Raising The Bar Of Quality

Posted in Philosophy on Jul 02, 2014

Today we're publishing a guest post written by a friend of OctoberCMS, Chad Cantrell. Chad AKA ChadStrat has been developing PHP plugins and commercial products for several platforms over the years. You can read more from ChadStrat on his company blog.

One of my main reasons for considering October CMS as our primary platform of development quite simply came down to the professionalism of it’s core development team.

The quality of code was immediately clear and concise from even the very early Alpha stages. I was so blown away with the quality of code and forethought by Aleksey and Sam that I was literally inspired and compelled to start coding.

Early success

Having only a few plugins in the October marketplace, I’ve already seen modest profits that are super encouraging both from a business and a growth perspective.

If there is a need you see in the marketplace that could be met with some higher level of quality, and you happen to have the skill sets to meet that need, you should do that now.

Early CMS adopters tend to fare better long term as supply and demand shift from more supply than demand, to more demand than supply. Developers that position themselves and take a risk early on are the same ones that land the big projects once growth starts scaling. This is because they have put themselves out there more, and are more well known as reliable resources when that CMS begins to grow.


The Need to Raise The Bar

For October CMS to really thrive, it must have the highest quality of plugins. Quality to some minor degree can be subjective. “Gasp!!! This guy didn’t follow PSR2.3!!!!! OMG!!!” newsflash - PSR2 does not automatically constitute good logic. Of course that’s not to say that PSR standards are not helpful. They are.

However quality from a logic and functionality standpoint is a bit more obvious. It should go without saying that a plugin whipped up in an afternoon is not going to be all that robust.

As I believe both Aleksey and Sam have pointed out, it’s important for us as a community that we strive to create a marketplace environment of the highest quality. If you’re entirely focused on code quality, but have a very poor presentation, mission failed. If you have amazing presentation but no marketing strategy, mission failed. If you have the strongest SEO’able text on your product pages, but you have terrible screenshots, mission failed. You get the idea.

Our goal collectively should be to present products that reflect excellence through and through. From the code, to the icon, to the presentation of the product features and approach to solving common web problems.

In order for our October community to grow and attract quality developers, and consequently plugins in the marketplace, we need to raise the bar of what we do both in quality of code and presentation of it.

How Can We Raise The Bar

If the real-estate market is centric around “location”, then the web market is centric around “presentation”.

Presentation! presentation! presentation!

Provided the quality of code the core team has established, at this time I feel pretty safe to assume that because they are vetting each plugin personally that the ones that do arrive in the October CMS marketplace have a pretty good level of code quality. So we will not be discussing qualifiers of quality code here.

That said, I do hope to write about product testing and development cycles down the road. Beyond code quality though, you also have the depth of need any given plugin meets, as well as how well it is marketed.

Fully Meeting Needs

If there is a huge need and your product only partly meets it… that’s bad. An example of this:

Our ProEvents Plugin has one of the most powerful recurrence engines available anywhere. How did that happen? It happened because the particular platform that code was originally developed for indeed already had a calendar system. But it didn’t handle recurring events. It didn’t go far enough. So I spent two months building my own. If they had built that plugin robust enough…I likely never would have done that. So by not fully meeting a need, you leave room for someone else to do so.

And then there’s marketing

Hopefully this does not come as any shock, but an icon is not a brand. A Plugin is not a brand. A brand is your overarching clearly identifiable presence. A logo, a style, a pattern of consistency that is immediately identifiable by the public at large.

You may very well have the brightest mind in all of the web universe - but if you can’t establish a brand and presentation, that potential will never be fully realized.

Lets start with some very basic things you can do to help your products presentation better aid the realization of your brilliance.

Uniform and brand your plugin icons - all of your product icons should have some similar and attractive “thread” of uniformity such that any person giving even a cursory scroll through the marketplace can see and identify all products that have X vibe clearly belong to the same dude. Don’t brand your products in the same way that someone else does... that would be defeat the purpose. You need separation, not uniformity.

Screenshots, videos - the more screenshots you can add that show your product and what it does the better. Aleksey has an outline of screenshot requirements on the Quality Guidelines page, strike up a YouTube or Vimeo account and start uploading videos demonstrating your products.

More descriptive text and documentation provide a short and concise description of what your product does also provide a “at a glance” highlights list. Consider having a “quickstart” guide in your documentation.

These things really can help you. They can vault you from a product that exudes “meh”, to one that says “this is really well thought out”.

With the new product metrics provided now in your October Author dashboard, you can get a real good idea of how much time users are spending glancing over your products. Specifically regarding products for sale, this information can really help you strategically make changes to improve your impact. Keep tweaking your descriptions, photos, and brand to improve these metrics.

Remember, it’s not the end users job to discern what your product is or does or even why it’s a better choice than something else available. That’s your job.

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