Recent Projects & Lessons Learned

There’s been a lull here on the website. That doesn’t mean I’ve been standing still. What have I been up to?

I’m going to tell you a bit about these projects and something I’ve learned from each of them.


Contactified SettingsIntegrate Constant Contact with the Shopify shopping cart. A really cool project inspired by the great Chimpified.

What I learned

This was an interesting project to get going because it made clear how, even with a template app, a strong API with decent developer documentation, and experience in PHP coding for WordPress, creating a SaaS application is a lot of work, especially as an one-person development team.

There are lots of items to build from scratch, such as where users will be redirected, how to know which page they came from when they logged in, etc. Lots of this I normally let WordPress take care of, but when building Contactified, I started from scratch. Next time, I think I will build the app on top of WordPress. is a blog / resource for HTC tablets (like the new Flyer). The HTC Tablet site is giving away a HTC Flyer.

I started the HTC Tablet site before the Flyer was launched. There were rumors that HTC was working on a tablet, and I set out to get ranked for the product. I started with the base twentyten WordPress template and wrote some blog articles. The Flyer is now launched, the site is ranked #3 for HTC Tablet and #5 for Buy HTC Flyer.

What I learned

After the tablet was launched, there was no longer speculation; there was reporting, and there was lots of it. I didn’t fully appreciate the amount of work it takes to have a topical tech blog.

Setting up the Flyer giveaway was initially easy because of Gravity Forms – I figured it would be simple to choose a winner from the submitted entries, but didn’t anticipate how hard it would be to collect Twitter and Facebook entries:

  • What happens when an user doesn’t follow directions exactly? If the link and hash tag are there, that’s what matters to the contest.
  • The contest states post a message on your wall; entrants are posting to HTC Tablet’s Facebook page. I will have to determine what exactly will be done about that!
  • Some people submit more than once using every email account they own. These users will be disqualified when the drawing comes. Filtering these people out is manual.

I’ll write more about the HTC Flyer giveaway as the time comes.

WordPress Plugin Support

I have a lot of WordPress plugins that I have authored or am in charge of. The plugins have almost 150,000 downloads to date, and I have dedicated a good portion of my schedule to upgrading and maintaing these plugins.

What I’ve learned

Maintaining free plugins is not a great way to make money. A few users have been very generous with their donations and shown appreciation for support by donating. Donations, however, don’t pay the bills.

I am planning on having free and paid version of plugins, just like with iPhone or iPad apps. Contactified has a free basic plan, but then a $3/month plan. I am planning on adding killer features to some plugins that will take literally hundreds of hours to create…I cannot afford to give these features away.

Charging for plugins is a technical hurdle. There are sites such as WP Plugins that may work for this, but there are a lot of crappy plugins that are charging 10 bucks for one line of code (eg: Remove Admin Bar) and I don’t like that approach.

Plugin documentation is really hard to do well, and very important. Documentation in my plugins is often insufficient for non-technical people. I am going to be creating documentation in the future, but in the mean time, I am helping users troubleshoot issues for free.

Client Work

In addition to the different “side-jobs,” I’m still an SEO and web developer. I have clients to complete projects with, maintain, and support. The “what I’ve learned” from working with clients is far longer than anything I can write on this blog. In short, running your own business and working with clients is a great way to learn about yourself.

By Zack Katz

Zack Katz is the founder of GravityKit and TrustedLogin. He lives in Leverett, Massachusetts with his wife Juniper.

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