File security is an issue for a lot of digital product developers and online marketers. With Prevent Direct Access, WordPress site owners can restrict access to their files from prying eyes with a wide host of customization options through a simple interface.
David Hg, from BWPS, took some time to answer my questions about their plugin. We discuss his background in WordPress, how development of Prevent Direct Access began and the ups and downs that happened with trying to successfully sell and market the plugin.
Can you tell me a bit about yourself and your background with WordPress?
Hello, it’s David Hg here. I’ve had a background in computer science in University before joining a design agency where I have an opportunity to work with WordPress. So I did know a thing or two about the framework beforehand. Also, as the result of almost 5 years working directly with our clients in Singapore, I more or less know what they’d need from a customer’s point of view.
How did the development of Prevent Direct Access start?
As an online marketer myself who usually gives away freebies such as ebooks and videos to get our leads’ emails, I know piracy is a huge concern for many online marketers and small business owners. Their hard-to-produce digital products could easily be copied, used and shared without necessary protection. That’s how I came up with the idea of protecting files on WordPress – the number one CMS platform out there. That was also when the Prevent Direct Access plugin was born roughly 2 years ago.
I then asked for a couple of friends who are experts on web development to handle the technical side of the plugin. After almost two months working non-stop, we finally released a free version of Prevent Direct Access on WordPress.org.
What were some challenges, technical or otherwise, you experienced building the plugin that might be interesting to other WordPress plugin developers?
One of, if not the biggest, challenges we faced was the initial development stage of Prevent Direct Access. It’s not easy to develop something from scratch. Also, we’ve usually had a tendency to develop and squeeze as many features as possible into the first version of the plugin, which is usually not feasible. It also affects our development speed and momentum.
Our experience teaches us to build a simple yet functioning version as soon as possible. So we didn’t focus on developing a complex and premium version at the beginning. Instead, we tried our very best to get a lite version of Prevent Direct Access up and running on WordPress.org.
It’s a terrific feeling to see people downloading and using our plugin. That definitely gives us more momentum and ideas as well, which in turn inspires us to improve or develop more advanced features in the future.
So don’t even wait until it’s perfect (it never will be). We’ve always tried to develop then release a new version of Prevent Direct Access as soon as we could. If even it somehow has bugs, we still can fix it along the way.
Another challenge was to choose a decent payment gateway to sell our plugin on our website at BuildWPS.com. We first chose Gumroad based on my first good experience with them previously. Unfortunately, things didn’t go our way this time. All of a sudden, our account got suspended due to a so-called “fraud” issue without any explanations. We ended up losing a few hundred bucks in sales that Gumroad still held, and more importantly, wasting our time, effort and money building a license system based on Gumroad’s API. We’re now switching to Sendowl and pretty happy with it.
How have you gone about marketing the plugin and what has been the most effective way so far in attracting users and customers?
One of the best decisions we made early on was to put a “lite” and free version up on WordPress.org. By doing that, we give our potential customers a chance to test drive as well as give us feedback about the plugin.
The free version on WordPress.org is also a great way of marketing and doing SEO. We’ve got a lot of targeted traffic to our website from the WordPress plugin repository.
Moreover, we’ve also written many guest posts introducing our plugin on other WordPress authority websites, which does help spread the word.
On the opposite side, what have you done to grow the userbase that hasn’t worked out as well as you had hoped?
We’ve also used ads on social platforms such as Facebook and Google to get more leads and customers. However, this traffic is usually not as targeted as those from WordPress.org, and so, these ad campaigns are not as effective as expected.
How did you settle on your current pricing structure?
We got started with a one-time payment pricing structure, which was easier for us to get our first couple of sales. However, we soon realize it’s not the best model to survive the company in the long run. Subscription is undoubtedly a better one for a software company like us as we continue to grow. Now we settle on an upfront annual payment, which means more revenue comes in for us compared to monthly subscription.
What do you wish someone had told you before you started building Prevent Direct Access?
There are a couple of key things: building an email list from day one and focusing more on marketing. Now if we’re about to spend an X amount of time on the plugin development, we should then spend four times as much on marketing.
What’s more, the Gumroad trouble explains why having a mentor with practical knowledge and experience is also very important.
What does the future hold for yourself and Prevent Direct Access?
We will definitely continue developing and adding more advanced features to Prevent Direct Access both Free and Gold version. We’ve also received a lot of feature requests, which inspires us to develop other related plugins as well.
Besides, we’re striving to give better support for our beloved users and customers. Our support would be available 24/7 and all questions would be answered within one (1) working day in the near future.