2014 in review

It’s that time of year again where we reflect on how far we’ve come. While this post is about the numbers, there’s a number of things that the numbers can’t convey. I need to leave that stuff for another article.

It’s been a great year, and in many ways it’s exceeded our expectations. We surpassed sales goals and the community we are involved in has expanded in so many ways that I’m very excited at what 2015 has to offer. Let’s get into it.

A great year for Ninja Forms

I couldn’t be more pleased with how things have gone for Ninja Forms. We’ve made a ton of improvements and added some really awesome functionality. We refocused our development process and fine-tuned our support and documentation, StudioPress started using Ninja Forms for all their theme demos, and bunch of other really cool things took place. Many of the changes won’t fully be felt until later in 2015 as we continue refining the entire Ninja Forms engine.

Sales

In last year’s review, I shared that we had $135,000 in sales in 2013 and that I expected to break $300,000 in 2014. While I don’t have all the numbers in for December just yet, I’m pleased to report that we’ve already broken $370,000 in sales this year. This kind of growth is pretty unbelievable, but I don’t think we’ve even scratched the surface. I’m not predicting another year of 170% growth or anything, but I’m confident we’re still moving up.

Something new in 2014 was the idea of renewal revenue. In September of 2013, we moved to annual licenses for all of our Ninja Forms extensions. That means this past September was the first time we would start seeing the renewals come in. The first month was pretty low with renewals only hitting 7%, but we made some adjustments and they’re now at 25% and climbing as we close the year.

Our third-party developers also saw massive growth this year. In 2013 we had paid out a total of $4,147.66, but as we end the year we pay more than that amount out every month. In fact, the total commissions paid to third-party developers increased by over 800%. We’re thrilled by these numbers because we really want to build a thriving and successful community around Ninja Forms. We will be looking at ways of continuing to ramp this up in the coming year.

Community

Ninja Forms hasn’t only grown in revenue; over the past year, Ninja Forms has been downloaded over half a million times, had 28 new contributors to the core code base, added 3 new third-party developers with generated sales, and several other third-party developers starting their journey with selling Ninja Forms extensions.

Speaking of Ninja Forms extensions, we started the year with 23 and now we have 33 with 4 new ones currently being audited and several more in development. There are also a dozen or so unofficial add-ons in the WordPress plugin repository and elsewhere.

All in all, it’s been pretty fun to watch the Ninja Forms community grow and see how many are becoming more and more vocal about how much they love Ninja Forms.

Support

Another area that I watch very closely is the increased cost of support. As you can imagine, as Ninja Forms grows so does the number of support requests we receive. One month we got as many as 1000 new support requests. Since then we have been working on ways to lower initial requests along with making it faster to handle the requests we do get. A big part of that was hiring a dedicated full-time support representative. This one hire has had a huge impact on the business as a whole.

Here is a snapshot of the last two years in one place:

2013 2014 over last year
Downloads 189,794 534,574 181%
Sales $134,062 $371,000 176%
Third-Party Commissions $4,147 $39,616 840%
# of Add-ons 23 33 43%
Core Contributors 11 39 254%
Third-Party Developers
with earnings
6 9 50%

A very “meh” year for Ninja Demo

Ninja Demo is one of those products that I know has so much potential and we needed it for ourselves so we built it. The total sales is just over $6,100 over the 8 months it’s been available. There are a number of reasons why it’s not had stellar sales numbers.

The main reason is that it’s a very niche product. The only people who need it are those who are selling WordPress products themselves and need a way to allow users to test them. The other challenge is that we’re still a very small team with only one developer. With Ninja Forms growing as fast as it is, we just haven’t had the time to put all the bells and whistles into this product that we have envisioned.

The beautiful thing about all of our products is that we use them heavily, so our vested interest in their continued development is pretty high, even if they aren’t huge sellers. Don’t count Ninja Demo out. We have some big plans in the coming year that will hopefully pave the way for us to work on all the great ideas we have for this product.

Personally it’s been a very, very good year

This marks my first full year leading the WP Ninjas exclusively. I’ve generally liked the previous jobs that I’ve held, but they just can’t compare to the joy of leading your own successful adventure.

James & GreysonKevin & AbbieThe most exciting part of this year were the two little ninjas who joined the team. My wife and I had a boy, Greyson Glyn Laws, in May and Kevin and his wife had a girl, Abigail Ann Stover, just this month. We’re so humbled and overjoyed with how blessed we’ve been this year and look forward to what’s in store for families and our business.

Looking forward to 2015

As a company, we are focusing on user experience. This will include absolutely everything we touch or anything with our name on it.

For Ninja Forms, this means cleaning up the user interface and tackling some common issues so that users no longer have to deal with them. There will always be questions, but we feel that we can drastically lower the number of pain points by streamlining and improving the user experience.

We will also be scrutinizing our websites from product discovery, checkout, license renewals, documentation, and requesting support.

I believe this attention to user experience can be applied to our community as well; we want to encourage and support developers, empower users, and guide businesses that may be able to learn from our successes and mistakes.

Finally, we’ll be focusing quite a bit this year on staffing. We are a small team of three people, with only one developer. With our rate of growth, and the number of new plugins and improvements we’d like to work on, we will be greatly expanding the WP Ninjas roster in 2015. I believe that there is a danger in hiring a position too soon, but I think that it’s equally as dangerous to hire too late. We plan on being extremely intentional about these hiring decisions, and we can’t wait to see who joins us later next year. Some of our hiring will be sooner, rather than later; we’ve already begun the search for a new developer.

It’s been a phenomenal year and I’m excited to see what 2015 has in store.