Today marks a special occasion for our agency: the release of our very first commercial plugin that can be used by anyone with a WooCommerce site. Although we’ve created hundreds of custom plugins for clients over the years, this is the first time we’ve released a plugin that’s available to the general public.
It’s a thrilling yet intimidating feeling. We’ve had many ambitious internal projects that never quite made it off the ground, because prioritizing our clients’ needs always takes precedence. But finally, after all these years, we’re able to turn one of our dreams into a reality.
A few months ago, we received a call from Cheetah, one of Israel’s leading shipping companies, they were looking for a partner to develop a plugin that would seamlessly connect WooCommerce sites to their system. While there were already a few plugins available on the market that integrated with Cheetah, none were officially supported and the ones that did exist either had poor quality or lacked proper support.
Challenges of a public WordPress plugin
We agreed to work with Cheetah and began the development process. Initially, we estimated that the project would take about 200 hours to complete, including development and QA testing. We knew that developing a plugin for a specific site would be different from creating a plugin that can be installed on any site with any number of other plugins, but we didn’t realize just how different it would be.
To our surprise, the project ended up taking almost 600 hours to complete, as we encountered a number of issues related to conflicting plugins and poorly built sites.
One piece of advice we learned: when developing a WordPress plugin, especially one that integrates with WooCommerce, always be prepared for the unexpected. Webmasters and site owners often copy and paste code without fully understanding its function, which can lead to temporary solutions but ultimately cause problems in the long run.
It’s important to thoroughly test and debug your plugin to ensure it works seamlessly with a wide range of websites and other plugins.
Eventually, we solved almost all of the issues from the inside out. Even those that clearly were caused by broken pieces of code pasted in the site’s functions.php file.
Soft-launching the plugin
As we moved from development to publishing, we were excited to see our collaboration with Cheetah shipping come to fruition. Cheetah was eager to promote our plugin to their customers, and the demand for a WordPress and Cheetah integration solution seemed high.
We began with a soft launch, sending the plugin only to those who specifically requested it from Cheetah. During this time, we closely monitored purchases and provided direct support to users. However, we encountered issues with each of the first 10 installations.
One of the key features of our plugin is its ability to connect to the checkout and modify fields to fit Cheetah’s API requirements. While this may seem straightforward, it turned out to be the most problematic aspect of the plugin, as many websites had multiple plugins modifying the checkout fields already.
To address this, we eventually added the option for webmasters to use existing fields or create new ones. This allowed for greater flexibility and compatibility with a wide range of websites.
As we continued our soft launch, we encountered fewer issues on subsequent batches of installations thanks to our efforts to make the plugin more flexible. While we were careful not to complicate the plugin for the average webmaster, we were prepared to go the extra mile to ensure a smooth integration for all users. Thankfully, we were able to find a happy balance and maintain a user-friendly interface.
Releasing the plugin
After conducting a successful soft launch with around 30 active sites of varying WooCommerce and WordPress versions, installations, plugins, and themes, we officially launched our plugin. Since then, it has been running smoothly with a steady stream of new users and zero hiccups. Being in touch with each and every client was invaluable and gave us so much information to work from.
While our plugin will not have the same potential reach as some of the industry giants like Elementor or WP Rocket, the experience of launching and supporting a commercially available plugin has been invaluable. It’s given us a deeper understanding of the unique challenges and opportunities of developing for widespread use, as well as the importance of handling customer feedback and support.
With the knowledge this experience gave us, we are now ready to start working on our own big thing!
As a commercial plugin, it was necessary to implement a licensing system. After exploring various options, including developing our own solution, we ultimately decided to go with EasyDigitalDownloads. Looking back, we couldn’t be happier with this decision.
EasyDigitalDownloads provided everything we needed for licensing the plugin, recurring payment, remote upgrades, changelog, and more. For the end user, it offers a seamless experience, just like using a plugin from the WordPress repository.