24 hours ago I announced a new project I have been working on: Branch – a continuous integration service for WordPress developers. I was pretty transparent throughout the day on Twitter and thought it would be fun to do a little summary on how it all went.

Before

Branch is a product I’ve been working on for the past few months. It feels like the natural progression from my other product WP Pusher. However, compared to WP Pusher, Branch is a very large project and a big technical challenge. What I launched yesterday was far from a product that someone could actually sign up and use. So what exactly did I launch?

After a lot of tinkering I am finally at a point where my working prototype can clone a Git repository with a WordPress theme, fetch the PHP and JavaScript dependencies, compile the assets and deploy them to a WordPress site. This is far from production ready, but it is working well enough that I felt comfortable recording a screen cast showing it to the world. I had decided in advance that a screen cast of a working prototype would mean a hard stop of the development of the product. I simply cannot spend more time developing this product before it’s been validated better. That’s what the announcement yesterday was about – gauging the interest.

In addition to the screen cast I had written a manifesto titled “WordPress developers are developers too”. It goes into something I feel pretty strongly about, but won’t re-state here. Read the manifesto if you are curious. I have previously written a lot of blog post targeted at WordPress developers and I felt pretty comfortable that my manifesto would be provocative enough to get people’s attention, but not too much to derail everyone’s attention from Branch. I would say it worked pretty well. The main inspiration for writing a manifesto came from Derrick Reimer and Ben Orenstein.

On the landing page I did a few things before launch: Added Fathom analytics (privacy, yay!), added an email opt-in and linked to a pre-populated Tweet after sign up. The pre-populated tweet did alright, nothing crazy, but I still think it’s a good idea to encourage people to spread the word:

The day before the launch I made sure to queue up an email to my email subscribers on my WP Pusher email list. It’s about 2500 WordPress developers. I accidentally messed up the time zones, so the email actually went out an hour before I had planned – 11am UK time, instead of 12pm. I also tweeted out asking for people to help me spread the word the next day as I had a big announcement to make. This is a trick I’ve stolen from Adam Wathan and I think it works really well if you can make sure that you already have a few people cheering for you.

Finally, I reached out to a few Twitter friends and acquaintances to ask for feedback. This helped me tweak and fine tune the landing page a bit. A big thank you to everyone who had a look!

Launch

I had planned to Tweet out at 11am UK time, which was an hour before the email was supposed to go out. This would give me an hour to fix any immediate errors that people would potentially be pointing out. Just when I was about to hit “Tweet” I realized that the email was already going out. Well, I guess we are live then! A few minutes before the actual tweet went out I also let people on Twitter know that I was about to make my announcement. After the tweet was out I quoted it and encouraged people to help me spread the word. Quickly a few people started retweeting it to their own followers.

I’m really happy with how the launch went. I’m not used to my tweets getting a lot of attention, so yesterday’s tweet was definitely my most popular tweet ever. So far it’s had almost 17.000 impressions, which is way more than I had hoped for. Here’s how the website stats looked after yesterday:

Later during the day I also shared the link with the Advanced WordPress Facebook group. It was pretty well received in there as well, but most of the traffic definitely came from Twitter. About 10% of the visitors subscribed and about 70% checked the “I want beta access” box.

At about 5pm UK time I made another small push on Twitter targeted the US west coast. This Tweet got a bit of attention as well with almost 5000 impressions and definitely helped keep the ball rolling:

In addition to this tweet I also made sure to be really active on Twitter in general throughout the day.

I think these stats are pretty good and I definitely got more attention than I had hoped for. But more importantly I reached a lot of people and many of them sent me very encouraging messages and emails. Tweets like this definitely made my day:

Even on Facebook people said nice things!

Some of my existing WP Pusher customers chimed in on email as well:

All in all I feel like Branch was really well received yesterday and it feels like it’s definitely something that WordPress developers care about.

What now?

I’m super happy that people seem to be interested in Branch, however it is a big project and I need to have a pretty solid gut feeling before fully pursuing this project. That was the whole point of this launch. The number one question I need to answer now is: Do I think people will use this and will they be willing to pay (enough) for it. My experience with WP Pusher is that, yes, people need this and are willing to pay for it. But will they pay enough to make it a profitable business? I consider WP Pusher a side project because I haven’t actually worked on it full time at any point. I’ve had the intention a few times, but something else has always come in the way. It has sort of had its own life to be honest. At the moment WP Pusher is able to pay (most of) my bills, but it’s not profitable enough to invest a lot of money into a new venture like Branch. That leaves me with a lot of consideration to do!

It’s obvious to me that the next step is to talk to as many interested people as possible. I signed up for Zoom today and will try to set up all the meetings I can to better understand the people that already showed interest. If I decide to fully dedicate myself to Branch there a few things I’ll have to consider:

  • Should I consider raising a bit of seed money to fund the development or maybe join an accelerator/incubator? Or should I just try to bootstrap with the income I have from WP Pusher (might be tight because Branch is quite ambitious)?
  • Should I find a co-founder or otherwise find someone to help me build Branch? In addition to a lot of coding, there is a lot of marketing and product development to do if I want Branch to be successful. Also, speaking from experience, bootstrapping as a solo founder can be pretty lonely.

If you have any questions, inputs or thoughts about any of this, please tweet me or send me an email.

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