Smart Notifications with Holler Box from Scott Bolinger

The tagline on the Holler Box website reads: “Not a WordPress popup plugin.”

As someone who has an intense dislike for the typical newsletter popup prompts that litter blogs and product sites these days I was incredibly relieved to see the subtle approach Holler Box’s creator, Scott Bolinger, took in his new plugin’s presentation.

I immediately downloaded the free version of Holler Box to try it out for myself and I wasn’t disappointed.

What does Holler Box do?

Holler Box lets you create custom notification boxes that can contain any content you can fit in a standard WordPress post. It also offers options to present a fake chat client or an email signup form that integrates with popular providers like ConvertKit and MailChimp. Each Holler Box you create comes with basic statistics that track views and conversions.

In addition to the above, each notification you create has its own set of advanced settings that offers you control over what pages the Holler Box appears on, what types of visitors can see it (logged in, logged out, new visitors, returning visitors, everyone, etc.) and when the notification appears and disappears on each page load.

At the time of this post there is only a free version available but a Pro version is on the way that promises to offer a traditional banner bar format, expanded options to widen the view of the content in your notification, time-based deactivations and advanced filtering for tighter control on where each box is displayed.

You can see the plugin running on every page of this site. I’m currently using it to collect email addresses from people interested in The Plugin Economy’s content.

Questions for the Developer

How long did it take you to you go from having the idea for Holler Box to first release?

I built the plugin in about a month, from the first line of code to the release. I am always thinking of new product ideas, but this one in particular was a pretty quick turnaround.

I found Holler Box particularly interesting because it’s so subdued compared to similar WordPress plugins. Can you talk a bit about your decision to make such a subtle implementation of a concept everyone else typically shoves in a user’s face?

This is what I wanted for my site. I hate agressive popups. I know they work for some people, and I’ve even used them before, but I didn’t want that for my site. If you have a message that isn’t mission critical (like a webinar or a poll) you don’t need an in-your-face popup.

One of the parts of Holler Box I enjoy the most is that it uses the standard post content editor to allow you to put basically whatever you want in the notification box. How does using existing WordPress structure like that improve not only the development process but also inspire features?

This is a really powerful part of Holler Box that I’ve only begun to explore. You can put anything, including shortcodes, into the box. You can add a form, a search box, your latest blog post, even a purchase button.

Not only that, but it’s much easier to integrate with other plugins. Just today someone built an extension to leverage Restrict Content Pro in a Holler Box, pretty cool!

Holler Box’s free version has a very generous, in my eyes, set of features. Something I struggled with early on when developing my own plugin was towing the line between giving away too much and devaluing a paid release and not giving away enough to entice people to try at all. How did you come to decide on what features would be free and what features would be part of a Pro version?

I wanted the free version to be great on it’s own, and to get a lot of people using it. It’s also quite competitive in the popup space, so the free version had to be good. I also had ideas early on for where the plugin could go, and I’ve only scratched the surface. So far the Pro version has a header banner, an expanded popout view, exit detection, link activation, taxonomy and post type filters, and I’m just getting started.

The true test is when you ask people to buy it, so we’ll see how it goes.

I first noticed your plugin on the Selling WordPress Products Facebook group but I see Holler Box on big sites like WP Tavern. What has your marketing strategy been for getting the word out this early in the plugin’s life?

I had no marketing strategy ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

I’ve built some great relationships over the years at WordCamps and other events, and I think people were really nice to tweet and write about Holler Box. As things progress I intend to work harder on marketing, in terms of content and such, but right now I’m just trying to make a great product.

Learn More

I want to thank Scott for taking the time out of his schedule to answer my questions.

Holler Box is available for free on the WordPress.org Plugin Directory and more information is available at the plugin’s official site: hollerwp.com.

You can read more about Scott on his personal website at scottbolinger.com and on Twitter at @scottbolinger.

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