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I’m excited to chat with Maarten Belmans, who is the founder of studiowombat.com. Maarten’s newest plugin Advanced Product Fields for WooCommerce has just grown to 5000+ active installs with impressive reviews. Let’s dive in
Hi Maarten! I’ve just re-read your guest post on Business Bloomer, which was published in September 2019. The post goes over the features of Advanced Product Fields and comparisons to the competitor plugins.
I’m interested to hear about big changes and challenges you’ve had to overcome for users and even the development of Advanced Product Fields itself.
Hi Morgan! I’m excited to appear on the Puri blog. Thank you for the opportunity!
Like most software, writing code is the easy part. Growing the plugin into something bigger than a hobby project is no easy task, especially in a saturated market.
The biggest challenge for any plugin in the WordPress repository is growing it to 200 active installs and your first reviews. Right after you’ve poured a good few months in building a product, you’re totally at the mercy of WordPress’s search algorithm (which you can influence, but it’s not like SEO).
In my opinion, a new plugin needs 200 installs and at least a few honest reviews fairly quickly. If you don’t reach those numbers soon, users may perceive your product as abandoned or unpopular. They may decide to download a competitor’s plugin instead.
If your product doesn’t reach these numbers soon after launching, that doesn’t mean it is set to fail though. Most plugins in the repository are growing, even at a slow pace, as there is an increasing number of users searching.
Another upside to reaching a couple of 100 active installs is that users will start to leave feedback in the forum, which gives you an idea on how to improve your overall product.
I’m impressed with the amount of positive reviews you’ve gathered in such a short amount of time. I personally go out of my way to give the best support that I can for my plugins. It works great and people are happy on email, but I struggle when it comes to asking for a review. Can you share your secret?
Many of my users are truly impressed with the quick turnaround of helpful support. It’s almost as if this type of support is non-existent in the WordPress sphere. And indeed, when I look at other WordPress businesses, nobody has a live chat on their website to deliver support within the hour.
Users recognize our efforts and they are more than happy to return the favor by leaving a review. There’s no real secret though, other than to ask for it when their support request is completed. Only a handful users will ask where they can leave a review. Most users need a gentle nudge.
You’ve now reached 5000+ active users for Advanced Product Fields, that’s a solid amount, which means more users and also competitors will be looking at your product. What do you have on the roadmap that users can look forward to?
Before I started writing the plugin, I had already checked out the competition and saw there was still room at the table. Not necessarily in terms of features, but more so in terms of code quality and speed of the plugin. Of course, I also want to offer great features, but I want to attract users based on quality, rather than quantity.
By reaching so many active installs, I have proven that the plugin is a worthy competitor. However, I’m still far away from some of the top plugins in the segment, which have over 20,000 active installs. To grow, I’ll continue to give top-notch support and provide the features my users need.
Just like with variable products, it would be great if product options can also have separate stock management. It’s a feature that none of my competitors offer as far as I’m aware, so it is something I want to explore. I don’t think I’ll be launching this anytime soon though, as it is a large feature that ties in deep with WooCommerce. As you know from your Reserved Stock plugin, implementing stock management correctly is no easy task.
I definitely agree with your philology of focusing on code quality and speed. I’ve found myself replacing a lot of bloated plugins across my sites with slimmed-down or DIY plugins. I believe it’s easy for end-users and us as developers to get excited about fancy features in plugins. We have to carefully consider what needs to be included, and how to serve the purpose of the plugin and our end goal without creating limitations on speed.
Indeed, customizing the stock management in WooCommerce is not straightforward. We’ve opened up discussions with the WooCommerce team about that!
If anyone wants to ask you some questions about the Advanced Product Fields or any of your other plugins, where should they go?