As of 2017 this blog will no longer be updated. I’ll leave it up in case some of the posts prove useful in the future. Check out nickhamze.com for up to date information on what I’m up to.

Small Business Messaging

Small businesses seem to be a prime target for platforms these days. I love watching the different ads and messaging they come up with. I think many of these campaigns were created by people with very little experience with small businesses.

To me its like they hired a brilliant painter to paint a landscape of Miami. But here is the catch, this painter has never been to Miami, he’s never even seen a photo of Miami. What he has done is listened to Miami by Will Smith (a lot). He feels like he’s gotten a pretty good picture of Miami from that song. He goes and paints this landscape that is amazing but looks nothing like Miami.

I’m a small business owner. I’m writing this blog post in between changing out the cases in my phone case factory. Picture about every 50 words I write I have to stop and change out the phone cases and then get back to writing. That’s what running a small business is, going about your day and fitting things in where ever you can.

Here are some of the things small business folks want:

  • Something taken off their plate
  • Someone to talk to when things go wrong
  • Some way to drum up new business
  • Something you will never have to worry about

If you create messaging that evokes the above feelings, you’ll get people to click on your ads.

I honestly believe the two most important traits for marketing folks are creativity and empathy. If you don’t have them your ads aren’t going to speak to people and they won’t click. But what do I know 🙂 .

Do NOT Blog

I’m getting together my Q1 projects and there is something I’m really excited to tackle. For the last few years it seems like WordPress is trying really hard to shake off it’s blogging roots. People think for WordPress to be considered for things like ecommerce or apps, people need to stop thinking about it as a blogging platform. This makes me sad, I like blogging. My blog is one of my most prized possessions.

Blogging themes are considered themes that aren’t any another type of theme. Does the theme support WooCommerce, than it’s an ecommerce theme. Does it have a portfolio post type, then it’s a portfolio theme. If it doesn’t have any special features than it just must be a blogging theme. I think most people consider blogging themes as WordPress themes without features. I don’t see a lot of theme that are engineered just for blogging. I want to change that.

I’m working on my first blogging theme that should hopefully should be released sometime in January. To promote this back to blogging movement I’ve registered donot.blog. It’s going to be a blog that promotes blogging by telling you why you shouldn’t be blogging (reverse psychology FTW). I’m going to use this new blogging theme on the site as well as have it available to download. Below is an example of the kind of content you can expect.

Blogging is great for professional development. It gives you an opportunity to let future employers know that you have a solid grasp of the material in your field, have ideas, and can articulate yourself well. It also ensures that there is something about you online other than your awkward photos from spring break or your long time twitter feud with Snap (from the Rice Krispies).

But honestly why would you want to land your dream job. Getting that job means you’ll have to move out of your parent’s basement. You’ll be denied the opportunity to sleep in a twin bed. You’ll miss out on all those great conversations with your mailman on why you moved back home after college. If you start making money you’ll no longer be able to eat the best food of all time, instant ramen. So if for some crazy reason you think that financial independence and proper nutrition are appealing I guess you should give blogging for professional development a try.

I also want to promote that blogging is perfectly acceptable for normal everyday thoughts. I’ve noticed that people will say whatever they feel like on social media but on their blog they feel like everything on there has to resemble a college term paper. All posts must be thoroughly researched and have 75 footnotes. Let’s stop with the philosophizing and just be you. Talk about things that you like or are important to you. Blog like you tweet. I think every needs a blog and I’m going to make it happen.

WordPress Themes are Expensive

You are probably thinking what is Nick smoking, the last time I checked WordPress themes were cheap, like really cheap. True, they don’t cost a lot monetarily but I think cash is only one metric for measuring true cost. A more relevant metric is time. What do I mean by time? I’m talking about the time it takes for someone to set up a theme. Let’s get real. WordPress themes are more complex than they’ve ever been. I think this is a result of a crowded market where people add every feature they can think of in hopes of getting just one more sale. The term “multipurpose theme” gives me nightmares.

