WordPress for MVP — Build your next startup/product, validate the idea & (live your dream in 2018.)

by Anil Parmar

This post is written (preferably) for non-techie founders who are working on products as a side project or full time, want to take minimum risk or founders who are planning to jump start their own product in 2018 as a one man army or two people agency to test entrepreneurial waters.

It’s great to be your own boss, isn’t it? Working from the comfort of your home, creating a product/startup that actually works and making big bucks out of it is a dream for many of us.

Sadly, we hear 90% of the startups are doomed for failure. However, that’s not true.

When you hear that, you sketch out a backup plan for failure, with the consolation that failure is acceptable when you are a new entrant to the entrepreneurial world

It’s like — it would be nice to have this startup work out for me but even if it doesn’t, I will be okay because that’s what the statistics say.

Experts like Mitchell Harper say that you can actually succeed with your product/startup provided you have a solid vision, take customer feedback seriously and do continuous iterations. It works across categories of products, startups, whatever you want to name it.

As a solo entrepreneur, it can be overwhelming to find yourself in the technical maze when it comes to building your startup/product/app or just getting your idea off the ground. It becomes a bit more frustrating if you have a non-technical background.

A lot of our customers are a single man/woman firm and two-people agencies/a team of 5–6 people who constantly struggle with kicking off their ideas of the ground. And, hence we decided to pen down this post of guys like them who are great at coming up with ideas but get entangled in the initial maze of when it comes to launching their startup/business.

The reason for picking up WordPress for MVP (Minimum Viable Product) is obvious.

We are a WordPress Agency and that’s what we specialize in. The concept of MVP (we will shortly cover this concept for those who are unaware about this) and helping ideas succeed in the world of startups excites us to the core. That’s what keeps us going. So, we thought why not explore this framework to help individuals launch products and build successful startups/businesses.

A word of caution here — Building an MVP with WordPress is not an ideal thing for all startups. The idea of this post is to help you identify if this framework meets your needs and how it can help you save time & money, validate your product and take it off ground while mitigating risks at the same time.

Perhaps, choosing the framework first and then deciding to build your product around it is a sure-shot recipe for disaster. Building products is always riskier if you are not aware of the road you are taking. So, let’s dig into learning how to create a MVP using WordPress.

What the heck is a MVP and why should you care about it while launching your startup/idea/product?

This video from Paul Boag explains the entire concept very succinctly –

The story of HappyTables, an App built with WordPress.

Image Source: happytables.com

Noel Tock is probably one of the very few people who started experimenting and building web apps on top of WordPress. And, not just simple apps. Fully-functional, complex web applications that solve problems.

Still in its beta stage, HappyTables is working with restaurants in London (UK) to help owners get actionable insights from various tools they use like Point-of-Sale, reservations, ordering, loyalty etc. These tools are a data-mine and if used in the right way can bring exceptional results for restauranteurs.

However, there’s no way for them to bring these cloud-based applications together to get actionable insights. HappyTables solves this problem for them. The SaaS platform helps owners understand the Key Performing Indicators (KPIs) to improve their business.

A little digging into this platform will make you realize, it’s a pretty complicated stuff. Must be built on Ruby on Rails or Laravel, right?

Well, Noel and his team customized WordPress to build this web app entirely on it and this is exactly why we want you to read this case study, so you understand the power of WordPress — It’s way beyond building CMS applications, blogs, marketing websites, landing pages etc.

The idea behind choosing WordPress for HappyTables

If you notice, HappyTables is essentially an app that lets restauranteurs build websites. And, WordPress is a great framework for creating websites the way you want. It has got all the necessary functionalities like user management, custom post types, the structure and security features to build a web app that needs to utilize these things.

One of the primary reasons why HappyTables is built on WordPress is, to take advantage of its existing feature set. It would have taken more time, money and resources (which is usually the concern for startups with minimal budget) for the team to build a custom platform from scratch using PHP which they would have wanted to behave like a CMS. So, ‘why not build the app on WordPress??’ was the thought behind this.

