projects and extensions.
Overall, I think that my move to Automattic, and consequential winding down of side projects, is going to have a positive impact on my life in general. I already have more free time, and things will be even better now that I don’t need to deal with tedious accounting and VAT returns for my businesses. I was even able to enjoy a vacation without the worry of supporting my products which I’ve not been able to do for years. It felt great.
And of course I may be able to blog a little more often 🙂
p.s. Please consider working with us – we’re always looking for talented devs and support staff!
Ah the EU. Always with their bright ideas. If you haven’t heard about the upcoming changes surrounding EU VAT, first off, where have you been hiding?
To put it simply, essentially they require everyone selling digital products to customers in the EU to charge EU Tax based on the customer location, regardless of where your business is based. You can read more about the changes in the blog post I wrote on WooThemes.com here.
Being based in the UK, and selling plugins on WPJobManager.com, I am affected by these changes and so I’ve been doing a lot of research, speaking to accountants, and preparing my site for the changes.
In this post I’ll explain what I’m doing and hopefully this may give you some ideas/resources if you’re struggling with compliance.
Download Monitor is old. Around 8 years old in fact and was one of the first plugins I made for WordPress, back in the time before custom post types and all the other luxuries developers enjoy today.
It has been rewritten 4 times, seen well over 100 releases, and been downloaded 600,000 times. The latest ‘v1’ reboot has been praised and I often receive nice comments from users even though development has slowed of late.
But but therein lies the problem; time. The biggest, most exciting projects I’m working on (WP Job Manager, and WooCommerce at Woothemes) take up most of my time, so without sleeping at my desk I don’t have sufficient time to maintain and grow the plugin.
So rather than let it die a slow and neglected death, I’ve taken the difficult decision to abandon the project.
But Don’t Worry, It’s Being Adopted
Developer Barry Kooij (previously with Yoast and now a coworker at Woo) will be taking over the development of the plugin going forward.
The repositories have been transfered and work has already begun on the next version, so it looks like the plugin will be going for a few more years after all. Good luck to him!
With Download Monitor off of my plate, I can now focus on my other projects which are really taking off in a big way and demanding more of my focus. I’m really excited about it’s future, and I’m happy that Download Monitor is in safe hands.
I’m happy to announce I’ve finally flipped the switch on WPJobManager.com, a site which I’ve been working on for a few months now in my spare time. I felt it was about time that I had a better sales platform and a dedicated place for the plugin which has been steadily growing in popularity during the past year.
Up until now I’ve been selling add-ons via Gumroad. It’s a fun service, and it’s easy to use, but it lacks the flexibility I need. In particular I’m talking about licences. Without some kind of licencing system I have no way to verify a customer when it comes to updates and support, the sale is one off (something that’s not sustainable with this type of product), and I have no way to limit distribution of my plugins.
Therefore, I made the decision to switch over to WooCommerce (what else?) and have a proper marketplace for the plugin. Hosted on DigitalOcean and powered by WordPress and WooCommerce, WPJobManager.com is now live.
This is the final day of Daniel Espinoza’s Blogging for Benjamin contest and I’m happy to say I managed to post every day in december – a great achievement. I covered a variety of topics including:
- 9 topics on WooCommerce
- 11 topics on plugin development in general
- 2 workflow related posts
- 3 posts on WordPress and the WP ecosystem
And then there were some personal posts and reviews. I even built a new plugin.
Keeping on top of the blogging was sometimes difficult, but got easier towards the middle as I got into a routine. Towards the end the difficulty increased again as I ran out of interesting topics to cover, but I got there in the end.
Building plugins is fun, especially the smaller ones. Today I thought it would be a good challenge to build one whilst documenting the process; I’m actually writing this post as I plan and build the plugin itself with the hope of having it finished by the end of the day.
What am I building? A small post-series plugin so I can group all of my #WTBFB posts and allow navigation between them on my blog.
Bring on the challenge!
Love it or hate it, if you make plugins and want any amount of exposure you are going to need to use WordPress.org – the exposure it provides (so your plugin is searchable via the WP dashboard), and the convenience of it’s plugin updates, make it necessary.
I don’t dislike WordPress.org, but there are several aspects I’d love to see improved and made customisable. Here’s my wishlist.
If you’ve built a plugin for WooCommerce before you may have come across the ‘message’ functionality which let you add messages (or errors) to the frontend using:
$woocommerce->add_message( 'Hi there' )
$woocommerce->add_error( 'You bafoon' );
Part of the development of WooCommerce 2.1 was refactoring the main
WooCommerce class which involved moving out unrelated methods (such as the messages) and moving them into their own classes.
We’ve replaced this particular functionality with some new functions and a new notices API which is much more flexible. The old methods are deprecated.