Everyone’s time has value. If you aren’t setting up this theme you are could be working on your business or spending time with your kids. Time is something that you never seem to have enough of. For the sake of this example let’s say your time is worth $50/hr. If I had to choose between two theme one that cost $35 and takes 3 hours to set up and one that cost $100 but takes only 1 hour to set up if I looked at monetary cost the $35 theme would be a no brainer. However, when you factor in my time the affordable theme’s true cost is $185 while the more expensive one monetarily costs only $150.

My philosophy in building things is everything I do must be centered around simplicity. To me that means that when I build something I’m happy if it works really well for 60% of the people even if it means I lose the business of the other 40%. One of my favorite quotes is by Henry Ford, “Any customer can have a car painted any color that he wants so long as it is black”. His goal was to greatly expand car ownership. To accomplish this he knew he needed to keep costs low and make sure the vehicles were reliable by reducing the number of variations. I really love this concept. Could he have sold more cars if he offered more options? Probably. Did he care? Nope.

I’ve been applying this concept to my Shopify apps. For example, with DropRates I’m trying to solve the issue of flexible shipping rates for people who use dropshipping. This idea isn’t unique, there are several other apps that do the same thing. When developing DropRates I wanted to create an app where someone could set it up in under 5 minutes. My competitors offer way more features and options. I’ve tried them and their apps work just as well once you get them set up. However, the time it takes to get it set up is at least 10x. They have pages and pages of documentation on how to set it up while I have just one page. Most people don’t even look at my documentation as how it works just makes sense to them.

Does DropRates work for everyone? Of course not. I get a few emails a month where people ask me to add X feature or they will go with my competitor. Some of you would be tempted to add whatever feature they are asking for. Most of the time what they are asking for would be a trivial change my time/cost wise. However, adding this feature would make the product more complex so I tell them I just can’t do it. For the people who do use it they love it. It’s easy to set up and it just works.

To me the app is a great success. It has a bunch of users and makes me a good chunk of change per month and more importantly it generates almost zero support. That is great for a bunch of reasons. First it means the money I make is basically pure profit (aside from server costs). Second, it means that my users aren’t having any issues. The app just makes sense so they don’t need help setting it up and it is streamlined so it doesn’t break down. Since I don’t add new features they aren’t any bugs as they code never changes. Could I get more customers if I added a bunch of advanced features? Sure I could. But I think it would cause a worse experience for all the users and any extra money I would make (if any) would go into supporting a more complex app.

I would love to apply Ford’s principle to the WordPress theme world. If we want to increase WordPress’s marketshare to 51% we need to build themes that take into account the time the user would have to put into setting it up. I think it would be interesting to see prices listed as “2 hours (the time you honestly think it would take to set it up fully) + $59”. Sure, you’ll be giving up some short term profits but I think the long term gains in reduction in support and the happiness of your customers (happy customers tell their friends) will more than make up for it. I’m not saying you should build themes without features, just take the time to make those features as streamlined as possible. I think it’s sometimes easier to put the decision of what to do on the user (by giving them a crazy amount of options) rather than making the decision yourself. Are you going to make 100% of the people happy? Nope, so stop trying.

I have an experimental WordPress business theme in the works with Joey called Now that I think it going to be super interesting. I’m attempting to create something that is cheap under every metric (money & time). I’ve basically determined the core essence of what I think a business needs from an online presence, the elements that every business has and wants to share with the world. I’m going to sell it cheap ($19 – $29 dollars) but more importantly it’s going to be cheap time wise. This is possible as it is set up to require zero support and I’m keeping the initial development cost down (Thanks Joey 🙂 ). You’ll be able to set it up in under 5 minutes (imagine a wizard in the customizer) and I’m going to include a video on the landing page to prove it. Will this theme work for everyone? No and that’s ok.

I should have a demo to show pretty soon so keep an eye on this blog if you want to see where this is going.

Getting myself in trouble

I’m really good at this. You see the problem is I have an opinion about everything, absolutely everything. One of my favorite things to do is share these opinions. You’ve probably seen this play out on my blog. Frequently I say things that people get mad about. How can you suggest something be done better without saying how they are doing it now is wrong?

The thing is as hard as it may seem to believe it comes from a good place. I just want to help people, I just want to make things better. I’m going to try harder to be a bit less blunt and there are some things I’m going to stay away from all together (anything to do with Automattic) but I really want to provoke some discussions and shake things up but I don’t want people to think I’m doing it to be a dick. I’m really not, I just want to change the world and I won’t get there by half steps.

