Tag: review

Thanks to the academy: My plugin got an award!

WP-Super plugins, a WordPress plugin review site, has just reviewed my Search Filter Plugin. For everyone, who doesn’t know this site: WP superplugins is dedicated to WordPress plugins. They review free and premium plugins. By now, I know a lot of plugin reviews and pages, which are doing reviews. Superplugins is quite outstanding, since they are really into reviews and you can tell this from the quality of their reviews. So I’ve contacted them some weeks ago, to ask, whether they want to review my plugin. Carl, the author of the review agreed, although, as he wrote

I’ll be honest and say […] we thought “Not another search filter plugin”, most of them don’t work, require NASA experience to use and look just plain ugly.
Carl, WP Super Plugins

Not the best thoughts for a plugin review from my perspective and so I was more than happy, when I read the actual review today.

When I first installed the plugin I had my NASA research book at the ready and my geek cap on preparing myself for a couple of hours of research and testing. Honestly, five minutes later I was integrating search functions that I wasn’t really able to achieve on any other site. It was easy, simple and actually quite a bit of fun to set-up.
Carl, WP Super Plugins

WP Superplugins awarded my plugin with the Gold Standard Award.
WP Superplugins awarded my plugin with the Gold Standard Award.

But not only Carl wrote a very nice review about my plugin, the guys over at WP Super Plugins decided to award my plugin with their “Gold standard award” for “outstanding capabilities, development and support”! Well, what else can I see except for thanks to the academy.

So, for everyone, who wants to have a look, please read the WordPress custom search plugin review over at WP Super Plugins. Thanks again!

Thematosoups Gumbo Theme

In the last weeks I talked a bit with the guys over at thematosoup. Thematosoup is a very fine WordPress company which is run by Slobodan and Dragan. Some of you might know their work from the fantastic author plugin, they have developed.

So, we had a small talk about themes and cooperation and so on and Dragan introduced me to Gumbo, a theme they have recently developed and to be honest, I’ve liked the previous theme “Alpha Forte” of my blog, which is great, but I immediately switched to Gumbo.

Thematosoups Gumbo comes along in a very clean and minimalist style, but everything is on its place. Thematosoups philosophy is strictly to separate between the job, which needs to be done by a theme and a job, which needs to be done by a plugin. So, you won’t find 1.000 shortcodes, no functionality, which can be done by a plugin. The theme remains a theme (maybe with the exception of the social menu bar, but in my eyes this makes perfectly sense)..

For the ones, who work (like me too) with clients and head every now and then to Envatos Themeforest, you know one of the big trends of commercial themes. Bundle all plugins you can find and call it a theme. You will get rich themes and work hours on hours in configuring them. I wouldn’t wonder, if there are some job descriptions out there, which say “we are searching an Avada expert” (Edit: haha, actually, there is!)

Personally, I really don’t like this kind of themes. Thematosoups philosophy is quite compelling and the recent problems with the Revolution Slider (for those, who haven’t noticed, have a look on this post by Sarah Gooding) should be a real eye opener to the business.

The Gumbo Theme

Basically, as Dragan pointed out, they try to realize all options with the Customizer, which was introduced in WP 3.4. So let’s have a look into the Customizer:

Customize Gumbo — WordPress
The WordPress Customizer: Customize Gumbo

We will find 10 sections, where we can alter the look of our WordPress blog and it’s really focussed on the looks. The layout section allows you to change the position of the standard sidebar, the position of the standard menu (wow! I still don’t use a menu 😀 )

If you are using featured content, something, you want to highlight, you should have a look into the featured content section. You should have a tag, where you gather only your featured content. You can select this tag and display these as a slider on your homepage! Maybe it would be a possibility, not to limit this to tags, but to enable the user, also to use sticky posts, a category or something else, but they did a very nice job in realizing such an option.

You can alter typography, colors, background images and much more. And somehow, because of the very nice work, they did with keeping ratios, padding, margin and so on, there is almost nothing, you can do wrong about it. In the end, you will still run your blog in a nice modern and simple layout.

But, with the Customizer, you just alter the general settings. You can also alter your layout for each post.

Alter the layout for a single post
Alter the layout for a single post

And this, of course, is a nice way. I personally like especially the possibility to change the option of the font size.

The templates

Quite a nice feature are the templates for pages. There are several templates, you can use, like for example a sitemap, or an author page, which I have used for my about page. The Masonry template gives you the latest posts, but in a Pinterest style. And with the widgetized template, it is very easy to set up a nice landingpage. On the themes description it says:

This is one page template you can use to add widgets in your “below content” widget area. Widgetized Template works together with Widgetized Page widget area and has some specific options, which you can enable in Screen Options of your page editor.

