Case Study: a Website for a Newsletter Plugin

Written by Mark Forrester on August 17, 2012 Customer stories, Woo news.

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.

Take a look at this one-minute video demo to get an idea of the plugin:

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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31 Responses

  1. Scotty B
    August 17, 2012 at 11:21 am #

    Looks great Kim! Thanks for sharing.

  2. Tom Harrigan
    August 17, 2012 at 11:39 am #

    Thanks Kim, I enjoyed watching/listening to the product demo video. We’re about to start working on one at my startup, it seems like a well crafted script is really the key.

    Now that you and Wysija have met the goal of being able to provide the support that your customers need, what do you think the next steps for Wysija are as you continue to grow? Will you continue to optimize the site, will it be iterating on the plugin, adding premium features, or maybe something else?

    • kim
      August 17, 2012 at 8:13 pm #

      Tom, here’s our next releases, to get an idea:

      Version 2.1:

      1. integration with http://www.mail-tester.com, our own spam score test (premium)

      2. Background colors for text blocks

      3. “View it your browser”… sounds basic, but we omitted it to see how many people would request it. 🙂

      Version 2.2:

      1. Subscriber profile (this is the base for seamless integration with membership plugins, etc.)

      2. Design and details: we have over 100 mini improvements to do to our current version.

      We don’t plan further than that for now, because priorities change as demand grows.

  3. Duncan
    August 17, 2012 at 12:00 pm #

    WOW!!

    This is awesome, I cant wait to try it out!

    No more messing with MailChimp RSS to email, yey!!

    D

  4. Dale Wright
    August 17, 2012 at 6:11 pm #

    Plugin looks brilliant. Don’t suppose you can offer fellow woo’ers a discount on the premium version? 🙂

    • kim
      August 17, 2012 at 7:59 pm #

      Woo users are used to getting coupons 🙂

      To get ours, subscribe to our plugin updates in the footer of our site: http://www.wysija.com

      We only send out updates when we have a new release, so every 2 months or so. Next release is due this month.

      • Dale Wright
        August 18, 2012 at 10:04 am #

        Thanks for the tip! Looking forward to your next release!

  5. Kim
    August 17, 2012 at 8:35 pm #

    Wouldn’t be awesome if WooCommerce users could redesign their email notifications and autoresponders with Wysija?

    We’re open for collaboration. 🙂

    • Ryan Ray
      August 18, 2012 at 12:27 am #

      Surely someone can make an extension for something here. Just don’t look at me! 😉

    • Tom Harrigan
      August 18, 2012 at 3:55 am #

      Do you have dev docs?

      • Kim
        August 18, 2012 at 8:17 am #

        We don’t have dev docs per say. Our upcoming release is meant to be easier to interact with Wysija. Get in touch, and we’ll be happy to give more info.

        http://www.wysija.com/contact/

  6. John
    August 17, 2012 at 8:45 pm #

    Looks pretty cool – i’m up for taking it for a test drive.

    Just waiting for the announcement that Woo has aquired Wysija…shortly followed by a name change to WooMailer :-0

  7. Heidi
    August 17, 2012 at 9:59 pm #

    Hi how can I use this plugin with the Woo Placeholder theme?

  8. Mika
    August 18, 2012 at 12:16 pm #

    Hi Kim,

    Is it possible to have multiple lists with your newsletter plugin ? (all the lists we want) 🙂
    If not, is it planned for the future ?

    Thanks
    Michael

  9. Peter Ricci
    August 19, 2012 at 2:22 am #

    This looks fantastic, but one thing it severely lacks is a developer version with a set price and annual fee. If so I would be into this !

    • Kim
      August 19, 2012 at 4:30 am #

      It’s coming in the fall. Baby steps, right?

      • Peter Ricci
        August 19, 2012 at 5:44 am #

        JUst purchased premium version to test. All looks hunky dory so far. Hope I get a discount once you move to Developer Version

      • Peter Ricci
        August 21, 2012 at 3:10 pm #

        Great, will wait for then. I have purchased one for myself a premium version to test and it really is a simple system to use. Well done. Just needs some fine tuning and of course a developer version 🙂 Then I am all in!

  10. Maire
    August 19, 2012 at 3:18 am #

    Hi Kim! Just letting you know – there is a plugin conflict with wooslider. With wooslider plugin activated, you can’t add images to the newsletter (the popup displays a white screen).

    I’m going to swap to your plugin though! I hope you can fix the wooslider conflict!

    • kim
      August 19, 2012 at 6:30 pm #

      We’ll look into it and see how we can fix that.

  11. MarketingMaster.es
    August 21, 2012 at 12:20 pm #

    I’m going to try it!

  12. Peter Ricci
    August 21, 2012 at 3:08 pm #

    Kim, we have over 1000 WordPress clients and they would love this but nearly all of our clients have more social networks (very few care about linkedin) than what is offered.

    You have lots of icons for asocial networks, but I think you only need a handful – but more social networks 🙂

    Pinterest, Instagram, SoundCloud, YouTube, Vimeo are all ones that most of our really active connected clients use these days. It is great what you have done so far and keep building on great work.

    A lot of our larger clients also send off newsletters in stages. As an example a client might do a series of newsletters like the 5 Stages of a Healthy Lifestyle. and have each one go out weekly to the same lists

    We also have about a dozen massive clients with many of them over 100,000 Subscribers.

    • Kim
      August 22, 2012 at 5:13 pm #

      Uploading your own social icons is in our to do list. Not that you can manually update your own four icons via FTP. Not as fast or user friendly, but it’s doable.

      You can already schedule newsletters to be sent in the future.

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