We’re excited to share news of a new WordPress company being launched by one of our friends at Sell with WP: Prospress Inc.

The launch of the new Prospress site is part of launching a new company brand for Brent Shepherd and co., who are behind great plugins like WooCommerce Subscriptions.

Brent’s name has been on his plugins for the past couple of years, but he’s now working with three full-time employees and one part-time employee, so he’s looking to roll out one brand that encompasses the entire team behind these extensions. Even though there was an “unofficial” company for the plugin business, Brent’s excited to launch a new brand for all WordPress development:

For the last few years, I’ve traded under the company name Leonard’s Ego. That name has really only been used for accounting purposes. It was never intended to become a company brand and I usually put my personal name on my work. This gave me complete creative freedom to explore different ideas…

Rebranding the company to reflect that shift makes sense, but the rebrand is also for more than that. With the success of Subscriptions and knowing its still early days for the WooCommerce ecosystem, the rebrand also symbolizes the transition from solopreneur to company. At launch, Prospress Inc has a team of three full-time, and one part-time. We’re actively growing, both in terms of developing new products and in recruiting full-time WooCommerce developers.

The Beginning of Prospress

With a team behind these WooCommerce products, Brent and Prospress are ready to move forward with several new products and feature additions. One of the major projects on the roadmap is Subscriptions v2.0. This marks the first time that Subscriptions development will break backwards compatibility to support some huge changes. Brent explained further:

The scope of Subscriptions has grown tremendously since version 1.0. To remain backwards compatible, the Subscriptions codebase hasn’t been able to evolve fully with these changes. Version 2.0 is the chance to bring everything in line with how it is used today, and what is possible with WooCommerce 2.2, rather than how it was designed and what could be done two years ago with WooCommerce 1.5.

This change will bring some exciting features to the WooCommerce Subscriptions plugin, the most important of which is support for purchasing multiple subscriptions within one transaction. Following this, most of the core development for Subscriptions will be completed by version 2.2. This will include a few more features, such a unified failed payment retry system. Brent said that the development timeline for this is about a year: “I feel the majority of the features that make sense for core will be included by version 2.2, which will be released mid to late 2015.

So what else will Prospress do besides core Subscriptions development?

There are “mini-plugins” and other functionality extensions that the team would like to explore. “There are others things that store managers want to do with Subscriptions that I want to make possible,” Brent says. “But many of these features don’t make sense for the majority, which means they don’t make sense for core.” This opens up the ability to offer bolt-on extensions to make Subscriptions as customizable and flexible as possible without unnecessarily bloating the main extension.

Development on Subscriptions add-ons has already begun, but Brent was waiting to release his first add-on until he could add team members and support the plugins to his standards (which, from my experiences, are high 🙂 ). Now that the team has the capacity to support and maintain extensions at the same level, they’re looking to release these plugins and continue building. To start, a Subscriptions CSV Importer plugin is coming soon for customers that want to import existing subscriptions from a different platform.

Prospress will also soon be releasing a One Page Purchase plugin. “I’m particularly excited about the One Page Purchase plugin, which allows customers to select products and complete checkout on the one page,” Brent said. The plugin is meant to be an alternative to the traditional checkout, which flows from product page to cart to checkout. Instead, the plugin will allow shop owners to display a product on a landing page and gather all payment details in one fell swoop. The goal is to support shops that only sell a couple of products, or to allow store managers to create landing pages for special promotions.

WooCommerce is Growing Up

Prospress marks another company that’s sprouted up in the “add-on plugin / theme” space, which brings up an interesting trend in the ecosystem. There are more and more companies that specialize in building for certain platforms (such as Prospress in WooCommerce), or theming particular plugins really well (as Astoundify does).

WooCommerce’s ability to sustain these kind of add-on companies is a huge marker of the growth it has experienced. However, as with all rapid growth, growing pains do ensue.

The freedom exists for anyone to build for WooCommerce, which leads to tremendous amounts of great products. The flipside to this freedom is that sometimes products are built that don’t work well, as no single standard for quality benchmarks exist. As a result, some users blame WooCommerce or WordPress as a whole for this shortcoming. This is a concern that Brent shares with me:

If the extension doesn’t work, a store manager will often blame WooCommerce in the same way people that blame WordPress if their site gets hacked due to an exploit in custom code. A quick look at the 1 star reviews in the plugin directory show dozens of examples of this “blame the platform” behavior.

So how do you combat this in order to ensure that the platform continues to grow? Is it better to have trusted companies like Prospress behind add-ons and active in the ecosystem, or to encourage as many single developers to contribute as possible?

Brent said that it makes sense for WooThemes to “work with people they trust and know they can rely on, regardless of whether those people are part of a larger company or an individual,” and I tend to agree. He believes that, “Benchmarks of quality, reliability, and benefit to customers are more important than company size.

While putting a company or team behind a large project can certainly help to ensure support and quality standards are met (for example, if one dev wants to take a vacation and needs to tag in another for support tickets), I think that the benchmarks of reliability are the biggest influence in the growth of add-ons and the WooCommerce ecosystem.

In my mind, this makes the WooThemes marketplace one of the most valuable assets to WooCommerce – providing curated, quality, supported plugins makes it easy for users to do whatever they want with WooCommerce without worry about compatibility or the future of the platform.

Brent’s take:

WooThemes is doing a good job addressing the challenge [of overcoming “blame the platform” behavior] by providing a trusted source for extensions. If you purchase an extension from WooThemes.com, you receive a promise that it will work with other WooThemes.com extensions, bugs will be fixed when it doesn’t work as advertised, and someone will answer your emails if you have questions.

To me, this is the leading growth factor for WooCommerce. The WooThemes marketplace supports the growth of quality add-on development and provides the needed additional features for WooCommerce shops. This gives WooThemes the ability to provide trusted backing for the platform and for added functionality, and gives users confidence in WooCommerce’s future.

Even though the platform has experienced tremendous growth already, the ability to overcome platform-blaming with curated extensions and to support the growth of add-on companies and developers indicates to me that WooCommerce still in its adolescence, and will continue to grow.

Congrats again to Brent and the rest of the Prospress team on their brand launch, and remember to check out Prospress.com to see more details about the current products, the Prospress team, and products in beta!

Posted by Beka Rice

Beka Rice manages the direction of Sell with WP content and writes or edits most of our articles to share her interests in eCommerce. Or she just writes as an excuse to spend more time jamming out to anything from The Clash to Lady Gaga. Who knows.