But, as Noel says it wasn’t an easy task to create this platform. Because they had to reskin and undo a lot of stuff to simplify things to match the needs of their platform. They had to write CSS above the already existing CSS in WordPress. So, you should be very careful when you are choosing WordPress for MVP app.

Another crucial thing was that their core WordPress team is very solid. Now, this is important because WordPress gets updated constantly and one might wonder — because this platform is built on WordPress, you will have to redo a lot of stuff since there are upgrades? It does takes effort to maintain such things.

He also gave a talk at WordCamp Slovakia in 2015 on Using WordPress to Create Products, wherien he also shares this thoughts about HappyTables –

Why & When WordPress can be right for your idea/startup/MVP?

WordPress has come a far way in its 14 years history. Evolving from just a blogging tool to a sophisticated platform/framework for building complex applications, WordPress can really surprise you if you know how to leverage it to build your business/product.

As a non-techie founder, you have an amazing idea for a platform/web app, you have conceived its functionalities and then you hit a roadblock. How are you going to put it all together? You consult your techie friends and they say you need to use frameworks like Rails or go for a custom PHP based app.

Now, these can turn out to be costly considering if you are bootstrapping your startup and have no funding. Plus, you are not sure whether your product will work or not. This is where WordPress for MVP can be of tremendous help.

We know, naysayers will say — you can’t use WordPress for building a platform or an app. But hold on, we will answer your concerns too. Before that, we need to understand where and how exactly WordPress fits in the product ecosystem.

WordPress, being an open source framework is completely free. Its biggest strength lies in its community of developers and wide of range of plugins that can be utilized from building anything right from a CRM to a SaaS solution.

Our idea of building an MVP using WordPress is to minimize risk, reduce costs and time and quickly get to validate our product or idea. You can jack up the different plugins WordPress offers to quickly build a MVP and see if it is solving a problem and people are ready to pay for it.

Gravity forms, WP Types are some excellent plugins that can help you build a MVP using WordPress to incorporate some basic functionalities to get your idea off the ground.

The JSON REST API

This is exactly what makes WordPress for MVP completely feasible as you can build a SaaS platform (since the API is available as a plugin) to help you send data in and out of your app. Here is the link to download the plugin — 

WP REST API (WP API)

Access your site’s data through an easy-to-use HTTP REST API (Version 1, deprecated).

wordpress.org

Plus, you can learn more about WordPress for SaaS here –

Is WordPress the Best Platform to Power Your SaaS?

The cloud has changed the way the world does business, and the age old…

www.elegantthemes.com

The whole idea of building MVP with WordPress is to get people see your product quickly because for most of the ideas — the sooner you show a prototype or a proof-of-concept to people, the better.

Leave apart building an entire app, there are instances when people have used WordPress to set up a blog and the posts are MVPs to see if the real-product will be a hit or a turn off. Because, the risk is too high to even build a Minimum Viable Product. Groupon is an excellent example for this.

However, mattermark.com is an even better example for this. Danielle Morrill pens down in this post clearly stating that the posts were her MVP.

As a non-techie, if you spend some time on building a Minimum Viable Product with WordPress, you could get people see your product within a matter of days. For simpler ideas, you can start showcasing your product even within a couple of hours just like Adii Pienaar of Conversio did with PublicBeta.

And, his following talk can be a serious inspiration for entrepreneurs who have non-technical background and still want to make it through the technological maze.

Sometimes, when you don’t want to get into the technicalities, even writing blog posts is not essential. WordPress offers plenty of landing page themes. What you can do is explain your idea of the product/platform/app and ask people to sign up to get a notification when the product goes live. This way you know how many people are interested and willing to pay. In this case, the landing page serves the purpose of a WordPress based Minimum Viable Product.

Daelan Wood, a well-known developer from Edmonton shares his views about building MVP apps with WordPress on a People Product Podcast and it is interesting to learn that before WP had these capabilities, he invested hundreds of hours writing HTML code and did custom PHP programming to build a job board for digital media jobs a few years back. It was a lot of hard work.

