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Case Study: a Website for a Newsletter Plugin

Kim Gjerstad – One of the four partners of Wysija, a freemium newsletter plugin for WordPress launched in late 2011. Kim takes care of the community and user interface. Here, he tells us the story of the challenges of making a premium plugin and how Woo came to help.

This is a story of our newsletter plugin and why Woothemes fits right in our solution. I wasn’t paid to write this. There’s no affiliation or collaboration (yet) between ourselves and Woo. We’re just an average Woo customer. We don’t even get a free theme.

Who are we and what is our plugin called Wysija? We’re four guys who decided last year that WordPress needed a better and easier newsletter solution.

There are plenty of options out there, sure. But in the end, it’s Mailchimp, Aweber and Campaign Monitor that deliver the goods. Pretty designs, easy to use and reliable. Feedburner does a decent job in automation. I personally installed it on dozens of sites because it’s free and it works.

All the newsletter plugins have their limitations, their complexities or difficult configurations. None seem to really leverage the integration to WordPress. So be it, my clients always ended up on third party solutions.

Not for long. By coincidence, my roommate’s best friend is the developer of Joomla’s favorite newsletter plugin. After partying and hiking with Adrien a few times, I told him: “WordPress is in dire need of a solid newsletter alternative. Want to do it with me and make tons of people happy? ” A year later, with two additional partners, we launched the first version of our emailing plugin, Wysija.

It was personally my first product launch. We seem to have gotten it right based on the review and comments we get. Rewarding stuff. Try it out yourself, there’s a free version which has all the main features, and tell us what you think. Feedback is what will drive our development in 2012.

Starting a Business with Biznizz

For those who remember the early days of theme frameworks, Sandbox might come to mind. I was a huge fan and helped out translating it to French. Things evolved quickly thereafter in the WordPress community. Like many, I turned to premium themes seeking affordable quality. I use Gabfire, Studiopress, and of course, Woo for many sites. I stick to those because I know what to expect: good products, excellent support. Not to mention constant updates and improvements.

We had two requirements when developing our online presence using: a cool website and a simple support site. I’m by no means an expert php coder myself, but I didn’t want to bother my fellow developers while they were concentrated on our plugin.

We hired a young, detailed obsessed, freelance designer called Nadja to help us. My own tasks are wireframing and skinning. I finally discovered Balsamiq and never looked back on Visio. Nadja and I were set.

I selected Woo’s Biznizz theme without a second thought for our site. I previously created two child themes for it. Its clean html reminisced my CSS Zen Garden days: change the layout to whatever using a style sheet only.

The Wysija homepage.

With my basic php skills, I was able to emulate a second homepage layout for our Premium features page. The plugin Custom Post Type UI filters the Biznizz’s slides and “mini features” depending on what page is showing. I relied on custom page templates to show the Features and blog pages. That sums our changes. Simple and easy.

The Wysija premium features page
The Wysija blog page

Helping our Users with Woo’s SupportPress

Quality support is a key element to our business. I personally dislike forums. A customer ends up searching threads only to find unrelated problems. We want to offer quick personalized help instead, in addition to good documentation.

We evaluated some of the excellent helpdesk services available, such as ZenDesk. They didn’t quite fit because we needed a consolidated login between our Premium customer management (in-house dev) and our Support site. Our entire online presence is on a WordPress multi site.

We soon found SupportPress by Woo. A test drive of this “app theme” convinced me. Once again, we simply created a child theme, did a few hacks and we were ready. The theme is essentially out of the box. Smartphone ready. Comparatively, it’s cheap too. Isn’t “awesomeness” a favorite Woo word? I second that.

The Wysija helpdesk powered by our SupportPress theme.

Once or twice I reached out to Woo support for help. Their immediate response pointed out that my own hacks where at fault. Embarrassing. But that’s the thing: with Woo, no question is dumb. This is exactly our own philosophy with our Wysija users.

If you’re interested in knowing more or you have questions on our plugin or business. Leave a comment right here. I’ll make sure to answer them.

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