Going bravely into the big world
Duane Storey and Dale Mugford of BraNewCode have carved out a trailblazing path with their plugin, WPtouch and are thinking up new things all the time. Quality and simplicity of their product is what helped them chisel a niche for themselves.
A fun project to create a mobile version for well-known Canadian musician Matthew Good’s website was the spark that led Duane Storey and Dale Mugford on to bigger and brighter things. “We realized that everyone would probably want something like it. So we created WPtouch,” says Dale.
This urge to think and execute beyond the ordinary is what made Co-founders of BraveNewCode, Duane and Dale innovators in their own right and tread the success path.
Mobile technology has grown leaps and bounds but in 2008, when the duo started their venture, it was still a fledgling waiting to spread its wings. Their WPtouch was a trendsetter in that sphere and showed the way for many more such products.
“There may be hundreds of products now, but when we created WPtouch, the iPhone had just been released, and we were one of the first products for WordPress that helped you create a mobile version of your website. We were inspired to create what would become WPtouch on a client’s (Mathew Good) website,” explains Dale.
BraveNewCode is a small Canadian company with five employees “doing big things.”
Since the introduction of WPtouch, the plugin has been one of the most popular solutions for delivering mobile web content for WordPress websites. In 2012, it was used by one third of the top WordPress websites, while the free version of the plugin has been downloaded over 4.1 million times.
Excerpts from an interview with Dale Mugford —
Q. What is WPtouch and what are its unique features ? Tell us a little about the latest version of WPtouch.
Dale: WPtouch is a WordPress plugin which automatically creates a mobile version of your website. you can customize and brand it, and it offers mobile-specific enhancements that take it beyond responsive design. Page load times are significantly faster due to its mobile optimization of your WordPress content, and you can even do things like turn off other plugins you might have installed while WPtouch is active that you don’t need on mobile.
Q. How did BraveNewCode happen ? How did the founders get together to launch this unique product?
D: Duane Storey and Dale Mugford (me) met while working on a mutual client project in 2007. They formed BraveNewCode in 2008, and launched WPtouch (for free in the WordPress repository) at that time. It was one of a variety of WordPress plugins they created.
Q. What were you doing before you started developing WordPress plugins ?
D: Duane worked in software, while I was actually in social work— but both of us were doing web projects on the side.
Q. How easy or difficult was it to create a niche ? What were the hurdles that you faced in the initial days ?
D: It wasn’t that hard, to be honest. Again, we were at the forefront of the mobile revolution, so our niche was carved fairly easily. We focused on quality and simplicity, ease of use. The biggest hurdle was releasing a Pro version of the product and hoping people would pay for it.
Q. What do you think it is that sets you/your product apart from your competitors ?
D: Execution. I’ve never heard someone tell me they think another mobile solution for WordPress was better executed than ours. We have a unique grasp of what it takes to deliver high-quality WordPress products, and the care, attention to detail and support we provide are all second-to-none.
Q. How good a business sense does it make to have a free download version for your plug in and also paid version ?
D: For us, it’s been very good. Though our free version is overdue for an update, so it actually might be hurting us— WPtouch Pro 3 is far more polished and current, and the free version doesn’t do it justice. We’ll be updating the free version soon to address that.
Q. The product that you developed for Twitter, WordTwit was launched as a free version and later had a paid version. What was the idea behind this ?
D: We wanted to offer a few plugins for sale, and not bet on just one product. Yet even though WordTwit was popular and sold well, it’s been beholden to Twitter and what they do or don’t do for developers. We’ve decided to discontinue the Pro version and just make it free — you never know what Twitter’s going to do next in squeezing developers, so we wanted to be cautious about selling a product dependent on Twitter.
Q. How seriously do you take customer feedback and how have you acted upon it?
D: It’s our second priority as a business (second only to quality in our products). We always want to make sure we’re building products that our customers love using. We usually audit features and ideas via customer feedback and look for trends— then make changes or adjustments accordingly.