Build a mobile app with Ionic + WordPress

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The Ionic Framework is a modern hybrid mobile app framework built on AngularJS.

It has changed the way people look at hybrid application development, bringing native performance to the hybrid world. We use the Ionic Framework as the base for all apps built with Reactor. It integrates lots of awesome WordPress functionality like posts, pages, WooCommerce products, Gravity Forms, push notifications, member login, and lots more.

I created a separate project on Github that is a simple integration of WordPress with Ionic, in a standalone project.

View on Github

This project is mostly for fun, and so other developers can get excited about Ionic. The app includes a posts page with pull to refresh and infinite scroll, a login with custom authentication (requires a plugin), static pages, side menu, a settings page, and app intro. I will be adding more to this project in the coming weeks.

You can use this project as a starting point to create a mobile app of your own.

Click here to see a demo of the project.

Let’s look at how to use and customize this project.

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Success in Business

Running your own business means you’re stressed out a lot.

You’re always trying to launch that next product, or get that next big client. You’re often engrossed in the day to day problems of your company, and very rarely do you sit back and enjoy what you’ve accomplished.

Every time you open Twitter, you see someone talking about how you’re not working hard enough. You need to move to San Francisco, subsist on Top Ramen, and work 20 hours a day for at least 2 years before you can even get started.

Travis Kalanick sold his first company for 19 million, and started a new one that’s worth billions. He’s only a few years older than me.

Someone else writes an article about how their company is growing so fast they can’t keep up. I read articles by successful people to try to learn from the best, and make myself and my company better. Sometimes I just get overwhelmed and it has the opposite effect.

I recently saw this tweet:

It made me think about what success really means for me. I often get so caught up in how I compare to others, that I forget how good things are.

Even though I always stress about money, I’ve never been even remotely close to not being able to pay my bills. I enjoy the freedom to work wherever I want, and take time off whenever I need it. I get to choose what I work on, and I love what I do. Those are the things that really make me happy.

Will running a multi-million dollar company, or getting a 7 figure exit drastically improve my circumstances? I’m not sure if it would.

If someone else’s company is growing faster than mine, what does that have to do with me?

I still want to grow my company to 7 figures and beyond, and continue to be ambitious. The important thing is to realize that I’m already successful, and I don’t need more to be whole.

I provide for my family and enjoy my life, and that is why I’m successful.

Should we be selling support instead of products?

When you sell products, you do a lot of customer support.

It takes up a lot of time, and some would say product companies are really selling support, not the product. Is support for sale, or is it the product?

If support is really what we are selling, should we tell the customer that?

There is an important distinction to be made here. What we think we are selling, and what the customer actually wants to buy.

What you’re selling vs. what they are buying

Even if you are selling support, the customer doesn’t want to buy support. The customer wants to buy a shiny new product that makes them look and feel like a rockstar, and they assume they will get any help they need after purchasing.

This is important because if you want a successful business you have to sell what people want to buy. You can’t sell them what they don’t know they need, or else you won’t be in business for long.

In the case of products, you sell them a shiny new product and you give them awesome support along with it. If you give them the product free and then ask them to pay you a premium for support, your sales will suffer.

Free Premium Products

Recently a developer name Tom McFarlin announced that he will be moving towards selling support. He has started by open-sourcing his premium theme Mayer, which previously cost $79.

Here’s a quote from his post.

Personally, I think that if you’re in the business of WordPress products (versus services), you’re in the support business whether you intend to be or not. Everything that you release – regardless of where the transaction actually happens – is going to yield support from some of the customers, so in order to gain access to said support, the transaction just moves back one step from after accessing the source code rather than before accessing the source code.

Is this a good move?

I’m a fan of Tom’s and I support his reasoning for this decision. I actually think he may be successful doing this, but I don’t think anyone should follow his lead.

I agree we are largely in the support business, but it doesn’t matter. That doesn’t mean we should start making people buy support instead of products. Like I said before, nobody wants to buy support.

This isn’t the first time someone has sold support and given away free products, Justin Tadlock has been doing this for years with Theme Hybrid. His themes are free, and he charges $25/year for access to his theme club, which is essentially a support forum. Justin is an incredible developer, and his products are worth way more than $25/year.

He was around when people like StudioPress and WooThemes were just getting started, and they have built multi-million dollar empires, while he has not. They sold shiny products, not support.

Please note I am not criticizing Justin, or saying he needs to make millions, I don’t think he wants to do that. I am saying that between selling support vs. selling products, there is a clear monetary winner.

A comment left on the recent article at WP Tavern about this same issue reveals the same conclusion:

I tried a similar model long ago with a theme site I had before, and found it works to a certain point but not as well as I had hoped. Long story short, I went out of business. If one tries this, I would recommend they have a good savings account at the bank….or at least have a well known name such as Justin Tadlock or even Tom McFarlin.

Well known developers may be able to make this work, but I don’t think anyone else will.

What about WordPress support businesses?

Yes, businesses like WP Site Care and Maintainn are selling support, which seems to be a contradiction. They are both doing very well, and all they sell is support.

This is different because they aren’t writing and maintaining code. Product businesses have code debt, that takes time to build and maintain, while support businesses don’t.

What’s best for business isn’t always right

In Justin’s case, and I think in Tom’s case as well, they probably don’t care that selling support is not the best for their bottom line. They both strike me as very passionate about open-source, and they are more interested in helping people than making money.

Tom left a short reply to me in his blog comments explaining his position further:

There are a number of things happening with the WordPress theme economy that I’m not particularly thrilled with (which I digress for now :), and so taking the time to explore a couple of different models is something I’m interested in doing if for no other reason than to say “Yes, this works,” or even “Nope, that was a bad move.”

