WordPress seems like a natural fit for people looking to build out knowledge bases and documentation for their projects, clients or reference materials. GD Knowledge Base Pro makes that process even easier by offering a suite of features and tools that lets you construct a knowledge base fit to exactly meet your needs and requirements.
Milan Petrovic, from Dev4Press, was kind enough to take some time explaining how his plugin came to be. He also discusses his efforts marketing the plugin, technical challenges that arose during its development, and his thoughts on pricing.
Can you start by telling me a bit about yourself and your history with WordPress?
My name is Milan Petrovic. I am from Serbia and I am the owner and only developer at Dev4Press.com, developing plugins and themes for WordPress since 2007. Back in 2006 and 2007 I was mainly a .NET and SQL Server developer but I needed to create a personal website quickly. I searched for a solution that would be fast to setup and easy to develop for. After testing WordPress, Drupal and Joomla, I settled on WordPress.
I began working as a freelancer for WordPress in 2007 and released a few free plugins at first (including at the time, the very popular, GD Star Rating plugin), and I quit my previous job in 2009 when Dev4Press first went online.
Since then, I have created a lot of plugins, some free, some premium, some for clients (by latest count, that is over 200 plugins). Currently, Dev4Press offers 13 premium plugins (with one more currently in development, scheduled for the late summer release), and add-ons for some of them. Dev4Press keeps me quite busy, so I don’t have time for regular freelance work anymore, but I still like to work on some smaller projects for clients just to take an occasional break from my work.
What was the original inspiration for GD Knowledge Base Pro?
I needed to build a knowledge base for my Dev4Press website in 2014. The main reason for the creation of GD Knowledge Base Pro is lack of any comprehensive knowledge base plugins for WordPress at the time (and that has not changed since). Most plugins were built around one post type with some custom theme layouts and not much else. The most popular ‘knowledge bases’ were just nicely designed themes and not much else. It was not something I was able to use for a complex knowledge base I wanted to make.
I needed a plugin that supported multiple products, multiple content types that can be linked to one or more products (or not linked to products at all), included methods for protecting the access to the content (so that only customers can read some of the articles or guides) and could provide live search. This idea pool has expanded and so did the plugin.
The plugin started first and foremost as an internal project built around my own theme. I saw the potential in the plugin I made and decided to create it as a premium plugin. Over time the plugin was expanded with more features that website owners might need including the migration of content from other post types previously available.
The plugin (current version is 3.3, and we have celebrated plugin’s third birthday last month) implements ‘Articles’, ‘FAQ’, ‘User Guides’ and ‘References’ post types, with their own taxonomies and each can be connected to ‘Products’ (also post type). Using shortcodes, you can embed content, display a list of products or terms, add special structures (tabs, callouts and more). GD Knowledge Base Pro has AJAX powered live search (it can search forums and knowledge base content) and built in analytics (for content and search effectiveness). Finally, readers can vote if content is useful or not, and even send feedback about each post in the knowledge base. Add to that 20+ shortcodes, 10+ widgets, complex URL rewrite rules to mix post types and filter results by product and content at the same time.
If you could identify the most difficult part of developing GD Knowledge Base Pro what would it be and why was it so challenging?
At first the plugin required integration with the theme through specialized templates. This has proven a difficult problem for most users that were not developers and I had to rebuild big parts of the plugin to include a theme compatibility layer that will allow it to work with any theme. This solution was inspired by the bbPress and BuddyPress plugins.
Even with the theme compatibility implemented the plugin required styling that will work with all themes and that took a lot of time testing with various themes, expanding default styling to cover more cases and more themes. And, for the most part, the plugin looks OK with all themes. It might need some light styling changes in rare cases. I regularly update the default styling to make sure it improves the theme compatibility mode.
And, if they need to make more complex changes, end users can build their own templates to integrate the plugin into their theme and change everything. Users can start using the plugin immediately, if needed, can later develop their own template elements and layouts.
For developers that use the plugin I have built theme integration examples as a starting point for some popular themes like Divi and Genesis.
What is your typical customer like and what marketing tactics have you used to reach them?
Most of my customers are website owners (many of them are not developers, they just use WordPress and plugins they need) with typically one or two websites. But in the past few years I am getting more freelancers and agencies that use my plugins on client websites. Because of that I am trying to make my plugins work as is, without any coding required, but all my plugins are very developer friendly and allow for high levels of customizations.
I don’t use paid advertising but I try to be active on social networks (Facebook and Twitter primarily) and WordPress.org (where I have several free plugins). When time allows me, I try to be active on the Dev4Press blog on topics other than my own plugins. And, so far, a lot of my customers have recommended me to their colleagues and friends and that was an important factor in reaching to new customers.
How important has your integration with bbPress been to your plugin? bbPress is a topic I’ve never had a chance to touch upon here.
The plugin was primarily created for my own website and the integration with bbPress was essential because I use bbPress powered forums for support. I needed an easy way to link product orientated forums linked to product areas in the knowledge base and to integrate the new topics form with the knowledge base (includes live search and suggested articles for users to check out before posting new topic). I know that some of the current plugin customers use the bbPress integration so it was definitely a right decision.
Knowledge Base is the first line in providing support to users and it should be integrated into other support related tools to give users easy way to jump from the forum into articles and guides and back.
I am a big fan of bbPress and 50% of my work is related in some way to plugins dedicated to bbPress. I have several plugins made for bbPress and even more plugins that add some bbPress related features. It was natural for me to make GD Knowledge Base integrated with bbPress.
What is one piece of advice you wish you would have been given before you started working on premium WordPress plugins?
Way back, when I started selling premium plugins licenses, the plugin market was just getting started and there was no reference for what a plugin license should cost and what it should cover. For a long time selling plugin licenses was trial and error not just in terms of prices but also in what the price includes and how long the license lasts.
I wish I had known a few things I know now but mainly this: do not sell unlimited licenses. If your plugin becomes a success, unlimited licenses can hurt your business long term because you would need to provide updates and support for an unspecified number of websites forever. The biggest part of the license price is the support you need to provide to your customers and you must ensure to price that correctly. You should experiment for prices but never sell unlimited licenses.
Are there any big updates coming in the future for GD Knowledge Base Pro you would like to tell everyone about?
I am planning the next major GD Knowledge Base Pro update for October or November and, for that update, I want to implement an easy way for users to make knowledge base content ‘featured’, to display it more prominently, and also to add date based archives for all content types.
But, before that, I am working on the addon for integration of the knowledge base into the Easy Digital Downloads plugin so that you can connect EDD products to products in the knowledge base and show the knowledge base content right on the EDD product pages. I already have an add-on for integration into WooCommerce that will add new tabs for knowledge base content to WooCommerce products.
I am also thinking about an integration into the upcoming WordPress core editor (currently known as Gutenberg) mainly by replacing shortcodes with blocks. But that would require a lot of time (the plugin has 20+ shortcodes) so it is not an immediate priority. Right now, GD Knowledge Base Pro works with Gutenberg as is, with metabox and shortcodes support, but it would be nice to have more native, blocks based support in the future.
I am open to new ideas and suggestions for features or for integration into other plugins.