2019 Year in Review: Double the Products, Double the Fun
TL;DR – We launched two new products this year (SpinupWP and WP Offload SES), kicked off a new chapter for WP Migrate DB Pro, made big improvements to WP Offload Media, and made significant progress cleaning up our sites. We’re still nine people and the company is in great shape financially. We’re going to step up our marketing game in 2020.
WP Migrate DB Pro
It kind of sucks to report that we haven’t shipped one major release of WP Migrate DB Pro in 2019. We had hoped to chunk up the huge 2.0 project and get a couple of major releases shipped, but it just wasn’t possible. There were just too many dependencies and we had to throw out all of the frontend code. Pete wrote about the challenges replacing all of WP Migrate DB Pro’s jQuery with React. Pete has done an excellent job persevering in the face of difficult work.
The good news is that we shipped 6 minor releases in 2019 and will be shipping the first beta of WP Migrate DB 2.0 this month. It will be a huge relief to finally ship and we’re excited to hear what people think of the new UI. I think Lewis did an incredible job on the design, but what really matters is what customers think.
There’s still lots of work to do on 2.0 before launching it out of beta, but we’ll get there in 2020 and hopefully ship a 2.1 major release with some new features as well. We’ll be adding another developer to the WP Migrate DB Pro team to help make that happen.
Get on the WP Migrate DB Pro email list for updates on this.
I’m thrilled to say we shipped three major releases of WP Offload Media this year. Jonesy did an excellent job planning the releases and fighting scope creep.
One thing that we’ve been meaning to support with WP Offload Media for a long time is serving private media through a CDN. You’ve always been able to set S3 objects as private and serve them with signed S3 URLs directly from S3, but not through CloudFront or another CDN. We’re currently researching the best way to support this and even support a mix of private and public media served through a single CloudFront distribution. Stay tuned for more on this.
We launched SpinupWP out of beta in May 2019 and we couldn’t be happier with the reception. We have a solid customer base who just loves our product after trying the alternatives.
I’ve spent the day migrating sites onto the @spinupwp platform (hosting via @digitalocean). I have to say I’m blown away by how easy and feature-filled the platform is. It was a pleasure to use and I’m looking forward to migrating the rest of our sites over! #wordpress #devops
— Darren Pinder (@dmpinder) September 19, 2019
Ash and G have been doing really solid work, shipping some awesome new features since May, including the ability to change the primary domain, add domain redirects, and clone an existing site. Not to mention the UI improvements they’ve been implementing from Lewis’ awesome mockups.
We have a lot on our todo list including the ability to restore backups, more advanced backup settings, a public API, CPU/Disk/Memory reporting, temporary domains, custom SSL certificates, and much much more. We will be posting a Laravel + Vue.js developer job this month to help us ship these features sooner. Join the SpinupWP email list for updates.
WP Offload SES
We launched our new WP Offload SES plugin a year ago now and Matt did an awesome job cranking out three other major releases of the plugin. Features added include subsite settings for WordPress multisite, search/view/resend sent emails, and email health reports.
Next up we’ll be strengthening the free version by rolling in the email queue that’s in the paid version. After that we’re considering adding providers like Mailgun and SendGrid in addition to Amazon SES and adding lightweight email newsletter functionality.
Iain did an awesome job updating WooCommerce and the other plugins on deliciousbrains.com without breaking the site. Certainly a big responsibility considering the majority of our revenue flows through the site. And a non-trivial job considering the amount of janky custom code and its interdependence with third-party plugins. It’s a messy job to be improving that codebase and I’m grateful to have Iain working on it.
Lewis has also been doing lots of work on deliciousbrains.com, having ramped up his frontend development skills. He has made some very nice improvements to our homepage, the footer, the WP Migrate DB Pro pricing page, and lots more.
Iain and Lewis also worked on spinupwp.com quite a bit this year, porting over functionality from deliciousbrains.com and making design improvements.
It still surprises me how much work it is to maintain and improve our sites.
Our team grew by one at the beginning of 2019 and then shrank by one at the end, so we’re net zero on team growth this past year. We welcomed Lewis, our first full-time designer to the team in February and then said farewell to Liz, our marketing manager who left for another job in November.
Despite our efforts to hire a Developer Writer throughout much of 2019, it didn’t pan out. I tried taking a hiring shortcut but should have gone through our full hiring process. I’ve now hired a recruiter to help us hire for this position and I’m hoping to have someone awesome fill the position in the next couple of months.
