Happy New Year! As we move into 2015, we’ve been taking a look back on the past year at SkyVerge and focusing on what we’ve done well and what we could have improved to set our next year’s goals. 2014 was a pretty big year for us, as we’ve focused on building our team for the future, and have made several changes to our internal setup to support our growth for the future. While these changes aren’t always visible from the outside, they’re integral to our success as a company moving forward.
As our team was made of Justin, myself, and Beka at the beginning of the year, we didn’t have to worry too much about team communication, development and deployment processes, building a team culture, and all of the challenges that come with scaling your team and company. We’ve devoted a significant amount of time this year to outsourcing non-core activities like bookkeeping/payroll so that we could free up time to document and improve the way we build extensions. We’ve also built the internal structure to handle team-based development plans and schedules, communication (via Slack, Google Hangouts, and email), and automated several of our manual processes, like plugin deployment. We’re learning to function as a team rather than a group of 2-3.
The biggest change this year was hiring Tamara as our first full time employee. Since starting in June, the impact she’s made on the team has been tremendous. It’s a rare person that can both build plugins from scratch while handling support thoroughly and with empathy, and she’s fit seamlessly into our team and workflow. She’s also played a big part of automating our internal development and deployment processes since she’s a Grunt master. We’re looking forward to more automation wizardry from Tam in 2015. 🙂
Illimar started to work with our team on a part-time basis halfway through this year as well, and he’s been a fantastic asset for new development and plugin rewrites. His ability to understand our development frameworks, standards, and processes allowed him to quickly become a key part of SkyVerge. He’s looking forward to some much-deserved time off in January as he and his wife will welcome their first child.
Here’s a more detailed walkthrough of our past year and the goals we’ve set for 2015.
We rebuilt our website and the beginning of the year and launched the new site in March. We’d been so focused on building and upgrading our plugins that we hadn’t focused on our company or brand, which became far important as we looked to expand our team, and the new site was a big part of that.
We were also very active in contributing to WooCommerce core, as version 2.1 shipped in February. I devoted a lot of time to the initial REST API with Justin’s help in both reviewing ideas and code (though at that point he was still fairly sleep-deprived with a few month old baby).
As a result of the changes in this version, we were aggressively updating our plugin portfolio to support WooCommerce 2.1. This was a pretty massive undertaking that required changes to every single one of our plugins, and we ended up doing partial rewrites for many of them as a result. Beka also rewrote all of our sales copy and documentation to reflect those changes and the WordPress 3.8 changes.
Then we started the major rewrites.
While not all of these were released in the first half of 2014, rewriting several plugins became our focus following the WooCommerce 2.1 release. We’ve learned a tremendous amount as developers as we’ve worked with WordPress and WooCommerce, and we wanted to have more consistent development practices and standards in place. As we occasionally acquire plugins from other developers, we also wanted to be sure that these plugins were updated to our own standards and guidelines.
To that effect, 7 extensions were completely rewritten between March and August:
- Authorize.net AIM
- Mollie (NL)
- Customer / Order CSV Export
- PayPal Express
- Cybersource SA SOP
Between June and September, we onboarded Tamara and Illimar, and revamped our internal development systems. This is were Tam took the lead on automating our plugin deploy processes so that we can now package up and deploy new releases with a few clicks. As our plugin portfolio grew, this was taking up tons of time, and we’ve cut it down significantly.
We were also able to focus on releasing new products during this time, which is what Illimar was devoting the majority of his time towards in addition to rewrites.
We released our first iOS app in partnership with WooCommerce, and learned a lot about app development in the process. We’re continuing part-time work on the app, which now supports updating order statuses, contacting customers directly, and viewing all order details.
We also released 5 new plugins this year (2 of which were on our site, but were rewritten to sell via WooCommerce). Many of them were released in this time period, including Social Login and Checkout Add-ons.
The end of this quarter saw the WooCommerce 2.2 release, so we also spent a lot of time ensuring that our plugins would be compatible before release. We also continued to contribute to WooCommerce core, and added significant parts to the REST API while working with Claudio and Gerhard at WooCommerce, as well as adding webhooks (<3) and the initial WooCommerce core unit tests.
Over the past few months, we’ve continued development with several feature additions to our existing plugins, and we’re in progress on more partial and complete rewrites. We also developed 2 new extensions that have been submitted to WooCommerce for audit.
Support demands always pick up before holiday sales as this time of year, so this tends to take up a lot of November and early December as we make sure merchants are prepped for their holiday sales.
We finished out some existing client work and customization requests, and we’ve migrated several consulting clients to work with other recommended developers as we continue to focus on our products in 2015.
Other 2014 Stats
- We renewed our focus on our blog in the spring, and have published 68 new posts, growing the total archive of this blog to 131 posts.
- As part of that initiative, we began posting tutorials for extending or customizing our plugins, and we continued to write about how to work with WooCommerce for both beginners and seasoned developers.
- The first WooCommerce conference was held this year, and we sponsored part of the event with our friends at Prospress and attended as a team.
- We acquired 3 plugins from another developer.
- We released 3 free plugins (and open-sourced one):
- We’ve written 2 more extensions that are being audited for release and we also have 2 more in development — they’re just about at the alpha stage (one is a massive project we’re really excited for 🙂 ).
- We co-located the majority of our team for part of the year to test whether we wanted to have a headquarters or remain fully distributed. We came to the conclusion that we’ll keep the team distributed moving forward.
Looking Forward: SkyVerge in 2015
Just like everyone else, we have several goals for 2015 😉 . As we look back on the past year, we met several goals, but these also evolved over the year as some goals were replaced and changed. We have some immediate goals for next year, as well as some general goals that will remain constant.
Here are a few things we’re looking forward to doing in the first half of 2015:
- Releasing plugins that are currently being reviewed by WooCommerce (Order Status Manager and Product Reviews Pro) and the rewrites we’re working on currently or testing (Print Invoices / Packing Lists, Braintree, and Authorize.net CIM)
- Wrapping development on the plugins that are currently in development: WooCommerce Google Analytics Pro and WooCommerce Memberships
- Finishing and releasing refund support in our major payment gateways
- Continuing to contribute to WooCommerce 2.3 for launch in the beginning of the year
- Starting several rewrites for our older plugins, powered by what we’ve learned over almost 2.5 years of WooCommerce development
- Hiring another full-time WordPress / WooCommerce developer (keep an eye on our jobs page)
We’re also looking forward to making more contributions to WooCommerce core, and we plan on submitting contributions to WordPress core as a team as well (we realized we don’t have core contributions yet among our team, so this is a large goal for us).
We met up as a team in San Francisco for WooConf, and we’re looking forward to 1-2 team trips this year. While we decided to remain distributed and we enjoy the flexibility this provides, we love getting together in person and we’ve had a blast doing so in Boston and San Francisco already.
Cheers to all of you, and best wishes for a great 2015!