The surrounding

So thematosoup has delivered a nice theme. But it’s not just the theme, which I like, it’s the whole attitude, by which they present it. Although Gumbo is a free theme, they put a lot of effort into explaining the theme with videos, where they teach people how to use it. They’ve created a perfect theme demo page, by which you easily get all possibilities of the theme.

They take part in the “Theme hook alliance“, which I didn’t know until now.

All together, they made a very nice theme and put a lot of effort into the surroundings. They keep care, to use best practices and hook into initiatives in order to make a better WordPress. So, if you are searching for a new theme, have a look at Gumbo.

Advanced Search plugin review over at WPLift

Almost four years ago, Oliver Dale started his blog WPLift, where he writes about anything WordPress related. Since I started to work intensively with WordPress, developing plugins, themes and so on, WPLift became one of my main resources for news related to WP. And not just for me. Over 10,000 user subscribed to the newsletter and thousands of readers return to this page every day, to get the latest stuff.

Some days ago, Oliver told the story, how everything began:

One thing that concerned me when starting WPlift was whether I would have enough to write about just focusing on WordPress

An unnecessary worry, as it turned out since “you could write 10 posts a day and still not be covering everything “. Some time ago, I contacted Oliver (who overs reviews for premium plugins and themes for a small fee in order to support his blog), if he thought a review about my latest plugin would fit into his blog and he wrote a very nice blog post: Advanced WordPress Search

In this review he explains briefly the functionality of the plugin and how you can set it up. Since WordPress comes with quite a simple search field, its capabilities for a good search experience is limited. This search might be enough for a small blog like mine, but as soon as you run a complex website, like an online store, this search functionality turns out to be too simple. At this point, my plugin Profi Search Form comes into place. With a simple drag and drop interface you are able to create your own completely customized advanced search for your WordPress page.

Oliver demonstrates this with an example of his blog. He is writing quite a lot of WordPress theme reviews (till today there are more than 120!), which he saves in a Custom Post Type called “Themes”. He is using custom taxonomies for this post type like “Theme Company”, “Theme Colors” and so on and custom fields like “Price”. In his review he is using these attributes to create a search, where you can select, for example all white themes which cost between 10 and 50 USD.

His conclusion:

This is a powerful plugin for improving the search capabilities of sites which make use of meta data / taxonomies.

But, of course, there are also some critical remarks. Not without a reason, Oliver states that he has seen more beautiful plugins, which is quite true. Until now, the first thing I want to provide is the functionality as such. A powerful yet easy to configure advanced search. The CSS and styling is rather basically and the ideal customer in my mind is someone, who knows CSS and knows how to adjust the HTML elements to his theme. Since most of the customers are WordPress agencies, this works fine. But of course I am thinking about theming my plugin. Since I am more on the programmers side of WordPress development, maybe I should have a look, where to find a good WordPress designer, so I can outsource this task a bit. One of the problems I see with theming a plugin is the different environments, it will be working in. If you read the comments for different plugins, one of the constant problems are CSS problems, where a beautiful theme meets a beautiful plugin and one CSS definition destroys the other. I always wanted to write a blog post about good and solid plugin styling. Maybe now its time to explore this issue a bit more.

Anyway, if you are interested in a second opinion about my plugin, please have a look for Olivers review over at WPLift: Advanced WordPress Search + Filtering by Taxonomy and Post Meta.

Rachel Andrews: The Profitable Side Project

Well, actually I never thought, I would write something like a book review on this blog, but Rachel Andrews “The Profitable Side Project” teaches me better. Most of you probably know Rachel Andrews, since she is one of the heads behind Perch and continuously writes articles about WordPress and other webtech related stuff.

“The Profitable Side Project” is an ebook she recently published, where she sums up here experiences in launching small business projects like “Perch” or even smaller. And – I have to say – I love this book! It is written for all these freelancers out there, who always dream about their own projects, which they will realize one day and somehow, it is written for me.

I don’t remember when I started programming, but I know, there was a time – around 16 years – when I started to wonder, if it wouldn’t be a good idea to become a shareware author as a grown up. Shareware – the 90th. I wrote (probably everyone, who started to program at this time did the same) an address program, which I actually started to sell and I was amazed, some people actually bought it. But, for some years, I’ve dropped the idea, started to study philosophy, history and politics. I came back to programming, when money to continue the studies was needed. And I came back to the idea of shareware authoring, well nowadays its about services, plugins and whatever. “The Profitable Side Project” is written just for these people, who are trying to make a dime. They will find themselves in this book with headings like the beautiful “Dreaming Small is Underrated”. Actually, I think Rachel Andrews has a real point here. Some of my projects, I wanted to lift, just became to heavy. There where too many ideas in my head, too many features I thought needed to be included. You start to program, you think again, start all over from scratch. And all this in a phase, where the project is the most vulnerable; in the phase, where you doubt it yourself. Rachel Andrews made quite the same experience:

However we had such big plans for it [the project] that we could never get to a point where we were happy enough to ship it. Every time we started to work on it, we were dreaming up new features and worrying about various perceived defects – all before anyone outside of our company had seen it. Ultimately we gave up on it. Our interest and energy had been sapped by endless revisions, and the product had lost all focus and momentum.