I applaud Tom for taking a leap with this model, and I actually hope he proves me wrong by succeeding with it.

Post launch update

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It’s 1 month since we launched Reactor, and it’s been eye-opening to say the least.

The launch didn’t go like I wanted it to, and I am not very excited about sharing our numbers. I almost didn’t publish this post, until I read these two posts. The truth is that launches don’t always go the way you planned.

Here’s a breakdown of what’s happened so far:

We had over 100 signups, and only about 35 of those have translated into paying customers.

I’m pretty happy with the amount of signups, but we have a big problem with cancellations. Too many people have cancelled, and it’s driving me nuts.

I’ve read that a normal SaaS business has about a 3% churn. Our launch month was over 50%. Ugh.

It’s hard for me to even share this with you. I’d rather be writing a post about how the launch was a great success and we are rolling in dough, but that’s not the case.

Does this mean we failed, or that our product sucks?

Absolutely not. Here’s why.

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From $0 to $30k/mo and back, 2014 in review

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2014 has been a big year, I started a new business, bought a house, and I have a baby on the way.

I grew my business from $0 to $30k/mo, and now I’m starting something totally new (so back to $0 in a way). This post is about reflecting on what went right and what didn’t, hopefully there’s something that will help you.

I’ve also posted the video of my WordSesh presentation with the same name.

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Customer Acquisition is hard

Customer Acquisition

Without customer acquisition you don’t have a business.

Getting people to care about what you are doing, and eventually buy your product is hard.

For a while I coasted off of the attention we got from launching our first product, but as I dive into the SaaS world it’s becoming clear that a better strategy is required.

Customer acquisition is important for any business, but it’s especially important for a SaaS product.

Jason Cohen points out that in a SaaS business, cancellations are more costly than just the lost revenue. In fact, due to customer acquisition costs, if 10 customers cancel, you have to get 12 (or so) to sign up just to stay flat. So 12 new people signed up this month, and you have not grown, you just kept from shrinking.

There are lots of ways to go about this, let’s look at a few.

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My journey launching a SaaS product

SaaS product journey
Just launched! Trial w/cc signups this month: 113 (so far) | MRR: n/a
This is the start of a weekly series on my real-life product launch, real stats will appear here with each post.

There’s a lot of blog posts out there about how to create a product, launch a product, and grow a product. The problem is that many of those articles talk in the abstract.

You need to come up with a growth strategy, analyze your metrics, find your ideal customer, blah blah blah.

Don’t get me wrong, all of that stuff is incredibly important. But sometimes when I read it, my eyes glaze over.

What helps me is concrete examples of exactly what people are actually doing. That’s why I love Groove’s startup journey blog. It tells me exactly what they have actually done to grow to $100K in revenue, and beyond.

Inspired by Groove, I want to share my own journey here. I recently released a SaaS product, it’s a mobile app builder for WordPress sites called Reactor.

From triumphs to failures, I want to share exactly what we are doing, how it’s working (or not working), and even revenue numbers.

In sharing this information, I want to take you on the journey of launching a product and building a business. Check back each week for updates on how things are going with me.

Hopefully it can help you.

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My business is successful, so I’m changing everything up

Product sales have never been better for my company AppPresser. We launched in January of this year with a product that helps people make a mobile app out of their WordPress website.

It was pretty successful right out of the gate, we did $18K in the first 3 weeks, and that has grown to about $30K/month in less than a year. I figure if we pushed hard at marketing and new features we could do 500K next year.

Our product is one of the highest priced in the WordPress industry, with our most popular package selling for $499. While there are businesses that do similar things, we haven’t had any direct competitors emerge in our little niche.

I would attribute most of our success to having a unique product that met a need. It’s much different than my first business, which was a theme company. Everybody and their brother is making themes, so it’s really hard to stand out. But if you are doing something different, people take notice.

But instead of doing more of what we are doing now, we are going to change everything up.

Here’s why.

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Thoughts on Pressgram Shutting Down

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Pressgram announced they were shutting down today.

There’s always something to be learned when another entrepreneur “fails.” That’s in quotes because I don’t really consider Pressgram a failure, because I’m sure the lessons John learned from this are invaluable.

The strange thing is that they have had more media, exposure, and users than any company I’ve started. So when they shut down I’m not sure if I should feel good about my own business (still here), or if it is a portent of doom (maybe I will fail?)

It’s also strange when someone announces the demise of one venture along with a preview of their next business. John announced that he is working on a new desktop publishing project called Desk.

I think I’ll skip that one.

Entrepreneurs tend to be overly optimistic about their “next” project, you almost have to be. But what about the people that invested in this one, with time or money?

Shutting down a startup comes with consequences. You lose something. You lose trust.

It reminds me of Adii, who has had some very public ups and downs in his career.

After launching Public Beta, he shut it down for personal reasons, only to reopen it again. He’s also had a few other smaller projects that he sold off after a very short time.

I’m not super excited to sign up for the next project, because it might have the same fate as the last one. I’ve also lost some trust for the founder, because I went along for the ride and it hit a dead end.

I understand that startups fail, and I appreciate the public honesty of guys like John and Adii. I wish them only the best.

Startup failure is an inevitability, I just want to remember that the founder is not the only one who loses when it happens.

How to use the Phonegap Developer App

phonegap developer app

The Phonegap Developer app just recently hit the app stores, and it’s awesome!

This app basically allows you to see any changes you make update in real time on your device. For example, if you fire up a Phonegap project called MyApp through the developer app, and make a change in MyApp/www/index.html, you will see that change on your device when you save index.html.

This saves you from having to rebuild and reinstall the app every time you make a change.

I’m going to show you how to install and use it in this post. (If you didn’t see the release post, check it out here.)

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