I had a conversation today with Jonathan Wold of PostStatus on the rise of WaaS and the large opportunity that might potentially be present in the space. It sparked some thoughts, given that I have been involved in building out a number of WaaS sites over the last 18 months or so, one of which is FireupWP.
As anyone who’s been around the WP space for a while knows, there are a ton of functional components available for a relatively low price. So building out a WaaS seems like it would be relatively cheap compared to other options.
That is true. If you want your customers (and their customers) to have a disjointed experience.
The Biggest Issue With Building WaaS Sites
When you start to build a WaaS site, the biggest issue you’ll encounter isn’t going to be infrastructure, or even scaling.
No, it’s going to be the completely disjointed experience you have to stitch together from various plugins and themes so you can provide some semblance of a unified, appealing customer experience.
This is easier done on the front-end of a site. Doing this on the backend in wp-admin is an absolute nightmare.
To fix that requires so much custom code you might as well go use Bubble.io or something like Laravel to build the site.
Why This Is So
WordPress’s flexibility is the fundamental reason for this situation. Couple that with its history of cheap plugins and you have the situation where most plugins and themes simply aren’t built for the requirements of an SaaS.
Imagine that you’re looking to build out a WaaS membership site that offers courses. You might end up using:
- Beaver Builder
- Beaver Themer
- Awesome Support (clients need to be able to offer help desk services to their customers)
- Mailster (email marketing services – it is a membership site afterall)
- Simple:Press Forums
- A subscription plugin (Memberpress, EDD etc.)
- WPComplete (simple courses)
- Admin Menu Editor Pro
Now, think about the UI and UX for each of those plugins. And the customer who now has to learn how to use them. An experienced WordPress user might not balk.
But a new customer? Yikes!
WordPress’s flexibility allow each plugin to do its own thing and that provides lots of features. But now your WaaS customer who is used to the simple experience of SaaS sites is absolutely gob-smacked when presented with wp-admin.
Even if you used tools such as Admin Menu Editor Pro (or custom code) to remove menu options, it’s still a lot for a new customer to take in.
And then there is the fact that some of these plugins need to be modified to hide things like license keys, certain admin options not appropriate to the WaaS user etc.
In an era where customers are used to highly polished UI and UX, this disjointed experience just doesn’t fly – many of your target customers are likely to move on to other options after being presented with wp-admin.
So the question then becomes, what do you as the WaaS developer have to do to present a unified experience?
As the WaaS developer, you might consider creating a completely customized admin UI, layered awkwardly on top of this mish-mash of plugins. But that is a very VERY expensive proposition.
Simply getting the terminology consistent across each plugin might be a large undertaking.
But what if your WaaS solution wasn’t a fully self-service solution?
What if, instead, your onboarding and training experience was more personal (and, by extension, more expensive)? And that is followed up by intensely personal support services?
Then maybe your WaaS customer don’t need to get into the intricacies of the wp-admin area of the site?
So, you end up with a smaller population of higher paying customers for your WaaS.
Jonathan called this approach to WaaS development and marketing Sustainable Assembly in his recent article on WaaS approaches.
A Better Business Model for Your WaaS
After my experience with building out a WaaS that required membership services, marketing automation and more for customers, the Sustainable Assembly approach makes a whole lot more sense, especially when launching the product.
WaaS Customers end up with a highly focused, feature rich offering at an acceptable price point without dealing with a disjointed wp-admin experience. And, the WaaS developer validates the offering and builds positive cash flow from the business.
That positive cash flow, can in turn be used, to fund the extensive additional development needed for a UI/UX that is appropriate for a classic self-service model.
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