I personally find the WooCommerce product interface to be brutal for new and experienced WordPress users. I recently had a client who wanted to run scheduled sales on a variety of their products and it was an arduous task to manually adjust every item in their large store.
We found Scheduled Sale Manager for WooCommerce and saved my client a lot of time. With this plugin we were able to set up sales for a variety of products and categories from one simple interface without having to edit every one of their items one at a time.
I reached out to Berend de Jong, the creator of Scheduled Sale Manager for WooCommerce, after my experience to see if he would answer some of my questions about the plugin’s development. We discuss the difficulties working with WooCommerce out of the box, building plugins with simple features instead of “jack of all trade” products and my favorite topic: pricing.
How did development on Scheduled Sale Manager for WooCommerce start?
I’ve been building custom WordPress sites and plugins for clients for quite a few years now and more recently gained a lot of experience developing for WooCommerce. This put me in the position of being both a user and a developer, and knowing the hardships of both I felt the need to fill in some gaps.
Making WooCommerce do things differently from its default configuration is hard, and it’s easy to break stuff if you’re not sure what you’re doing. Also available plugins are often bloated with features that you mostly won’t need, are complicated to use, can slow down your site by loading extra assets and they are plain expensive.
I like it when a plugin does a simple task, and does it well. That’s how I came up with a personal project to create just that; a set of simple, affordable WooCommerce tweaks that are clean, effective and both user and developer friendly.
Scheduled Sale Manager is the third in this lineup. It came from the need to easily set up a bulk/site sale without using coupons, which is something WC can’t provide by itself. I think I managed to neatly fit it in the philosophy by keeping it simple to set up (pick when the sale occurs, what products are affected, if not all, and what their discount will be — done!) and powerful at the same time.
What were some challenges you experienced building Scheduled Sale Manager that might be interesting to other WordPress plugin developers?
It wasn’t my first WordPress or WooCommerce plugin so I knew what I was getting into. In that sense, there weren’t many surprises or pitfalls.
That said, things to always be careful for when building plugins to sell to the public is little mistakes that could break a customer’s site/shop. This can also include conflicts caused by other plugins. These are hard to avoid without knowing which plugins that would be but generally sticking closest to the WordPress and WooCommerce “way of doing things” is a very good start. The hackier things get, the more you are asking for trouble.
What have been some of your most successful marketing efforts?
Nothing really. Or maybe SEO. Since this plugin is among my first to be sold in my own shop as opposed to CodeCanyon, I’m mostly trying to make sure it is discoverable on Google. That means applying schema.org markup, including relevant keywords on the product pages, including links to other products at the bottom of the page etc.
I’m secretly hoping the plugin will get noticed by its quality and eventually gain a reputation of some sort. In the meantime, I’m just focussing on making sure it is a solid and useful product so that it deserves positive attention.
How did you settle on your current pricing structure?
As pointed out in the first question, I feel like a WooCommerce plugin should focus on a single task. Instead of being forced to shell out $100 for a plugin just to use one of its 100 features, I wanted to offer a solution that could still satisfy most situations for a fraction of the price. This way you can shop for more plugins if necessary, and only pay for what you need.
Keeping the functionality simple also means the usage should be straight forward in most cases, limiting the time spent on support. Offering support is often a cost factor and even drives plugin authors to implement subscription based payments. No one likes those!
I am definitely offering support however, as I think any paid product should come with it and simply because I want my products to be useful to people.
What do you wish someone had told you before you started?
Test, test, test. You never know what environments your customers will install the plugin on; what theme they’ll be running, what plugins will be installed, what language they speak. Your code can probably break in many unexpected ways.
Speaking of language, another thing I’m usually guilty of is adding support for WPML (multilingual plugin) too late. It’s easy to see it as an afterthought since WPML is a third party plugin, but it’s one that many sites rely on and supporting it could mean you have to re-think your code architecture which is something you don’t want to do after releasing. From the moment people have started installing your plugin, you’re at a point where you can’t simply change significant parts of your code if that means making it backwards incompatible.
What does the future hold for Scheduled Sale Manager?
Sticking with the philosophy by keeping it simple, fixing bugs when necessary, keeping up with support for the latest WordPress and WooCommerce versions, listening to feedback and adding features if they will make the plugin stronger without adding complexity!