League of Independent Theme Sellers

From what I hear it’s getting harder and harder for theme shops to sell themes. I had an idea on how to fix this.

What if all the independent shops teamed up? Before you get all up in arms I’m not talking about merging all the companies together. What I was thinking was creating a marketplace like themeforest that independent shops can apply to become a part of.

The main difference from themeforest is the site will just let people search for and see the themes but send them to the individual shops to actually make the purchases. These shops would then contribute an equal amount to a shared advertising pool that would be used to market the site.

This would be beneficial for a variety of reasons. For the shops it will help them get exposure that they wouldn’t get normally. If the plan works this site would be ranked pretty highly whenever people search for WordPress themes in google. The more themes a site has the more attractive it will be to perspective theme purchasers. If done right it could become the first stop for WordPress themes on the web.

It would also be great for the community as we would now have a place to send people where they can find really great themes. Members of the league would be vetted and only shops who code things correctly, have great support, etc would be allowed to join.

For me the WordPress gold rush is over but I think there is still a bunch of money to be made in the WordPress community if you are smart about it.

It’s an exciting time to be part of the WordPress community.

What’s Nick Been Up To?

Wow, it’s been two months since I’ve last blogged. I think that is mostly a byproduct of me spending less time talking about what I’m going to do and actually doing it.

So what have I been spending my time on?

I left Automattic to help my brother out at his company (teelaunch) and I’ve accomplished almost everything I set out to when I started.

  • redesigned/reorganized the app
  • went from number 36 in the app store rankings to 4 with some growth work
  • put together a system for email campaigns/sent out emails
  • started the teelaunch blog and came up with all sorts of posts for it
  • worked closely with the awesome folks at studio bolland to create some pretty awesome videos
  • many many other behind the scenes improvements I’m not going to bore you with

turned my house into a maker studio

  • bought a laser which I have wanted to do for such a long time and made all sorts of cool stuff
  • bought some equipment to print my own posters (that I’m turning into another business)
  • bought a new 3d printer for some Apple II hardware projects

started some businesses

  • started sorta stupid to sell some of my laser cut wares
  • created a Shopify app company called poolparty and have released 4 apps so far (one more coming next week). poolparty has about 900 active monthly users and generate a good bit of revenue and requires only about 10 minutes a week in support (I create apps by design that require no support).
  • created a WordPress app company called secret pizza party and have released one app so far that I’m pretty sure will change ecommerce with WordPress as we know it 🙂

found a new community to belong to in the Apple II world

  • created some fun t-shirt designs
  • made a ROM so I can type on my Apple //e in dvorak
  • made replacement case badges out of plastic with my laser

I have so many other things in the works that I can’t wait to tell you about in the coming months. I’ve had so many successes lately it’s made me a bit bolder so expect more neat stuff out of me.

New Apple II blog

I decided to spin up a new blog to put all the fun stuff I’m learning about the Apple II. If you want to follow along on my journey than head on over to fastram.org.

Make mugs with teelaunch

I’m a creative person, I absolutely love creating things. While I was at Automattic I always wanted to try creative/fun advertising but it never worked out. Now at teelaunch I’m getting to run with some of the ideas I’ve been storing up for a while. Something I think is really powerful is video and I have been working on integrating it into our marketing plans.

I found out about the amazing folks over at Studio Bolland through the guys at WooThemes and they do amazing work. I’ve worked on a number of videos with them but I wanted to share my favorite one so far. I’m basically trying to let people know to double down on mugs in 2016 and here are some of the reasons I think they are awesome.

It turned out really well and I can’t wait to start running ads with it to see how well it converts. I also have some crazier ideas that I hope to run with soon. Stay tuned to see how it all turns out 🙂 .

Shopify Connect for WooCommerce

In a previous post I talked about how Shopify & WooCommerce can be friends. I made a v1 of a plugin to accomplish this that I call Shopify Connect for WooCommerce.

It’s actually extremely simple. Basically I remove the normal add to cart buttons and replace them with Shopify Buy Buttons. You use the official Shopify WordPress plugin to generate the shortcodes and then put the shortcode in a meta box and that’s it.

