10 Steps to Launch a New WordPress Plugin

Published in Inside Nelio.

If you have a new business idea that you would like to materialize with the development of a new plugin, first of all, congratulations twice: one for your entrepreneurial spirit and another for landing on the post that can help you focus your efforts so that you can soon achieve profits.

Surely you already read David’s post earlier this year about the goals we had set for 2022, in which he mentioned launching the MVP (Minimum Viable Product) of a new product. Since we achieved this goal last week, I’d like to take this opportunity to tell you about the 10 steps we follow every time we launch a new product. Of course, depending on the context and the new product, each step may be a little different.

#1 The Idea of What to Build

The starting point of any business or building a new plugin is obviously having the idea. In general, it depends a lot on your context and your experience. There are people who never run out of ideas, and others who are great at executing them but have a harder time generating new ones.

If you belong to the first group and you know what you want to develop, you can jump directly to the next point of this post. But if you identify yourself more with the second group, don’t worry. Just the fact of having some interest already implies that you have the capacity to generate ideas. And there are techniques for generating ideas that can work very well for you. In fact, according to James Webb Young, idea generation is as well-defined a process as car production on an assembly line.

The easiest and most obvious way to generate a business idea is to identify a problem you have and think of possible solutions. For example, the idea of developing Nelio Content came up when we realized that we were having a lot of trouble (a) writing blog posts consistently and (b) promoting them on social media efficiently. We needed an editorial calendar to put things in order and an automated system to publish on social media.

Similarly, talk to your friends, family, or customers and identify their problems and think of products you could create to solve them. This is precisely how we came up with the idea of creating Inlexa, an assistant to help adopt inclusive and diverse language through artificial intelligence. In this case, a friend, who’s the director of a social enterprise, told me he had detected that “inclusivity guides and the training [they] provide to the company’s staff are not enough to ensure that all [their] internal and external communications adopt an inclusive and diverse language.”

Finally, starting from the general principle that an idea is nothing more than a new combination of old elements, another alternative very different to the previous ones is to make a thorough study of those plugins that work best, analyze their popularity and reviews, and identify their weak points and how you could improve them. This is precisely how the ideas of creating Nelio Popups and Nelio Forms came about.

#2 Explore If it Can Be a Business Opportunity

Now you have your business idea clear and are ready to start developing it… but, cafeful, no matter how excited you are about your new idea, don’t develop anything yet until you’ve explored whether such a product makes sense and there’s more people other than you interested in it.

To do this, you have several alternatives: ask potential customers directly, do surveys, analyze the competition and study if there is a market, make a pitch to potential investors and see what interest you arouse, etc. What to do depends on the context of your product idea. If it is something totally new, you will be able to do little analysis of the competition. But if it already exists, you will be interested in exploring the shortcomings of the products on the market.

For example, in the case of a very new product, more than once we have created a web page explaining the product we wanted to develop, encouraging visitors to sign up for the beta program. To get a minimum of visits quickly, we have ran a Google Ads campaign, and within a couple of months we had enough visits and conversions to evaluate if our idea was indeed as good as we thought. Needless to say, we had previously decided what was the minimum conversion rate required to even consider the idea as a viable business opportunity.

We used this way of initially validating an idea with the first product we launched, Nelio A/B Testing, and also some months ago to decide whether to develop Nelio Smart Prices, a tracker of the prices offered by your competition for WooCommerce. Although it seemed like a great idea, just a few people showed interest in it, and so it’s been shelved for the time being.

On the other hand, to decide whether to create a new popup plugin, as there were other plugins on the market, we did a thorough analysis of the most popular plugins and identified the features offered by each one. From there, we explored the option of creating a new plugin with the advantages of those we liked the most and also adding something different that would provide added value to what already existed.

#3 Decide What is the MVP of Your Plugin

Even if you’ve done a lot of surveys to explore whether an idea is a good one, remember what Dr. House tells us: people lie. Whoever tells you “I love your idea and I think it’s super interesting,” when the day comes to subscribe or buy for real, they may not spend a penny.

Even if you are convinced that you have the best business opportunity, you don’t want to start big by developing your ideal product. Start by defining your product MVP.

What is and what is not a Minimum Viable Product
What is and what is not a Minimum Viable Product (MVP). Source.

The idea of the MVP is to develop the simplest possible product that implements your value proposition and that aims to validate the existence of demand. For example, when we saw that creating a fully integrated popup plugin with the WordPress block editor could have a place in the market, on the one hand, we defined all the features we would like the plugin to have and, on the other hand, what would be the basic MVP that would help us to validate if the product would be in demand.

How do you decide what features the MVP should include? As Chris Lema says, the MVP is not the ideal product for your clients—it is the product that you should develop using the minimum resources to validate your business idea. The goal of creating an MVP is to ensure that the market wants the product before making a large investment of time and money.

To decide the MVP of Nelio Popups and Nelio Forms, what we did is take advantage of the exhaustive analysis of all the features offered by similar products and see which ones were offered for free and which ones were premium. From there, it was easy to establish which features should be included in the initial version we released: something along the lines “the least common multiple of free features.”

