I first heard from Brian Hogg earlier this year when he contacted me with some questions about Wisdom, my plugin that tracks data for plugin developers. I already knew of Brian through his newsletter for developers and I felt that he would be the ideal choice for the first in a new series of interviews that I’d like to run on this blog, focusing on individuals in the WordPress community who are involved in plugin development.
Brian kindly took time to answer some questions about his online courses for plugin developers and his thoughts on the plugin economy as a whole.
Can you tell us a little about your background and history with WordPress?
You provide a number of courses on WordPress development. Can you give some information about what each includes?
Plugins for Beginners lets you quickly get up to speed with creating a WordPress plugin, including using the core building blocks of WordPress (actions and filters), creating an admin settings page, security, and more. While it does go through some of the PHP syntax for those coming from another language, it does assume some basic knowledge of HTML/CSS and programming concepts.
Finally Making Pro Plugins is for those that have a plugin or plugin idea, and know they would like to release it for public use. It goes through ways to structure and easily manage releases of free and pro/premium versions all the way to setting up the sales platform (including marketing and pricing). It’s the least code heavy of the three but definitely goes through some scripts, automation and plugin structure bits to make maintaining a public plugin over time as easy as possible.
What’s the best piece of advice you could give to someone about to start developing their first WordPress plugin?
What tips do you have for encouraging users of free plugins to upgrade to the pro equivalents?
You don’t want to make them super annoying though and you’ll need to make sure they can get some kind of decent value out of the free version if they don’t upgrade. You also never, ever want to remove a feature you have in the free version and make it pro-only – once it’s in the free version, it should stay there forever.
Do you have any thoughts on the future of WordPress? How do you see the plugin market developing over the next couple of years?
The plugin market is already getting to the point where you can’t just put a plugin out there (free or pro) and expect a lot of traction in any reasonable amount of time. You do need to do some marketing whether it be useful blog articles, screencasts showing people how to use your plugin, or other ways to educate and provide value to users even if they never buy anything.
I think forming partnerships with existing audiences who will get the most value out of your plugin will be the best bet to cut through all the noise for the next couple years and beyond. You might be able to negotiate that for free, but likely you’ll want to set up an affiliate program to encourage that partner to promote your plugin as much as possible over time.
You can find Brian in the following places:
Here’s a video of Brian’s WordCamp Buffalo talk from 2016 on things he learned creating a premium plugin.
Thanks to Brian for taking the time to answer these questions.