The year 2016 was very interesting, I started new projects, some of them went well and some didn’t, but overall it was all worth it because it helped me learn new things about the market and life. I also learned the importance of focus in the last year.
Started with an Open Source theme
The year 2016 started with an open source project which was very near to my heart, it is called Skin Theme.
The motive behind this project was to give back to the community. WordPress has given me so much that I wanted to do something for the community, so I decided to create a performance-oriented, SEO optimized and modular open source theme.
We got great reviews from the community, it was covered by many developers & bloggers. Many online companies are using this theme for their official blogs. We then went on to submit the theme on WordPress.org, which took around 6 – 7 months of reviewing but then got approved.
WordPress theme submission guidelines really helped us understand and improve the quality of our code.
Started on AMP for WP plugin
While we were finishing the Skin theme, one of our online news publisher clients told us that there is this new thing called Google AMP that came out just yesterday and wanted us to implement it for them, so we built an AMP solution for them.
After we finished this project, we decided to modify some of it and make it open source for others. and that’s how the AMPforWP plugin, It started getting some traction early on but didn’t really picked up until the month of August.
There was also a time when we decided to rebuild the plugin from scratch which took around a month, but it was all worth it.
Executed on an Idea I had for 2 years
Meanwhile, I also executed on a startup idea which was on my list for two years.
It took me around solid 3 months of execution and we started getting customers too but I realized that it was not the problem that I was trying to solve.
It really helped me learn about the sales process and the problems/priorities of SMB sector.
BOLD move. **** the Big fishes & their NDA Contract
One of the biggest decisions that I took last year was to not renew my contracts with these big clients, where I was providing them performance services because they wanted it all under the Non-disclosure agreement.
They were happy with the work because the traffic and revenue were improving, but they didn’t want me to show that I did the performance optimization for them.
They were bragging in the conferences that they have a team for it, but I was the only person who was working on that part, I was their secret sauce and they didn’t want to loose it.
I realized that the big media companies are very insecure about competition and wants to control everything. So I decided to end these contracts and started providing these services to selected publishers and bloggers who will allow me to use them as a case study.
The only value that I got out of this contract was Money, but I couldn’t use their name for the case study which means I get no credit for the work I had done.
Back in 2012-13 when I decided to do this, I had not realized that it will go on like this till 2016, and If I don’t change this now then it will go on like this for next few years and I didn’t want that to happen, I was ready for a change.
For me, year on year progress is very important, I believe that if I am not experiencing new things every year, then I am not growing, even if I had to take bold moves like betting on my 75% of the revenues that I was getting from the services business.
But that is okay because I have a plan for recovering this by working with selected set of publishers and bloggers and I have a good network and reach, so I feel I am ready for this challenge.
We also decided to reboot Magazine3 with a fresh perspective, theme business is a tricky business and it is changing at a fast pace. We also decided to try our hands on the Themeforest marketplace as well, it took us a few months to build it and then that it took another month to get it approved.
Goal of 10,000 users & 60 Five Star Ratings
After the month of August, AMP for WP finally started to pick up and we decided to deploy 50% of our focus and energy on it.
It grew from just 1000 users to 10,000 active users in just 5 months.
This was our first plugin on the WordPress repository and we decided to scale it.
We set up a goal of achieving 10k users by the end of December, which we already achieved by 15th December and we had 70 Five star reviews instead of 60.
This was not possible without the support from the community and the users, so I am really thankful to them.
and rest of the stuff..
Apart from those major milestones, We moved to a better office this year which really allowed us to stay productive and has impacted us in many other positive ways.
We added two more people to the team, Khalid (for AMP’s development) & Razzak (for Customer support).
For a long time, I wanted to do a personal Youtube talk show where I would sit down with some of the people that I admire in the Indian startup community, so that went well… till the 7 episodes, but I had to stop it in order to focus on AMP.
I was able to achieve what I wanted to achieve with that experiment, I do have plans to resume that show in near future.
I also switched my frontend design application from Photoshop to Sketch app.
To sum it all up
Overall, it’s been a good year of learning & interesting experiences. You can read my whole journey of last 9 – 10 years at the Story page.
Life is good, God has been kind, I am hustling every single day, trying my best to make the most of the time and I am loving this experience.
Let me know how was your 2016 and what did you learn from it?