WordPress Products and Demos

Last year at WordCamp Sofia I gave a talk named “Choosing the right WordPress theme”. Contrary to the first guesses title-wise, since I’m not a designer at all, my topic was focused on the different sources to find a theme, based on a given set of requirements.

Few of my slides were referring to the product piracy – the humongous number of products being pirated. Or probably the high percentage of users using illegal products.

I know of thousands of people using non-licensed operating systems or other cracked products. It’s a painful experience really, and it’s hard for a product company to plan for these or implement thousands of protection mechanisms against that.

Including WordPress

Since WordPress is Open Source, GPL-licensed and everything, all products comply to that rule and provide the source code for free when purchased. Except for a very small amount of examples violating the general rule. Which translates to – the first user buying the product can generally distribute it to everyone else, including the complete source code.

I’m an Open Source advocate which is one of the reasons I hang out with WordPress people all the time and breathe WordPress. It doesn’t reduce the amount of piracy whatsoever, and while piracy is a bad thing, I got a few decent examples why is that happening.

WordPress Themes

During my talk that I mentioned above I received the following comment:

Okay, we really like that theme X that looked awesome in their demo, but we have no idea whether we could make it look like that. So we’ve downloaded the theme from a warez website to try it out, it was hardcoded all over the place so we dropped it.

I was quite surprised at first, and then I gave it some thought and remembered a few times when I’ve seen that myself.

The $15 WordPress Plugin

Yesterday I saw a post in the local Facebook WordPress group. The message was the following:

Hello, I’m looking for a free version of the plugin X (link) as this one costs $15.

Shortly after all of the rant coming from a bunch of us, the post has been removed. I’ve shared my concerns about that idiocracy as well, and one my fellow WordPress developers replied with the following thing:

I’m asking friends for a test-run of a given plugin as often I find several alternatives that cost over $100 each and I can’t really see how they work.

My friend is a recognized frontend developer with several years of technical and PM experience around Europe.

Live Demos

Have you ever thought about the fact that numerous plugins and themes don’t let you “test drive” them? Some of them provide screenshots, and others even do videos, but very few of the plugins and themes have a demo site to play with their options or test something out.

When you’re out for a car, you’re allowed to take it for a test drive. Before you buy an apartment, you can check out everything – the area, the place itself, even the neighbors upstairs or next door (very important btw). A lot of premium services provide free trial to hook you up.

And a lot of plugins don’t have test sites. And whenever you see the actual demo, it looks nice. But who can say how long did it take for the demo to be built, and whether it’s possible with whatever content you want to place?

I was very excited when the team behind Toolset (where I was working few years ago) launched Discover WP. With the power of Types, Views, and CRED it was close to impossible to build the types of demos and screenshots so that everyone is convinced that whatever they need is possible. Giving a real test to that toolset was the kind of thing that changed everything, and that’s why I recommend it everywhere.

Sometimes you can try out a free version of a plugin. It might not be enough (due to the lack of complete features), or even deceptive in the negative way. Screenshots or videos are important, but insufficient. Live demos are what we should strive for.

Would you buy a product without even taking a quick peek around it’s features?

2 thoughts on “WordPress Products and Demos

  1. I know with our theme business, 70% of the support is something related to learning the WordPress way. Perhaps it’s sidebars vs widgets or content editor vs customizer.

    I’s say 20% is something related to the theme and customizing beyond an options panel setting. i.e. provide a Gist of sorts that will enable/disable some front-end display.

    I haven’t really *measured* this data, just ball park. That said, if I demo’d themes, I could potentially lose sales that otherwise paid for support and we earned the opportunity to cover their questions. The argument is we might sell more — I just haven’t run that risk yet.

    I do however think that our new plugin might go the route of what the team behind DsicoverWP did.

    Certainly food for thought!

  2. Thanks for your valuable comment, Matt!

    I’ve actually thought that most people are afraid that their admin panel is clumsy and would reduce the sales if users find out how hard it is to build stuff. Personally I think that the extra effort/time in support and refund requests are too stressing and should be avoided, following the open source way. But I still think that more exposure and building trust this way is the better option.

    Then again, it’s similar in the music world – whether you should sell more CD/iTunes copies, or release it for free and get tens of thousand of fans at gigs.

Your thoughts?