Form Builder is the top performing plugin on the October CMS marketplace. Added in August of 2015, it quickly became popular and by that time it was used in 1000+ projects.
For a long time, it proudly took first place in the Best Paid Plugins chart. We asked Michał Płodowski, the plugin author, to share his experience of developing, supporting and selling a popular product on the October marketplace.
Form Builder is a universal form constructor that can be used for creating any type of forms for a website. It supports multiple control types, including reCaptcha and file uploader, which can be validated with standard Laravel rules. Forms are constructed with a simple backend user interface and rendered on website pages with a CMS component, which generates highly customizable HTML code. Data from submitted forms can be previewed in the backend and can also be sent by email.
By creating the plugin in the early days of the marketplace, Michał took his chance to occupy the vacant niche of flexible form constructors for the October. Despite its low price of $5, this product has already brought Michał a few thousand dollars. Several users have purchased the Extended License, allowing them to use the plugin for an unlimited number of projects. Together with other paid plugins authored by Michał, Form Builder became a reliable passive income source for Michał.
Michał is a passionate Polish full stack developer with 8 years of production experience. He started his career and gained experience with small web agencies. For the past 4 years he has worked as a freelancer, and he has regular clients and projects. The biggest project he is currently working on is for the Polish Football Association.
I chose October CMS platform because I was looking for CMS based on Laravel Framework. I watched the preview video and was impressed at how easy it was to create backend management systems for my clients.
Michał told us that he has created the plugin because he needed to handle contact forms in almost every project for his clients, and the available form plugins in the past had many limitations for his use cases.
I decided to create a universal plugin to create frontend forms myself. I didn’t expect so many other people then would use it.
Today it does not surprise us that the product is that popular - a quick research shows that
“form” is a popular search query on the plugin marketplace. When Michał started Form Builder, the Marketplace Stats page did not exist yet, but he was lucky enough to have discovered a popular problem and to quickly offer a solution, without any market research.
One noticeable characteristic of the Form Builder is the simplicity. It is not overloaded with features. Michał first launched a very limited version of the plugin and has been adding features, gradually increasing the plugin’s flexibility, yet keeping it simple. This makes the product perfectly aligned with October philosophy, and perhaps that’s one of the reasons why the plugin became that popular.
On the development phase, I try to keep plugin features to a minimum. I think that this is necessary in order to deploy a new plugin in a reasonable amount of time. New features mostly come from customers’ requests.
Working on the plugin in his spare time, Michał developed the first version of the product in 3 weeks. The plugin quality was a hard requirement:
I think the quality of the product is very important for customers as well for developers. I wrote the Form Builder code a couple of years ago, so I didn’t have as much experience as I have right now, but I try to regularly improve the code base. I am currently working on version 2.0, which has so many improvements to the code base. The user interface is another major aspect for quality products. The ease of use and simplicity is the goal for every product I build.
Quality of the documentation and screenshots are essential components for a product’s success. The October CMS website has well written Quality Guidelines, which help developers to make sure to do their best to show the benefits and describe the products they develop.
I spent a lot of time on documentation. I think about 30% of the plugin development time is writing good documentation for other users. I think this is why Form Builder is a big success, because it has quality documentation, a good product description and screenshots. It is clear what you can do with this plugin. Quality documentation makes customer support less time consuming.
Michał spends 2 hours every week to support his customers. He listens to customer requests and if they ask for a feature that can potentially be used by other customers, Michał is happy to implement it. If a requested feature is specific to the customer’s project, Michał often sends the customer an explanation of how to implement the desired functionality without changing the plugin.
To promote the plugin, Michał chose a smart approach - he creates high quality free plugins, which help him to build a high rating on the marketplace. Aside from the Form Builder and free plugins, Michał is also the author of two paid plugins which are currently rated #2 and #4 in the Best Paid Plugins chart SEO Manager and Backup Manager.
I didn’t use the promotion feature on any of my paid plugins, mostly because they are visible in the October CMS top products section most of the time. I think this is a great feature to promote new products that don’t have much reputation.
Form Builder is an ideal illustration for the growing opportunity of selling high quality products for October CMS. It combines all the components required to make a successful product:
- Quality code.
- Quality documentation and screenshots.
- Excellent customer support.
This story gives us a great recipe for new products: start simple, start small, roll out a first limited version, keep adding features which make sense for the majority of customers. We hope this post will inspire new developers to make great products for the marketplace and help the October community to grow and prosper!