This post marks my first ever published year in review and something I’ll aim to do each year in order to keep myself accountable and help me to clarify my goals for the following year.
2019 has been one very busy year that has taught me a lot about business, product development, time management, and the importance of self-care. I bought a business (Hookturn) and moved deeper into the product space which is definitely where I’d rather be and where I think my skills are better suited.
Hookturn & AwesomeACF acquisition
In July, I took ownership of Hookturn where I had previously been the co-owner of the ACF Custom Database Tables plugin. The founder, Aaron Rutley, had done a mighty job of launching and growing the platform to the point where it offers three products but felt he didn’t have the time to commit any further and wanted to focus on his career. Included with Hookturn was AwesomeACF – a resource hub for people using Advanced Custom Fields.
I know this is midway through the year but I kinda feel like this is where my year really began. The change from full-time agency dev work to running a WordPress plugin shop was a big shift but I’ve made a lot of headway in six months and am very happy with how things are tracking.
A few notable achievements here:
- We moved the site to the Pressidium managed WordPress hosting platform — Pressidium has been a fantastic choice for us as it is a very stable platform and the performance of Hookturn is now consistent around the globe.
- Started development on our MYOB for WooCommerce plugin — With Mat handling the development and Chris helping with planning, testing, marketing, and product, this should be ready to go early 2020 and will be the first of a line of WooCommerce plugins we’ll be offering.
- Spent a lot of time connecting directly with Hookturn’s customers — This has been very insightful and has helped me gain a sense of how people use our products and how we can improve on them.
- Started building the Hookturn support site — Using WordPress’ multi-site feature, I’m putting together a network of support sites. Each product has its own subsite where the product documentation, guides, tutorials, and resources will all be available and searchable.
- Started planning a rebuild of the AwesomeACF site — I see a lot of potential in AwesomeACF and plan to turn this into a real community site where people can connect, share content, and explore opportunities with each other.
ACF Custom Database Tables plugin
The CDT plugin has been a major project of mine that didn’t get enough of my time in 2019. We’ve had a growing customer base since it first launched and (thankfully) relatively few issues with the plugin in the wild.
I’ve had a decent lot of features planned for this plugin for some time but soon after we released, Gutenberg started becoming quite a reality and left me wondering what the future of ACF would look like – this coupled with my other obligations left me in an awkward position for development so things had to wait which saw this plugin relatively unchanged since its initial release.
Fortunately, ACF has continued to grow and adapt to the block-editor landscape and people are still embracing CDT so I dedicated some solid time to getting repeater support built into version 1.1 of the plugin. This is currently still in testing but a release candidate will be the first thing I do in January.
I’ve also started thinking really hard about how to open up flexibility for this plugin so it can be used more creatively rather than having database tables tied to ACF field groups. 2020 will see a collection of new features land in this plugin.
Started working with TailwindCSS
Whilst my primary focus is WordPress, I do keep my eye on the Laravel community as there are some really great devs working on a lot of cool things for the web. One of my favourite new tools is TailwindCSS – a utility-first CSS framework.
I’m so sold on this system that I’ve started using it for all new projects and released a WordPress theme boilerplate to make life easy.
I’ll be using TailwindCSS extensively for AwesomeACF, Hookturn, and the Hookturn support site.
Twitter Dev Tips Series
During October I ran a series of dev tips for the month where I posted a tip per day. Tips varied in subjects but were all products of my years of dev experience and were received really well. I had a lot of really nice feedback and connected with a few new people along the way. Engagement for these tweets was surprisingly high.
I’ll be continuing these in 2020 as I enjoy sharing these little tips and tricks I’ve picked up along the way.
WP Landing Kit Plugin
Off the back of a tweet that I happened to stumble across, I’ve teamed up with Jason Schuller to collaborate on the WP Landing Kit plugin which will launch very early in 2020. I saw Jason had been doing some very interesting work and thought this could be a great opportunity to diversify the types of products I work on so I’m really happy to have made this connection.
Jason had an idea and a prototype and from that, I’ve pulled together my plugin dev experience to put together a product that has huge potential for anyone wanting to create domain-based landing/lead/sales pages. I’m really looking forward to seeing how this one works out.
- Didn’t get Hookturn’s support portal live — I really wanted to get this up and running months ago but it was one of the things that had to sit on the shelf while I tackled more pressing obligations.
- Didn’t get MYOB for WooCommerce plugin live — We might have been a little too optimistic on this one but we didn’t hit out September launch target on this.
- Didn’t get ACF Custom Database Tables version 1.1 released — This would have to be my biggest disappointment for the year as I’ve been promising a release for quite a while and I feel like I’ve let a lot of people down who have been waiting patiently for repeater field support.
- Spent less time producing content than I should have — I definitely need to produce more content that teaches people how to benefit from the tools we create.
- Burning the candle at both ends has ripple-on effects — I’ve been working longer hours than I should be and the longer I try to burn the candle at both ends, the harder it is to recover and the more this cycle repeats itself and affects other areas of life.
- Developing relationships with others is important for success — This follows on from the previous point as working with other people is definitely smarter for hitting bigger goals.
- Most of the things we think we need in a product/project just aren’t essential to start — It is amazing how much a product’s development can drag on because of the “what if’s” that we come up with along the way. Developing the ability to identify what is critical and what can wait is essential in this space.
- Being honest about everything and saying ‘no’ is a powerful strategy — I’m one of those people that likes to do things well and likes the client/user to be happy but my time handling support and discussing potential features with customers has shown me the value in being honest about where something is. If a feature isn’t feasible or doesn’t fit the product, saying ‘no’ is OK. If that means that customer needs to find an alternative, that is OK, too. In the end, it saves me stress and it allows the customer to get on with their tasks.
Goals for 2020
This list is ambitious but that’s not unlike me – I’m going into 2020 with a strong degree of optimism and determination.
- Release repeater support for ACF Custom Database Tables — This is the first cab off the rank for the year and many people are waiting.
- Find a developer to collaborate on both the Hookturn and AwesomeACF platforms — I can’t keep doing everything myself so I need to find someone who is dynamic and passionate about learning to help me build both these platforms.
- Find more partner plugin developers for Hookturn — Part of our business model is to serve as a marketplace for other developers building their own WordPress plugins. I want to find more people who are interested in building plugins but don’t want to deal with the business/marketing/support side of it and host their products on Hookturn.
- Get the Hookturn support site up and running — This will be a big win for both active customers and those wondering whether they can use our products.
- Go full time on Hookturn — Definitely doable and something that I really want to make a reality.
- Attend both EU and US WordCamps — I haven’t been a to a WordCamp yet but I want to get to these two major ones so I can meet more people in the space. This is likely where I’ll find other devs looking to launch their own products.
- Continue building my own personal brand through tips, tutorials, and potentially even courses — This is one big can of worms to tackle but teaching others is something I enjoy doing and would like to do more of.
- Rebuild the CDT plugin to go beyond just ACF — Custom database tables are fantastic for ACF but there is potential here for so much more. I’m already prototyping this so 2020 should see the release of new features and functionality that will give developers some amazing control over their metadata and possibly other core WordPress data as well.
This time next year there will be new features, new products, and new people to helping me drive Hookturn & AwesomeACF.