And this is, what it is all about. Most projects fail, because you loose the momentum. Rachel Andrews shows you, how to keep focused, keep the project small enough to be able to realize it as a sideproject. If your project hit something, you will start to enhance it. But you have to reach the moment to ultimately ship it, because “Small things can grow”. I do this right now with my latest plugin “Profi Search Form“. I am not 100 percent happy with the sales, but since I’ve launched it, I get a lot of feedback which I integrate and I see how this pushes the project sales more and more.

In her book the author gives the advice, not to start with some beta versions, which you ship for free, just to get users. For sure, she is right users are not customers, their feedback will be differently. But, when I’ve read that I thought about another way, I was using. Like always, I’ve putted a lot of energy into a project. It was a SEO service. In order to be an interesting service, it needed a huge database. The service itself was running but building up databases is quite boring work. And I saw my euphoria for the project disappearing. I saw, I will never build a database, if I don’t get some feedback people actually like my product. So I stopped the work and was thinking. I wanted users who pay but the service was not at a stage where I was able to say: Pay the full amount of money. At least I thought so. I decided to create a beta phase. I went into a SEO forum and announced “Well this service is not completely ready, but I want it to be tested. Everybody who comes during the beta phase just pays 50%” and the service lifted off. Actually, I was amazed and that gave me the energy to finish the boring database work. So, you could say, “Well, looks like you passed the moment of shipping without knowing”. Or you can say, without this betaphase I would have never come to this point. The good thing about a beta, it lifts your shoulders. Beta tells your client, well not everything will work 100% but it will be fixed as soon as you report it.

This SEO service was in technical terms an “SAAS”. In chapter two Rachel Andrews gives a brief overview about the different business models you can run for your sideproject. Software as a Service for example, or as “One-off purchases”. There are other models, which are discussed by the author. In the next chapters, you get a lot of tipps, how to increase your productivity (chapter 3) by special tools, techniques and outsourcing. Chapter four discusses ways to find a good price.

Selling products via Internet has its own advantages and disadvantages. For sure, it has its own rules, from hosting to legal questions. Chapter five discusses these matters and guides you through some of the questions.

To sum it up. This book contains a lot of ideas, how to realize small projects like the mentioned before. It helps you staying focused and points you to some easy solutions for problems which might discourage you just starting.

Rachel Andrews:
The Profitable Sideproject
339 pages, 39 US$
as PDF, mobi and epub

Table of Content:

Chapter 1: Why Side Projects?

Profitable Side Projects, Dreaming Small is Underrated, What defines success for your product?, Getting to the Shipping Point,  A Cautionary Tale, Minimum Viable Infrastructures, Small Things Can Grow, Take Action: First Steps to Launch

Chapter 2: Your Product

Software as a Service (SAAS), One-off Purchases, SaaS vs. one off purchases, Plugins, themes and add-ons, Putting Your Main Product on Hold, The Concierge Approach, Validating Ideas, Take Action: Your Product

Chapter 3: Productivity

Spend Time To Save Time, Tools and Techniques, Outsourcing, Take Action: Productivity,

Chapter 4: Pricing

The Pricing Model for Perch, Step by Step Pricing, Customer Acquisition and Lifetime Value, Card up-front or after trial?, Special Offers and Discounts, One Currency or Multiple Currencies, VAT and Local Taxes, Take Action: Pricing Models

Chapter 5: The practicalities of selling products online

Taking Payments, Hosting, Legal Matters, Stats and tracking,  Take Action: Infrastructure

Chapter 6: Identity and Brand

Visual Identity, Identity Through Voice, Writing Marketing Copy, Take Action: Identity and Brand

Chapter 7: Setting up for Support

Support as Marketing, Support as Product Research, Tools for Support, Public Forums vs. Ticketed Support, Social Media Support, Pre-sales and purchase support, Dealing with Difficult Customers, Take Action: Support

Chapter 8: Planning a Launch

Pre-launch Pages, The Slow Launch, Take Action: Next Steps to Launch

Chapter 9: We launched! Now What?

Adding Features, Balancing Client Work with Your Product, Marketing Your Product, Switching Focus, Enjoy the Journey