Year in Review 2019

I have never done a Year in Review post before, so this is exciting! Please excuse me if the formatting is a little off as I’m trying to improve my writing skills by posting regularly as a part of my Year of Content challenge for 2020.

Since this is the first review, I’ll start off with a little backstory to summarise the beginning of building WordPress plugins. 

The Prequel

Before 2017 

  1. Went to university in Denmark, learnt a little bit of Web Development.
  2. Landed a job at web design agency in Western Australia.
  3. Started Freelancing and wondered what to do long-term.

June 2017: Work Experience

I was mainly freelancing, focusing on simple HTML sites and setting up WordPress & WooCommerce for clients. I was also helping out my friend Michael Visser update the frontend of his plugin store visser.com.au. We met up in Koh Lanta, Thailand to hammer out work for a couple of weeks. 

Working on the beach in Koh Lanta with Michael Visser
Working on the beach in Koh Lanta with Michael

I was comfortable setting up sites and helping  store owners with their WooCommerce sites, but in terms of custom PHP development I was very much a newbie around this time.

August 2017: The Beginning of Something Good 

I met my lovely Partner Larisa while in Ho Chi Minh Vietnam, we also spent time in Da Nang Vietnam. We travelled together to Chiang Mai, Thailand.

I saw someone in a Facebook group ask if there was a Checkout Countdown for WooCommerce similar to ones available for Shopify.  So I started hacking together my first ever plugin Checkout Countdown for WooCommerce

Dual monitor work setup in Danang Vietname
Dual monitor work setup in our apartment (Da Nang, Vietnam)

I summoned the inspiration I got from watching Michael develop his own plugins independently , and I took on the challenge without knowing PHP or much about JavaScript. I spent countless nights learning by trial and error. 😵

Morgan and Larisa selfie at Chiang Mai Temple
Us (Morgan and Larisa) after hiking up to Chiang Mai Temple

I managed to create the first version of Checkout Countdown and it got approved on the WordPress repository! Larisa and I had a small celebration. I felt proud and validated that my work passed the review process. 🤗🍻

2018: The Year Of Learning 

In 2018 I was still doing mostly freelancing work for clients while getting more hands on with custom development. Larisa and I had moved to Brisbane, Australia during this time.

Computer setup with triple monitors in Brisbane Australia
Computer setup with triple monitors in Brisbane Australia

I made my first ever plugin sale in May 2018! 🎉 I had the Checkout Countdown free version on the WordPress repository and the pro version available here on morganhvidt.com using Easy Digital Downloads.

This was a very exciting moment for both of us! It was the second time I felt validated that my work was worth something. 💪

I started putting more effort into developing plugins and moved them off my personal site and onto extrawoo.com. This was a mistake we’d have to address later.

I also created a White Label plugin for WordPress. There was next to zero interest in the pro version but the free version was growing, so I kept added features to make it more useful.

We wrote an article with WP Hosting about our journey and the White Label plugin.

We lived in Brisbane, Australia for 6 months and then drove to Western Australia with all of our belongings. My parents were kind enough to let us store our stuff in the their shed while we started travelling again. ( Digital Nomading 😝)

Camping in our roof top tent across Australia.

2019: The Year of Development, Rebuilding, and Refining

Business

Most of 2019 began with rebuilding every plugin and our entire plugin store. Our focus had shifted from client work to building up our WordPress plugin businesses.

To maximize the usefulness of my plugins, I decided to remove a few smaller plugins from the store. The logic behind this was that they weren’t as useful as they could have been and were more a part of my learning experience. I didn’t want to get swamped with support tickets for less popular plugins. So, I decided to take the focus off things that were too much to maintain and work on improving the more useful plugins I had developed. 

The free plugins were available on the WordPress repository and the Pro plugins were on extrawoo.com. However, the Extra Woo name become a big problem, not only for the unrelated double meaning (we thought of the name as Extra WooCommerce). Turns out “Woo” is trademarked by WooCommerce. We didn’t want to risk having to change the name later, so we moved everything over to our new brand Puri.io. Here’s an article on the name change.

Getting  the new domain, branding, and making sure all existing customers’ licensing and updates continued to work took a lot longer than I had first anticipated.

Larisa as a first time logo designer, designed our Puri Bird logo. We often laugh at the creative progress on this one!

Milestones

✅ Successfully moved extrawoo.com over to puri.io

✅ Checkout Countdown 3.0 for WooCommerce  was also released in 2019. Take a look at the release notes for details.

Conditional Blocks is our new Gutenberg plugin and also my first jump into the new block editor. I did an interview with Brian from the Plugin Economy.

White Label 2.0 has just been released on New Years Eve! So, the last day of 2019. Lots of work has gone into rebuilding that. I sat in worried anticipation expecting thousands of support tickets following the update, but surprisingly none came. I’ll have to learn to trust my instincts more in 2020! 

Automation 🤖

I originally used Freemius for Conditional Blocks because I was really intrigued by all the work Vola has put into the Freemius platform. There was some cool features, but I ended up rebuilding the Conditional Blocks plugin to use with our Easy Digital Downloads setup. I’m trying to simplify development and avoid having plugins all over the place.

I really really liked the way that Freemius handles free & premium logic within the one plugin. Basically I could specify chunks of code & files that should be free/premium, then Freemius would create the free & pro version. Pretty neat huh?  I believe it made the plugin development a lot easier, so naturally I decided to find a way to implement a similar workflow.

Gulp… it was a mission to get Gulp 4 up and running, but now it works really well!

I now develop our plugins with dynamic placeholders like XPLUGIN_NAME (I use placeholders for function prefixes too). Gulp will replace the placeholders with the corresponding plugin details. The outcome is two versions of the plugin. In our case, White Label & White Label Pro. 

Gulp runs creates the two plugins every time I save or change a file within the plugin. I’m really happy to have set this up in 2019, so I can focus on developing features rather then my development setup.

Personal

We really like the food in Asia, so we continued to work & travel as” Digital Nomads”.  The best thing about work and travel is that we can really get familiar with different countries and the local people. We tend to spend as much time as possible in one place at a time and not move around too much. 

In 2019 we were spending most of our time in the following places:

  • Penang & Langkawi in Malaysia.
  • Phuket in Thailand.
  • Ho Chi Minh & Hanoi in Vietnam.
Us on a boat tour in Langkawi, Malaysia. Yes… We wanted to look as touristy as possible.

We met some of the nicest people in Langkawi. We were there for about 2 months and it felt like home. We were very sad to leave. But both of us were questioned on our second visit for hanging around Malaysia so long, so we think we better take a break from Malaysia for another year or so.

Larisa is really good at writing and so we set up her own blog about our travel adventures. See lari.com.au for food tips in Asia, travel and her spoken word poetry.

2020: The Year of Growth?

As I’m writing this post we are sitting inside McCafe in the Kuala Lumpur Airport. Next stop is Lombok, Indonesia.

It’s interesting putting the last couple of years into a few paragraphs. I can really appreciate how far Larisa and I have come in both personal & business aspects. 

2020 will be a unique year. I feel like we’ve finally built a nice structure for our plugin businesses. To me, the natural next step is to grow them. I’m not too sure how exactly we’ll do it, but you can expect more content about the journey here on my blog. 

This post is written as a part of my 2020 Year of Content challenge. You can read more about it here!

If you are interested in following along then please join my friends in the Mail List below! 

Morgan and Lari together in front of a 2020 sign
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