I bet the first thing you do after installing a new WordPress site is to start adding new plugins to extend its functionality. Beyond technical reasons to choose a plugin over another, a key factor is the price. Are you on a limited budget and favor free plugins (“free” in a strict monetary sense, the fact you don’t need to pay for them doesn’t mean that they cost nothing)? or are you looking for more/better features offered by commercial ones?
When looking at commercial solutions, more and more, the first question you have to ask yourself is whether you should choose a “standalone” plugin or a WordPress service (services usually come together with a plugin to enable the configuration of the service from your WP Dashboard but most of the work is done following the Software as a Service (saaS) paradigm) : should you use a backup plugin or a WordPress backup service? And what about security aspects? or a helpdesk for your clients?
Obviously, WordPress services imply recurring payments (and when not, they go bankrupt). This single reason makes many people reluctant to go for the service option (who likes recurrent payments?). Terrible mistake they will regreat for a long time 🙂 .
Quite a few others have compared the two business models: software licenses (the equivalent to our single plugin purchase) vs SaaS approaches (see a couple of examples) but mostly from the vendor perspective and obviously not considering the specific context of the WordPress ecosystem. In this post I’m aiming at blatantly presenting why (IMHO), a WordPress service may be a better option for you (DISCLAIMER: I do believe in all the reasons I list here but as the co-founder of Conversion Optimization SERVICE for WordPress feel free to just assume I’m completely biased and stop reading).
My five reasons why a WordPress service is better than a commercial plugin
- Buying a plugin is also a recurring payment. With almost no exception, you’ll get only free updates for your pluign during one year. After that, you’ll need to renew your license. Cost of that varies, but it easily represents half of what you paid for the plugin upfront. And WordPress is too dynamic, you cannot afford not to update or your plugin will quickly become completely obsolete
- A service is only more expensive after continued use, a plugin is expensive on day one . Take as an example our A/B Testing service. Maybe you are not interested in constantly optimizing your site but just want to try a couple of changes. You could subscribe to the service and unsubscribe a couple of months later. This would be much cheaper than buying a plugin where you have to pay the full value regardless of how long you plan to use it.
- In a SaaS model, we have to earn your trust every month, with a plugin, you’re worth nothing the day after you buy. A WordPress service has to take care of you every single day or you’ll leave. That’s very different from plugin vendors. Once you complete the purchase of the plugin, they can’t “suck” more money out of you (apart from the tiny hope you’ll renew in one year) so they move on to new potential customers. Do the math and think how many new clients a plugin vendor must get every month to survive. To whom do you think s/he will focus the attention?
- Services are updated more and also more often. How long do you have to wait until the author of your plugin decides to align it with the latest version of WordPress? Or to fix a bug? For a service, not addressing these issues immediately costs money (clients that flee). For a plugin not so much (worse case scenario they will get some bad press). Similarly, with the development of new features, services want to keep their existing customers so they try to keep giving more and more to them.
- Quality of WordPress services is better. For plugins, we are quite tolerant. Somehow we feel that if the plugin does not really work as expected, well, we just threw away some money and get over it. Instead, when we pay for something every month, we demand much more and these high expectations are clearly perceived by the vendors that take extracare to ensure the maximum quality of the service.
And all this only looking at the “business” aspects. SaaS also has several advantages at the technical level. Depending on the specific functionality, a service can have a significant beneficial impact on the time to load the page and/or the size of your WordPress database or file system (which depending on your hosting provider could also have an economic impact because of overages) due to the use of external cloud systems to support the service functionalities. For services that collect customer’s data (e.g. tracking how the customers uses the service or the results she gets with it), the service could even provide some valuable feedback to optimize the customer’s results.
Now it’s your turn. I’d love to have your thoughts on this! WordPress plugin or service? Which way you go?