Given the features WP offers now, he says he would build it on top of WordPress because it would literally save him a ton of hours and resources.

Listen to the two part series of building MVP apps with WordPress podcast here –

EP03: Building MVP apps with WordPress (Part 1) | Product People

Are you a developer who wants to cut down the amount of time it takes to build a prototype? Are you a product person…

www.productpeople.tv

EP04: MVP apps with WordPress (Part 2) | Product People

Are you a developer who wants to cut down the amount of time it takes to build a prototype? Are you a product person…

www.productpeople.tv

Coming back to the big question — when is it right to use WordPress for MVP?

Casey Maass (a WordPress Developer with over 20 years of experience including building SaaS with WordPress) of Gelform very clearly explains both scenarios, when it is good and bad to build a MVP with WordPress.

He has actually built MVPs with WordPress and these products continue running on this framework. Some examples include –

Get stats for your plugin from the WordPress plugin directory

Increase sales and conversions from the WordPress plugin directory by tracking your plugin stats and the stats of the…

plugindirectory.info

The core of this app talks to an api and charts the results. It took him approx 20 hours to build. He did not have to create pages, user management (registration etc.), curl calls, db schema, and so much else. The core of the app took a couple hours, then he just concentrated on the code that actually made the app.

Timerdoro productivity timer

Improve your productivity, and your health. A simple web-based timer for pomodoro, eye strain and GTD.

timerdoro.com

This is another MVP app he built with WordPress. It uses custom post types to manage objects and social sign in for rapid on-boarding. He says he would not have built it from scratch.

Listen to the entire talk here –

Antonio Cangiano took a hybrid approach for building his book notification service app http://anynewbooks.com.

This is what he feels —

“WordPress is a content management system. Content is where it shines. If your SaaS is mostly content presentation, WordPress will work just fine thanks to its wide array of plugins.

For my new book notification service app http://anynewbooks.com, I took a hybrid approach. The frontend is WordPress (in need of a makeover) while I wrote the backend in Rails since no plugin could replicate the functionalities I needed.

I took this approach because I wanted a proof of concept and threw it together in a matter of days. 7 years later is still standing. So I don’t regret it and I think relying on WordPress for MVP is a valid option. Developers might frown upon your choice, but that should be the least of your concerns.

That said, when I finally manage to rewrite the app (I know, I know) I will likely go with an app from scratch (e.g., probably in something like Elixir/Phoenix or Clojure) in order to customize the app to my liking with no bloat from features I don’t need.

Ultimately, you have this option too. You can start with WordPress, validate your idea, and if you run into limitations you can’t live with, you can then switch to an app from scratch.”

Recommended reading for those who want to build Products with WordPress

The startup framework to validate your idea before you spend $1

“If your startup failed, it’s because it didn’t solve a tier 1 problem for a large enough audience — here’s how to…

medium.com

Building a SaaS startup with WordPress – Raison

Last week at the WordPress London Meetup I gave a talk about SaaS and WordPress. It’s a subject very dear to my heart…

raison.co

WordPress as a SaaS Application Platform? …Whaa?!

Yes, you read that title right: WordPress as a SaaS ( Software As A Service) application platform. But wait..…

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8 Awesome WordPress Web Apps Paving the Way for WordPress as a SaaS Platform

Sometimes you need a web app and don’t have the time, skill, or budget to do custom development. Developing from…

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Creating a Minimum Viable Product using WordPress

We’re going to talk about minimum viable products and WordPress in just a second, but let me give you a bit of context…

chrislema.com

So long MVP. Hello Minimum Loveable Product.

Tactics on how to get your digital ideas to market sooner, but still deliver a product that users fall in love with

medium.com

Have you used WordPress for MVP? How was your experience? What were your learnings? Please feel free to share your thoughts and ideas and let’s empower the entrepreneurs’ community across the globe a discussion.

Good luck building your MVP! Ciao!

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