The WordPress community is full of fantastic people doing fantastic things—among them bloggers, volunteers and entrepreneurs. I recently had a chance to speak with one of those intrepid WordPress entrepreneurs: David Rashty, the founder of CreativeMinds.
Founded in 2008, CreativeMinds offers WordPress plugins, Magento extensions and custom development for both platforms. Rashty has over 20 years of experience working executive-level positions at several startups, and made his way to the WordPress community in the typical way: blogging. A startup he was working for chose WordPress as their blogging platform of choice, and when the external plugins they used weren’t up to snuff, they ended up coding their own.
In this post, I’ll share the highlights of my interview with Rashty (which I’ve edited lightly for length and clarity), including his recommended apps and his critical thoughts on the current WordPress plugin system.
1. What Creative Minds is All About
CreativeMinds is the company behind plugins like CM Tooltip Glossary and CM Ad Changer. What you may not know is how the business began—and how much work goes into those products. Here’s what Rashty said:
Our WordPress business started as side project while working on another venture and slowly grew up to be major. We concentrate on developing unique and strong WordPress-based products where we believe that solutions are either non-existent, or not as we would like to have them.
We invest a major amount of time in each product, trying to give some added value in functionality, making the UI and UX simple and intuitive and doing many tests before releasing. We are always the first customers for our products, which give us the ability to understand what is missing. Once we release, we get a lot of ideas and feedback from our users.
2. How Their Team Works
I thought that this bit was great because it really exemplifies online business in our age of globalization. Rashty explained that the CreativeMinds team is spread across three continents:
Our team has grown over the last year and now consists of 15 people (not all working full time). We are divided into several teams: product, marketing, design, customer service and instruction design.
We are spread around three continents. Our developers are in Europe, while marketing is in Israel and the US. We are partly virtual and partly not. We have an office in Europe and an office in Israel, but some of our team members work from home.
3. Which Programs and Apps He Recommends
Managing an international team—and dealing with the normal stresses, strains and necessities of business—can be a challenge. To keep everyone on the same page, Rashty and his team use the project management app Asana.
Here’s a list of several other programs and apps that Rashty told me he recommends:
- Help Scout for customer support
- Moz for search engine optimization (in addition to Google Analytics)
- Crazy Egg to see what customers are doing on the CreativeMinds website
- Monitis to track server performance and reliability
- Google Docs to help with planning and management
4. How He Generates WordPress Plugin Ideas
Coming up with ideas for plugin can be the hardest part of development. Rashty explained his process:
Ideas comes from customers we interact with and from our own desires and dreams. Not all of them turn out to be very successful. We have developed several products that we threw in the garbage or re-used is some other way. We always start with some basic MVP (Minimum Viable Product) that we throw out to see the feedback and then start growing the product. Currently we are working on six new products. I would say that we get half of our product ideas from our customers, and half internally.
5. What He Thinks About the Free Plugin Model
One of the most intriguing parts of my discussion with Rashty involved his views on the way that WordPress plugins are currently presented and thought about. He is very critical of the free plugin model:
Making users appreciate the fact that WordPress products take a huge amount of time and effort to develop and even more to support is a challenge. Some users still believe that all WordPress products should be free. I think this free model does not work: out of the 30,000 plugins on WordPress.org, 95% are not well-maintained or written according to WordPress standards, which causes conflicts and problems once installed.
In his ideal world, premium plugins would play a larger role and receive a bigger place in the community spotlight:
I think WordPress/Automattic should change the way it works and interacts with plugin developers and support them. We are part of what make WordPress such a great environment and we are part of the WordPress ecosystem … I am trying to say: help us and support our efforts.
As an example, Magento by AOL provides a free catalog in which every developer can list his extensions – regardless of whether they are free or premium – and also receive feedback and support customers. This is not possible with WordPress … If there isn’t a viable model which WordPress will stand behind and push then we will not see too many great plugins.
I questioned him on his position and he responded further:
Another aspect of this issue is that many existing plugins are not written according to widely acceptable standards and are not well supported. In supporting our customers we must deal with these plugins. We usually find ourselves explaining why another plugin they have installed is causing issues because it is not written correctly. In many cases they also show JS/PHP errors.
My point is that in order to have good plugins, there must be a sustainable model that WordPress will stand behind, and even push, that will enable plugin developers to develop and support their products.
6. His Favorite WordPress Plugins
That doesn’t mean that Rashty is down on every plugin that exists. Far from it. I asked him to list just a few of his favorite plugins from the community:
I love Relevanssi and am also in touch with the developer from time to time. He is doing a great job and has a wonderful product. We also are very fond of the Visual Form Builder which is less known than the alternatives.
I also asked him to highlight a few CreativeMinds plugins that he thinks are some of the best:
I think beside the Tooltip Glossary, we have a great new product which we just released called the OnBoarding Plugin which is a great guidance and user experience tool that we are very proud of.
7. The Company’s Current Projects
Rashty was kind enough to give us a glimpse into some upcoming offers from CreativeMinds:
We have several plugins cooking: A new WordPress Reports plugins which will be a platform for generating reports for different needs and use-cases. A video course management plugin which will help organization track and control video lessons, a unified products catalog for merging between several ecommerce catalogs such as EDD and WooCommerce, and several new products that are still in the planning stage.
8. His Hopes for the Company’s Future
With years of work behind him, I asked Rashty to look forward to the future. He explained how he foresees the WordPress market evolving in the coming years and what role CreativeMinds might play in that:
I think the WordPress market is still evolving and the brands are still building themselves. We would like to see CM as an appreciated brand for great WordPress products, the same way we look at EDD / WooCommerce / Yoast / ElegantThemes and other good brands …
I believe that the market that we are in is going to grow. More organizations and business are using WP as a content and e-commerce solution, and they need high quality, reliable tools to drive their content and sites. The needs for such tools is just going to grow, so I think having a large selections of great WordPress tools is where we are aiming.
David Rashty has had a lot of success in the WordPress plugins market, and it’s always interesting to hear the perspective of a developer.
Let us know what you think about what he said: Do you use any of his recommended programs? Is he right about the free plugin model? Post in the comments below!