Welcome to the developers log! If this is your first time here then it might help for a quick introduction.
My name is Adrian. I develop a plugin called FormLift which is a user friendly form builder for WordPress. I often face a multitude of challenges throughout the day in regards to development, marketing, and generally running my business.
As my user base continues to grow an increasing number of road blocks are making themselves apparent. Competition, angry customers, chargebacks and the repercussions of decisions I make.
So if you feel like sticking around I am going to post every single decision and roadblock I face in this log and what I do to attempt a resolution.
I’m going to kick it off with a topic that ruffled a few feathers as a result of me enforcing my terms and conditions.
As a free software provider it’s difficult at best to encourage users to pay money for additional services, especially when the free software you provide is actually pretty good all on it’s own.
To encourage people to sign up for a paid service I did what most free software companies do, take credit for the work you did.
On all the forms that were created with FormLift and the user was not paying for service a “powered by FormLift” credit would appear under the main button text of any form along with a backlink to our site. I also added a clause to our terms of service that reads “all unpaid users must show the credit, deactivation of the credit will result in your site being banned…” etc.
It seemed fairly reasonable to me.
What I did not anticipate was the tenaciousness of some people who didn’t want to pay the piper, which I would soon discover.
At around the same time as releasing the update that would add the credit, I also developed a fairly simple usage tracking system to monitor sites abusing API privileges.
After a few weeks of collecting data, I noticed that several of the highest usage sites were actually unpaid customers.
I traveled to their sites and noticed that they had “hacked” with CSS the credit away.
Maybe this was my fault as I had made it fairly easy to do… but I was hurt nonetheless that I pour literally countless hours into development to help these companies and as a single person (I have no employees) and their not even willing to either pay the relatively cheap price to remove the credit legitimately.
(I would later discover that this was more ignorance than the willingness to pay)
At this point in time, there were around 700 websites logged with having FormLift active. As a single person it is not possible for me to go to every single one and check if they are breaking the terms of service or not.
So, I pulled up the 380 emails that I had on file and blasted an email. This was perhaps not a great Idea. But I was pretty peeved at the time.
Read the full email below.
It’s come to our attention that some FormLift users aren’t playing by the rules.
If you have a paid license and are currently paying for extensions, then this does not apply to you.
If you are currently using the free version with no paid extensions, then you should pay attention to this email.
You know the FormLift branding that says “Powered by FormLift” which appears on all forms for free users?
While it may be annoying, it is a trade off. If you don’t what to pay money, then you make up for it by giving us a backlink (credit) which in turn allows us to grow. Pretty fair. If you’re okay with that then that’s awesome and we appreciate you for understanding the rules.
However, some unpaid users have taken it upon themselves to illegitimately disable the credit without paying for any service.
What does this mean exactly?
Well, first off, it’s a violation of intellectual property rights. By using the software and by displaying it on a website without the credit, it’s saying, “This software belongs to me.” Which it doesn’t. We’ll let you say that though if you become a paid user.
Second, it’s a violation of our Terms and Conditions, which you agree to by using our software. Under section 4. Ownership, it reads the following.
“If you are using FormLift as an unpaid user, you are required to allow the “Powered by FormLift” credit to remain. It is reasonable to give credit to the creators of the content if you did not pay for or create that content. Removal or tampering of the credit before becoming a paid customer is a violation of intellectual property rights and is subject to litigation. You may remove the “Powered By FormLift” credit upon paying for any licensed FormLift extension or “All Access Pass”. Failure to do will prompt the blacklisting of your site from API usage.”
We will be enforcing this clause by blacklisting websites from API usage as described should we discover tampering of the credit on sites using the unpaid version of FormLift.
Several sites have already received warnings.
If this doesn’t apply to you, than that’s awesome and we’re super grateful that you’re using FormLift in compliance!
If this does apply to you, we’re still happy to have you on board, but you will need to either purchase a paid extension and disable the credit legitimately, or re-enable the credit to be in compliance moving forward.
Thank you for understanding.
Have an Epic 4th of July weekend!
It may have not been the best idea to send this to my ENTIRE list as I got some pretty terse emails from previously happy clients in return.
On the other hand, I received some emails from people who were NOT in compliance and appreciated the fact that we we’re “calling them out” as it were and promptly paid for a license.
I also received several emails of users being quite confused about why I was being mean. While not my intention, it can definitely read that way, which I see now.
If I were to travel back in time I would re-write that email as the friendliest customer service agent in the world, but customer service has never been my strong suit. Also, I wouldn’t have sent it to people whom obviously had a license.
While it would be nice to let everyone use FormLift for free sans taking credit, that’s just something that’s out of the question for now.
Now thinking from a business perspective I’m at a bit of an impasse since this has brought to light a little bit of an issue for me.
FormLift as a software can tick most people’s boxes as a form builder without any of our paid extensions, that’s fine. The issue is the only incentive to purchase is to get rid of the credit, and users have demonstrated they would rather hack it away then pay for stuff they don’t need.
That leaves a few options of how to convert free users to paid users.
Option 1 is to stop providing free services. This would probably kill FormLift, so I’m not going there.
Option 2 is to introduce more limitation into the plugin to make it NOT tick all the boxes. This would make current free users unhappy, but would have little impact on the emotions of newer users. We could limit the number of forms one could create, or limit the API access to a threshold per month, and paying for extensions would remove the threshold.
Option 3 is to lower the price barrier. This wouldn’t make sense financially as we are already the cheapest/value out of the gate vs. all other solutions.
Out of the three options, option 2 makes the most sense, even if it makes current free users unhappy. There might be some abandonment, but I also realize that some business are actually dependent on FormLift and will pay what they need to keep their site working.
It’s a unique situation I’ve put myself in, the base plugin is so good extensions are only needed in the edge cases. However, it doesn’t make for quick growth which is what’s wanted right now.
As a Canadian, the want is to make everyone happy, but often times that’s just not possible.
What do you think? Have a suggestion that makes everyone happy? Leave a comment below.