For v2 I want to make a reverse shortcode so you can put the shortcode in the regular post editor and once you press save it removes it from the post content and puts it into a hidden meta field (just not sure how to it yet 🙂 ). I also want to rewrite all /cart urls to point to the Shopify cart so people can still use cart header icons and such that are built into themes.

You can download the v1 here. Let me know what you think.

Shopify & WooCommerce can be friends

A little while back Shopify unveiled their WordPress plugin and while I think it was a great first step I would love to see it taken further. The plugin allows you to sell items on your WordPress site but it doesn’t really feel like you could make an entire store with it.

Shopify and WooCommerce both have great things about them. I love the freedom/customizability and the ecosystem of WooCommerce but I also really want a hosted solution and access to all the amazing partnerships/integrations that Shopify has. What if you didn’t have to choose? You could pay $9/month to get access to everything you love about Shopify but also be able to run the site with WooCommerce and have total freedom to do whatever the heck you want.

I worked up a rough demo of what I would really like to see in a Shopify & WooCommerce integration. Check out labs.secretpizza.party and you’ll see a WooCommerce site running Storefront but all the cart/buying functionality is taken care of by Shopify. The demo isn’t perfect, I plan on utilizing the Javascript Buy SDK to develop the final solution (just using the normal buy embeds currently) but I think there is something here and I really want to explore it more.

Back to my blogging roots

Way back in 2009 I got one of my very first paying online gigs. It was writing posts for Mac.AppStorm (they are still there). It didn’t pay all that much but I had so much fun doing it. I really enjoy blogging and so I’ve decided to start a new blog.

It’s called practicalshopify.com. Basically I’m interacting with Shopify quite a bit on a daily basis at my new gig and I’m learning a lot so I thought why not try to share what I’m learning with others. It should be fun. If you are interested in ecommerce or Shopify you really should follow along.

secret pizza party

Anyone who has spent more than 10 minutes with me knows I loving coming up with ideas. Coming up with something new or taking an existing process and making it better really excites me. In the past things like lack of free time, insufficient funds, and a COI policy have kept me from acting on these ideas. Now with no legal/time restrictions and a freshly pilfered 401k I have all the pieces I need to do something fun.

So I’m starting a WordPress development company over at secretpizza.party. Not exactly sure what all I’ll be releasing but it will likely include some WooCommerce stuff as ecommerce is my passion lately. I don’t want anything about it to be boring so I picked a crazy name and had an even crazier logo created. If you have any ideas of things you want to see created drop me a line and make sure to keep an eye on my blog for more information.

End of an Era

Today is a weird day for me, it’s my last day at Automattic. I’ve been there for over 4 years, I’ve traveled over 100k miles all over the world for different events and I’ve made a crap ton of swag.

While I’m sad to be leaving I’m very excited to be taking a position at my brother’s company, teelaunch, and helping him grow it. My brother is the most driven and passionate person I know and I can’t wait to see what we can build together.

Don’t worry I’m not leaving the WordPress community. I have big plans for a new WordPress/WooCommerce based company I’m launching and I have some crazy cool wapuu swag in the works.

I joined a button club

I’m always on the search for really neat things and I came across this great button club at inch x inch. Every month they send you really amazing buttons produced by busy beaver buttons and designed by some of the best designers in the world. The club is only $30/year and the profits go to various charities. I think its a really neat concept and if you are into well designed goods & charities you really should check it out.

dotcom vs dotorg

I work a bunch of events and I’m always trying to find ways to explain difficult concepts in an easy way. One thing that always confuses people is the difference between WordPress.com and WordPress.org.

On my daily Dribbble search I came across a guy named Josh Quick who specializes in how-to type graphics and I got the idea to hire him to create a graphic to explain the difference.

I think it turned out pretty well and if you have a use for it please do whatever you want with it. It’s licensed under CC zero.

I’m obsessed with enamel pins

I love enamel pins. They are so hot right now and super cool. I was looking for pin inspiration and I came across a few resources I wanted to share.

First is this weekly column on Vice of really neat pins you need to be buying. There is some great stuff in there.

That lead me to PATCHGAME, who basically the authority on pins and patches. Getting featured on his channel basically guarantees sales.