And the differential value of our plugins compared to others on the market is that they are fully integrated with the WordPress block editor, with all the advantages that this entails. And that both their code and their design are impeccable.

#4 Develop Your MVP and Upload it to WordPress.org

Now you can get down to work. One of the great advantages of developing plugins is that there is already a “marketplace” where you can make your MVP known easily and for free: WordPress.org.

Before creating your WordPress plugin, remember that we are in an open source environment and it is very important that you follow the recommendations and style guides published on WordPress.org. But not only this, in our blog we have a lot of posts in which we talk about tricks and techniques to make your life easier and help you to be excellent at developing WordPress plugins, including a template for the development of your plugins, posts for mastering how to create components with TypeScript and React, and other essential tips for developers.

And of course, once you have developed your plugin, David explains in detail the steps to follow to upload it to WordPress.org. Make sure that the plugin description is detailed enough and that you include attractive screenshots that clearly show the functionalities of your plugin. Don’t forget to write the necessary documentation so that anyone who tests it knows what they need to do to make it work for them.

As an example, you can take a look at the description of the Nelio Popups plugin whose first version was uploaded on December 31, 2021.

One of the screenshots uploaded in the description of Nelio Popups on WordPress.org.

#5 Stay Tuned to the WordPress Support Forum

After uploading a plugin to WordPress.org, things don’t always go smoothly. Sometimes, even if you have thoroughly tested your plugin, it may conflict with other plugins. It’s possible that it’s not your fault, but still, make sure you address any doubts, questions, or issues put forward by your users on WordPress.org.

Although most people are aware that bugs will appear in the software, if you want to earn the loyalty of your users and customers, there is nothing better than offering an exquisite support to any problem that may arise. For example, after uploading the Nelio Popups plugin, a user shared an issue he had with our plugin. After Toni analyzed the problem and solved it with great care, we got the first revision of the plugin that we had just released.

Nelio Popups review on WordPress.org
Review of Nelio Popups on WordPress.org.

#6 Create a Page to Introduce Your Premium Version

Although the free version serves as an MVP to see if your plugin has traction, it does not guarantee that people will be willing to pay for a premium version. Our recommendation is that you make known the features that will be included in your premium version as soon as possible.

An easy way to advertise your premium version is to do it directly in the WordPress directory itself. Add this information and a link to the page where you describe all the details of the features included in the premium version. This is very easy, adding in the plugin FAQ the question “What does the premium version give me?” with the details and the link to the page where you have this information.

This is what we have done for Nelio Popups on WordPress.org that links to the page we have created on our website with the description of the product we are developing. Also, at the bottom of that page we have included a form so that you can contact us to get access the beta of the product.

Nelio Popups website
Nelio Popups website page.

#7 Write and Promote Content to Publicize Your Plugin

We have told you countless times that the best way to attract traffic to your website is to create valuable content on your blog. Write posts that help you publicize your plugin, but don’t confuse a post with the product documentation.

For example, in the case of Nelio Popups, we have written three very different posts that may be useful to our visitors:

But don’t just write explicit content to make your tool known, take advantage of other posts so that, if it makes sense, you can also mention the plugin that you just launched on the market.

Thus, for example, not only did we announce the launch of Nelio Popups in our 2021 summary or in our goals for 2022, but David, in a post in which he explains how to create better components with TypeScript and Reach Hooks, uses Nelio Popups’s codebase as an example.

I suppose that at this point you don’t need to be reminded of the importance of promoting these posts in all your social networks. For this, you don’t need to waste a minute if you do it automatically with our Nelio Content plugin. It is more important that the content you write is of quality and that you make it known as much as you can, than to spend your time generating more content without adding a value.

And the promotion does not stop on your blog and social networks. Contact your friends so that they know and also talk about your products. If they know you and how you work, they will love to try your new product and make it known. Besides, many times they are even better promoters of your products than you are yourself. As examples, here is a post by Marta Torre talking about Inlexa and another by Fernando Tellado commenting on Nelio Popups (both in Spanish).

All these content will not only give visibility to your plugin, but will also provide you with feedback that can help you improve your work.

#9 Evolve Your MVP to Your Premium Version

As soon as you see that your MVP is gaining popularity, you can start developing all those ideas and features that you have in the pipeline. Take into account the feedback you get from users that will surely help you identify which functionality is the one they are looking for the most and, possibly, the next one you should develop.

At Nelio, most of our plugins have been evolving, basically, either to adapt to the different WordPress updates or to add features that have been previously requested by our customers.

#10 Offer an Exquisite Support Service

If there is one thing we take special care of at Nelio is customer support. David wrote a post explaining why good customer service is so important and how we do this support work so that it gives us as little work as possible.

I assure you that every time someone tells us how delighted they are with the service we have given them, or every time we see a positive review of our plugin in which they insist that the best thing has been the support service, not only does this give us great satisfaction, but it is also the best way to build customer loyalty and gain popularity and prestige.

Conclusion

Launching a new plugin is not as simple as coming up with an idea and writing four lines of code. In order to be as efficient as possible and not waste resources on jobs that might get us nowhere, we always follow the previous steps.

And you, what steps do you follow when you want to launch a new plugin? Do you think we are missing any?

Featured image by Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash.

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