What sets Login Designer apart from its competition is the plugin’s heavy user of the WordPress Customizer. Login Designer lets you modify many aspects of the WordPress login page, see the results in real-time and save your settings as templates.
Developer Rich Tabor answers my questions about his use of the Customizer in his plugin, launching without a paid product (yet) by leveraging his existing themes business and what’s coming down the line for Login Designer in terms of features.
How did development on Login Designer start?
I’ve been developing WordPress themes for a while now and I embraced the Customizer when it first came out. Through the years I’ve learned the ins-and-outs of the Theme Customization API, though I wanted to challenge myself by building something really “next-level.”
There are quite a few plugins that style login pages, but none are particularly user-friendly. I’ve done a lot of work to really extend and leverage the Customizer in ways that honesty haven’t been exploited much, if at all.
What were some challenges you experienced building the plugin that might be interesting to other WordPress plugin developers?
The Theme Customization API is not just for themes. All of Login Designer’s settings are built into the Customizer, even a license key activation (for the upcoming Pro version). The challenge was to really dive-in and focus on usability, not just functionality.
WordPress is not particularly known for its ease-of-use (outside of the developer community), though it is known for functionality. I wanted to bring ease-of-use back into the picture.
Your use of the Customizer is certainly unique. Do you think there is a future there for more developers to actively use the API for their plugins and what would be some obvious ways developers could start using the Customizer today?
I think we will start to see more plugins take advantage of the Customizer and it’s capabilities.
Down the road, I imagine a “nearly all frontend editing” WordPress. I think there will always be an “advanced” admin side of things, but generally speaking, the easier we can make WordPress – the bigger it will grow.
Plugins that actively control or display frontend elements can easily port entire options pages into a single panel within the Customizer. There are so many plugins that have settings pages with sub-par UI/UX with basically no thought in them — just options added to a page. The Customizer API provides a simple way to include those same options with a relatively well-made UI, and to display elements in live-action.
Once folks really start to realize how important UX is — they’ll see the advantage using the Customizer.
What have been some of your most successful marketing efforts?
I soft-launched the plugin in November with no marketing efforts, basically just sending it to beta-testers. I formally released the plugin in December and we’re already sitting at just over 600 active installs.
I wrote a few posts on extending the Customizer and I’m sharing a good bit on improving the UX of the Customizer, like how I did it with Login Designer.
I also have a live-demo system in place where folks enter their email address and are sent a sandbox link. Then they’re assigned a group in MailChimp and sent an automated follow-up/review request. I’ve also listed the plugin on my theme shop (ThemeBeans) and receive quite a few downloads from there.
The plugin is fairly new, but I will also have a theme-author driven affiliate program in place to help it grow even further. I’m also planning to release free extensions on WordPress.org and the website as lead generators.
Can you talk a bit about how your existing theme business and general online presence helped jump start downloads and interest in the plugin? I think a lot of people just launch a product cold (I know I certainly did) without any kind of leverage and it makes things a struggle.
Everyone starts “cold” at one point in time. But once you do it just once, you should never do it again. Take advantage of your existing customer base, as long as the new business is relevant and meaningful to them.
I’m leveraging my existing customer base at ThemeBeans by providing customers easy access to a relevant product that they can use to style their login pages. It’s important that you’re not just throwing everything you make at everyone you know — but that each product you recommend is highly relevant. Otherwise, they’ll get annoyed and you’ve wasted a lot of time trying to reach them.
I also have plans to reach out to other theme developers to recommend Login Designer via their own themes using TGMPA (with an affiliate id filter within the plugin to accompany). I’ll get that rolling once the pro version is launched.
What are your plans for a paid version of Login Designer?
There’s only a free version available at this time, though the paid suite is nearly complete. I’m looking at a February or March release of the Pro version. I wanted to get the plugin out into the public to test interest, and let me tell you – it’s looking good.
I will likely do annual subscriptions at $29/year for a single site with all free extensions and $49/year for 5 sites with all the free and all pro level extensions.
I realize that the target market is not high-level developers, as they don’t generally care much about their login pages, so I don’t want to price folks away with a “developer-centric” price. Novice users who want more templates, control and functionality are who I’m going for. I may offer a lifetime package as well, primarily as an anchor to the $49/year plan.
I don’t want to sell via a la carte, but I will have Pro extensions that won’t be available on the smallest plan.
What kind of extensions are you planning for Login Designer?
I have a couple themed background image extensions, which add background image packs to the core Login Designer background image selector. I also have login/logout redirection, a “reset all” extension, quick login (similar to SquareSpace’s functionality) and importing/exporting capabilities.
Login Designer Pro will have extended templates and design options as well. I have a few more ideas, but these will kick off the paid version. Once that’s launched, we’ll see where things are headed and adjust from there.