How I stopped worrying and learned to love the WordPress.
There’s a lot of different ways to set up a subscription service on the internet. Most are expensive and time consuming.
In an effort to maximize features, output, reliability and minimize dev time and random corner cases, here’s how I do it nowadays.
Build the Foundation with WordPress
My recommendation for setting up a subscription service quickly is to:
- Fire up a WordPress installation
- Add WooCommerce, WooCommerce Subscriptions, and the WooCommerce Memberships plugins
- Connect your payment gateway (probably Stripe)
- Create your subscription products
This can be done in an afternoon and it puts you way ahead of where you normally would be, had you chosen to build a ground up interface using open source stuff and doing it yourself. I’ve done it that way before, see Boastable, and if I could do it again, I probably would go the route I’m advocating now.
More reasons you probably don’t want to implement payments and memberships yourself.
Fact is, payment systems have a complex set of features that people expect, and frankly you’ll expect, and you don’t want to use a bit part of your development timeline creating these features. Coupon codes, pro-rating, cancellation and upgrade features have little nuances that you’d probably rather offload than handle yourself.
Application development has all sorts of nasty traps like this. Chat is another one of those things that sounds relatively simple but gets complex faster than you’d imagine.
If you treat any given subject with the wrong level of abstraction when writing code, you end up getting trapped spending time on things that just aren’t that valuable. You’re just doing double work re-inventing the wheel when you could be on to the important stuff.
Write Your API
Having skipped the payments/memberships/basic security part by using WordPress, now we get on to the reason you’re making the app much more quickly: the business logic.
Lets stay with the Boastable example. Had I made that application using WordPress as the subscriptions and payments layer, it would have chopped probably a month off of the development time.
So what I would do here is write an API that managed all of my survey data, survey analytics, and custom calls to action with link tracking features.
The MVP for something like this can usually be created in a few weeks. I’d create some data models, launch an API and deploy it to the cloud with Google’s Cloud Run service. For security, I’d create JSON webtokens that allow me to authenticate business owners from the WordPress site when they’re using it as a client for the survey data API that I’ve built. This is much easier to do than implementing your own authentication/authorization system. And it’s even easier than implementing third party auth like Auth0.
Marketing and Advertising
Having saved all that energy from not implementing your own authentication, authorization, payments, and membership structures from just offloading it on to WordPress, we can dramatically cut down our development timelines and get on to the human stuff: marketing and advertising.
Armed with a small functioning MVP with a working payment and security system in place, spend a lot of time honing the marketing message.
Try to deeply understand who your customer is, what problem they have, how your service addresses it, and how you’re going to reach them. Where are they? What do they care about? How are they currently addressing the problem you’re solving?
Once you have a business hypothesis you’re excited about testing, get out there and start gathering data about it with paid advertising. Paid advertising is the quickest way to get eyes on your message and get a solid thumbs up for thumbs down for how you see the problem.
Ultimately, your customer is the arbiter of the effectiveness of your message and offer, not you. So if people are looking at your site and value proposition and they aren’t signing up, it’s not them, it’s you. Revise and try again.
The most important part of all of this is getting done with the first phase of engineering a service and engaging the market.
It’s easy to get stuck in a vacuum of perfectionism. Honing a product or honing a message in isolation is not as valuable or as productive as completing the whole business feedback cycle. It’s often better to get out there with less and then tweak and upgrade your message and your product on the fly based on interaction with people who aren’t just you and your team.
If you manage time and cost well, and start interacting with your audience, you can get into a positive feedback loop where revenue and engagement goes up, and you can create a great sustainable business.
If you’ve got something you’re thinking about building, and you’re thinking about working with us on it, we’re ready.