I’ve also hired a recruiter to help us source candidates from Latin America for the WordPress Developer (PHP & React) position we recently posted. And I have a recruiter lined up to help filter applications and vet candidates for the Laravel + Vue.js developer job that I mentioned above.
In June the whole team flew into Berlin for our annual company retreat. We had a great time as usual, kart racing, visiting biergartens, and exploring Berlin. Check out the retreat blog post for the whole story.
Lewis didn’t make the retreat because he had the measles. 😬
Caillie has been doing an exceptional job helping me hold down the marketing fort since Liz’ departure and I’m really looking forward to executing on the plans we’ve made over the past couple of months. I might hire another marketer to help Caillie and I execute, but I’m going to wait and see. It’s possible the Developer Writer hire will help fill some of the gaps and that might be enough for now.
I’m really happy with how our WordCamp US booth went. Caillie and Liz did an amazing job putting it together and our first sponsor booth turned out great.
Although we got lots of marketing things done in 2019, I don’t think we worked on the most important things. A couple of months ago I was disappointed to discover that organic traffic to our blog posts peaked in January 2019 and have been in free fall for the past year.
Comparing Oct 2017 to Oct 2018, we saw a 45% increase in organic traffic compared to a 35% decrease comparing Oct 2018 to Oct 2019. Traffic to the WP Migrate DB Pro pages of our site saw the same decline.
After talking to some friends who are up on the latest in SEO, I’ve realized that our ideas about SEO have been terribly outdated. We’ve been publishing new content every week and adding it to the heap of content produced over the years. This just doesn’t cut it and apparently it hasn’t for a few years at least. Google wants a curated library of content and topically relevant to other content on the site.
The thing that most blew my mind was click-depth and how important it is to link to your best blog content from key pages on your site, not just from other blog posts.
I’m hoping with a corrected SEO mindset we can get our traffic trending upward again in 2020 and maybe even surpass our previous highs. I expect if we can pull this off we’ll see a similar upward trend in our new customer sales that we’ve been keeping an eye on since 2018.
We experienced healthy growth again this year with revenue up 27% over last year. This is slightly better than our growth rate last year, so I’m very happy with that.
I’m hoping to see a higher growth rate again in 2020 with SEO improvements and continuing to grow our products.
Hire a product designer 3 major releases of WP Offload Media
- 3 major releases of WP Migrate DB Pro
3 major releases of WP Offload SES 5 major features released for SpinupWP
- Enlist another product manager – Work in progress
- Hire another developer – Work in progress
- Start building 2 new products
We were planning on building a new dev environment but learned at WCUS that Clay and the Local team had rebuilt Local from the ground up into exactly the product we were thinking about. 👏
Revisit this goal list with our team at our company retreat in June
Goals for 2020
I really dislike revisiting these goals every year. The problem is that new information often makes a goal obsolete shortly after I publish this post. And yet when I’m writing my year in review a year later and I come back to them, writing out the reasons why a goal wasn’t completed still feels like making excuses.
Internally we’re not paying any attention to these goals. We never have. We just do our best to choose the most important things to work on and keep each release cycle under 8 weeks. We look to spot gaps between team roles and hire to fill them. We communicate to customers what we’ve done and where we’re headed. If we can do that, the results should be good.
So, no goals list this year, but who knows, maybe I’ll feel differently a year from now.
I’d like to thank my whole team, Caillie, Peter, Lewis, Gilbert, Ash, Matt, Iain, and Jonesy for all the good things they’ve done in the past year that I haven’t thanked them for. From updates to our wiki, to reminders in Slack, to all the lines of code that I never saw.
I especially want to thank those who brought things to my attention that were difficult to address. I’m grateful to have a team that isn’t afraid to speak up when something is bothering them so that we can constantly be improving things.
I’d also like to thank my mom for keeping our books and running payroll. I’m grateful to have someone I trust unconditionally with access to my bank account.
And thanks again to my fellow entrepreneurs for helping me work through the typical struggles of a solo founder and those unique to me.
Finally, thanks to you, our customers. Without you none of this would be possible. I feel very fortunate that you love the products we build, appreciate the quality, and are willing to reward us with your hard-earned dollars. We’re aiming to greatly improve our current products you know and love, as well as build new ones that we hope you’ll love too.
I’m incredibly happy with our team and the work we did together this past year. I feel as though 2019 has been a solid year and that we have a firm footing to take our next step up as a company in 2020.
What would you like to see from us in 2020? Let us know in the comments below.