Lunchbox is a WordPress plugin built specifically for people who run, or want to start, an online video course. The plugin has a host of features commonly found in most course creation and maintenance products but its focus on video content is what sets Lunchbox apart from the competition.
The plugin has a strong emphasis on presentation by offering a responsive design, which is friendly for course students on mobile devices, and a custom embedded video player. Lunchbox integrates with third-party services such as Amazon Web Services, Easy Digital Downloads, Vimeo, YouTube and more.
In a world where online courses are becoming more and more popular money making ventures but are generally run on static written content the video focus offered by Lunchbox is a unique twist.
Dave Kiss, the developer of Lunchbox, answered some questions I had about developing, marketing and pricing his plugin for video course creators. We also talk briefly about software development in Ohio.
Online courses, especially those that use video, seem to be a pretty hot trend on the web right now. How did the idea for Lunchbox come about?
I’ve always loved to teach, but I don’t have any sort of traditional credentials. I’ve never geeked out much over computers. My degree is from a film school. I learned everything I know about code and the web in a non-traditional manner by basically brute-forcing YouTube for five years. I wanted to take this same idea and empower myself and others to share what they know with their audience in a simple fashion.
I believe that the best time to teach something is just as soon as you learn it. You still remember what questions you were asking, or the words you were searching, and how it felt like to not know. So, it’s a lot easier to use the beginner language and communicate the points that are commonly tripped up on.
I do have a video production background, and I believe in the power of video as a learning medium, so I thought it was time to combine the two along with my development skills to create a product that fulfilled this need. I’m using it for my own courses later this year, so that certainly helps drive the development.
What were some of the biggest obstacles you experienced during the development and how did you overcome them?
I basically did a deep dive into a bunch of different articles and YouTube videos to figure out how everything worked. Now I’m comfortable with the ideology, but there was definitely a learning curve. At first, I wasn’t sure which framework would be the best fit, or if I should bring in third-party libraries, and I got hung up on the tech which stalled progress on the project. When I finally got over that and picked one, I was so glad to get the tech decision out of the way and just build. Devs tend to get caught up on that stuff, but ultimately, the real question ends up being “have you shipped your product?”
What have you done to market and promote Lunchbox that has proven to be the most successful? What hasn’t worked out so well?
I’ve been trying out some paid traffic via Facebook ads, but there is just so much noise out there. I’m not one to click on paid ads myself, so I always try to think of alternate methods of bringing in traffic. I’m leveraging the organic traffic that my other video gallery plugin gets to promote the Lunchbox via onsite ads and email marketing – there’s a bit of a crossover there so it’s been a decent fit. I’m also a huge believer in giving away your content and knowledge for free in favor of building an audience.
Lunchbox has extremely simple pricing: one plan for a yearly fee. Was that always the pricing structure or did you have some trial and error to get to this point?
Yeah, I want to keep things simple at first for several reasons. Mostly, I’m still early on in the product development and the feature set is still growing, so I didn’t want a bunch of confusing tiers and throttled features. I do think I’ll end up moving to tiers as the product matures. Pricing is a living document; it doesn’t change erratically, but as the product and company changes, so should pricing. Of course, I always take care of the customer who buys in early. They are the foundation of the success of your product, so treat them well.
What does the future hold for Lunchbox?
I’m really excited about where things are heading. I’m continuing development on core features and integrations and I’m going to be putting out a new course on developing WordPress plugins with React later this year. I’ve gotten a lot of positive praise and feedback from early customers and industry pros, and I think throughout the next year, you’ll be seeing a lot more of this plugin.
This is a little off topic but you’re an Ohio guy like me so I have to ask. What is your take on the WordPress community around Cleveland or throughout the state in general?
Truthfully, I’m not tied to WordPress in any particular way. I like how easy it makes it to spin up a new site and how it provides a clean admin UI, but I just like building things. WordPress is just another Lego block that I use from my kit, and while I tend to use it more often than not, I’m more interested in the process, not the prowess.
I’d rather promote the development community in general and help provide support and structure for the people of NEO. I’m actually starting up a new collective called Code Cleveland that highlights this very thought – I think it’s important to not get lost in the rosy WP glasses and always be learning about the best approaches for any given project.