Feature Requests & the Future of Thrive Themes – an Open Letter
If you take a look around this blog and at the emails we send to subscribers and customers, you'll notice that we keep asking for your feedback. Be it in comments on our posts, discussions in the support forum, or surveys, polls and more.
In today's letter, I want to give you an inside look at what we do with all this feedback and give you a glimpse at our development plans for future products and features.
Like the previous open letter, this is an open and raw exchange from me to you. Think of it as sitting across the table from me, having a conversation about Thrive Themes.
The first thing I want to address is a problem that comes with inviting feedback: as much as we'd like to, we can't fulfill every request we get.
Even if we do decide to take on a suggestion, weeks or even months can pass between the time a request is first made and the time we release the new feature.
My concern here, and the reason I'm bringing this up, is that you may feel like you're being ignored. It may seem that you keep asking us for stuff, we keep saying that we're listening, but nothing happens.
For example, we've been asked to add A/B testing to Thrive Landing Pages countless times and many readers have been suggesting we should build a membership plugin for a long time.
We've released neither an A/B testing feature for landing pages nor a membership plugin. And yet in the meantime, we've released various new features for our products as well as new products like Thrive Ultimatum and Thrive Headline Optimizer.
You may be wondering: what's up with that? Are we actually listening to your feedback or just pretending to?
A Grander Plan
First of all let me assure you that yes, we are listening. We pay very close attention to every comment, every support request and every survey response.
It is from this feedback and from countless interviews with customers that a grand plan started to form. We saw that there were some problems that we could try to solve in a unique way and we set about our most ambitious project so far.
Without boring you with technical details, much of the work we've been doing in the past month has been foundation building. We're laying the groundwork that will make this big plan of ours possible.
What is this big plan? To explain, let's look at a big, ugly monster of a problem that plagues WordPress users today.
The Frankenstein Problem
One of the great things about WordPress is how extensible it is. As a user, you can choose from a seemingly unlimited number of plugins and themes to customize your site to your desire... but there's also a huge downside to this.
Log into the dashboard of the typical online marketer's website and you'll find a massive list of plugins installed. And among all these plugins that manage SEO, caching, social sharing, design elements, shortcodes, testing, analytics and so on, you'll often also find some custom code. As a WordPress user, you're probably not unfamiliar with the idea of hiring a freelancer to apply some customization or fix some issue on your site.
Unfortunately, all these different plugins and customizations don't play nice with each other. There will be plugin conflicts, the site will slow down due to code bloat, an update of one plugin will break several others...
The whole thing is a mess. I know many site owners who are afraid to update their plugins because they know it could break their whole site. Many WordPress sites are a total mess, barely hanging together by some threads.
This, in short, is what I call the Frankenstein problem.
As we build our sites and add more functionality that we need, we unwittingly create a monster.
Our Vision: A Complete Suite of Marketing Tools
The Frankenstein problem is what we want to solve for our users, once and for all. We want to provide you all of the marketing tools that most directly affect your website's usefulness out of one hand.
Our goal is to not only make these tools work together conflict free, but to go several steps further. To build a smart, high converting, next-generation website, these tools need to talk to each other.
What does this mean?
How? By checking a box.
One click. That's it.
That may not seem like a big deal until you realize that without the integration between these two plugins, making this happen would require copying and editing HTML form codes, inserting script snippets and pasting them into your WordPress content in the "Text" mode of the editor... and then never switching back to the "Visual" mode, because that would break the code.
As cool as this is, the example above is just the tip of the iceberg. Our vision is for you to have a complete set of tools and total control over what is happening on your website and how your website reacts to what your visitors are doing (another example of this is the SmartLinks feature).
So, What About that Feature Request?
What does all this have to do with feature requests and our development strategy?
A request like "add A/B testing to landing pages" may seem simple enough. And it would be, for most companies. We could easily ship a functioning testing feature within a few weeks.
But this is Thrive Themes and we don't settle for lukewarm solutions. Our grand plan of a marketing suite means that for each feature and product, we have to consider how it will fit in with all of the other products and features. And then we have to look at our roadmap and think of how it will fit in with all of the future products and features that we haven't even built yet.
As a result, priorities can change and it generally takes more resource to create a new product or feature. I believe that what we are building is worth investing this extra time and resource into.
What's Coming Next
In the coming months, you'll start to see all the foundational work we've been doing pay off in new features and products we release. At Thrive Themes, we're all very excited to bring you these new releases and we can't wait to show you what we've been working on.
And while we're working on these big changes and products, we're also making sure that we're still releasing new stuff on a regular basis. This is another priority for us: even if we spend a lot of resource on a huge project, we don't want to leave you waiting for long periods of time, so we always spend some resource on smaller projects as well.
To get an overview of what we've been working on, you can check our development timeline page here.
Over to You
Of course we'd love to hear your thoughts about our grand plan for a total WordPress marketing suite. What are some tools that you think absolutely need to be part of this? What are your worst experiences with the Frankenstein effect on your site? Let us know by leaving a comment!
P.S.: While I'm writing an open letter like this, let me also use the opportunity to thank you. Whoever you are, if you're reading this, you're taking part in making all this possible. Building Thrive Themes is a huge and exciting challenge. It's a privilege to be able to do the work we do for you.