Interview with Iain Poulson of WP Trends

December 10, 2021 | By Lawrence Ladomery | No Comments
December 10, 2021
By Lawrence Ladomery

No Comments
If you are considering building something - stop thinking about it and do it. -- Iain Poulson
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We're focusing on WP Trends in this interview as a lot has happened in the WordPress ecosystem this year, but Iain works across many other projects too.

Portrait image of Iain Poulson Iain Poulson is a developer, business owner, podcaster, and writer. He works as a Product Manager for Delicious Brains, helps people buy and sell WordPress businesses at FlipWP, runs the WP Trends newsletter, and develops WordPress plugins.

Interview

1. Tell us a little bit about yourself and how you got started with WordPress

I’ve been a developer since 2007 working with C#, .net, and SQL Server but found WordPress and PHP in 2010 and started to build sites for friends and family, and later paying clients. I started WordPress plugin development in 2012 and never looked back. I left my IT contract job in 2013 to continue to build free and premium plugins, and began to take on more freelance WordPress roles.

In 2014 I started working with Delicious Brains on their premium plugins and I’ve been there ever since, alongside running my own plugins and starting numerous side projects.

2. One of the many projects you’re involved with is WP Trends. What is it about and why did you launch it?

WP Trends is a monthly newsletter providing WordPress market insights, trends, and acquisition opportunities. Every month I give commentary on what’s been happening in the WordPress ecosystem from a business perspective, deep dive into trends and analysis about things like plugins on the wordpress.org repository, and keep people up to date on any WordPress businesses for sale.

It started when I was running Plugin Rank, I was tweeting and blogging about topics that would help WordPress business owners, specifically plugin developers and plugin shops. I was chatting to Cory Miller from Post Status and it sparked the idea of starting a newsletter about WordPress trends – using the Plugin Rank database as a great source of trend analysis and insights about the WordPress plugin ecosystem, as well as commenting on acquisition happenings in the marketplace and surfacing new acquisition opportunities.

3. It feels like there is a major acquisition every week. Why do you think this is the case and what does it mean for the WordPress community?

It certainly has been a busy year for acquisitions in WordPress. There’s a few reasons why the speed and size of acquisitions have increased.

Alongside the uncertainty of the global pandemic, there are a lot of WordPress companies who have been around for a long time and have reached the size where it makes them attractive to bigger companies, and a size where the founders are perhaps tired, or looking for the next opportunity. Matching that with some very large (hosting) companies, with deep pockets, looking to strengthen their offering to their customers with plugins, has resulted in some very large deals being done.

That then has a knock-on effect down the ecosystem. Small to medium sized plugin companies are seeing these big acquisitions happen and start to contemplate a sale. And there are a large number of potential buyers who realise the potential further growth in WordPress as a whole and view existing plugins and WordPress products that are generating good revenue as a valuable alternative to trying to start something new from scratch.

4. You recently launched FlipWP, a market place to buy and sell WordPress businesses. What have you learned about WordPress businesses by helping facilitate their sales?

FlipWP was a reaction to seeing the demand from both sides of the coin in WordPress - buyers want products and founders are keen to sell, but they both aren’t served by a dedicated marketplace.

Alex Denning (my co-founder) and I have learnt a lot! There are so many WordPress businesses out there, some in niches and areas that are significantly underserved where products are doing well. We’ve made some great connections and it’s been good to see deals being done and FlipWP working for both sides of the market.

5. What advice would you give to someone who wants to launch, grow and sell a WordPress business?

In a nutshell - go for it!

As a follow up, I think it’s really important to understand the problem your product/business is going to solve. Don’t just build something that solves a theoretical problem. If you have the problem yourself, and you can scratch your own itch by building something that will help you, then that is a great place to start. The worst case scenario is that you solve your own problem, but the chances are many have the same problem.

6. What’s your view on Gutenberg and Full Site Editing? Do you agree with Paul Lacey’s take that ‘Gutenberg has divided WordPress’?

I’m still not a fan of the writing experience in the Block Editor and I’m very far off using Blocks to design a site. I do agree in parts and sympathise with what Paul says in that post, but I also feel like I have to sit somewhere on top of that divide. Personally, it’s not for me and I was an early doubting voice over Gutenberg and how it was (steam) rolled into core, but from a product perspective it’s necessary for me to embrace it. For my own products and those I manage at Delicious Brains - Gutenberg and Full Site Editing can’t be ignored and have to be embraced.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Lawrence Ladomery
My first job in digital was back in 1998 and have worked for all kinds of organizations, from startups to Government, agencies and businesses of all shapes and sizes. I've been using WordPress 12 years but fell in love with it in 2017 when I started working in the web hosting space and getting to know the community. I am also a big fan of Elementor and run the Elementor Melbourne Meetup.
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7. Thinking about innovation, generally speaking, what can help make both WordPress and the ecosystem stronger for the long term?

I’ve never been the biggest fan of the Block Editor, but that’s quite clearly the direction WordPress is heading and not stopping. The more product people and makers embrace it and innovate in that space, will bring a better experience for WordPress users.

8. Do you have a preferred stack to build WordPress websites? What themes and plugins do you use regularly?, and do you have any performance optimization tips to share with our readers?

I don’t build sites for clients anymore, so the sites I build are for me and my side projects. I build sites like a developer. The whole site is stored in a GitHub repository, but the dependencies like WordPress core and plugins are managed with Composer. I use this starter site template to get going and I host my sites with DigitalOcean using SpinupWP.

I don’t have a go-to theme for my projects, I generally find a really good looking off-the-shelf HTML based theme and cut it up into a simple WordPress theme (which I reuse between projects), generally with the copy hard coded in the theme! That means I don’t really use the Block Editor for building sites. If I need something really quick, for something like my plugin’s demo site, I’ll use the Kadence theme.

The plugins I always use are Advanced Custom Fields and WP Migrate DB Pro. I’m pretty lucky to get to work on the team that makes those products.

9. Apart from WP Trends and FlipWP, what other of your projects are you particularly proud and excited about?

I mentioned Plugin Rank briefly earlier - it was a side project I started during lockdown in 2020 - a SaaS (software as a service) app that helps WordPress plugin developers track and improve their rankings in WordPress search results. I’m particularly proud of it because it was the first side project that I’d built, grown, and eventually sold - selling it to Awesome Motive in June of this year.

I’m also proud and excited by my main plugin, WP User Manager, which I acquired in 2019 and have managed to grow significantly in that time. It has lots on the roadmap and I’m excited about the new features and addons coming soon.

10. Any final thoughts that you want to share with our readers?

Similar to what I said before about building products. If you are considering building something - stop thinking about it and do it. There’s no good time to start something new, but if you have something you’re passionate about, then use that as motivation to start. You never know what it might bring.

Learn more about Iain Poulson and WP Trends

WP Trends Website: wptrends.co
Personal Website: polevaultweb.com
Twitter: @wp_trends

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