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

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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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Beginner Stumbling Blocks in Phonegap & Cordova

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Lately I’ve been working with Phonegap a lot for my new project AppPresser.

Phonegap is a great product, and it’s pretty easy to use once you get the hang of it. The problem is that there are quirks that can hang you up as a beginner.

This is the stuff no one tells you until you encounter the problem, and search for the solution on stack overflow. I hope it helps!

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Innovation Requires Sacrifice

Innovating means…

You spend whole days trying things that probably won’t work, with no pay.

You turn away clients to spend whole days trying things that probably won’t work, with no pay.

You bang your head against the wall for weeks because everything you’ve tried doesn’t work.

Everyone else seems like they are doing better than you.

The first version of your product might have some flaws.

People might not understand what you’re trying to do, because they have their own preconceptions.

It might not ever work.

But it also means…

You know you’re doing something new and different, and that’s priceless.

You can’t wait to start work in the morning, because that thing that didn’t work yesterday might work today.

It might actually work, and…

…you might create something incredible.

Don’t ever stop innovating.

7 Things I Learned in 2013

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Instead of a “year in review” post, I just want to pass on some lessons I learned in 2013 as a WordPress business owner.

Hopefully these help you out.

1. Failure Is Not The End

I failed at something this year that was a pretty big deal.

It sucked, and I was pretty bummed out. After a couple weeks of losing sleep and being frustrated, I decided to get pissed off and use that failure as fuel for my “success” fire.

It ended up leading me to become a better developer, dream bigger, and start something better.

All told I think I’m in a better place because of that failure. Failure is part of the deal as an entrepreneur, what you do because of it is all that matters.

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WordPress and Generosity

People in the WordPress community took me to school today, but not about coding or business. About generosity.

First, I had a 1 hour phone call with Shane from Modern Tribe. The call was just helping Brad and I strategize about AppPresser, pricing, marketing, etc. It didn’t really help Shane build his own business at all.

If you don’t know Shane, he runs a very successful WordPress consulting and product business. They deal with big name clients, and do very well with their Events Calendar plugin. He has better things to do than talk to me about a product that he has no stake in, I assure you.

Instead of working on his very long todo list, he took an hour of his time to just to share the strategies with us that he could have kept to himself. The things he shared with us were incredibly useful, and he could have looked at us as competition and just not taken the call.

I hope more business owners are as generous as Shane, I will certainly aspire to that myself.

Later in the day, I posted a dumb tweet about company Christmas gifts…

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Responsive Images in WordPress with Picturefill

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Images are the single biggest performance hog on most websites.

Serving the same big images to a desktop and a mobile device kills your site’s performance, and makes you lose site visitors. We need to be able to serve a high resolution image to a desktop, and a smaller image to a mobile device. Responsive images (or adaptive images) are the solution.

Responsive image solutions are many, and none are perfect. Until the technology gets better, we really just have to pick one and deal with the downsides.

Picturefill is one of the better solutions, and it’s not too hard to implement. It’s a javascript file that allows us to serve different image sizes based on media queries. It gets the job done, let’s take a look at how to use it with WordPress.

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Make your WP site a mobile web app with meta tags

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Even if your website isn’t a traditional mobile app, you can still let visitors save your site to their home screen as an app icon.

After they bookmark your site to their home screen, they can click the icon and open up your site full screen, just like a normal app.

This is done with meta tags, which we add to the <head> section of our WordPress site.

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