Today marks the third month of life for our best WordPress plugin so far– the Forge page builder. And so far, it has been a pretty amazing ride. We have been more active than ever, balancing both product development and marketing the plugin to our defined audience, and we have learned a lot from it.
Today, I’d like to share my personal impressions about this project so far, and in the process learn something from it.
Launching a freemium product
To recap, Forge is a layout-focused freemium front-end page builder. That’s a pretty lengthy definition, but it captures its essence pretty well.
It is built for creating advanced layouts in the most intuitive and easy way we could think of, and at the same time being advanced enough to do all sorts of things with it. From intranets, to pages with moving elements and global sections. At least, that’s the objective.
The idea to create Forge dates back to a couple years ago, and I think it’s a textbook example of scratching an itch. Back then, we were doing WordPress-based client projects, and we had to use page builders a lot.
We were not satisfied with the available options: most builders were not flexible enough, behaved pretty slowly, or were clunky to use. The simple idea of working from the admin panel and having to preview every little change still makes me cringe.
Since I am primarily a developer, I started thinking something pretty early on: “I could make something like this myself”. I was not comfortable with the existing tools, so I wanted to create an alternative to what was already on the market.
But since creating a page builder is a lot of hard work, I kept postponing it. Until now.
Launch something. Now.
The first thing I have learned from launching Forge is that there will never be a great time to launch.
I had been thinking about Forge for a long time– from the way it would work to the things it could focus on, and so on. But I never really jumped into action, and I think that’s the single biggest mistake I made.
Only after getting into development mode, everything started going along: within a few weeks we had a working prototype, and a few days later we were almost ready to have our MVP (minimum viable product).
Thinking back, it’s amazing how fast we managed to code the builder, given the challenges it presented. It was not an easy task and there were a lot of design decisions to consider, but overall the result was pretty good.
The first version was not perfect. There were a lot of things we could have added, but what we needed was launching it. Just so we could start testing it in the real world.
Have an amazing product
A few years ago, there was a famous phrase in the startup world:“If you build a great product, they will come”.
This is simply not true. Just by creating something you cannot expect it to instantly gain attention. Not in this overcrowded world.
However, there is one thing I have noticed. Having a remarkably good product does help a lot. When we were only selling themes, it was hard to promote our products because the market was saturated. WordPress themes are by definition hard to sell– you can only have one in your WordPress site at any given time, and most of them are restricted to doing more or less the same thing.
This is not the case with plugins, where you can create something that can really make your customers’ lifes easier. When building Forge, we wanted it to excel at that. It would only do a few things, but it would do it remarkably well.
As a result, we have had an easier time marketing it. Our target audience (web design agencies working with WordPress) are responding really well, and the plugin is gaining attention fairly easily. Contrast this with the WordPress theme market, where everyone is the same.
Be persistent and consistent
Of course, not every response was good.
In these three months, we have had our ups and downs. Some agencies were already using existing page builders, while others resisted change a lot. This may get disheartening at times, especially since you are just getting your newborn plugin out into the world. It will be rejected many.many times.
This can be very disheartening at times. Who wouldn’t feel frustrated after all their invested time and hard work was met with rejection?
After trying to get in touch with over a hundred potential customers, I realized it’s just a matter of being persistent. It’s very unlikely that you will succeed on your first try, so you just need to keep pressing on. If things don’t move forward, refine your idea and try a different angle.
In our case, we did not slow down the pace after getting a negative esponse– we simply changed our approach a little and tried out new ways to meet with our target audience. This is mainly because we have created a great product, one that we believe in. And by doing so, it will take a lot more than initial resistance to discourage us.
Appreciate the small wins
All of this is hard work. You need to keep refining the product while at the same time promoting it and struggling to get in front of your customers. But at times there are small wins.
For example, we did get a small boost in plugin downloads after being featured in a highly influential marketing blog. That, in itself, was huge for us. Not only it reassured us what we already knew about gaining visibility, but it also produced results.
Between each bout of rejection, there will be small victories like these. And it’s okay to feel good about them because they are very motivating. They have driven us to step up the game and strive for even better results. In other words, we celebrate each small step forward because it creates confidence in our work.
By now, the free version of Forge has grown to more than 900 active users, which is a good sign. It’s not a massive userbase and the growth rate could be better– but being able to see the results of our hard work really pays off.
Keep up the pace
However, it’s one thing to celebrate a new milestone and something entirely different to grow lax about it. At times I’d forget that this project is a marathon, not a sprint. The fact that we started getting our first premium customers does not mean we can slow down.
With each accomplishment I have tried to push harder– because it’s fairly easy to let confidence take over and relax. While releasing a new feature or getting featured in a blog is a positive thing, it’s worth remembering that they are only stepping stones.
The end goal is still very far away, so it’s very important to keep up the pace. This was particularly important for us since the plugin was released in the middle of the holiday season.
Polishing the plugin
I can say that I’m happy with Forge’s growth. The overall response has been positive, and the userbase is growing steadily. Still, I think we can do better, so we will be working harder and harder to turn it into a really good tool.
Until now, the goal for the Forge page builder has been to get it up to speed compared to other plugins in the market. A lot of the features we released could be considered an essential part of page building,after all.
But from that point on, the focus will be on polishing. There are a lot of rough edges that need to be smoother, so that the overall experience can be much more enjoyable. Things like live editing and instant feedback are on the way, and while they are not as big as other features, they do add value.
So far, it’s been an amazing three months full of energy. Here’s hoping the rest of the year is even better.